Here comes the rain again…

Incoming weather is following the forecast exactly: Yesterday was windy and 10o cooler than Thursday. Today is blustery and cool with light rain. Tomorrow’s supposed to be wintery and Monday it’s supposed to storm and get really cold.

That few days of frost we had almost 2 weeks ago made all the trees turn, and now the wind is stripping them bare. I noticed my barren little fruit tree had abruptly turned a few days ago…

…and this morning Neighbor D and I decided to do the Monday water run a couple of days early and all the cottonwoods have gone pale and are blowing dead leaves all over the town.

I’m comfortably sitting around in a t-shirt at the moment but that won’t last. Winter has come to the Gulch. I hate winter.

On the other hand I’m well prepared for once. A few days ago I took the opportunity of this last pleasant interlude to do the one last bit of winter prep I’d been putting off, crawling under the Lair to replace that sheet of underfloor insulation that tore loose last winter when a packrat decided to store its rock collection there. I hate crawling around under the Lair but sometimes you gotta do it. And now I shouldn’t have to worry so much about that one frozen pipe that has so often made life harder – as long as the rats leave it alone that combination of pipe wrap, batting and then a sheet of styrofoam between the joists seems to do the trick. The fact that the Lair’s interior is warmer so the floor over the pipe doesn’t get so cold probably helps as well.

Time to go into cocooning mode. The Lair has reached a point where winters are no longer the trial they used to be, it’s really not even that unpleasant anymore. But I recently scientifically calculated that the nine cold winters I spent between moving here in 2006 and finishing the cabin walls in 2015 were such a collective hassle that I shouldn’t expect to stop reacting emotionally to November until sometime around 2050. So I guess I’ll just have to be patient.

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I may run out of popcorn before this is over.

I may be mistaken – after all I’ve only been alive for 16 presidential elections – but it seems to me that vote tabulation normally goes much more smoothly than this. Aren’t we living in the future? Are calculators no longer ubiquitous? Perhaps state-level vote counters are trying to use those newfangled abaci? Maybe they’re translating the computerized results into big piles of white and black pebbles?

I hope the chads unhang themselves before Harris’s inauguration.

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D&L had a doctor’s appointment…

…which meant I got to play with my pistol without fear of irritated phone calls and also…

…I got to spend some time with my favorite boys.

These two are the most friendly and laid-back horses I’ve had the pleasure of serving. Probably because they’re the most spoiled.

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Looking for information about a thermocouple for a(n antique?) gas oven.

Product research is not my strong suit. There’s probably a whole “old stove” community out there. If so, somebody please point me in that direction.

I have a very old Gaffers & Sattler propane stove.

I have no idea how old it is – Ian scrounged it from somewhere in the city more than ten years ago; I cleaned the rat nests out of it when I outfitted the Lair in 2011 and it has mostly worked fine ever since, but for several years the oven has occasionally been reluctant to light. The pilot works fine and I have reason to believe that the gas valve works fine…

Gas valve off…

When the gas valve is on, the pilot flame spreads to heat the thermocouple.

And that pretty much leaves the thermocouple as the culprit. My experience with water heaters tells me that thermocouples do eventually fail, and this one is old enough not to really owe me anything.

Yesterday I ended up baking bread on my outdoor grill – quite imperfectly – because I couldn’t get the oven to light at all.

To be honest, the oven seems to pull this trick intermittently. When I took these pictures this morning I neglected to turn the oven back off, and the oven eventually lit just fine – but it left me high and dry yesterday. I believe that tiny little thermocouple needs replacing, but I have no idea where to look for a compatible replacement. Anybody have ideas?

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On ignoring the election

I’ve been rather pleased with myself.

Every election is ‘the most important election in history,’ just ask anybody with a dog in the fight. I don’t believe it; I haven’t believed it in a very long time. But you could certainly make a case that this has been the most contentious election since 1800, Jefferson/Adams*. But this year I’m not letting it get to me. I’ve largely left it alone on the blog not (only) as a matter of policy, but because I really haven’t been giving it that much thought.

Normally by now I’m exhausted and just begging for it to be over. I tried to stay aloof from the whole thing during the 2016 campaign but I got sucked in by how loathsome I found and still find Hillary “Basket of Deplorables” Clinton – not much more than marginally more loathsome than I found Orange Mussolini at the time, but at least he wasn’t actively shouting threats against people like me.

Point is, I promised myself almost five years ago I wouldn’t get sucked into caring about an election campaign held between two equally objectionable people in whose actual choice the voters got no real say – and then I played the political junky like I always do.

You’d think this year would be even worse for the old cedar rat, because while I still have a hard time warming up to President Blowhard he really hasn’t been as appalling in his actual governance as I expected. And I truly object to increasingly-open socialist politicians playing footsie with openly socialist riot gangs. So I expected to have a hard time staying aloof.

My position – at first aspirational, I admit, but more and more true in practice – has probably been most thoroughly outlined here

Screw systems. Screw establishments, screw waiting for somebody to clear up the big mess and give me permission to be free. The only person who can make that decision is me. The only person who has to live my life is me, and I can’t live any other life but my own so why am I trying to live it by somebody else’s standards?

Really, whose fault is it that I’m doing that? It’s not George Bush’s fault. It’s not Nancy Pelosi’s fault. They don’t know me from Adam and wouldn’t care if they did. The only person who is actively doing destructive things to me is me, and I’m welcome to stop. Hating on the great omnipotent “they” – and calling that a struggle for freedom – has never gotten me anywhere. It’s like bitching about the weather: Great fun, but not as useful as fixing my own roof and insulating my own walls. The weather itself won’t change just to suit me.

While passively waiting for the world to change, I’d been ignoring the one person who could have a positive effect on my life.

This means, among other things, not getting worked up about things I can’t fix and especially not picking sides between Candidate Awful and Candidate Slightly Worse. It means tending my own garden; working on doing freedom in my own life to the greatest extent possible/practical and not waiting for gods or libertarians or real estate tycoons to give me permission to live free. And historically, I’m really good about promising myself that – and really bad about doing it.

This year has been – better. Even in 2020, Year Crazy, I’m not especially worked up about what’s going on in the world. And for me, that’s a sign of long-awaited progress.

I did buy more toilet paper yesterday, though…

*Seriously, look it up. You think modern pundits are partisan and hyperbolic? Amateurs.

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This kind of battery is new to me.

Some neighbors got new batteries this weekend.

I’m not familiar with the brand or the type, to be honest.

Apparently they’re not very common, since they’re not exactly off the shelf. Check out the build date.

Sixteen 183a/h batteries would need a helluva solar panel setup to keep charged. Fortunately my neighbors have a helluva solar panel setup, not to mention the biggest fanciest generator in the neighborhood. So I’m not worried about that.

But these are supposed to be totally maintenance-free, which is a concept I instinctively distrust. Even the connections are supposed to be corrosion-proof, which is a concept I completely disbelieve. But at least they’re right out in front, so keeping an eye on the truth of it won’t be difficult.

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Check out the most laidback bobcat I ever saw.

…out my bedroom window.

Click to embiggen

He knew I was there, he looked right at me when I shifted. And to my shock he hung around long enough for me to go get the camera. He wasn’t in a hurry to end the evening fun, I guess.

For a while he looked like he was thinking of pouncing on something – they have more or less the same body language as a housecat* – then decided “screw it” and sauntered quite unhurriedly down the driveway.

* A freakishly huge, muscular housecat

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Suddenly I have a plan…

Immortality, here I come.

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Maybe not the best application for rope…

We had a nice neighborhood get-together at Ian’s range on Saturday…

…and that always leaves Uncle Joel with repairs and adjustments. Only had one broken chain on the gongs, and that chicken wire on the paper target rack has turned out to be a very good idea. But I did run into one unexpected problem…

The racks are set in concrete but the concrete is set in nothing but silt, and since the floods of 3 years ago the wash geometry has changed to where water can flow right to the bases of the racks.

Never used to happen, they were on a raised part of the wash but the raised part of the wash washed away. So, since a flood 2 years ago that knocked down one of my brand-new racks, I have tied them together and to the nearest juniper. Figured that would keep them from washing away entirely like my storebought shooting bench did in the ’17 flood.

But I didn’t account for the cumulative effect of bullet fragments rapidly departing from the metallic targets. They have worn nearly through the knots in both ropes.

Looks like if I make some chain loops there then tie the ropes to the loops, that should keep it from happening again. Anyway those rope are starting to get a little weathered and should be replaced entirely.

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What do you call that? A storm?

Storms have drama. Danger. At least a threat of property damage. This was just two days of sudden wet winter.

The forecast says no more clouds and that tomorrow will touch 60o. So say hello to mud. I just got back from my first walkie since Saturday. Not really happy about the footing on downgrades, but the Jeep appeared to be pretty much frozen solid and I decided to wait and let the sun take care of that.

Two days of zero sun had a measurable effect on the batteries…

But that will correct itself today.

The sky cleared overnight, so the outside temperature dipped just barely into the teens. That gave me an excuse to break out one of my favorite bits of winter kit for my trip to chicken chores.

I know I say it monotonously often this time of year but I always wanted one of these, throughout my adult life and for a good bit of childhood. Just never had the bucks. Nicest coat I ever owned, and I try to keep it nice. It was another reader gift, and this’ll be its fourth winter at the Lair.

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Wow, all of a sudden we have precip! Also, first fire.

All summer it rained one time with any real enthusiasm. This sudden spell of weather has hung on for more than 24 hours. It couldn’t really have snowed all night or we’d have more of a blanket – there’s not even an inch of snow on the ground – but it was snowing at twilight and it’s snowing now.

It got surprisingly cold yesterday, but the heavy clouds kept it from getting any colder overnight… Continue reading

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Putting the Lair into winter mode…

There’s almost nothing I hate more than the official start of winter here at the Secret Lair. Everything above it – and quite a few things below it – on the list of things I dislike involves physical pain.


It was nine in the morning and while the temperature in the main room was holding mostly steady, the bedroom temperature was still slowly falling. Chances of sunlight were looking slim. I might not want artificial heat today, but overnight would be a different matter. And that meant doing something I’d really rather put off … well, forever would be nice. Continue reading

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At first light, snow!

I woke up briefly to hard rain on the roof in the middle of the night. Temperature has dropped more than 20 degrees since Midnight, and…

Yesterday was blustery with in and out clouds, very typical “weather’s gonna change” weather, but rain has been so rare this summer it was hard to expect actual water from the sky. I took the precaution of rolling the Jeep’s windows up which should have guaranteed no precip, but you never know.

First snow of the season at the Lair! I haven’t even lit the bedroom heater, but it looks like it’s time.

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Got to play the Old Neighborhood Rifleman this morning…

This should prove how ubiquitous the AR15 has become – my very not ‘Tactical Tod’ neighbor got one. It needed zeroing but neither he nor I could figure out elevation adjustment on the MBUS ‘iron’ sights. I took it home with me promising to do a little Magpul research and then zero it for him, then he and I can go over the rifle’s care and feeding together. Fortunately the ‘research’ was easy since Ian was right there and I just asked him.

So this morning I took my portable target stand and toys to the wash and got it zeroed at 50 yards…

…and since he’s already convinced of the superiority of red dots, now I’ll do a little Holosun-related market research. Then I’ll invite myself over to his place and we’ll go over the controls and how to strip it for cleaning.

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Official Merch of the Citizens’ Republic of Elbonia

Ian came for a visit yesterday, and brought a fun gift…

Available here. The Republic of Elbonia became a FW running joke early this year with a theoretical question on one of Ian’s Q&A’s…

…and it kind of went on from there.

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The Lair has been invaded!

Must be migration season: I’ve had no less than five small birds blunder down the stovepipe in the past 24 hours. Two yesterday, and this morning I opened the stove when it was rustling only to find three at a time, which was completely unique. One was dead, one in fine shape that flew right out the open cabin door, and this tiny finchish thing…

…which is just healthy enough not to allow itself to be captured but too befuddled to take the hint of the open door. It’ll either find its way out or die. Not to be gross, but fortunately dead small birds don’t stink the place up. Also fortunately the flies are mostly gone so it’s okay to leave the door open for a while.

I really need a better stovepipe cap.

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Old farts…

So yesterday morning I met D&L to unload a pallet of alfalfa pellets for their horses. We have this down to a science by now; D and I do the hauling while L pulls the sacks off the pallet and brings them to the edge of the flatbed. But when I got there L said she had pulled something very painful in one of her legs and wouldn’t be participating in the festivities. So the two gimpy old men took turns up on the trailer and hauling sacks to the hayroom, and we both decided that the sacks seemed noticeably heavier this time than last.

Stopping for a breather, L told me about a joke birthday card he’d seen at the feed store: “There was this cartoon old man dressed like a cowboy, right? And a saddle was on the ground beside him. And the caption said, “I can’t remember if I lost a horse or found a saddle.” And I said, “I guess you’re not completely gone if you remember what that big leather thing is.”

The adventure scored me probably the last pallet of the season…

…which I brought to the Lair because I’d already brought my tools home.

I cut it up this morning, just before mothballing the generator – hopefully for the whole winter this time.

And it didn’t make much of an addition to the woodshed. Takes a lot of pallets to make a tier.

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Getting toward that time of year, I guess…

Some things get bagged up and taken to mouseproof storage. Some bags get taken out of mouseproof storage…

I assume all those people with those trendy ‘tiny houses‘ also have big storage units somewhere, because suburban closets are bigger than those things.

For your tiny house in the desert, you need something rodents can’t chew through. And you need to get into it every now and then, close the door, and make sure no light can enter through any cracks. I swear a mouse can enter any opening large enough to admit a photon.

Doesn’t have to be fancy. Doesn’t have to be big. Doesn’t have to be expensive…

…but it absolutely must keep seasonal stuff rodent-free or it’s of no use at all. This cast-off has worked for me for going on seven years – as long as I remembered to close the door all the way.

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Woodcutting is officially done.

I was in a race with the generator, because if it ran out of gas before I ran out of wood to be cut to stove lengths I’d not only have to add more – only to pour it out at the end of the job – but there’d be this big sweaty hassle getting it started again. With gas in the carb bowl, the Honda starts like a sweet dream. Empty, it’s kind of a pain in the ass to restart.

Anyway, I spent an hour and a half this morning finishing every scrap of wood in my pallet pile that wasn’t eaten through by termites…

…and it made a nice final pile in the trailer.

Another hour stacking, and there it is…

And I don’t know for sure what I’ll do for firewood next winter. Probably tune up the chainsaw and go back to juniper. But for this year, except for some side jobs like cleanup and Landlady’s wood, I’m done with woodcutting.

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Everything will kill you.

I had the coolest conversation with Landlady a week ago.

You know, I’m getting to a certain age. I feel it in my joints. Yeah, I know I’m not all that old, 60 is the new 50 and all that. But there’s another cliche: It ain’t the years, it’s the mileage. And brethren and sistren, I got a lot. Also collision damage. And let’s not forget the glaucoma that’ll make me blind at some point, because I never do.

And Landlady said something to the effect that it might be best for a guy like me to die earlier rather than later. I mean she wasn’t suggesting I keel over in the next month or two – I think she wasn’t – just that it would be best to live while you can happily live and then die, rather than spend a decade or two drooling in a wheelchair just to make numbers. I did not disagree.

The conversation started a very interesting line of reasoning, really. I went from young strong witless led-by-his-cock asshole straight to broken pussywhipped middle-aged asshole almost without noticing the transition. It was really quite unpleasant, as I think back on it. The change to throw-it-to-the-wind-and-see-what-happens half-old celibate asshole was more difficult. But not only did I survive it, I almost accidentally became the thing that young me thought he wanted to be.

And I’ve been that new/old thing for almost exactly 14 years, and it has brought me happiness. Seriously, I never expected or even asked for happiness. I only asked for quiet.

If I could have my quiet life forever, I’d do that. But we don’t get forever. And I was thinking thoughts along those lines when I saw the coolest thing

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