Did a little better on the pallets this morning…


Did four pallets, and quit because I got hungry rather than because my old back was singing to me. Another two sessions like this and I’ll break out the chop saw and make stovewood. I may or may not hit it again this afternoon.


The generator is humming happily along, giving me no trouble at all. It’ll be due for an oil change once I’m done here, and I’ll hopefully drain the fuel and put it away for the season. Hoping that I go through the winter without needing it again, that is.

Wish I could say the same for that Craftsman recip saw. It acts and sounds like it’s giving up the ghost after only two seasons’ hard work. That’s very disappointing. It’s too useful to do without: Before next autumn I may look for an opportunity to upgrade.

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Back to the Cliffhouse

Twice a day for the next five, I’ll be going across the plateau and up T&S’s little mesa to tend their dogs and horse.


I really wish I could show you this house – there are other impressive houses here and there in the Gulch, all with much more substantial water and electrical infrastructures, but this is the only one I’d describe as an art house. It’s a real pain to get to, but once you’re there you want to just sit in the courtyard and enjoy.

It’s kind of inside-out like an old-fashioned hacienda, with the whole structure wrapping around a central courtyard that’s cool and watered and filled with a thousand plants you’ll never find anywhere else in the high desert. Even when the sun beats down, it’s completely surrounded by long covered porches – and the whole thing is built of stone or logs that came from who knows where – we don’t have that many big logs here – or rough lumber, with whimsical touches everywhere…


Of course utilitarianism rears its head here and there – You know how dogs always know when you’re getting ready to go away? T told me yesterday they knew the jig was up when he c-clamped this board across the low courtyard gate to keep the little one from launching over it, as he’s easily capable of doing…


The dogs spend their days in the courtyard, and I come up twice a day to let them out for a poop and feed them, check water and cat boxes and generally try to keep entropy under control. On Sunday, unless it rains a lot before then, I’ll spend an hour watering everything. I don’t think the dogs do a lot of pooping during their run because it always turns out there are messes to clean up. And at the last before I leave they each get a biscuit, which at first they’re quiveringly eager for but toward the end they get so love-starved they don’t even want it because that means the human is going away again.

I’m very glad I got the Jeep fixed. You might recall this particular gig has been a problem in the past because if you’re going to do it you really want a reliable 4X4.


I spent a lot of money in July getting long-standing problems with the fuel pump and water pump and front axle/steering looked to, and it’s really nice to be able to shut the engine off with some degree of assurance it’ll start back up. Plus today the Jeep clawed its way uphill with its traditional confidence instead of rather-more-or-less and my heart was never in my throat. This’ll be a much more pleasant gig than the last couple of times if everything continues to go well.

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One of life’s more disgusting little chores…

I haven’t been in Landlady’s house for two weeks, since her last visit. My bad – since (if I remember correctly) she’s due this weekend or actually this evening, I let myself in this morning to check for mice in traps.

Unfortunately it seems the mice decided to visit her traps maybe 20 minutes after she left. Even a diminutive 2-week-old corpse makes a noisome disgusting mess.


I couldn’t just dump the traps’ contents off the front porch like usual, I had to scrape them out with my knife. And that left me kind of stuck for a way to clean things up: The water is turned off, and even if I turned it back on I didn’t want to clean rotting mouse out of the traps and off my blade in her kitchen sink. I pondered.

Ah! This is one reason I carry water in the Jeep – the other reason being a fossil of the long period when the cooling system had that chronic leak – and by coincidence there was also an empty jug in the back. Remember I said they’re useful?


In fairness one of those useless 2.5 gallon abominations would have done as well here, I guess…

But anyway, her cabin should smell not nearly so bad by the time she gets here.

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Old man’s gettin’ old…

But this is my least favorite part of the woodcutting process right here…


It took less than an hour and a half for Uncle Joel to cry halt on cutting pallets apart with a Sawzall. In that time I dismantled only three pallets and some accumulated weathered junk people have called me to haul away in the warm season, and the result is piled right there.

By previous years’ standards that’s not terrible progress but it won’t get me into the Hermit Olympics. Now me and a beer are going to go out for some therapeutic porch time.

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Whatever will we do?

Legal Experts Warn Amber Guyger Verdict Could Set Dangerous Precedent Of Police Officers Not Being Allowed To Shoot Anyone They Want

Guyger and her legal counsel relied heavily on the “But I was a cop” argument as well as the “I feared for my life” defense, plus a creative use of the “Did I mention I was a cop?” legal precedent. But shockingly, none of these arguments worked, baffling legal experts and causing many to worry about the future of our justice system.

h/t

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Well. That was embarrassing…

I’ve been preparing since yesterday for today’s big trip to the biggish town about 35 miles away, where there would be lumber and ammo and meat and distilled water and assorted other groceries. Showed up at D&L’s right on time this morning, all dressed for town…only to discover that it’s next Wednesday, not today.

And I had to put off a couple of other social things to get it done, too…one of which I was able to go ahead and do, fortunately, but I have to go visit a neighbor tomorrow to discuss a paying gig and that meeting was supposed to be today.

Ah, well. Sick chicken, which I noticed yesterday and Neighbor L said this morning had to be, er, relieved of her misery. So I did that…


…and before anyone asks, because somebody always asks, no. I don’t eat sick chickens. This one was skin and bones under the bloat anyway.

I’ve been getting into winter nesting mode. Yesterday afternoon I fixed some worn-out skateboard tape on the porch steps…

…and this morning I got to thinking about my kindling hatchet, which it turns out I stored in deplorable condition…


Yeah, that’s a downside of heating with cut-up pallets. You just cut the nails with a sawzall, which means when you’re splitting planks for kindling you are occasionally going to find a nail. I like a good hatchet but a fancy one is not only unneeded but actually a disadvantage.

Anyway, I shouldn’t have stored it in that condition. But by Spring it is with a sense of profound relief that I put away the stove stuff, and the thought of fixing the edge then never crossed my mind.

So, since I had a few hours before (I thought) I needed to go meet neighbors, I brought out the edge tools.


I already took care of my full-size axe in July, in celebration of coming home. So that part of firewood prep is done.

Now it’s time to actually set up the saws and cut firewood, but I’m not going to make a big production of it this autumn. I still have half a woodshed full, and it’s nothing but a head-high rat nest and needs to be used up. So I’m going to cut a reserve supply just in case, but leave it under a tarp at the woodlot so I can spend the winter cleaning out the woodshed. Probably a lot of what’s in there is spoiled with rat byproducts but I won’t know how much till I start hauling it out.

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Battery Day

The first of the month is Battery Day, in which I go around and top off all the battery cells at Landlady’s, Ian’s and my places.

Since the big chickenhouse is attached to Landlady’s powershed, I was also able to bring back the ladies’ water bottles, all topped off.

Here’s a bit of irony related to the unintended consequences of moving your ass so far out in the sticks the coyotes need road maps: The most basic necessities can become locally unattainable without notice. For some reason, despite a significant minority of the county’s residents generating their own electrical power and storing it in lead-acid batteries, the crappy little market in the crappy little town nearest where I live has decided to no longer stock distilled water in gallon jugs.

Instead you can only get it in these useless things, and only sporadically…

Tomorrow I’m taking advantage of an opportunity to take a rare trip to the little town about 35 miles away, which has much better services including a Safeway, the incredible food palace, in which I hope to stock up on distilled water as well as a bunch of decent meat for winter.

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It’s not that cold!


So how come I’m so cold this morning? Maybe it’s just a subconscious reaction to the date. Winter isn’t the physical ordeal it used to be, what with incremental improvements in the Lair finally achieving real-house-like standards. But I still don’t like it.

Don’t like typing in gloves, either…


…but that’s just the way it is. Of course if I were really all that uncomfortable I suppose I could close some of the windows. But damned if I’ll give in to reality without a fight! And anyway, yesterday afternoon it ended up damned near 90o in here.

TB photobombed that last pic to let me know he was done with breakfast and ready to go for his walkie – which we did, and now my fingertips are really tingling…

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20+ psi

Just sayin’…


…and also I need to wash it with vinegar again.

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It works!

Okay: as of just after noon today, the water tank is absolutely as full as it can be*. One more molecule would fall right out the overflow pipe.

I just took this picture: The pressure is higher first thing in the morning for some reason, but 19.25ish psi in the middle of the afternoon is pretty high.


I’ll bet it reads 20 psi or better tomorrow morning, which will be an all-time high. So it’s official: Big Brother’s prediction was correct and pressure at the sink has a direct correlation with water tank level, and with a big enough scale you can use it as a warning of problems at the tank.


* For the record that’s 2500 gallons, about 50 feet above the Lair’s sink.

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I watched this, and my main question was…

“What the hell is wrong with all the people standing around photographing this?”


Insert chest-thumping drivel about what would happen if anybody behaved this way (bravely facing down a little old lady with a walker!) around here…

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And that’s why, even if I had a Christmas card list…

…Uncle Murphy wouldn’t be on it.

Had a few move-it-around chores to knock out this morning. First I had to move the cutting table from the Lair to the woodlot so I can chop up some knocked-down pallets for firewood…


Normally this would be very simple: Hitch up the trailer, back up to the cabin, load up the sawhorses and tabletop, drive to the top of the ridge, unload, etc.

Except now there are two things that can go on the Jeep’s trailer hitch mount and to accommodate the bicycle rack I had to take the hitch off the Jeep. You’d think the logical thing to do with it while it was unmounted would be to store it in the Jeep behind the driver’s seat where it’s safe and available, right? Yeah. Me too.

Can’t really blame this one on Murphy, it’s just me having a senior moment. But let’s just say the chore could not proceed until I figured out where the hell I’d left the hitch.


But having finally gotten that done, I had to do a small chore for Landlady I’ve been putting off. She’s getting ready to put rock on the wall behind her potbelly stove, and needed a sack of mortar. “Do we have any?” she asked. “Sure,” I breezily replied. “There’s two sacks in Ian’s powershed. I’ll bring one to the barn.”

And there were, too…


I am literally getting too old for this shit. And you know perfectly well that if the stacking order had been reversed, the first thing somebody would have needed would have been a sack of concrete. Because that’s how that bastard Murphy swings.

But the best part, the cherry on top, was when I finally got the stack reshuffled and hauled 75 pounds of mortar sack to the Jeep, drove to Landlady’s barn and backed up to unload – I found I could put it right on that other 75-pound sack of mortar I’d forgotten was already there.

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“Going for a ride?”

Another reason I don’t get as much use out of the bike as I should, given the changing season…


…I’m a soft touch.

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A hundred miles.


I took a trip to the dollar store with D&L this morning, and before I even went home to put the groceries away I took the bike out for the specific purpose of taking this picture…


We’ve crossed a hundred miles. And all in all I’m delighted with the bike, which in this environment I really wasn’t expecting to be. I had serious questions about how useful it would be, but I was wrong not as right as I usually am.

One small technical problem: A week or two ago the front tire went flat for no apparent reason (seriously the tube is still holding air) and unable to find any explanation I replaced the tube with my one-and-only spare. Apparently with fat tires it’s important to make sure you get the tire bead even on the wheel before fully inflating, which I don’t recall ever having any problem with on any conventional bike*. But after re-inflating the tire and replacing the wheel on the bike there was a definite bobbing sensation, and looking down as the front wheel rotated it wasn’t hard to see why: One part of the bead was seated more deeply than the rest.


So I took the front wheel off, which is very simple and easy (note to self: practice removing and replacing the rear wheel), deflated it, and fiddled with the bead until it appeared even all the way around. Took it out to the Jeep to inflate it with the Jeep’s air compressor because doing it with a hand pump is a really time-consuming and strenuous bore. Looks right now, we’ll see in the next couple of days whether it is right.

Big Brother, bless his heart, heard about the “mystery flat” and promptly sent me two more spare tubes.

I was just as happy to take the compressor out of the Jeep because then it was time for the next scheduled chore…


The bag in which I keep the Jeep kit is only two years old but recently the zipper has begun to fail. Last weekend it failed big-time and I ended up opening the bag by just ripping it open, pretty much obviating any possibility of getting it back together. Since the Jeep kit is important and often used – and in an extremely dusty environment – the situation called for immediate replacement.


I debated about getting the next bigger size bag, because this sort of thing can get out of hand and there’s only so much room in the back of the Jeep. But the old bag did kind of strain its seams a bit which might have caused the zipper failure. The new one is much taller but not much bigger around and will be fine – and maybe more long-lived – as long as I don’t find excuses to fill up the empty space.


*or any automotive tire for that matter, and I started out in a tire shop and have mounted many hundreds of tires. But these fat bike tires are a different breed of cat.

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Bridge over occasional water…

I have a bridge over the drainage ditch for the gully behind the Lair. It used to be for the burning barrels, and now it’s for the woodshed.


Since I traditionally knock them together out of whatever’s lying around, they never last more than a year or two. And this one’s about done.

This spring I figured I’ve got more substantial materials left over from the porch roof and floor projects, so I really ought to build a more substantial and maybe slightly better-looking bridge. Continue reading

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Here’s a sad mark of the season…


The Lair is down to just a couple of die-hard hummingbird freeloaders, everybody else presumably having headed south for the winter. And after they’ve sucked this last feeder-load dry I’m going to take it in, clean it up and store it for the season to encourage them to get their minuscule asses in gear.

I enjoy watching the ridiculous fairs of hummers fighting over feeder rights, but these two have settled down to peaceful coexistence for the most part: With only two tiny birds and a five-station feeder, there’s nothing left to squabble over.

But it’s time for everybody, including them, to start moving into winter prep mode.

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A Day in the Life

If it seems as though I’m not posting very much or with any real enthusiasm lately, it’s not because of any loss of interest in the blog. It’s just that nothing really happens here most of the time, most of what does happen is quite routine, and I have most definitely lost interest in filling in the blanks with quasi-political quacking as has been my practice for lo these many years.

Example: Here’s an unusually busy morning so far at the Secret Lair… Continue reading

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The things I do to get stuff done…

So now I’m sitting in D&L’s pickup outside the surprisingly well- attended physical therapy joint in the little town nearest where we live, waiting for Neighbor D to finish up, and it’s likely to be quite a wait because I only had one reason for coming to town…


…a new grain barrel/garbage can (which I had to order almost 2 weeks ago because nobody in town stocks them) and a couple of sacks of cracked corn to replace the moldy bunch I had to throw away earlier in the month. The old plastic barrel with the cracked cover has been demoted to carrying barn trash.

Gotta say, though, sometimes it’s fun living in the future. I’m thumbing this post out on my telephone, something the fifty-years-ago “futurists” did not predict. Kinda resent the thing about the flying cars, though.

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All day and most of the night…

…it rained.


Although several gullies ran into the wash, there weren’t any cloudbursts up on the plateau so the wash proper never ran. Would have been surprising, given how dry it’s been overall. Lots of mud on the road but things didn’t get into 4X4-only territory, at least not in my immediate stomping ground.

This morning the weather doesn’t seem able to make up its mind whether it’s done raining or not.

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Slow brain day.

The monsoon season, which is normally over by now, almost entirely gave us a miss this year. But it has rained all day today. Never especially hard and sometimes only a drip; the gully to the east of the Lair only ran a little bit in the late morning. But all day. I’ve gone out only to assist in the relief of certain internal pressures inherent in the Corgi physiology.

No adventures have ensued, nor any Deep Thoughts.

Here’s a funny article.

Nation’s Murderous Psychopaths Undecided On Whether They’ll Follow New Gun Laws

Jake Foster, who is planning a shooting spree, expressed similar concerns about the ban on “high-capacity” magazines. “Having to do a shooting spree and reloading after every tenth shot does sound irritating,” said Foster. “Despite the law, I might just use a high-capacity magazine anyway. I guess the question is whether I’m willing to deal with a possible fine on top of the multiple counts of murder.”

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