(Grumble) Damned rain again…

Yeah, it started raining Saturday – coincidental with a Landlady visit, in accordance with longstanding tradition – and it has never more than briefly stopped raining ever since. The rain-to-date readout on my weather station says 15.6″ which is not quite a record for this time of year but still a lot. I’m breaking out the sweatshirts: in two months high fifties won’t seem in the least bit cold but it certainly does now.

Gad, I hate mud.

On the bright side, it’s a great way to stress test your batteries. I haven’t seen the sun since Saturday morning, and…

Not bad, my children. Not a big surprise since they’re only two years old, but still. Well done.

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The accidental mousetrap

I’ve always had an issue with mice in the Jeep. They just live in there: Sometimes if I’m driving on an abnormally smooth bit of dirt road a mouse will pop out of the instrument panel and watch the show through the windshield, I’m not making this up.

Attempts at catching the more brazen ones with mousetraps have ended badly: I spent most of June breathing out the window because of the rotting stench of one that almost got away, whose corpse I could never find.

But last night while it was raining, three of them decided to capture themselves for me. I left a big bucket in the Jeep, on the floor in front of the shotgun seat, for hauling sand up from the wash to fill some erosion holes and when I happened to look inside this morning…

…there they were, looking most bodaciously unhappy.

I left them there as I drove to meet D&L for the Monday morning water run, stopped about a mile from the Lair, and dumped them out for a new and happy life anywhere else but my Jeep. Alas they found the trip – and however long they’d been trapped in the bucket – so traumatizing they couldn’t even run away…

All three of them just crouched where they landed, shivering so badly I wonder if they even survived.

Non, you know, that I care a lot…

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The skittery treat you get to eat!

Yes, I have everything yet to learn about how to get this thing to focus in low light, let alone anything about how to control the exposure.

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It’s kind of a charming custom, when I think about it…

I got a Paratus Day card from Commander Zero yesterday!

Which reminds me this is the third year in a row he has sent one…

He always adds some small appropriate gift for the season, which is appreciated…

Last year he gave me a 20-round Magpul AK mag, which I didn’t even know Magpul made AK mags – and that gift gets used, since it solved a small problem I had with hanging a ‘backup backup’ AK in a place I’ll bet most houses don’t have AKs – which in turn may be very much in the spirit of the holiday.

So he’s done this for me three years in a row, I’m clearly on a Paratus card list, and every year I get to wondering about the obvious question…

“What the hell is Paratus Day?” Seriously, did I miss some extremely viral survivalism meme? Is there a special pastry I should learn to bake? And like a total putz I try to look it up on the internet, right? Because even boomers know to go right for Duckduckgo whenever presented with some social reference that’s sailing over their heads. Paratus is a thing, but Paratus Day seems to be niche strictly for us weirdos.

It’s just a Commander Zero thing, but I still kinda like it. Maybe I should be spreading the cheer. Prepare! Prepare for what, exactly, you ask? Hell, look around. You’ll think of something.

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TUAK gets a big hardware upgrade!

An extremely generous reader, quite out of the blue, asked, “Could you use a better camera?”

Olympus E-620, the only DSLR I’ve ever even seen up close let alone owned. With three lenses and a nice case to boot. I am in heaven.

Once upon a time I had a nice hobby in film photography. I wasn’t any good but I had fun. Then just about the time my life was completely falling apart in California, somebody decided to put a cherry on top by breaking a window out of my truck and stealing every bit of kit I owned. That was, as it happens, almost exactly 20 years ago.

Obviously the hobby wouldn’t have lasted much longer anyway, because camera film abruptly went the way of the buggy whip and DSLRs were hopelessly out of my laughable budget which didn’t always allow for a roof over my head let alone toys. Hell, I couldn’t afford film processing. But still, that stung.

Generous TUAK readers have donated point’n’shoot cameras at different times over the years, which is how the blog gradually became photocentric, but the dusty living conditions of the first several years turned out to be hell on autozoom mechanisms. Then the smartphone came along and that solved all problems in a utilitarian sort of way.

But I’ve often thought lately it would be kind of nice to get back into photography, were it only possible. This is really a very photogenic place, for certain tastes like my own. And with this rig I can give it a try! I’m very excited.

Of course…

…a certain learning curve will be involved. Winter project!

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Fixing a loose leg on the solar panel ground mount

The left front leg on my ground mount rack has been loose for an embarrassingly long time; I discovered it in early Spring and only now have gotten around to fixing it. Not a lot of excuse, just kept, er, forgetting. But Winter is Coming, and it’s time to clean out the to-do list I’ve been ignoring most of the summer.

First, jack up that corner…

Simple one: Big Brother sent me a bunch of jacks two summers ago, mostly to shore up the cabin floor but I saved the best one for general purposes. It’s not the first time it’s been put to this particular purpose. In Landlady’s case it was poor anchoring in heavy wind: In my case it’s poor anchoring in poor soil. Since I can’t fix the problem with braces like with hers, I went deeper and wider and pounded in a bunch of rebar.

Deeper and wider was really the hard part.


Dig some more, loosen up the bolts holding the leg still on the rack, pull it aside with a rope and then dig some more.

Pound in some rebar, then go get the concrete sacks out of Landlady’s barn …where they’ve been waiting all summer. Ahem.

Three sacks of concrete later…

It’s deeper, it’s wider, and then I pounded in the last of the rebar I’d cut for the purpose through the wet concrete and into the ground.

Oughta stay still this time.

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I have my driveway back!

I lost my driveway’s entrance into the wash in late July during the biggest of the early monsoon floods. It was a colossal pain in the ass all summer but this monsoon was a wet one (14 and a half inches indicated!) and there was just no point tempting the rain gods by fixing it before I was sure that monsoon was done. But yesterday while I was cooking pear butter, Neighbor D came over with his tractor to cut me a new apron.

And he worked for over two hours on it!

He was in a perfectionist mood, and left me with a lovely smooth ramp … till next time.

I was out early yesterday with my loppers, clearing away some bushes that were trying hard to obliterate the whole driveway…

…and there’s still some water erosion damage I have to get to before winter.

I’ll haul in wash sand a little at a time to fill the deepest bits, and let wind erosion and tire wear do the rest. Same as last time. And next time.

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Pear Butter: That worked!

I knew it was going to boil down to not very much. I wouldn’t know how much not very much was till I got there.

I sterilized five jars and hoped I wasn’t being too comically optimistic…

…and to my shock that was just right. I ended up with four and a half jars of pear butter. Gave one to the goat people from whom I scrounged the jars. Plan to give another to Landlady if she wants it: She eats vegan a lot and I’m not certain this qualifies. That leaves me with 2 and a half jars.

And as for the product…

Not bad, really! A little sweet for my taste, didn’t need quite as much brown sugar as I used and I didn’t think I was using very much at all. But a nice change. It won’t rot on the shelf.

It didn’t take as long as I feared, either. I simmered the pears in a cup of water and a little lemon juice for an hour and a half then mashed them with a potato masher and my electric mixer, added cinnamon and brown sugar and simmered it for about another hour till I got the consistency I was looking for. Had to borrow Landlady’s big pressure canner for a pot big enough to sterilize five jars at once, and that took nearly a whole bottle of drinking water though I got double duty out of it for washup.

Altogether, a successful project! I should maybe look at doing this more, and would if new jars weren’t so damned expensive. Compared to buying canned goods from the dollar store it’s not cost effective.

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Pear Butter: Here We Go…

I left the pears to soften up for five days and that may have been a mistake:

Two different species of bugs had pretty thoroughly colonized about half of them. Quite a bit is going to the chickens.

I was able to score nine wide-mouth pint jars, and I won’t be needing them all. I lost a lot of fruit by waiting too long to pick. Still…

Before the boiling started I had between 17 and 18 cups of cut-up pears, which ain’t nothing. We’ll see what we’ve got when it boils down.

And boiling it down is something I’m approaching with great caution. online recipe instructions were all over the place on even such basics as how much water per cup of fruit. So I’m starting with a cup of water and plan to watch it like a hawk. If things really start taking too long I’ll move the operation to the crockpot I’ve got stashed at Ian’s place.

More later.

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It’s like he’s doing it on purpose at this point…

“Dammit, Tobie! I’ve had that brush for years!”

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Once again I must ask the Babylon Bee to stop reporting the news.

FBI Rally In D.C. Ends Without Incident

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Spam can be cryptic.

Points for brevity, at least…

As so often happens when I receive business-style spam, I’m left wondering “what was the point of this?”

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Remember the Great Gelsock Bleg of 2017?

I put this out here back then with great trepidation, since I hate asking for things in any case and I’m downright neurotic about expensive things. It ended kind of spectacularly. So spectacularly, in fact, that I never even unpackaged some of them before this morning.

As with all such things, if you only have a few they wear out quickly. If you have enough for a decent rotation they can last quite a while. I said at the time that gelsocks literally proved to be the difference between walking long distances comfortably and spending most of my time sitting in a chair and walking anywhere only with considerable discomfort. My current leg’s socket was built with gelsocks in mind and probably wouldn’t be very usable without them. You guys who made that possible made that happen for me. You same people might also recall that 2017 was a very busy year all around, and it wouldn’t have gotten done without those socks.

So when I looked in my nightstand drawer this morning and noted that some of the ones I’ve been using are getting kind of thin and sad, I was then quite encouraged when I went up to the pantry and found five of them brand-new and still in the packages. I didn’t remember that there were still so many in reserve.

Just saying, my longtime readers rock.

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Waited a few days too long on the pears…

Summer will be done before I know it. My field of high waving flowers has faded…

…and I thought I was being relatively attentive about the pear tree. Unfortunately…

…turns out I wasn’t being attentive enough.

So when all was said and done, Tobie and I took a side trip on the way to afternoon chicken chores…

…to visit the goat people with almost half the tree’s load.

No point in letting them go completely to waste. The goats enjoyed them as much as the bugs seemed to. Probably also enjoyed the bugs. And I made a deal for some dusty mason jars. And tomorrow if all goes well…

We’re going to try our hand at pear butter.

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Random Gulchy Moments

Busy morning. Toward the end of his morning walkie Tobie finally managed to bring a bit of juniper branch all the way home without losing it; apparently assuming I wouldn’t let it inside the cabin he immediately flopped down on the boards and expressed a desire to spend some quality time with it. No problem; I just wrapped his leash around a 4X4 and went inside for second coffee.

Then I got him inside (he had forgotten all about the stick) and snuck off to the reloading shack for some quality time with the Circle of Brass.

Loaded almost 100 rounds of .44 Special…

Final inspection comes when I’m wiping off the bullet lube. And surprise!

One too many campaigns for this old soldier. I inspect the cases for cracks when I clean the primer pockets and again briefly after they go through the flaring die so I’m pretty sure this one didn’t split until I seated the bullet. Normally doesn’t bother me, brass wears out, but right now bullets are the weak point in my reloading supplies. Wouldn’t you know.

Got back to the Lair just in time to load Tobie in the Jeep and go do horse and dog chores at D&L’s, who are off at another joint doctor appointment.

Feed the horses, take a quick turn around the corrals with the shit fork, then let the dogs out of their kennel for a pee, bring them into the house for lunch, a quick lovin’ and then back out to the kennel. They’re old now and used to the routine: When they were young they gave me a hard time about the kennel but now they just go along with every step of the program.

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The current state of bread-making at the Secret Lair…

I bake every five days or so, usually well before I’m out of bread in summer because it molds before I finish eating it. Less often in winter, because it doesn’t.

I’ve been doing this for most of the fifteen years I’ve lived in the Gulch, and regularly for all the (ten years in November!) I’ve been in the Lair. The recipe kind of evolves over time, but I’m still no expert. I’m not a great baker or anything – I don’t really have ten years’ experience, just one year’s experience repeated ten times.

First, wear out your dog.

He’s good for a two-hour nap minimum.

Start the bread by proving two teaspoons of yeast in 2 1/2 cups warm water* with two teaspoons salt and 3 tablespoons sugar, then add an egg and a little oil… Continue reading

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Wanna see up a juniper’s skirt?

Tobie and I went on an unusually long walkie this morning. Beautiful day in a recent series of beautiful days, a little warm for comfort in the afternoon but pleasant in the morning and it seems we’re looking at Monsoon’s back so may as well enjoy. Soon it’ll be woodcutting season, and then – sigh – winter before I know it.

With all that water from the sky, the weeds are chest-high everywhere you leave the road. Kind of annoying, really – I’m not used to pushing through underbrush to get where I’m going, even if I’m not going anywhere in particular.

On our way through the wash I paid more attention to a recently almost-but-not-quite washed-out juniper… Continue reading

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Gad, this is depressing…

(This turned into another wall’o’words post. Apologies.)

PREAMBLE: Longtime readers will have noticed that I seldom do political posts anymore. Honestly they were never anything but filler to help me fulfill the Post Every Day rule, which is hard to do with slice of life posts because I live very quietly and blogworthy things simply don’t happen every day. When I stopped with the political stuff my readership crashed – not a lot of people out there really care what-all Tobie did today or whether Ian’s water softener is behaving itself, and I don’t blame them.

It didn’t matter. A major reason I maintain the blog is for my own mental health. My idea of good mental hygiene involves minimal engagement with political bullshit that happens outside the Gulch: It never seems to make anybody happier, and I found it excruciating but as a lifelong political junkie it was difficult to unplug even though it has virtually nothing to do with most of my day-to-day life. So I view my waning interest in who’s insulting whom at a white house press session as a good thing in terms of my personal road to satori, y’know? If it costs the blog some readers, so be it.

My point being, when political bullshit does manage to intrude itself into my very quiet life, it’s actually painful. I was going to write this post yesterday but kept putting it off. And now I’m finding it difficult to compose, so bear with me. End of preamble. Continue reading

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impromptu wattle & daub

A quickie little project for D&L turned out quite a bit more difficult than expected. I think it might have been easier if I’d gotten in there before the mud dried, though it certainly would have been messier…

A corner of their property happens to border the wash downstream of where two big branches come together. So what seems a very impressive flood upstream at my place can be positively cataclysmic at the low end of theirs. In this case the wash overran its banks by damn near 50 yards, not only flooding their low meadow but apparently doing so at considerable velocity.

The damage done to their 4-strand fence was surprisingly minor, but the first step toward setting it right was to dig all the interwoven driftwood and mud out of the wire. That turned out to be fairly hard work, and after all his health problems of the past few years D wouldn’t be up to it. So, looking for something for Tobie and me to do with ourselves this afternoon anyway, we snuck in and got it done. D and I will be able to straighten up the fenceposts together easily enough now.

It’s not entirely out of the goodness of my heart: I’m going to need to borrow his tractor to fix my driveway once I’m (somewhat) sure the wash isn’t going to flood anymore for the year. So this isn’t paying karma so much as swapping favors.

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Tobie was very pleased with himself…

Coming home from the Monday morning water run has become a bit of a stressful thing since Tobie decided he could chew and scatter whatever he wanted if Uncle Joel wasn’t home. I cleared out the lower cabinets and bathroom of targets of opportunity, sealed up the kitchen trash, closed the bedroom door – and he still found things worthy of destruction. I don’t think it’s anxiety, this is just the way he passes empty time and I expect he’ll outgrow it. Even when I go to Ian’s to shower, he carries firewood away from the woodstove and chews it up in the main room while he’s waiting for me to finish – and then he knows exactly where I am so it’s not separation anxiety. Just a bored puppy.

My arrivals have added to his stress, since I don’t take coming inside to find the cabin trashed…well. But it may be we’ve come to an agreement on that? Maybe? This time, and the last time I left him alone for a few hours, he contented himself with his own massive pile of chew toys – and of course got praised lavishly when I found he hadn’t laid waste to my stuff.

Leave it the hell alone.

Upon thoughtful reflection, Tobie may have decided that lavish praise, hugs and treats are preferable to getting yelled at and swatted.

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