No way this is cost effective…

Before Landlady got the latest generation of hens, the local dollar store dropped the price of eggs to .99 a dozen. That’s not great encouragement to keep raising chickens.

Once they finally get their growth the appetite of laying hens backs off a bit, so that the picture above is enough pellets to keep layers going for six weeks or a couple of months, plus a sack of sunflower seeds just because for some reason chickens love sunflower seeds. The seeds cost almost exactly twice as much as the pellets, so what you’re looking at is just a hair under $80 worth of chicken feed. Counting only the pellets, it would be more like $52 and change. That would buy a lot of eggs at the dollar store. More than these 13 hens will lay in the same period of time. And when the hens are through laying eggs, their meat is good for nothing but stew – and not especially meaty stew at that.

On the other hand, I don’t have on-demand transportation so if I bought eggs in town I’d either have to stockpile several dozen or face times without eggs – and eggs have always been a major part of my diet. And raising at least some of my own food scratches an emotional itch. I have no plan to stop doing it. I did contemplate raising meat rabbits for a while, looked into the matter, decided that it was quite feasible – and then decided not to pursue the matter at this time. I don’t need the meat, and frankly the violent parts of raising my own food are by far my least favorite parts. I can do it, but prefer not to. I won’t take it up recreationally.

So for now I’ll keep raising chickens even though it doesn’t really make economic sense. But I’ll just remain in readiness to raise meat rabbits without actually doing so.

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Oh, jeez. If it was dumb when the bad guy did it, it’s probably still going to be dumb when your guy does it.

So I understand that at some point in the recent past, Trump ordered a cruise missile strike on some person/people/thing in Syria. Because the Syrian guy used chemical weapons on some person/people/thing – if it seems I haven’t exhaustively studied the topic, you have the right impression. As far as I’m concerned the whole middle east – hey, Trump! – would be a great place for a big wall. But I don’t randomly lob artillery shells at my neighbors when they annoy me, and (aside from my lack of acknowledged artillery) there’s a good reason for that.

Hey, remember Obama’s “red line” in Syria? The one that was supposed to keep Assad from breaking out the Zyklon-B whenever things didn’t go his way? It was a stupid thing for Obama to have said if he didn’t mean it, stupider yet if he did, and the conservatives used it as a talking point for months.

If fact, they still do. Because the conservatives, God help them, have not yet figured out that even though Trump did them the service of beating Hillary, he’s not their guy and they’re not obligated to rush to his defense. And so we get ‘reasoning’ of this inferior sort…

Obama’s infamous “red line” basically forced the President’s hand on this since the use of gas cannot be normalized.

No, it didn’t. If I’m a manager in a company and I threaten to fire everybody in my department if they cross some dumb “red line,” and they cross it and I blink, that doesn’t obligate my successor to do anything but not follow my stupid example in future. But the conservatives still seem to think they’ve got this bromance with Trump, and still feel the need to support/defend him by any stupid means at their disposal. When they figure out (the glaringly obvious fact that) he’s not that into them, it’s gonna get ugly for a while.

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Must be Spring

Because the laundry is moving outdoors! Yay!

The air is at shirtsleeve temperature by the middle of the morning but the water in the tank is still kind of cold. Neighbor L is still laundering my winter clothes because my way isn’t all that fun with heavier fabrics. But that’ll be going away gradually over the next several weeks…

And anyway I’m determined that these new gelsocks will seldom if ever see the inside of a washing machine. The old generation fell apart much quicker when I left them in with the winter laundry at L’s house.

With recent structural improvements I don’t hate winter with quite the passion I used to. But I still love spring just as much as ever.

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100_0102I’ve been fussing about in the yard, where the woodshed and the burning barrels used to be. The new woodshed will be located just in front of where the barrels were, and it will be constructed of more permanent materials than pallets, stockyard fencing and tarps. I’ve been stuck on what to use for flooring, since pallets have proven problematic for me and attractive for rats. And I think I’ve settled on these little flat concrete blocks…

…which, possibly for very good reasons I’m not privy to, are dimensioned 15.5″ X 7.5″. There’s no nice clean way to get a 4X8 rectangle out of them, but you can get close with seven rows of six blocks. It’s a little short of eight feet, a little wide of four. Good enough to call a four-foot block of wood filling it an honest cord.

Douglas Adams fans will immediately jump to the following conclusion, and will no doubt be completely correct in doing so: The Ultimate Question to Life, the Universe and Everything is: How many blocks does Joel need for his woodshed floor?

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Humans. They just won’t remember their place.

So this morning after walkies I hustled the boys right into the Jeep for chicken chores, because today’s supposed to be a lot nicer than yesterday and I wanted to get back home and get started on yard cleanup.

The Jeep has seen better days; it doesn’t like to climb the steep driveway up the ridge when the transmission is cold. So my route to Landlady’s place is basically the reverse of the walkie route; out my driveway into the wash, around the horseshoe bend in the wash and up Ian’s driveway to the road at the top of the ridge. Sometimes we just stay in the wash all the way, but the Jeep doesn’t have any working shock absorbers…

Anyway – we get back to Ian’s driveway, which we had just exited not fifteen minutes before, and three cows are nonchalantly chowing down on the meager grass of the verge between the driveway and the drop-off to the wash. This is not permitted. I have a rule: I get my yard and Ian’s yard, and the cows get everything else. This must be periodically explained to the cows. So I stopped the Jeep, got out (while unzipping my coat so I could get to the gun,) and started walking toward the nearest cow, shouting for it to “get outa here.”

The cow looked at me as if to say, “Oh, here’s another of those annoying humans, Myrtle. Why are they allowed to just walk around loose, bothering decent cattle?” It showed no inclination to get outa here or anywhere else, and if it had been a bull I’d have gotten distinctly nervous about my prospects for growing truly old while doing stupid things like this.

Finally it decided I really was being too much of a bother, and turned away. That got the other two moving, and I (first mentally inventorying what sort of ammo I had loaded) fired a shot into the ground to hurry them along.

Because of my chingered-up shoulder, for most of the winter I’ve carried my little 9X18 Makarov, which when fired does not make an impressive amount of noise. Just in the past week or so I’ve regained enough movement and strength in my right arm to move back to the Taurus Tracker. The Tracker is a compensated .44 mag…

And even though only loaded with .44 Special CCI Blazers* one of the big problems with it as an EDC gun is that any time you fire it without earpro you’re damaging yourself. It’s loud. The cows seemed to agree, and skeedaddled.

I turned back to the Jeep: Little Bear was in the driver’s seat, clearly annoyed that I had gone off to chase cattle without him, and Ghost was nowhere to be seen. He’s always been a wuss about gunfire and I found him right where I expected, tucked under the instrument panel in front of the shotgun seat. He’s gotten so fat and stiff he had an awful time levering himself back out of there.

*”What ammo to carry” is a constant issue. When the cattle are around, the pistol is most commonly just a noisemaker. I resist using my limited supply of expensive commercial ammo for that purpose. With the Mak I carried the gun with a hardball round in the chamber and a magazine full of Hornady FTX, then the belt mag was full of hardball. That way if I needed to scare off some cattle I could quickly swap mags and not piss away my limited supply of expensive whiz-bang ammo. The revolver being more complicated to change ammo in, I keep it loaded with CCI “flying ashtray” Blazers which are at least available locally if not exactly cheap. Then I’ve got speed strips of cheap cast reloads and Cor-Bon .44 Magnum, so I’m good for anything between casual plinking and discouraging a bear.

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All hell broke loose at 8:15 in the PM…

A change of weather is frequently heralded by a windstorm. Last night we got one that made me very happy I don’t live on a ridgetop. The wind roared through, right up the wash channel, slamming into the Lair enough to make it flex and creak, ripping up and flinging everything that wasn’t bolted down…

I’ll be finding things in odd places hundreds of yards away for a while, but I was mostly concerned with the things that were bolted down…

And they stood the pressure just fine. So, good. I can stick things together that don’t fall down, if I stay with it.

The current crop of four ladies insist on sleeping on top of their coop. Since the weather has been so moderate at night I haven’t bothered training them to use the nice safe roost I made for them inside the coop. Last night I had reason to regret that, but it was too late to worry…

And they seem to have taken it in stride.

After breakfast the boys and I made the circuit of places I’m supposed to be watching, but except for Landlady’s woodbox (totaled) there doesn’t seem to have been any damage.

I was particularly concerned with her new panel rack, which wasn’t braced against the wind to the extent I would have preferred…

But it’s undamaged and apparently unstrained. So I guess it has passed the proof test.

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That’s a battery bank.

24 T-105s, charging from 12 200-watt panels. Not that they have to charge very much, since the inverter and support equipment are the only loads these particular batteries ever see. By comparison, I just recently installed 4 older T-105s and the improvement was exponential rather than incremental. This sucker is six times the size of mine.

But it just sits there, maintained but unused, because the owner paid for the installation and then was diagnosed with a bad sort of cancer and I’ll be pleasantly surprised to ever see him again. He pays me to watch the place, which includes unlocking the shed once a month and ensuring that things are still there. Once I had to get Neighbor S to come help take the charge controller apart to remove a pack rat nest. I’m not kidding about that.

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Yeah. It worries me sometimes.

I mean, I had a good night’s sleep. But…


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The Gulch is once again rooster-less.

This to announce that, for the repeated infraction of injuring hens of the current generation for no apparent reason, Principal Seymour Skinner has been referred for a separation counseling conference with the Gulch’s personnel director for avian affairs, Chicken Jesus.

You talk and talk till you’re blue in the face and they just won’t listen. It’s as if they can’t even understand what you’re saying. Finally you just gotta shoot’em in the head and eat’em.

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There’s one way to make LB happy Ghost is visiting…

Ghost is visiting the Lair through Thursday while S&L are in the city. And what happened to my svelte young man?

He’s been with S&L almost exactly a year now, and he’s taking this ‘prosperous retirement’ thing far too seriously. He’s a grunting, wheezing old man, arthritic in the hips and stuffed like a sausage. Yesterday I had to pick him up to get him in the Jeep – and he let me! That’s the mode of transfer he has grown used to. The first time I ever tried to pick him up, he threatened to bite off a significant fraction of my face.

Yes, Ghost has grown used to a much more, um, lush standard of living. Canned food with every meal. Multiple meals per day. I can cut him back a bit on the portions if I want but if I cut him down to one-a-day I’ll have to endure the eternal Ghost “you call this service?” stare. With whining as a sound track. So he gets fed twice a day. The good stuff.

Little Bear normally gets fed once a day, and he can eat dry food with maybe an egg cracked on top or he can bloody starve. Ask him his opinion and he’ll tell with a quiver of righteous truth in his voice that he is starving. He’s right – It’s taken me five years to starve off the obesity ol’ clueless Joel let him fall into when I left food out constantly, but LB was no longer running around freely burning it off. But LB is also a big, strong, not-yet-old killer with food aggression issues. I can’t feed Ghost like this is a Caribbean cruise while treating LB like an Auschwitz inmate. That way lies fratricide.

So the rules are relaxed for the duration, and LB likes it when Ghost comes to visit.

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Your cat is evil. It’s probably an imp of Satan.

Here is an incredible time sink with hundreds of photos in proof of the thesis. Please take it away before I use up my whole month’s bandwidth allotment.


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Care packages!

First, the gelsock final report…

And the very fine final count is …

Which is a number 50% higher than my fondest, most unrealistic hope. I nursed 10 or 12 of these along for over two years. Since I plan to live forever 32 is not a lifetime supply, but it will definitely remove the anxiety from my getting dressed process for quite some time to come. Thank you all so much. Continue reading

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Stay tuned for an important care package-related message…

I have to run, it’s my last chance to make a fuel run and I’m down to my last few molecules of gasoline. But I just wanted to briefly say…


The gelsocks have arrived! :)

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The weather didn’t read the forecast

“Periods of sun and clouds,” they said. “Possible afternoon shower,” they said. It’s snowing like there was a big sale at the snow store.

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Big Brother said a bad word.

He sent me an email titled “F*cking awesome!” Which is the first time I recall him ever using that word. Not saying it’s the first time he ever did use it.

The context was this…

SpaceX, the first company ever to launch and soft-land a booster stage, has done so several times now. Today, though, was the first time they ever took a deep breath and re-used a booster.

You may recall that one of the selling points of those NASA shuttle-murdering solid rocket boosters was that they could be recovered (after falling into the very corrosive ocean) and re-used. Being a government entity, NASA was of course lying. They did recover some, but I’m unaware of whether they actually re-used any. And those are just solid rocket boosters, basically metal tubes filled with ammonium perchlorate and aluminum. NASA never even attempted to re-use a real liquid-fuel rocket motor. In fact they say one of the most terrifying moments of the moon landings was waiting to find out if the Lander motor would re-start when it was time to leave again.

So today SpaceX made history (again) by launching and soft-landing a rocket booster they had already launched and soft-landed once before. How much re-building they had to do between the events is something I’d really like to know. But even if they had to do a complete refurbishment, it’s still the first time in history.

spacex-falcon-9-shipF*cking awesome.

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Day got busy early…

D&L wanted to go to the dump, of which fact they informed me while I was sleeping in this morning. So suddenly things got busy; I had to go to S&L’s and drop something off, tend chickens, walk dog, hitch up the trailer, coffee up,…

And for all that, this is all the garbage I could dispose of…

Because they had this much…

And it all had to somehow fit in here.

But the contents of that one garbage can were getting pretty nasty, like soon they would evolve and come looking for revenge on the guy who kept them locked inside there for so long. I wanted to avoid the fight to the death with the Toxic Avenger, so it was worth it to get that out of here, and anyway D&L aren’t as young as they were when they started this adventure and they can use help even when they don’t admit it.

So that’s out of the way.

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I don’t like this future at all. Let’s try another.

Students Confess Their Sins At ‘Masculinity Confession Booth’

A university will be hosting a “Masculinity Confession Booth” along with a number of other workshops and screenings to combat “hypermasculinity.”

“We have all reinforced hypermasculinity one way or another regardless of our gender!!” explains the University of Regina event description. “Come and share your sins so we can begin to discuss how to identify and change our ways !!!”

You’ll be sorry, after you’ve killed off the last man and then suddenly find that your airy condo full of cats, throw pillows and Andrea Dworkin books is infested with spiders and there’s nobody to stomp on them for you.

This is not the future John Varley had in mind.


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Cold. Wet. Sleeting. Windy. Also, cold.

I want to know what happened to my freakishly warm winter. Did one of you sneak in here and steal it?

“Clearly,” smirked the giant pile of firewood cluttering my yard, “You weren’t as finished with us as you thought you were, were you? Shouldn’t have given in to the hubris and wishful thinking and torn down that woodshed as early as you did, should you?”

“Screw you,” I growled, my eyes narrowing with a steely glint as if I’d been reading too much Zane Grey, “I have lots of propane, and I’m not afraid to use it.”

And so the woodstove and its extensive wood-chopping infrastructure remains mothballed and un-messy, …

But I will confess that nice new canvas chore coat came out of its plastic bag. Because this is precisely the sort of day for which countless Mexicans gave their poorly-paid labor making it.

Little Bear is already pouting, knowing by the signs that he’s seen all the walkies and Jeep rides he’s going to see until afternoon chicken chores.

This is a day for sittin’ and readin’ and drinkin’ tea. Earl Grey. Hot.

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Oh, bother. Here’s more neighbor trouble.

So a couple of days ago the phone rang and L asked, “Did you pull a gun on [oh, let’s call him Jay]?”

I said, “No, I did not pull a gun on Jay. Why do you ask?”

Okay, a couple of things first as background. First, we have a new neighbor, right on the outskirts of what I consider my stomping ground. We’ll call him Jay because that’s his name and I don’t like him. He’s a loud, obnoxious drunk with a pickup truck that looks like it has sideswiped a myriad of trees and fenceposts and an ATV that by some absurd miracle has not yet killed him. Following the tracks of either is like falling into a cartoon with a cruel stereotype of a drunken driver. I thought I knew for sure how Jay is going to die, but now I’m no longer sure because a second possible cause of death has arisen.

Second, from my earliest firearms training I was given what I consider extremely good advice, which I have never even been seriously tempted to break in all these years: Never pull a gun on a person you’re not prepared – indeed planning – to shoot. First, it’s dangerous because accidents happen and second, what if he calls your bluff? What’s your next move, Tex? You’ve just converted a position of strength into one of weakness. What’re you gonna do, wound him? Life is not a Jason Statham flick. So no, I wouldn’t have pulled a gun on Jay even if I’d been the one who confronted him, which I was not.

Those preliminaries out of the way, this morning I wanted to know why L had jumped to the conclusion that I had pulled a gun on Jay.

“Well, his girlfriend (yes, Jay has a girlfriend. They may reproduce.) said somebody did. And I thought if you had caught him nosing around Ian’s place or something…”

“Wait. He’s trespassing now?”

“Better than that. There’ve been at least two break-ins, and guess who looks like the most probable breaker-inner given what was stolen.”

“What was stolen?”

“Booze, and a composting toilet.”

“And Jay and [girlfriend]’s place famously has no septic field…”

“Or water well, or electricity, or nothing. Right. So I thought, maybe Joel. Except now I know it wasn’t you, because Jay’s girlfriend called the cops on the woman he said had pulled the gun. Except it wasn’t a gun, it was a camera. So now the cops have digital photos of Jay (a “menacing figure” right out of central casting) going postal on [Cindy C.], who looks like Olga Korbut only smaller and less intimidating. Not too unclear who was menacing whom, so [girlfriend] didn’t do Jay any favors by calling cops, but we’re not talking about mental giants here.”

Oh, for heaven’s sake. Y’know, I don’t normally wish evil to befall my fellow man just on general principles. But since Jay is destined to drive full-speed into a tree or off a cliff one day anyway, is it bad if I hope it happens soon?

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You’re assuming they have “first principles.”

Halfway through my first cup, I already found my belly laugh for the morning…

…those Republicans in the Freedom Caucus and the conservative organizations undergirding them who killed the AHCA have done Trump, the GOP, even Ryan and the House GOP leadership and the country at large a favor. We can now start over and get back to first principles where health care is concerned.

Right. This will shock the “conservative” GOP “leaders” right into line, I’m quite sure.

Obamacare was passed in, what, 2010? And only now, having unexpectedly had their last excuse removed, the congressional repub “leaders” discover that they have no ideas for how to run a health care industry better than Obama’s already failing 5-year plan? Shocking. Shocking.

The article’s notion of “first principles” is to admit that all the government regulations have done nothing but progressively wreck an industry that, in my youth, was the pride of the nation. ‘Get rid of the regulations and step back,’ suggests the writer. The repubs would only consider that if they could also remove the franchise from all those people who’ve been getting free stuff all this time. And they can’t do that, so they can’t unplug the free ice cream machine. So – apparently to everyone’s surprise, their much-anticipated new plan looked just like the old plan.

Of course, as I learned in 16 years of active marriage, whenever something goes seriously wrong the first job is to assign the blame. And of course in this case that’s easy: This whole debacle is clearly the fault of, um…dammit, who should we blame? Ah! Got it!

Right. Thanks, Mr. Prez. That’s very helpful. We knew we could depend on you.

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