Speaking of predator tracks…


Bobcat. Very common, though again seldom seen when you’re on foot.


No danger to humans – probably even very small humans – but a good reason not to free-range your chickens.

They sometimes display housecat-like curiosity… 🙂

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In the Spring an old man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of bicycles.

It’s a pretty mid-winter day in the high desert. Mid-forties, a little windy for comfort but the second straight day of bright sun.

And I’m sick of winter. And when I’m sick of winter I think of getting my bike out of its dark storage in Ian’s powershed. I needed to puff some air into the Jeep’s tires…


…and so while I was at it I decided to do the same for the ebike.


For reasons I don’t understand but don’t question, the bike’s instructions say that when long-term storing the battery it shouldn’t be fully charged or fully discharged. So I didn’t top it off before putting it away for the winter and it’s only about half charged, but since I hope to get more use out of it soon I figured I’d plug it in on its timer this afternoon.


But first I took it for the two-mile round trip to chicken chores. And yeah – a little cool and windy for bicycles just yet. Still early February, Joel. Suck it up.

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And that’s why I carry a gun…

Beautiful morning for a nice long walkie. And I was trudging along, minding my own business, when I came upon some tracks that gave me pause…


That’s either a wolf or the biggest dog I’ve seen since Little Bear died. Check this out for perspective…


My knife blade is 3″, and claw to pad this guy’s paws are a little bigger than that. I would not want to meet him in a dark desert unless I knew he was a friend of mine. Super fresh, too. Like, this morning just before I got there.

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Random Gulchy Moments

Last week we got a triple whammy from that storm that crossed the continent…

…but by the time it started making the news in places that newsreaders are aware of the sky here had cleared and the temperature suddenly became unseasonably warm…


…which, along with some wind, melted the snow and then dried the mud to where we could get out and do stuff again. Continue reading

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Die, die, you messy little nuisances.

What a beautiful morning! It follows a probably miserable evening, where there was high wind and rain freezing rain snow, so that the leading edge of every surface looks like this…


I had intended to drive to morning chicken chores but after less than a minute of trying to scrape global warming off the windshield I just put the Jeep in gear and let it roll down the driveway a bit…


…so that the sun could gradually do my work for me. Walking to chicken chores was certainly going to be less work than chipping ice with a plastic scraper. Continue reading

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Freakishly warm this morning…

Mid-forties overnight in late January? That ain’t right. And it almost moots half of this morning’s recurring chore…


…which was supposed to be breaking up and cleaning out ice from D&L’s horse waterers. They both had doctor appointments and aren’t due back till mid-afternoon earliest. But with the temps so mild all of a sudden…


There ain’t no ice. This time yesterday there was lots of ice, but this morning there’s nada. So I just had to scrape horse apples out of the very pleasant horse-generated mud and then…


Go inside for the other reason I’ll be here three times this morning. D&L’s dogs are getting a little old, like the rest of us, and L is not sanguine about their ability to hold it from dawn to lunch. Remember that time I tried to build the bedroom floor and also babysit Ghost in his senescence? It’s like that, except they’re not quite that old and I’m not that busy.

So yeah: Not much going on here at the Gulch, which is why blogging hasn’t been very scintillating. Most of the snow melted and the mud is deep. I tried to follow that story about the SEC bailing out that grift fund that got trolled by redditors, but I never understood anything about the stock market except that it’s more complicated than “buy low sell high.” So I could slather schadenfreude all over the thought of billionaire grifters losing money to trolls – and I see that lots of people are doing that – but really it would just come down to…

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We’re supposed to get some sun today, so that’s good…

The storm has passed. They got more snow in town than we did in the hills, and during yesterday’s morning water run it was funny to watch equipment operators doing donuts in front-end loaders, struggling with an unfamiliar task a Michigan operator could almost literally do in his sleep…


…trying to get the roads clearish and keep the fender-benders to a minimum.

It was cloudy most of yesterday, though we got very little additional snow. Then overnight…


…the sky cleared completely, which always means…


…it’s like living in a deep freeze. Though to be honest it never got as cold as we deserved – the sun hasn’t come up so the temp is still falling but so far it’s only 8.8o. So not that bad.

Yeah, I’m burning wood and propane like there’s no tomorrow, which wounds my inner skinflint. But I’m (barely) mature enough to shrug and say that’s what they’re for, and be happy I have them. I still remember not so long ago, when a morning like this was a genuine trial. Sitting here comfortably in a flannel shirt and longies would have been an alien act as little as five years ago.

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So are good citizens wearing two masks at a time now?

Because I actually saw somebody doing that this morning in the crappy little town where we buy water. Maybe he was just trying to stay warm, I dunno…

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Storm came through last night…

…announcing itself with big wind.


It was cold enough by the time the storm broke that the snow stayed dry, so I could bundle up and clean everything off with a broom. We even got drifts!


Tiny, pathetic drifts, because we seldom get much snow at any one time. But genuine snow drifts. And best of all…


The wind blew hard enough across the Lair’s roof that I didn’t have to risk broken bones cleaning off solar panels. Now if this tiny bit of sun we have at the moment would only stick around – but we’re not forecast to really see the sun before tomorrow. Batteries are feeling it.

And now I must go, because due to scheduling weirdnesses the Monday morning water run falls on a Tuesday this week. Hope you are all staying warm. I am, but that’s about to change for a couple of hours.

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Woulda Shoulda Coulda…


The snow has started right on schedule, probably inaugurating the three days of unpleasant weather promised by the weatherman.

Shame, too, because the past couple of days were very pleasant by January standards. And yesterday I really wanted to go out and shoot my pistol, which I haven’t been doing very much for reasons related to the obvious: Ammo and frickin’ winter. Continue reading

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Citizens, please remember to adjust your settings…

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Well, it’s going to have to get better than this…

Yesterday I casually said it wasn’t even cold enough to freeze the chicken water, and then I went out into the cold wet wind to meet a propane guy at a neighbor’s place. Two hours later I lurched back into the Lair frozen to the bone and desperate to get the fire going again.

This morning…well, at least so far the wind hasn’t come up.


Other than that it’s doing the same thing. And it’s after nine in the morning and the fire’s still going, because we have no sun and no apparent hope of sun. We got another dusting of snow overnight but other than that we haven’t had anything useful come of all these damned clouds. Didn’t get very cold overnight but that doesn’t mean you can’t work up a good chill if the wind comes up. Just generally miserable.

Which I guess, this being midwinter, is perfectly appropriate. We’ve had weeks of cold but clear – a few days of gloomy and moist shouldn’t come as a surprise.

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First moisture in like a month.


Woke to high wind, which is probably when this wet white stuff dropped. The sky looks like it has cleared except for a high haze, won’t know for sure till the sun comes up. But it’s shirtsleeve weather in the Lair after less than an hour from the woodstove, and that hasn’t happened since maybe November. Outside temp never got below 30, if you can believe it.

Glad it happened this morning and not yesterday, because changing truck tires in the rain is getting too close to misery for an old man.

I got a text from another neighbor yesterday afternoon, offering me what looks like a nice chair that might be a good replacement for the old recliner. I begged off till today because I had to go help unload and stack a whole bunch of hay at D&L’s, and wrestling furniture after that was not going to be a welcome chore. So we’ll do that little adventure later. This same guy tried to give me another chair a couple of years ago and I begged off because it was this great huge thing that would have taken over the Lair. So we’ll see if this one is coming home with me.

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If you’re a car…

…and you live a really long time, you might someday manage to look like this Datsun I saw while filling water bottles this morning.

It was ironically parked next to a Fiat so new…


…that at first I barely recognized it as a car.

ETA: Personal to that guy who left that screw on the road…


Thanks for everything you did to keep our morning unpredictable.

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Landlady uses more firewood than I do…


It was a cold weekend, and back when we built the Meadow House we didn’t know as much about the importance of using solar gain to advantage – plus her house is bigger than the Lair. So she keeps a fire going pretty much all day when she’s here.


I cut up the two pallets I acquired from helping D&L with their wood pellets, plus some 2X4s scrounged from pulling apart an old equipment stand…


…and it didn’t make a very impressive pile.

Still…


…it filled the woodbox more than halfway. I’ll top things off with a couple of wheelbarrows worth from my woodshed and we’ll be good till next time. Next winter we’ll likely be on a juniper diet again. Must admit I prefer old lumber, but you do what you gotta do.

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Situational Awareness: You need some, lady.

I couldn’t decide whether this was a ‘real’ deer or a pet. At the end I laughed till I choked.

Around here it would have been a dog pack or a mountain lion or something, and the video would have had a different ending.

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Two old men and a pallet of pellets…

Slowly and with much grunting and shuffling, moving sacks from here…


…to here.


Still not convinced pellet stoves were the best way to go, but what are you gonna do.

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Care packages – sort of “forward to the past…”

Landlady came up yesterday, intending to go back tomorrow after we finished the tiling on the shower at Ian’s Cave. And she brought a couple of unexpected care packages.

These were both in response to specific recent complaints on my part.

A month ago I burned holes in a pair of my new winter jeans with battery acid and had to wait a day or two to patch them, for enough sun to run my iron.

Reader Carl sent a low-tech solution to that problem, should I choose to apply it.

And just a few days before that some cold nights reminded me that the Jeep’s battery needed some help getting fully charged…


…and help came in the mail! How about that? It might require a bit of modification, same as my tire inflator did, because I don’t think the Jeep’s cigarette lighter works. But I have the parts to do that.

Thanks, guys!

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It works in clouds or sun, so that’s good…

So yesterday needed to be baking day, giving me a great chance to inaugurate the new oven – or maybe to find out why it wasn’t going to work for me. I did test it in the morning – as soon as the solar panels started to work, since I’d already decided using it at night would be a bad move. And wow…


…we came close to the inverter’s low voltage cutoff. But we didn’t quite make the inverter take its ball and bat and go home.

I intended to make bread in the morning – though not quite that early in the morning – but then I got a chance to go to town for chicken feed and gasoline…


…and while that was going on the wind really came up – and then black clouds rolled in…


So almost the moment I had dough ready for the oven, the solar power system wasn’t getting its usual bright desert sun. I started to curse, but then decided it was a perfect test. We know we don’t want to use the oven at night, that’s a given – but how much can I use it on gloomy days?

Answer…


It was fine, really. And I like the way the loaves came out…


This morning I was rearranging the pots on the wall behind the stove, because the backsplash on this one is higher and the old arrangement wasn’t working…


…and I got a wild hair and decided that since the sun is bright today I should bake again. Not a crazy idea: I gave a loaf to S&L yesterday to thank them for their help, and there are more people going to be in the Gulch for this coming week, so more bread couldn’t go amiss, right?

And I must say – for reasons I don’t know enough to understand, the oven makes a difference in the quality of the bread.


I really like the way these last two bakes went. Much nicer than usual.

Also, it’s best to use the oven in full sun. Not essential, but best. In full sun the voltage bottoms out in the 12.5 range, rather than 12.2ish.

I really do need to dig out my killawatt and see how much amperage it’s pulling – but at least two sets of neighbors have the same sort of modern oven and just live with it. They both say it can be a problem but usually isn’t unless you’re a compulsive gauge-watcher like me.

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The good news is it’ll save on propane…

I got my new kitchen stove today!


Took much of the day to drive to the big town about 50 miles away and get it, but I got it. And except for the fact that they seem to have gone out of their way to make the propane conversion process as complicated as physically possible, swapping out the new stove for the old went a lot smoother than I feared. I even had the right gas pipe adapters, which … simply shocked me.

This stove has a feature I did not find welcome at all, and maybe I’m going to wish I’d done more research before buying…


…and at first I thought/hoped it was only there because there’s a lightbulb in the oven I don’t expect to use very much.

Then I saw that big heating element where the pilot flame is supposed to go. And when I got the whole thing in place and all the pieces attached and tested the oven for operation…


Ouch. So much for using it at night. I knew the stove burners had clickers, that didn’t bother me, but I didn’t think to research whether the oven had a pilot flame. I guess I can take heart that it doesn’t overamp my inverter, because that would really suck. At least it’s not on constantly while the oven is in use.

We’ll see how well this works over time – Plan B is going to be negotiating a swap with Ian, who has a working old-fashioned propane stove and a much bigger battery bank than I do. “Hey, Ian! Want a brand-new kitchen stove?” That would probably work, now that I think of it…

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