Fake eggs might finally be working…

A while ago when I complained that the Leghorns don’t seem to understand what nesting boxes are for, commenter feralfae suggested leaving eggs in the boxes to give them the idea.

A good idea in concept, but in practice the girls are still working on product quality and the shells are too thin. I’m still losing some even without leaving them around to be walked on. But Neighbor L thought it was a good enough idea that she decided to improvise some fake eggs…

…golf balls, to be specific. I remember this working when I was a kid, but for several days the girls continued ignoring the boxes. Still, yesterday we did at last get a couple of white eggs in with the balls so maybe they’re taking the hint.

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Torso Boy auditioning for the lead in the new The Martian remake…

Check out the noble brow on my stunted ginger sidekick. “I’m a botanist! In your face, Neil Armstrong!”

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I’m still here…

I never actually decided to take a weekend away from the internet, it just sort of worked out that way. Truth is I’ve been mostly sitting around looking out the window, wishing it wasn’t winter anymore. I’m going through a spate of not caring enough to get off my duff, and you can imagine the vast reservoirs of deep, profound mental activity.

Basically, I’ve been getting out for chicken chores out of a doomed sort of sense of obligation, and otherwise just sitting around reading.

The ladies are doing well, though…

Another personal best this morning, 14, with 11 coming from our 12 leghorns. Kind of cheating a bit, since I got there late this morning and one of the eggs in that basket was laid while I was picking up other eggs elsewhere. So tomorrow will not be a personal record.

Today’s shaping up to be a lovely day, and I really need to drag myself outdoors to shake off my blahs. Sorry about the lack of communication, there just hasn’t been anything worth blathering about. In fact I never even opened the laptop all weekend.

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Stoopid chicken meets not-too-bright dog.

Hilarity conspicuously fails to ensue.

Beautiful morning here in Joel’s Gulch. Crystalline blue sky, hardly a breeze, a little cool but all in all a great day to get the hell out of the cabin and take your Corgi for a long walk.

Everything was fine, Torso Boy had a nice sniff of, well, everything, peed on what little he could, seemed to enjoy himself and get a little exercise for once. All would have been well if I hadn’t taken him past Landlady’s for morning chicken chores.

Sometimes when you’re not paying enough attention, a hen will let her curiosity get the better of her and send her out the door for a shot at freedom. Normally she takes one look at horrible, horrible freedom and wants right back in. Normally she’s not jumped by a delighted Corgi.

Sigh: Laddie has no concept of protecting useful livestock or poultry. He may or may not comprehend the fine line between “herding” and “chasing,” but in practice they do seem the same to him and it’s certain that the chicken recognized no such difference. See the dog, freak right the hell out and run away. And so in an instant, with the help of my trusty stunted little hound, a minor hassle became a big frickin’ deal. Because there was no way this chicken was letting me get within ten feet of her. Oh, by this time she wanted back into the chicken yard in the very worst way so she wouldn’t go far – but accepting my help was not on the table.

I have noticed before, when this happened, that invariably the chicken really really wants back in the chicken yard oh just in the very worst way. It has also occasionally occurred to me that I perhaps went to extremes in sealing those perfectly good gates shut. They need to be tight against predators, of course, and gaps need to be wired shut against pullets wandering away. But they’re hens now, not pullets, and not all that extra hardware cloth is strictly required.

So rather than fruitlessly chase her around, I spent a couple of minutes unsewing the chicken wire and hardware cloth from the big gate, pulled it open just a little, then went and chased her past the opening. As hoped, she popped right inside as if she’d really pulled one over on me. Crisis dealt with, and Laddie got yelled at and splashed with water and generally made to feel like the cause of the problem which he surely was.

By the time I finally rounded up the chicken and secured the gate, of course he had completely forgotten the incident and was ready for the rest of his walky.

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A message from your great grandfather…

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Warning: Trained professional on closed track. Do not try this at home.

I know a woman who got her hand mauled just handing a chicken carcass to an overeager Siberian tiger. I wouldn’t even have wanted to be holding the camera near this guy. He’s got a lot of faith in his relationship with that tiger, that’s all.

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Mothers, tell your children…

…not to do what I have done.

Of all the plumbing mistakes I have built into my infrastructure, this is the one I wish I could turn back time and fix. Because I can’t fix it any other way.

What’s wrong with this picture, boys and girls?

If you said, “Wow, you idiot, you put all the plumbing on the shady side of the tank! You’ll never live long enough for all that to thaw if it freezes!” you win.

So when my very simple valve-removal process went (immediately) wrong and forced me to chop out otherwise perfectly good portions of the manifold I’d much rather have left alone, I was digging out big ice chunks that would have been loose dry dirt weeks ago if I’d only set the tank so the manifold was on the sunny side.

Granted that there was a reason for doing it that way, in long bitter repeated hindsight it wasn’t nearly as good as the reason to not do it that way. But what the hell, here we are.

And why did I have to cut out the portion of the manifold containing the (yes, it really is) broken valve? Well…

This is a smaller boo-boo of the “live and learn” variety. I’ll never do this again, but this time there was no way to spin the valve off the pipe without cutting up the manifold. So when I rebuild it – which will only take a few minutes – I’ll leave more room between the valves. It just looked neater this way, I guess.

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Well done, ladies…

The leghorns are already laying enough eggs to be becoming a bit of a problem, and the size and shell quality are improving daily.

I’m hoping to get out and around a bit more today…

All that snow from 3 weeks ago is long gone and most of the mud has dried. That’s the one single good thing about heavy wind in winter: It does seem to suck up moisture that otherwise doesn’t have anywhere else to go but mud and frost and back to mud.

I dug up the water tank manifold a few days ago and today I hope to get that busted valve off without damage – or at least without unrepairable damage – to the manifold. If that goes well I should be able to get a replacement sometime between tomorrow and Monday, depending on when I can catch a ride to town. Normally I do not look forward to a chance to do plumbing repair, as it is not on any list of my favorite things no matter how inclusive the list. But I also don’t recall cabin fever being a real problem the way it has in the past month. And the weather has not been very cooperative. I mean I can lay on frozen dirt in a gale to fix a serious plumbing issue, but I can also die alone of pneumonia. The past couple of years have been busy teaching me my new limitations and it hasn’t been a cheerful lesson. On the other hand, when I was young and strong I could always find excuses to put off fixing busted plumbing so maybe it’s just me. But today the temp is supposed to get up near 50 and the wind is supposed to stay calm, and as you can see it’s a lovely sunny morning so not much excuse for getting out and fixing some damage.

Anyway, posting has been light lately because I’m either sitting around not doing anything and not feeling like writing about it, or out doing stuff during brief windows of good weather and so unavailable for writing. I hope this afternoon will be one of those second things.

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Our moment of Scandahoovian culture…

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Anybody missing a dog?

This is the sort of thing that would normally put me on defcon 1, but there are considerations: There have been no dog complaints from neighbors, one of those dogs is wearing a collar and none look or act like desperate strays, it happened on Saturday and on no other day. They look like a tourist’s dogs out for a happy romp. And that’s probably what they were.

But for the record, if you go out to the boonies with an unleashed dog you should collar and tag it with its name and a contact number. I’ve hunted them, I’ve buried them, and I’ve rescued them and returned them to their owners. It’s situational – but if I see an uncollared dog around neighbors or poultry I’m probably going to just go ahead and assume the worst.

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Mailing address change

Private to anybody with my maildrop address: It has changed. So before sending anything at all to that address, please drop me a line at the email address found on the Send Joel Stuff page.

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Stupid winter…

Today’s supposed to be cooler than yesterday and less overall apocalyptic. It’s off to a great start, but supposedly the dusting of snow is a fake-out and it’ll be mostly sunny. Supposedly.

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Miserable gate valves…

The temperature, if not necessarily the weather as a whole*, has moderated a lot in the past week or so. Therefore I really ought to spend some time outdoors figuring out what went wrong with the water.

Trouble is, my Plan B is sufficiently tolerable that I’m really not in all that big a rush about actually getting water back to the cabin. I did make some improvements in the floor insulation which would certainly make broken pipes less likely. But it was a hurried job and only made clear much better improvements that I can do with more materials and a more leisurely approach. So forget the cabin for the moment and let’s see what’s wrong with the water system without sending water to the cabin. Step one: Go out to the yard spigot, open the valve cover, fish out a whole bunch of insulation and close the valve in the pipe that supplies the cabin.

The valve stem spins and spins: the shaft has apparently separated from the gate valve itself. Grumble! That means I have to…

Step two: Trudge up to the water tank with a shovel. Dig around until you finally find the buried can protecting the handle of the identical valve at the top of that pipe. Because two is one, and cet.

The valve appears to be stuck. Here, let me put a wrench on it…aaaand now the valve stem spins and spins: The shaft has apparently separated from the gate valve itself.

Is it significant that these are identical valves bought in the same place at the same time? And that they both failed in exactly the same way?

I need to replace the upper one before I can fill the tank, or there’ll be no way to replace the upper one without draining the tank. So I’m on hold again. This time I’m going to try ball valves.

* At the moment the temp’s in the mid-forties but there’s a windstorm worthy of the worst part of Spring. It’s serious can-barely-remain-on-my-feet weather up on the ridgetops. It was nice yesterday, though.

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Huh. Here’s another ugly Joel video…

They’re popping up everywhere!

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Well, now. That is ugly.

Grumble. Temperature fell 10o in an hour. Could barely see to get back from chicken chores in the Jeep.

Winter sucks.

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Exasperated grunt, and also an unexpected laugh

Most of yesterday was very pleasant here. Then in mid-afternoon the wind came up and I knew the predicted change was arriving. This morning…

Warm for the season, but windy and raining and yuck. Of course it isn’t supposed to last long. Still it put me in kind of a bad mood until I opened my email, and guess what! I’m being blackmailed!

Yup! (ugly letter below the fold) Continue reading

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No one could be more surprised than me…

…to report that that went well!

This is easily the nicest day we’ve seen since Christmas. Full sun, temperature tickling the low fifties, light breeze. I thought I was going to regret not diving into this project yesterday, but that would have been an ordeal. Except for some hard-to-get-at bolts, this was actually kind of pleasant.

The radiator had shaken loose from both its side brackets, held on with tiny little bolts not at all suitable for holding heavy important things solid on a rock-climbing vehicle. Once it was loose it was probably a matter of days or at most weeks before it beat its solder joints open and started squirting coolant. The leak problem was definitely in the core.

I was never a very fast mechanic, and I gave up wrenching for a living more than 30 years ago so the whole thing took just shy of two hours but there are no drips and no parts left over. So I’m pleased with myself.

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I may be jinxing this by saying so…

… but it’s almost one in the afternoon and the sun is still shining. The road mud is drying. My driveway is still a quagmire but that’s going to go on for some time since the gully behind the Lair still has snow and drains into the driveway. No matter. I needed some sun.

Just got home from town with everything I should need to repair the Jeep’s cooling system. It cost every bit of cash I had squirreled away for emergencies, plus 44 cents. How’s that for planning? That includes a line wrench for the transmission cooler fittings, and thanks to the commenter who reminded me of them – that would have been infuriating.

It’s baking day and I’m already late for starting it, so I’ll go into auto repair mode as soon as it warms up tomorrow unless the weather plays me another dirty trick.

A couple of regular readers hit the tip jar recently which helps a lot. Thank you very much, this latest Jeep nonsense tapped me out.

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In the event that you’re an AK operator, operating operationally, …

…you will want to just skip past this. But for the rest of us, this is what the inside of a loaded 75-round drum looks like…

As expected, there are approximately 1,789,652 Youtube videos eager to explain how to load and wind the thing. Turns out to be very simple, which given the intended user base isn’t surprising. And it’s nice to know that you can store it loaded with no spring tension, which sounds useful.

Unfortunately, on 2 different rifles I get 100% failure to feed with deep gouges in the cartridge cases when I force the bolt closed. Haven’t worked that out yet. Not yet ready to take it into battle with mutant killer chickens.

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Here’s something kind of amusing…

The Leghorns aren’t babies anymore…

…and they’re starting to produce eggs. Small eggs and their production is still sporadic, but I believe I can officially stop buying eggs at the store now…

But like all new hens they haven’t gotten the hang of what the nesting boxes are for. They lurch between finding the most sheltered and sneaky places possible to keep the Bad Man from taking them, or just pooping them out wherever they happen to be standing when the urge strikes.

Yesterday I had to move one of the grain barrels closer to its corner to stop hens from laying eggs behind it. In doing that I got the barrel too close to the wall and didn’t properly fasten the cover. Came in this morning to find the cover on the ground and a little gift inside…

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