At first sight I was prepared to take this picture seriously.
You guys stay safe. This old man’s never going out there again.
At first sight I was prepared to take this picture seriously.
You guys stay safe. This old man’s never going out there again.
When I got ready to move into the Secret Lair about nine years ago, planning to heat it with wood, I looked around at all the dead juniper everywhere and saw an embarrassment of riches – I really thought I had that part nailed. Because, as has so often been the case, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
And what I didn’t know was a) as firewood goes, juniper is lousy firewood. It’s generally very porous, the pores are full of dirt, and it never burns very hot. Also b) my free woodstove was very poorly suited for the purpose – in hindsight I really think it was designed to use forced air – and between it, the 8-inch stovepipe and the juniper it was a terrifying chimney fire waiting to happen. Because it produced smoldering, smoky, relatively cool fires that may as well have been designed to deposit creosote rather than, you know, heat my cabin.
So I got a new boxwood stove near the start of my second winter in residence, and gradually began my tradition of collecting old pallets and scrap wood through the summer. Can’t say I don’t burn any juniper, because of course I do and anyway the stove and pipe are more squared away than they were at first, but to the greatest extent possible I burn old lumber. And that’s why my principal woodcutting tools are a Sawzall and chopsaw and my chainsaw hasn’t been out of mothballs in years.
Cutting up pallets for firewood turned out to involve more of a learning curve than I expected – there are right ways and wrong ways – but I think I’m getting it. Today I did eight in a little over an hour.
This is the biggest and most complete of the morning. It was the sixth of the day and the blade was getting worn so it was also the most time-consuming. I decided to see just how long each took, with my improved tools and technique…
Speaking of blades, other than gasoline that’s my only monetary outlay. They do wear out rather quickly and unlike chainsaw chains you can’t sharpen them. I wouldn’t go near a pallet with a chainsaw, though – too many nails. Chains are far more expensive than recip saw blades, which are designed to cut nails.
And that’s the pile at the end of today’s session. More like it – and after it goes through the chopsaw it’ll make more than I really want to stack in one go anyway. Stacking turns out to be the hardest part on my back.
But I probably won’t cut it up tomorrow because first I have to give some attention to the woodshed floor, which has been largely undermined by rats in the past three years. Turns out my hardware cloth/sand/stone floor rather did the opposite of keeping the rats out. Some found it quite inviting.
And as much easier as the woodcutting has gotten in the past few years, I’m still a stiff old man and I won’t say it isn’t a workout…
Anyway, now that that and the chicken chores are done, I need to wash up and start baking bread.
And technology is my friend.
And this thing…
Being unfamiliar with the prosumer or professional grades of power tools I often don’t know what I’m missing. The only thing I can find to dislike about this saw is the old-fashioned blade attachment. The motor is far more powerful than either of my other saws and doesn’t all the time act like she’s givin’ all she’s got but she just canna take any more, cap’n. The bearings actually seem to work; I put in an hour on it and it never got particularly hot. And for efficiency…
As long as I can keep the blade from digging into wood it peels a pallet like a banana. I’m putting in much less work; I was barely at the woodlot an hour this morning and dismantled five pallets. My normal routine is to run the Sawzall for a day and then run the chopsaw for a day, mostly because dismantling pallets is so much work. But I may go ahead and knock out a whole stack of pallets before I bring out the chopsaw and cut the pieces to stove lengths.
Five pallets don’t make a very impressive pile of wood and I could have kept going; everything was working fine. But I’m not in a hurry and thought it best to sort of feel out how my joints are going to deal with it this year; I’ve had years where I pushed it and then had to work with an aching back. It’s early in the season and there’s no point straining anything that isn’t already strained.
So I was just cleaning dust off my game camera before putting it back out at the watering station, right? And…
I’ve had a lot of fun with this one, and it did last a few years. But I’m open to suggestions for a better model than the Browning.
It’s been a couple of days over a month since I lost Laddie, and life has pretty much gone back to normal. New, dogless normal. At least I’m no longer grumping in my chair all day and drinking too much at night. I can look back and say, “that was an unusually bad day and night” without some flavor of meltdown.
I was doing some stuff behind the Lair when I saw the glint of a little cartridge case among the pebbles. Reached down to pick it up, perplexed because while there’s nothing strange about finding .22 cases on the ground around the cabin, I don’t even own a 9mm. I picked it up and looked at the headstamp.
I don’t own a 9mm Luger. I do own a 9mm Makarov – which I last fired at 2 AM on August 20, a day that shall live in infamy. And for a few moments I flashed back so hard I swear my vision whited out.
Three years ago a VERY Generous Reader sent me my very own Honda generator, new in box, after life changes rendered it irrelevant to the reader’s future plans. I confess I was both excited to receive it and also – almost reluctant.
I’ve never been on the kind of budget where acquiring a machine like a Honda EU2000i could be done casually – or at all, really. I always settled for cheaper sorts of machines and they had a habit of letting me down. The Honda has a very high reputation for reliability and I frankly didn’t want to see it broken. That would probably turn out to be my fault.
So when I mothball the thing, I do it very carefully. And I always take it out of mothballs with some serious trepidation.
Back in December I changed the oil and drained the fuel most thoroughly. The carb bowl has a draincock that makes that easy. So nothing but a rat chewing through a spark plug wire should keep it from starting up again no matter how long it sits. Right? Hell, BB even sent it a dust cover so it doesn’t even get dirty in storage.
…and then feel your heart sink when it doesn’t kick at all after the sixth or seventh pull, even though you spent all morning up to this point telling yourself that it always does this after being dry, it always takes this long for the fuel to get where it needs to go. Because my experience with small gas engines just naturally makes me the result of an unholy mating between Eeyore and Joe Btfsplk. Don’t ask me how they reproduced.
And then when the carb finally starts vaporizing fuel and squirting it into the cylinder, the Honda naturally starts right up and undoubtedly will for all its active season, because it’s a helluva tool. And it has taken an amazing amount of the labor out of scrap wood cutting.
And things should go particularly smoothly this time out, because…
…in July Big Brother sent me this. A genuine Milwaukee Sawzall, freshly lubed and rehabbed. I have a Craftsman recip saw that’s only 2 years old and already coming apart, and I
hope confidently expect this machine to work ever so much more reliably – but it can’t work at all without a generator at the woodpile. So now we’re ready to destroy old pallets, chop them into stove lengths, and slowly fill the woodshed.
Autumn isn’t officially here till tomorrow but we do seem to be ramping up for autumn chores here at the Secret Lair.
And for my next trick I think I’m going to take the Honda generator out of mothballs and get ready for woodcutting. I’m going to need a lot this year because I barely cut any the last time and the very mild winter let me get away with it but still depleted the woodshed. This isn’t Minnesota: You never know what winters here are going to do but even at their worst they tend to be episodic. So actually running out of wood wouldn’t be the disaster it might be elsewhere because most times there would be mild enough weather to cut more without real hardship. Nevertheless this is the place Murphy lives and he can be a malicious little bastard. So no excuses on woodcutting this season, I want four full tiers by November.
I mostly dislike having to buy things. I really hate having to buy things twice, but I suppose I did this to myself. I went cheap and shouldn’t have.
When I got this bypass regulator both of the hoses that came with it leaked. So now I’ve gone with what I should have gotten in the first place and it’ll probably be fine.
I needed the longer hoses to fit these #40 bottles which don’t fit well on the bedroom regulator but should relieve me from one of winter’s more irritating hassles: Waking up and trying to make coffee on an icy morning only to find that the stove’s single propane bottle has sucked empty overnight. Really don’t know why it took me so long to get a bypass regulator for the kitchen.
Next step before this chore is done is to cover the regulator and bottles, because they’re right under the Lair’s main drip edge. My old arrangement had a shelf attached to the cabin, which turned out less than ideal. I don’t think it’s going to be a problem though…
And now, having had breakfast, I need to return to this week’s burden and get it out of my life…
The running gag of the early part of the lockdown was toilet paper. Then it was any sort of baking supplies. Flour has come back, sort of. But if you need sugar you’d better take out a loan – and don’t look for it in a dollar store.
I had to cut the hummingbirds off early, because they damn near ran my sugar bucket dry. I can buy it – don’t tell them but I did – but not in the crappy little town nearest where I live. And at damn near a dollar a pound I’m not feeding it to birds.
Yeast is still at a premium, too – but I had so much yeast stored at the beginning of the year I was able to share with neighbors.
Always makes me a little sad when the days get shorter. This hasn’t been a great summer for me but normally I much prefer summer, heat and glare and all.
I was able to scrape out all the old thinset under the tiles I replaced on the kitchen/woodstove side of the Lair with scrapers and chisels. No fun, but doable. But what I mixed on the door side was somehow made of sterner stuff…
I’m barely more than half done with this part of the job and the entire (hopefully only the main room of the) cabin is thickly covered with mortar dust I’ll be cleaning up for probably the rest of the month.
Roughly ten seconds into the job I channeled my inner Zelda and rummaged around the tool side of the powershed for my respirator…
There’s an overall word for that and I have spent fifteen minutes or more trying to remember what it is. Annoying.
Anyway – A few weeks ago I had to put on my Joel the Sexton hat after burying Laddy, to make the pedestal for his headstone.
Talked to Landlady over the weekend about the precise wording, and in the course of that conversation she asked me to make a couple more pedestals while I was refreshed on the technique. So Monday I brought home some concrete, and yesterday and today I did exactly that.
Yesterday afternoon I began the process of replacing some of the more crumbled floor tiles in the Secret Lair…
I have to do that to about a third of the overall floorspace and I learned, not to my surprise, that replacing tile is a hell of a lot harder than laying it in the first place. The thinset may not have adhered especially well to the tiles, but it is grimly determined to remain bonded to the cement board backer.
I can picture Big Brother rolling his eyes as he reads this part, since he offered to finance the vinyl plank floor I could have simply laid over the tiles. And I agree that’s the way to go, and next year for sure. I didn’t have any trouble with the work of overlaying the floor – hell, it’s less work than what I’m doing now – but there were opportunity costs I just never got around to paying. Short version, obtaining the flooring just got too complicated and this summer has gotten away from me. I really haven’t accomplished very much during my traditional building season.
Update on the Jeep’s rear window: The parts are ordered! And so in a couple of weeks the Jeep should have a fully functional window for the first time in at least two years. Also coming is yet another indoor latch for the driver door, because rolling down your window to open the door in a snowstorm is an unpleasant hassle.
Most important election EVER!!!
I was bashing through the wash yesterday, in a bit of a hurry because I was late to meet with D&L for the Monday morning water run, when the rattletrap the 19-year-old Jeep has become suddenly got quite a lot louder.
And then I was later still as I did some off-road surgery to take the rear window off before it fell off. Knowing I had to haul some heavy stuff back to the Lair later, I left the window on the bank of the wash till I returned. Danger of it being stolen in the interim: Approximately zero.
The window itself is undamaged but I’ve been a little worried about something like this happening for some time. The gasket that latches the window closed against the tailgate has been broken for a couple of years now, making the window impossible to secure.
Eventually one of the pot metal hinges just fatigued apart. Fortunately it’s fixable: Various commenters have clued me into online sources of Jeep parts, and it’s clearly time to stop procrastinating about refurbishing the Jeep’s rear bits. Winter is Coming. So I’ll get on that today. Should have done it yesterday but yesterday got kind of wonky.
Thanks to Landlady, I got my iPhone back fixed! And now I can go back to photographing everything in sight, because the past six weeks or so have taught me that it’s really AirDrop I miss. The iPhone is much much more compatible with the MacBook than the tablet when it comes to transferring pix.
And look what a certain long-haired YouTube celebrity sent me to help keep coyotes and other antifascist parasites at bay!
Not that ‘not enough’ was really a problem,…
It’s September 10. Three days ago I spent the afternoon naked due to an unseasonable heat wave. This morning it’s 37o and I’m wrapped in layers and typing through gloves.
I took a picture of the cool digital indoor/outdoor thermometer my brother sent me a few years ago – but then decided naw, they don’t need that. I figured a way to get photos from the tablet to the laptop but you have to really want to do it. The procedure includes but is not necessarily limited to:
1) Take the picture (easy part)
2) Learn or recall the arcane procedure for copying the file to the SD card
3) Remember to actually do that before removing the card from the tablet, which consists of:
a) Turn tablet off
b) Open cardholder cover
c) Pry cardholder out of tablet
d) Desperately search for the SD and SIM cards which took a bad hop under the kitchen counter, because they’re thoughtfully placed on the bottom of the cardholder
e) Insert SD card into adapter
f) Insert adapter into Laptop
g) Open Finder and attempt to find picture files
h) Swear luridly as you discover that you forgot Steps 2 and 3
i) Typist is bored now
While I was going through all that yesterday morning a little ditty started going through my mind. It went something like this…
I want my iPhone back
Gotta have my iPhone back
I miss it oh so much
Can’t live without its touch…
…to the tune of this parody song from 1965, which I haven’t actually heard since sometime in the early ’70’s.
And that got me to thinking about that parody song, which I probably haven’t actually thought of since sometime in the early ’70’s, which caused me to look it up on Youtube because of course it’s there, all old songs are, and I listened to it and decided that it was probably a lot funnier when I was a teenager. Possibly because harmlessly transgressive things tend to be funnier to teenagers but also because the things parodied in the song are ancient even to me. I’m old enough to have heard dead teenager songs on the radio but a little too young to have appreciated them, which is to say I was too young to drive when the fad was current. Say “dead teenager song” to an actual teenager today and you’ll probably get reactions ranging from blank to mildly alarmed.
Type that phrase into a search engine if you have a lot of time on your hands.
Anyway, that excursion into ancient history got me to thinking about cultural references in general, which are often a sore point to me because I made a life of missing (and of course now more than ever miss) pop culture stuff as it went by. I was never socially plugged in at any point in my life, and it shows whenever I watch Deadpool or some other movie that leans heavily on phrases or references to things everybody knows about. What the hell is ‘dubstep,’ anyway?
This oddly sudden cold snap has me thinking of getting my generator out of mothballs a month early for wood cutting, because the woodshed is way more than half empty and we’re overdue for a cold winter. But that’s yet another topic and I’ll stop now. My fingers are tingling.
When I ran into Neighbor L yesterday morning she said there was a ‘90% chance’ of rain forecast for yesterday. There being not a cloud in the sky visible through all the secondhand smoke I had my doubts. But the day was windy and unsettled and only a moron seriously tries to predict the weather around here, especially during winter and monsoon. So I was surprised but not flabbergasted when, for literally the first time all spring and summer…
The serious rain began at about ten minutes to six, so technically it was during the day rather than evening and my stated prediction was false – but I was only going with the safe odds. It’s monsoon and rain has been predicted before. So far only a little thunder and sometimes a brief sprinkle. This is the first real rain since winter. The cattlemen gave up on grazing their herd here early last month, which is one blessing of a drought.
Appears to have rained off and on during the night, too. I’d be interested to hear what the actual rainfall was, except nobody measures that at or near the Gulch. Probably we just finally got lucky and were under one of the small wandering storm cells we normally see watering the horizon.
…and to keep its second-hand smoke to itself.