Getting a start on winter…

I spent yesterday afternoon hiding from the heat – Monsoon has taken a break and it was one of the hottest days of the month. Not crazy over the top hot, and the lull in the humidity is nice, but it still brushed the bottom of three figures.

In the evening, while the light was still good, I dragged out the chopsaw and generator and got a little work done…

Cut the trim for the single remaining untrimmed front window. This should have been done back in early May but there was a, um, lumber malfunction. Just a matter of squirting some caulk, screwing it together and dragging out the damned paintbrush again.

A great deal of scrap has gathered under the work table, getting wet and muddy. Some of it is useful but most was just waiting for the woodshed. So while I had the chop saw out…

I made firewood.

I don’t really use that much firewood, of course. The Lair is small, I live alone so there’s nobody but me to complain, the winters normally aren’t all that cold during the day and of course my stove won’t keep burning at night so why worry? The woodshed holds about two cords when stuffed full, and it would take an extraordinary winter to empty it. By most people’s standards that’s nothing.

Just to put me in my place I got some pictures yesterday, from the folks who are taking care of ML’s dog Laddie. Coincidentally one of them shows a piece of their firewood operation in the background…

These guys don’t heat with no puny cut-up pallets – nor, probably, would that ever be adequate. Man, I want one of those rounds just so I can finally have a decent chopping block. This is somewhere in Southern Montana, a place I considered moving for my final bug-out but rejected because I don’t really want Winter is Always Coming to be my family words.

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Hard work and self-indulgence

Made the regular Monday morning water run this morning. The local food store/hardware got a pallet of concrete a couple of weeks ago and that was my best chance for acquiring the concrete I need for the rear steps, but I procrastinated because $5/#60 sack is highway robbery. But the pallet was emptying fast, so this morning I choked back a sob and pulled the trigger on that purchase…

…and since it’ll be a couple of days minimum before I’m ready for it and leaving it at the Lair is just daring the sky to open, I stashed it in Landlady’s barn where it’ll stay in powder form whatever the weather.

While in the store, I yielded to venial sin…

That’s right. Yeah. I bought a pound of cheese. And I’m not ashamed or nothing.

Seriously, I love this stuff but it’s ridiculously expensive. I doubt I succumb to temptation more than once every couple of years. And then, since I can’t possibly eat a whole pound of cheese in a short time no matter how gluttonously I behave…

…I bagged 2/3 of it up and carried it over the ridge to Ian’s fridge. Where, hopefully, I’ll forget all about it until it becomes a pleasant surprise later.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

This is why we so obviously need common-sense controls on plastic straws…

Won’t anyone think of the children? h/t

And anyway, straw bans can fix anything!


And remember – the next time you peek through your blinds and are annoyed to see that smiling pair waiting on your porch, magazines in hand…

It could be worse…


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Had to move the game camera this morning…

I don’t think I ever found a less fruitful location than this particular corner of the wash. A few birds and one mule deer that was apparently lost. This is the whole recorded activity, every single frame, for four days…

…so this morning I took it into an obscure corner of my stomping grounds,…

… near the wash but separated from it by some clay/ash mounds, with a little more varied vegetation and evidence of a lot more coyote activity. Always wanted to see what goes on in here when I’m not around.


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Review of B&M canned brown raisin bread

Sunday mornings on weekends when Landlady is here we usually get together for coffee. This morning we agreed to try some of that canned bread Big Brother sent.

There’s not a lot to say about it except that it’s really quite tasty. It has a moist texture and a fairly open crumb that takes butter well. Toasts right up nicely – It’s canned bread, you know, I probably wouldn’t serve it to the Queen but also certainly wouldn’t call it last-ditch survival rations. I like it. Don’t know what it costs but if possible I’m going to call it a permanent addition to the pantry.

Posted in Uncategorized | 16 Comments

Covers for the propane regulators

D’you know, when I proposed using 30-pound propane bottles for the Secret Lair’s cookstove, some people argued that that would never work? I couldn’t imagine why not, this is one of the poorest counties in the continental U.S., lots of people live out their lives in old RV trailers and are happy to have 30-pound bottles with a little pressure in’em. In fact I was just finishing up my stay in an old RV trailer, five winters long, and though I won’t say propane supply was always the least of my troubles it was only because that was a symptom of my overall transport troubles. Those little portable bottles worked fine.

What I really worried about, though I mostly kept it to myself, was that while building the Lair I did an awful lot of scrounging and improvising. Doing that with propane is a good way to get blowed up.

Every opportunity I’ve had to learn something about how propane plumbing is supposed to run, as opposed to the way I learned to run it, I took. Every opportunity I had in the next few years to improve the Lair’s propane infrastructure, I made. These days – I can’t even believe I’m saying this – it actually meets code. Even though having two separate sources for the two propane outlets is a little weird, it wouldn’t fail an inspection. Not a single rotting rubber hose anywhere.

I’ve got a couple of nice regulators, one of which has a plastic dome that will turn milky with too much exposure to the sun even though it’s made for an outdoor application. And I thought, as a final crowning touch to celebrate finishing the space heater’s plumbing, I ought to make it a little sun awning.

And I made another smaller one for the cookstove’s regulator, just to finally shield it from winter ice.

I am exceedingly pleased with myself.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Care packages! Christmas in July…

Landlady was scheduled to come up this weekend but I wasn’t expecting much in the way of care packages. I had bought some stuff on Amazon, tools and such…

A package of yeast, a set of clamping leads for my multimeter, a pair of lopping shears for that clearing job that is currently hanging fire, and a package of AAA batteries…

Sidebar – I’m supposed to be this rough-tough got-it-all-figured-out desert survivalist, right? Got all my preps categorized and alphabetized and stored carefully on the part of the pegboard with the right silhouette painted on, right? Uh huh. So how did I run out of common batteries? I’ve got a zillion AAs – people have sent me veritable tubs of them. And normally I’d also have a sufficiency of AAAs, since so many flashlights and other small gadgets use them. But I guess I didn’t restock last time I replenished flashlight batteries, because … there I was. Embarrassing.

(ahem) Anyway, it turns out some Generous Readers had in fact sent some stuff… Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

“This business will get out of control.”

“It will get out of control and we’ll be lucky to live through it.”


The pictures are funny. The reality – not so much.

Those don’t just make me laugh out loud. They hint at a darker truth about straw bans, a fact these policies’ proponents prefer to ignore: All laws ultimately rest on state violence.

This point is often greeted with eyerolls and snorts from straw ban apologists, who would rather focus on their good intentions than the coercive powers needed to bring their rules into effect.

Indeed, when I reported last week that Santa Barbara’s straw ban included a punishment of up to six months in jail and $1,000 in fines per straw, a spokesperson for a prominent environmentalist group emailed to inform me that focusing on the penalties was “unprofessional” and “inaccurate” because they would never actually be enforced, even after a third or fourth violation.

Santa Barbara officials have made a similar argument. Asked about the ban by a local ABC affiliate, the city’s environmental services outreach coordinator said that locking people up for straws is only “a last line of defense” and isn’t intended “for first-time offenders.” But he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of jail time…

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Ah. You know what I like?

I like being done with a dreaded project, everything put away, before it even gets hot.

ladder Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Dammit, Monsoon!

I had this great morning post all laid out in my head, involving Gary Larson and the intellectual benefits of insomnia. But when I got out of bed to write my masterpiece down there was so little cell signal the smartphone barely works and the hotspot doesn’t work at all. Which means no laptop, which means no pictures. What good is a Gary Larson post without pictures?

Ah, well. Maybe later. Coffee. Breakfast.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Open Letter: Dear Alex at…

My god, you suck.

You know, amid all the dying philanthropists and embezzling bureaucrats that make up the more entertaining portion of my daily spam, I also (for reasons unfathomable, since I’m transparently not running a conventional business here) get a lot of Search Engine Optimization solicitations. Most are better – or at least briefer – than the example below…

Dear Joelsgulch ,

Hope this email finds you well.

We are an Internet Application Development company; we have been progressively growing over 4 years of operations. Our designers and developers have been delivering their best by pushing their creative horizons.

We can help you with your website with the following services given below.

• Logo Design

• Graphic Design

• Custom Web Design

• Corporate Website Design

• Website Redesign

• SEO Services (15 days of SEO free with web redesign services)

• Facebook Ads & Social Media Design

• E-Commerce Web Design

• PSD to xHTML and WordPress conversion.

• Mobile Apps Development

I’d be happy to send you our package, pricing and past work details, if you’d like to assess our work. Feel free to discuss any other queries we are just an Email /Phone away.

I shall look forward to hear from you soon.

Best Regards,

S. Alex

Business Consultant

Our interests are your interests; your success is our success.

Note: The above email has been sent to the owner of [REDACTED], If you dont want to receive any further newsletter please do Unsubscribe by email

Where to start? How about the very first line? “Dear joelsgulch”? Seriously? Way to sell that ‘my interests are your interests’ tagline.

Do you see a logo? Anywhere? Why would I need it redesigned?

“Custom web design, corporate website design AND website redesign?” All that in one company? Wow. When do you find time to sleep?

Joel’s Gulch is clearly a hobby blog. Yeah, I went all Patreon and shit a while back and that seems to have sold my address far and wide and brought you mass-mailing amateurs out of the woodwork but for god’s sake. You couldn’t have at least glanced at the website before offering me all this customization?

Finally and so help me god, if I have to “unsubscribe” from something I would never in life have subscribed to in the first place, I will find a way – if I have to study for years and re-invent myself like Bruce frickin’ Wayne – to spam your ass into unplugging every computer you ever pass for the rest of your life.

Best regards,


Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

I opened the case and immediately got…

…a whiff of magic smoke.

Some sort of big green resistor?

Anyway. It’s toast.

Next one, I won’t leave it plugged in.

Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Anybody know anything about Kill-A-Watt failures?

Big Brother sent me that one a few years ago, and he had had it for some years before that so I don’t know how old it is. I kept it in the powershed for occasional use until a few months ago but got tired of having to shuttle it in and out of the Lair. Since I always used it at the same outlet and it uses next to no juice I finally left it plugged in. That was apparently a mistake: I noticed yesterday that it no longer displayed and I can’t figure any way to get it to change its mind. I’m afraid I’ve killed it.

They’re less than $20 on Amazon so it’s not an irreplaceable family member. But very useful when you’ve built your own off-grid power system and need to pay attention to watts. I definitely want to fix this one or get another just like it.

If this is a known phenomenon and there’s a known way to bring it back to life, I’d appreciate somebody lending me a clue. But right now …

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

And speaking of dogs…

…what do you think about welcoming a new Official TUAK Dog?

Long-time readers are familiar with Susan Callaway, our Mama Liberty, and are probably aware that she passed away recently. I held off mentioning it here until the official Price of Liberty announcement, and that delayed so long that when it finally came I didn’t really know what to say: I’ve had the tab open for two days but couldn’t think what to write. You either didn’t know anything about ML in which case why would you care, or you long since knew she was dead from other sources and have already processed it in your own way.

So I was just going to let it go, but it seems we may possibly be blessed with an opportunity to honor ML in a very real and material way. She had a male Corgi named Laddie, and of course as her own end approached she made arrangements for some neighbors to adopt him. But (of course) sometimes our plans go awry. The neighbors already have a dog, Laddie is not young and has always been the only dog, and he sees no reason to play second fiddle to a bigger dog who was already there and sees no reason to play second fiddle to him. So. Sometimes these things just don’t work out.

Anyway, the placement is not yet officially a failure, but since I lost Little Bear just shortly before ML died I’ve been on deck from the beginning as Plan B. I didn’t give it much thought because of course adoptions usually work out fine unless there’s something really wrong about the dog or the new home, and there just wasn’t. But “usually” means sometimes not. So.

IF the placement becomes an official failure and IF there’s no immediate local substitute – and right now there isn’t – somebody not me is going to need to make a long trip to the southwest desert. We haven’t worked this out or even opened discussion about transport. I only just now got word that this is a real possibility and I must admit I’m kind of excited, but it’s not a done deal or even officially a deal at this point. It’s just a possibility that has suddenly opened. So I may regret even mentioning it here, but that’s what’s going on.

Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments

And again I didn’t take a picture when I had the chance…

I have some new occasional neighbors, much closer than I’m really comfortable with, right on the next parcel so maybe five or six hundred yards away from the Lair. Not really happy about that, but I guess it is what it is.

They’re a nice young townie couple from somewhere down in the city many hours from here. They’ve shown up to camp several times in the past few months and they’re talking about building here. They’re quiet and polite so far and I feel bad about myself for wishing something would happen unpleasant enough to drive them away without harming them. Ironic as hell that if they really do build here I’ll sort of be obligated to help.

So anyway, when an obviously townie dog* showed up in the Lair’s yard this morning I immediately had a pretty good idea where he came from. Castrated male, far too friendly and well-fed to be a stray – he wasn’t even thirsty. Had a harness and an urban vet tag from nowhere around here, but no name and phone number – which, pro-tip, if you’re going to let your dog run in unfamiliar rural country you definitely want to tag it with your name and phone number. I don’t recall the breed, one of those parti-colored stocky things that’s not a pitbull or a bulldog. Not the least bit skittish around strangers, this dog was not from around here.

To answer the obvious question, no. I do kind of expect the new Official TUAK Dog to land in my lap in this or a similar way, because needed things tend to do that. But I never more than momentarily toyed with the notion that this was that dog. He far too obviously belonged with somebody else – and I suspected that those people would be getting frantic soon.

So after he’d hung around the yard for half an hour with no apparent plans to go home on his own I put my boots on, loaded him into the Jeep, and drove him up the ridge to the new folks’ camp. Sure enough they were mounting a big expedition to go hopelessly look for their dog, who had wandered off without their noticing so they didn’t know which direction he’d gone, and they were quite happy to see him in the back of the Jeep.

So that’s my good deed for the day, I guess.

*Parenthetically, the fact that I immediately categorized this as a “townie” dog probably means I’ve lived in the desert long enough to say I’m comfortable here. A desert dog would have at least been wary of strange surroundings. This one was clearly on a Grand Adventure. They don’t always survive that.

Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments

The world goes mad as Joel gloats in his Secret Lair.

No, you can’t come to stay.

Santa Barbara Bans Plastic Straws, Authorizes $1,000 Fines and Jail Time for Violators

When Seattle became the first major city in the United States to ban plastic straws in September 2017, it carved out an exemption for compostable plastic straws and made any violation an infraction punishable by a $250 fine. Santa Barbara, by contrast, has banned even compostable straws, permitting only drinking tubes made from nonplastic materials such as paper, metal, or bamboo. The city also has made a second violation* of its straw prohibition both an administrative infraction carrying a $100 fine and a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to six months in jail. Each contraband straw or unsolicited plastic stirrer counts as a separate violation, so fines and jail time could stack up quickly.

In other news, California announces its new program allowing residents to “temporarily” leave the state to find work, so long as family members are left in protective custody to ensure taxes are still paid.

Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

So naturally I picked the hottest day this month…

Muggy. Just passed a hundred in the shade briefly, which is only like the third time it’s done that this year and the first since the beginning of Monsoon, which means muggy hot.

I’ve been in a muck sweat all afternoon, constantly drinking tea and avoiding the sun. A storm cell passed to the south earlier, kind of rumbling as it went by, but it never seriously threatened rain today.

Did get a little done first thing this morning though. Behold!

The diverter regulator is permanently fixed to the cabin now. I didn’t buy any concrete yesterday so I don’t have enough for a pad – I may actually go looking for some suitable shale like I did last year for the woodshed floor, just so I can call that part done. Or maybe I’ll wait and pour concrete; can’t decide. Either way it’ll be weeks before I have pigtails to connect the bottles to the regulator which of course doesn’t matter for numerous reasons, like how it’s currently late July and stifling. Thought it was kind of funny that I’d pick one of the hottest days so far this year to finish a winter prep.

Next I’m going to see how neatly I can knock together a cover for it. If that goes well I may do one for the kitchen stove’s regulator and bottle as well. Always meant to, so maybe I should just build two.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

See, days like this are why I dropped out.

Nobody would ever agree to subsidize my ammo in the employment agreement.


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Busy morning, wet afternoon

A typical monsoon-pattern day yesterday, which for some reason kept things roiled up to where I had next to no cell coverage all day. D&L started a cleaning project that busied them till after lunch, so we went to town later than usual.

I put the time to use… Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I’ve been attempting a photo-filled post…

…and it’s just not working this afternoon. Busy morning, didn’t make the Monday water run till after lunch, got back to the desert just in time to race a big storm cell that has pretty much cut off my connection. Even this text post might not go through. Send lawyers guns and money, but be sure to send them by 4WD.

More tomorrow, probably.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment