I’m growing to love this saw…

This morning’s mission was to take down the siding on the west side of the cabin, something I was extremely reluctant to do. Not because I’m sentimental about it – though I find I am, a little – but because I originally planned to take it down only after the bedroom was enclosed. Doing it so early in the process seemed certain to invoke the true onset of Monsoon. But it was in the way: I can’t put up the hangers for the addition’s floor joists until I can get to the cabin’s foundation timber. Which was covered in siding.

Then this morning it occurred to me: Who’s really going to die if I just cut the bottom few inches off the siding and sheathing? The sheathing’s headed for the burn barrel anyway, it should have been replaced two years ago. And I have a perfectly good sawzall, whose principal purpose is wrecking. Why be afraid to use it?

When Big Brother first sent me this last year, it looked like a waste of money because the battery life was so poor. But the addition of a bigger battery alleviated that problem a bit, and I swear these batteries are getting better as time goes by. The saw going dead in the middle of a cut isn’t the problem it was at first*.

Won’t get a lot done this morning: I’ve got one ear cocked toward the phone because my roofing is due to be delivered today, plus I need to run over to S&L’s every 2 or 3 hours to let Ghost ease his geriatric bladder.

But some work is happening.

* Though I do have to say, that 4ah battery takes several hours to recharge, and only several minutes to drain.

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How’s that gun control working out for you, congressmen?

Steve Scalise, aides shot in Virginia

Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., told Fox News he left just before the shooting. As he walked to his car, a man asked DeSantis if it was Republicans or Democrats practicing. About 3 minutes later, at around 7:15 a.m., the shooting began, DeSantis said. It reportedly lasted about 10 minutes.

Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, told Fox News he “felt like I was in Iraq, but without my weapon.” Sen. Jeff Flake said the congressional group were “sitting ducks.”

“Without the Capitol Hill police it would have been a massacre,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., told Fox News, describing the scene as “sort of a killing field.”

Of course this is “developing,” so all of the above will turn out to be inaccurate – especially the part about a congressman courageously giving first aid to a minion.

Good thing they had the best armed security taxpayer money can buy, unlike everybody else in the region whom their laws have disarmed and left helpless. Wouldn’t want a massacre of congressmen. That would be really bad.

If this turns out to be a leftwing #resistance thing, the news could get very entertaining for the next few days.

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I’m not sure driverless cars are a good idea when designed by engineers…

But I KNOW DAMNED WELL they’re a bad idea when designed by a gaggle of senators.

A trio of senators plan to establish a new model for regulating self-driving vehicles, with the hope that the new technology could cut the number of deadly car crashes.

“Self-driving vehicle technology will have a transformational impact on highway safety,” Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., said Tuesday. “Working on a bipartisan basis, we continue to make progress in writing what we expect will become the first ever changes in federal law helping usher in this new transportation era.”

To ease those developments, Thune and other lawmakers plan to craft legislation to set safety standards while keeping regulations light enough for the technology to flourish. The senators also hope to “educate the public to encourage responsible adoption of self-driving vehicles,” according to a list of policy principles released Tuesday.

So! Now we know how the species ends. Nice to have that out of the way, I guess.

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I don’t want to live in fear of Badspeak.

Look, I get it. Gun owners have been an oppressed minority in this country for a long time, and we get to listen to all the righteous gungrabbers going on all damn day about reasonable restrictions on gun violence. Meaning us. Right? It can make a person a bit touchy.

I agree. I am on the side of the absolutists, the radicals, the ‘let’s compromise in the other direction for a while’ types. I’m a gun nut.

And when some quisling publicly tries to throw us nuts under the bus to improve his own bottom line, I’m perfectly happy to help boycott that SOB into another line of work. But that’s not what I want to argue against this morning.

Remember back in 2008 with Jim Zumbo and his “terrorist rifles?” Sure you do. And the gunny internet went nuts. I’ll go ahead and admit that I’d never heard of Zumbo – I stopped reading gun rags many many years ago when I finally figured out that there’s absolutely nothing inside except ads and filler, and that includes the purported articles. So I wasn’t really all that outraged that this guy I’d never read said something bad about something I liked. But the gun internet, as previously mentioned, went nuts. And people whom I know and truly admire started calling for Zumbo to ‘recant’ – and he’d damn better use all the words they wanted to hear.

And I was chilled to the bone. We were talking show trials and recantations, on a subject many of us regard as absolutely tied to freedom and liberty. And I asked then, what if this Zumbo character really does adjust his hairshirt just right and uses the precisely correct amount and consistency of ashes on his head? Do you really believe that will change what he thinks a single iota?

You know who else liked show trials and recantations? And we hate those guys. Right? We think badthink is a bad idea. Right?

We do, right?

I wasn’t arguing against throwing Zumbo under the bus. It’s a place he richly deserved to be. I was arguing against acting like a frickin’ People’s Committee, making sure everybody recited the currently mandated incantations with an acceptable quiver of righteous devotion in their voices. Lots of things have changed for me in the past nine years, but not that. I still hate that.

Now here’s this guy named Pat MacNamara – of whom, again, I know nothing – who apparently went on a for-god’s-sake Comedy Central show doing a hit job on guns and said something (or was edited to appear to have said something) doubleplusungood. And the gun internet went nuts.

Again! I’m not here to defend the guy. I guess he makes a living as a gun trainer, and we’ve seen before that gun trainers often love laws that tend to mandate gun training. They may well love any law that tends to drive gun owners into their shop. Not everybody in the gun business is on our side – a fact we keep tripping over. You can’t boycott everybody.

But the frenzied search for purity can get so out of hand, and we need to pay attention so we don’t become the thing we hate. Case in point: Captain Capitalism is taking the purist view on Pat MacNamara – and I agree with him absolutely, in principle. But then he quotes Tam, whom he apparently holds to be condemning MacNamara with insufficient zeal. And then she compounds her crime by saying something with which a purist – myself included! – must surely disagree…

Since the right to keep and bear arms is a civil right, the default setting is that everyone has it. If someone becomes a felon or is otherwise debarred from arms, then make a NO GUNS ALLOWED black mark on their DL/ID/passport/whatever.

Show me an ID without that disclaimer, and you’d be good to go, no background check necessary. And you’d be good to go in all 50 states, at that.

…and I hear the hounds baying and see the villagers giving her meaningful glares while reaching for their pitchforks…

…and it’s moments like that when it’s really best to take a moment. Okay?

Y’know, when I was a kid the adults called them clips. And nobody got upset.

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It’s 5:40 as I type this title, and…

…on the Jeep radio and the Internet I’ve already encountered pieces about the “opioid crisis” twice today.

So either we’re being lied to in a really systematic way, or there’s a prescription pill epidemic. After – how long? 50 years? 60? – of the War on People Who Take Drugs, including intimidating and imprisoning doctors to keep them from ‘overprescribing’ the things, somehow everybody in the country but me can pop Vicodin like Pez. Why couldn’t I ever find any of those doctors when I wanted one?

So…either the government’s War has been the biggest failure since Operation Barbarossa or we’re being lied to. Or both. Both is not out of the question.

Who – I really want to know – who came up with “opioid” in the first place? That’s a really annoying word for some reason, probably because it came out of nowhere and was suddenly on every news reader’s lips day and night. What ever happened to old-fashioned opiates?

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One of us is confused, lady.

And for once I’m pretty sure it isn’t me.

Believe whatever you want, I don’t care. If it’s demented, you’ll at least have some entertainment value. But the problem with this bullshit is that it’s prescriptive and coercive. Like they won’t be happy till the whole world has been transformed into the campus of Evergreen State College.

Seriously, I don’t know how you guys put up with it. Oh! I said guys! That’s so … what is that? Cisnormative? Is that the word? Oppressive, for sure, since I’m a guy. Not really sorry.

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A sinister hacker group associated with the Russian government prevented me from posting.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. It had nothing to do with that old-man nap evil Trumpists claim I fell into after coming home from the morning water run. Nothing. Nothing!

By the way…

If you’re loading a bunch of stuff into the Jeep, and some of it needs to be offloaded at the Lair and some of it is going on to Landlady’s place, it makes more sense to load the Landlady stuff first.

Rather than the way I did it. Which I totally blame on James Comey.

I poured the last of my stored gasoline into the Jeep early this morning so I could bring all the Jerry cans to town for refilling, because with the deteriorating state of Ghost’s bladder it looks like “do I have enough gas for this” has become a relevant question again. Two or three trips a day turned into a minimum of four. I could just load his protesting carcass into the Jeep and haul him to the Lair, but then I’d have to put up with his sulking for two weeks. He actually snapped at me yesterday, when he thought I was urging him to the Jeep. He never did that before – not to me, anyway. He’s done it to everything else at some point. Swear he’s going a bit dim, but not so dim he hasn’t made up his mind about whether to stay home or come with me.

This morning before the water run I tore off the pier forms and got some digging done. Most of the piers look terrible, to be honest. Turns out chipboard is not good form material. But they’ll hold the bedroom up, and it’ll serve as incentive to skirt the damn thing once I have it built.


Hm. I’ve got two hours before I have to go let Ghost out again. Finish filling in the trenches, or resume the nap? Let me think…

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Nobody asked me to dance, but there was singing.

Many years ago I went on a bewildering two-week business trip to mainland China. I say bewildering because most of it degenerated into a string of meetings and drunken, overfed lunches and dinners where I mostly didn’t even know why I was there. There were ceremonial greetings, business cards were exchanged, people went on at length in Mandarin – a language for which I had all of three words – and I was rarely asked to say or do anything.

Finally figured out that my job, if I may speak cynically, was to be the white guy. As long as I smiled, wore a suit, spoke English with an American accent, little more was ever asked of me. It was weird and expensive and kind of insulting, but I saw a lot of nice scenery. Didn’t really mind very much – hey, how often does a guy like me get escorted around China? – except for the Karaoke. I had no particular opinion about Karaoke before that trip, and now I despise it with violent passion.

It turns out that sort of thing has become a cottage industry in China…

White people wanted: a peek into China’s booming ‘rent a foreigner’ industry


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Oy, what a morning…

…and it’s not yet 8:30.

Rolled out at the usual time for summer solstice, just as the sky was getting good and light. Wanted coffee and a quick breakfast but I’d kept that half-loaf of bread a day too long. Feed moldy bread to the chickens while the coffee brews. Give LB his walkie, but we’re cutting it short this morning because we’ve got a lot to do and I’m wearing sandals for the weekend to let this little patch of heat rash heal. We’re not going into the brush in sandals. And anyway we need to get on the road ASAP.

S&L are gone, leaving me in charge of Ghost. But since he can’t get in and out of the Jeep anymore and has made his opinion of me and the Lair quite apparent, we’re trying something new: I’m going over there three times a day to feed him and give him walkies. He doesn’t trust me when I call on him to come outside, he knows he’s been left again and assumes I’m trying to trap him into the Jeep. But I thought he was getting outside to do his chores enough. This morning at quarter to six I learned how very wrong I’d been about that. Ah, swell. Continence issues. Damn, that dog is getting old fast.

Okay, this is a great big house and it’s spotless – I just know that somewhere around here L has an entire floor-cleaning infrastructure, right? And it’s probably got its own well-stocked closet. Somewhere. So now I’m wandering around these folks’ house, something I’m extremely reluctant to do, looking for the closet or corner with a bunch of cleaning stuff. Turned one corner … you know that scene where Igor is stealing Hans Delbruck’s brain and gets scared by his own reflection in an unexpected mirror? Yeah. Except for the part with the brain, that happened.

Yup. Just turn a corner in somebody else’s darkened house, and there’s a guy with a flashlight. Boy, that mirror was clean.

Finally found the mop and bucket, cleaned up Ghost’s offering, fed him, aspirined him, went outside, (he didn’t want a walky, and why should he? He’d already dealt with his problem) cleaned out the bucket and watered the plants. Stopped at Landlady’s to feed chickens on the way back to the Lair. Yesterday we had a problem at Landlady’s: I went into the powershed to get the egg basket and the batteries were going nuts, boiling themselves dry. I checked to see if they were on an equalization charge, they’ll boil a lot while that’s happening, but this was way beyond that and had been going on for quite some time. I just topped them off eight days before but they were half-empty and had made a mess on the floor. Some problem with the charge controller, I presume but don’t know. So, since Landlady wasn’t around anyway, I shut everything down and sent a text to S. Of course, as previously mentioned, S is on the road. So maybe that’ll get diagnosed before her next visit. If not, at least the batteries should be good and charged, right? Fed the chickens, filled the waterer, loaded up the empty water bottle and headed home to find that my chickens had shit all over their own waterer – It’s now like 6:30 in the frickin’ AM and my day is going rapidly to hell, and I haven’t even really accomplished anything.

Scrub out the waterer at the laundry table. This reminds me that I forgot to put my concrete-pouring clothes out to soak yesterday so I do that. Wash up and get the yeast to proving for bread before it gets hot – except that now my stomach and blood sugar level remind me I haven’t had breakfast. So I’ve got three things going on and now I need a fourth. I’ve got nothing to make toast with. What can I eat quick?

Oh, what the hell? I already had hot water…

Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions

So a quick breakfast of delicious 40-year-old beans and franks, then start to make dough and remember my flour bucket is almost empty. Meant to haul in the full one from the pantry.

Guess who’s been pissing all over my food buckets again? Get the dough made, knead it out, put it in the oven to rise, then go out and scrub the bucket lids…


So now it’s quarter to nine, my morning chores are caught up, I’ve got bread about ready to go into the oven…

My stomach’s full, my concrete-spattered BDUs are soaking (two days late,) I need to fill a flour bucket right after I wash this enormous pile of dishes from last night and this morning’s breadmaking – there’s a pot of water heating on the stove for that as I type this…

…and I could really use a second cuppa.

Ah! The simple life!


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Semi-domesticated birds go berserk at the sight of a net.

I don’t know why they do, but they do. Some sort of evidence for genetic memory? I dunno. But nets terrify them.

As a California liquor store owner learned to his great cost.

H/T to Claire, who just returned from a week-long class in icon-painting. I dunno why that, either, but she seems to have enjoyed herself.

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Hm. Not my prettiest work ever…

Clearly neglected to rod it down when I ran out of concrete.

But what the hell. It’s still better than Soviet or Detroit cementwork, and their buildings almost never fall down. Unless acted on by outside forces, you know, like a puff of wind or a bird landing on it or something unforeseeable like that.

No, I’m not taking off the forms from yesterday’s pour today. Specially not after gazing upon the mess I made of the first one. I’ll leave those on till Monday.

Hey, green paint fixes everything.

soviet cement

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The concrete phase is complete!

Well, except for taking the forms apart…

But not that one. That one’ll be easy.

When you’re rodding down the concrete and the level starts dropping dramatically, that’s when you really wish you’d been able to buy Sonotube. And when, if you’re a penniless desert hermit,…

…you run for your big ball of baling twine. :) It’s amazing how many times that thing has bailed me out. I should call it bailing twine.

But we’re done now.

Taking the rest of the day off. :)


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LB and I were out and about at 6…

…so as far as he’s concerned the best part of the morning is already over.

For me it’s only begun. I wrapped my stump most carefully; don’t want anything loose this morning, nor yet too tight. Today’s the day…

…we either get it right and no longer have to deal with it, or we have a horrific problem.

First problem is the biggest, really: Uncle Joel is not well equipped for walking around with heavy weights.

There’s a second load just like it still waiting at Landlady’s barn, but the Jeep has also seen better days.

Now let’s strip off unnecessary weight and hang-ups…

…put on old boots and the most raggedy BDUs, grab a quick breakfast and hit it while the day is cool.

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Soylent Brown is Chickens!

Seems innocent enough…

The nice man’s just baking biscuits for his dog, right? Innocuous.

But if we follow the process back…

Ah! Contact PETA!

I keep telling them, they’re here to provide food. Preferably eggs. So best keep laying eggs, there, ladies.

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Question: Has the entire U.S. government gone completely mental?

Because I was in the Jeep this morning, and I’d have sworn I heard the until-recently director of the frickin’ FBI admit in front of a bunch of senators and my radio speaker that he leaked a CYA memo himself – and apparently he didn’t leave the building in irons.

Isn’t that a crime when other people do it? I thought they were all down on leakers and shit.

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Uncle Joel’s laying hen retirement plan…

Got my scheduled work done this morning. My new expanded battery bank does a helluva lot better than the old two-battery bank did, but cutting a bunch of 3/4″ rebar with an angle grinder will make itself known. It’s a sunny morning but the system didn’t hit float until after 11. But now everything’s in place and level and ready for concrete.

This afternoon’s job is meaty doggy treats. I still had a couple of hen carcasses in Ian’s freezer from last year, didn’t really want to eat them but these few did have a little meat so I couldn’t just feed them to the coyotes. ML’s idea of baking them into doggy treats made sense.

So one of the last generation of hens collects on her retirement plan: Good eating in a warm place. The inside of LB’s stomach is probably pretty warm. First I had to get the meat off the bones, so after thawing it enough to cut it apart it’s spent the bulk of the morning in the pressure cooker.

Now that I’m done messing around outdoors it’s time to see if I can strip the carcass and pulverize the meat enough for baking. We’ll see how this goes! I certainly have enough chicken stock.

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Boy, we got one of those terrible storms yesterday…

First bunch of storm cells slouched off to the east and left us alone. But around 3:30 black clouds started building and building, with distant ominous rumbles, just growing and growing, lightning flashing and thunder banging, getting darker and meaner and closer for hours

…and in the end they rolled off to trouble somebody else, leaving us with some gentle rain and nothing else. Teaser.

Kind of reminded me how scary a good desert lightning storm can be, like I needed a reminder. I can show you two prominently lightning-scarred trees a literal stone’s throw from the Lair’s front porch – and then there’s the way lightning fried the old inverter two years ago. Yeah, I pay attention when the lightning flashes, not that there’s much I can do but unplug the unpluggable electronics.

Anyway, I’m going to ease off this morning. No concrete pouring. I borrowed my neighbor’s angle grinder…

And that’ll get through even 3/4″ rebar a hacksaw will barely scar before you run out of steam, but it does take minutes rather than seconds. And it ideally requires sunny weather – though I watched my battery voltage with interest while I cut through this one in yesterday’s heavy overcast and I must say, I’ve really been handicapping myself by sticking to that two-battery bank – so this morning is just for cutting rebar and then setting all the forms in place proper. If I try to add pouring the actual concrete to that, things are going to get rushed. Mistakes will be made, and not in the government bureaucratic sense where the mistakes don’t have any consequences for the guilty.

Also, honestly, I’m about to be threatened for dominance in my own house by this enormous pile of dirty laundry. So probably not a lot of building update posts today.

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One thing ten years in the wilderness will teach you…

:) Always have a Plan B.

I no sooner began trying to cut off the excess rebar than the cutting torch oxygen bottle ran dry. :(

It was starting to rain anyway, but I really wanted to be ready to pour concrete first thing in the morning. Now I need to go borrow a neighbor’s angle grinder. I will carefully take steps to see to it that things go better than last time.

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I’ve quietly shaken one of my oldest phobias.

Pretty good so far. I wanted to do everything required to pour the least important pier, just to take the first one slow and make sure I knew where all the mines were hidden.

And it did go pretty well. I ran into the one thing I just knew was going to go wrong; that’s the shortest pier, and I guessed that one 80-pound sack would almost but not quite fill the form – not because I’d done any such calculation or anything, just because it was the most annoying thing I could imagine short of total disaster. And sure enough, the contents of a single sack came to 3″ of the fill line. So I needed a portion of a second sack, and you know you can’t mix just a little concrete.

Hah! But I fended off Uncle Murphy by having second form in place before I did the first pour, just in case I needed a place to put excess. And then I poured the excess into the second form and shoved some rebar stubs in there. It’ll be fine.

And I stood back and admired my work to date, and it occurred to me that I have quietly gotten over one of my oldest, most nagging phobias in a life filled with petty neuroses.

Maybe not a phobia. I don’t actually fear them. An aversion, let’s call it. I’ve always hated construction sites. Hated them. It’s why I went into auto repair*.

My father hated construction sites, and he made his whole living at them. He hated his job, he hated his life, and he wasn’t afraid to let it show. And when I was a little kid and getting dragged around to construction sites with my dad, all I remember from that is mud and mess and huge guys standing around a barrel full of burning scrap early in the winter morning trying to get feeling into their fingers. And I decided that was not for me, no matter what.

But that was a long time ago. Been here at the Gulch ten and a half years now, and it’s been one construction site after another. And you know what? I … wouldn’t go so far as to say I’ve grown to love them. I much prefer finished construction. But a building under construction is no longer a chaotic, inchoate thing to me. No longer frightening, even when I can’t truthfully say I’m completely on top of what I’m doing. No longer just there to torture me. I’ve helped build four houses and a large barn, along with numerous smaller service buildings of various sorts. I’m by no means a master builder, but I’m starting to get it. This addition is by far the most complex structure I did all the planning and will have done most of the construction on, and I’ve got this. That’s a big improvement.

The Lair’s inverter won’t run a circular saw, so now that I finally know all the form dimensions LB and I went back to Landlady’s barn where the building materials are stashed and cut all the remaining form sections.

After lunch I’ll assemble the remaining forms and cut off the excess rebar, and then call a halt for the day. It’s been pretty hot, and I expect to have just enough time to do the above before the afternoon storm rolls through. So that’s ambition enough for the afternoon.

It’s a good start, but I’m still not completely convinced I have enough concrete. It’s gonna be close.

* Which, it turned out, I also hated.

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Yeah? So?

So I’m off early doing concrete-related things. If the morning doesn’t end with me hiding away in shame forever, I’ll be back.

Checkin’ my pockets…

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