Big changes in a little cabin…

…always mean playing Tetris with the furniture.


Tobie’s bed fits very neatly between the woodstove and the bedroom doorway. That also happens to be exactly the space needed for the woodbox and a dog’s feeding station, plus that fabric bed was never going to work there once the stove gets hot. Ergo, come winter we were always going to have to do some fiddling.

At first I figured he’d just move into the bedroom with me, but for whatever reason he won’t sleep or even spend much time in the bedroom. I get the impression he has decided that’s Uncle Joel’s lair and he doesn’t feel comfortable there*. Either way, main room or bedroom, the time has come when there isn’t room in the Lair for two reading chairs.

So I moved the second-best chair out to the trailer, and later today I’ll take it to Ian’s place for the winter. I brought the best chair into the bedroom, where it doesn’t fit as well but it’s the best chair. And I already knew there was a small problem with the next step…


The next step is to put Tobie’s bed where the best chair used to be, but I’m not going to expose Chewpuppy to the temptation of all those wires.

So…


I found some OSB and a scrap 2X2 and made a shield to deliver him from temptation. The bed went where the chair used to be…


The feeding station and woodbox went where the bed used to be…


…and rather to my surprise he seems okay with the new arrangement.

ETA: Unfortunately the second-best chair is going to have to spend some time under a tarp on the porch instead of at Ian’s, because see next exciting episode.

* He’ll come in to check on my wakefulness in the morning; he usually comes in briefly to sort of say goodnight when I retire. And of course he stands watch at the bedroom windows when I’m not there, if I leave the door open, because he’s a dog and dogs are sneaky. But if we’re in there together he acts nervous around me in ways he never does when we’re both in the main room. I dunno why. As far as I’m concerned he’s perfectly welcome to sleep in the bedroom as long as he doesn’t try to claim the bed. Who can tell the ways of a dog?

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Care Packages! Oh, my god, so many care packages!

Landlady stopped by on the road north, and mentioned in a text that she had a “metric ton” of packages for me.

She wasn’t exaggerating…


Where to begin? You guys are making me work. Continue reading

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“I want to attend the Hello Kitty con but I also have to invade Poland before five, so…

“…clearly I’m forced to a very poor choice.”

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Sounds kinda silly when you put it that way…

I can’t think of any other way to put it…

For the dedicated desert hermit this is actually great. I used to kind of enjoy going to movies, and if watchable movies were still being made I’d really miss them. But now I can just sit back in my hovel and mock without having to first spend money to actually watch the movies.

Unfortunately that’s analogous to making all people’s lives equal by making them all equally squalid. Which hardly ever turns out to be a good thing, except of course for the exceptions.

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Random gulchy moments

So yesterday after it warmed up a bit I went back to Ian’s for round 2 of the new game, Plug That Hole. And I think it went well…


I’m gonna go back pretty quick to take the board away and see if it actually did go well. Next I have to figure out how to fill the very last part without making too much of a mess of it.

Tobie was an extremely good boy.


He sometimes gets into laying in the sun, which he doesn’t actually get a lot of chances to do since I don’t trust him at all. And of course at some point out of the blue he’ll remind me why it’s probably best to continue not trusting him until he grows up some more. But yesterday while I was working he did get very interested in the sound of a deceptively loud engine in the distance…


That red speck (sorry, phone camera doesn’t do distances well) is Neighbor S’s ancient Bobcat loader on another very slow trip to the wash for a load of sand. He always has building projects going on, and lately for some reason at least one of his projects has required a lot of sand. Later track evidence suggests he was back and forth half the afternoon.

Speaking of cameras and the wash, Tobie and I were out for our long morning walkie down the wash before the sun broke over the ridges. And on the way back there was something I’ve seen a few times before…


The sun changes angle at different times of the year, of course, and it just touched those eroded bits as we were coming back in a way that made me wish I’d thought to bring my new-to-me real camera. And that, in turn, reminded me that there are rumors of a serious care package dump coming soon, which might include more photographic gear, like a tripod. I want to come out here a little earlier in the day and try my hand at a real Wannabe Ansel Adams shot of that spot at that time. Pretty sure I don’t understand the equipment well enough yet to do much more than get it in better focus, but what the hell. It’s a pretty spot for about five minutes on a sunny late October morning.

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I totally forgot about this…

At the height of Monsoon Ian’s place developed a big leak at a useless spigot he put in the retaining wall between the Dome and the powershed. I had to jackhammer a big hole in the wall to cork up the leak.


It’s not leaking, I just sprayed a bunch of water into the hole before I took that picture. Before the first hard freeze – due any night now – I need to fill that hole with concrete. And I totally spaced on it until yesterday. Fortunately I have everything I need to do it, which basically consists of some concrete, mortar and scrap lumber.


I packed the hole with concrete as far back as I could, so the exposed pipe is already encased. Next I brace some flat stock against the hole leaving only the very top open and then start stuffing the rest of the hole with concrete. If that goes well – a big Spartan IF there – I skim over the former hole with mortar to make it not quite so ugly. If I’m lucky I might even find a package of pigment. Won’t match exactly but that wall’s so faded it won’t matter – and anyway I’m the only one who ever looks at it and my aesthetic taste could best be described as lacking, so what the hell.

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We’re living in the future.

… and it won’t work out well for everybody.

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Rodents. I hate rodents.

Okay, so it’s definitely time to light the bedroom heater.


Getting the pilot to light up is the only thing I dislike about this heater, getting the gas to the pilot flame is an endless PITA but otherwise it’s so perfect in every way. Of course after seven or so months of inactivity it does need a good cleanup first…


…and then the first couple of experimental snaps of the clicker exposed a possible … issue. I took off the isinglass sightglass to discover…


Oh, no. No, no, this is very bad.

Seriously, how is this even possible? She must have come in through the external vents, right? But…


…every bit of the nesting material was fabric and Tobie hair, there was no vegetable matter at all. So this mouse has been going back and forth from the firebox to the cabin interior, somehow without leaving telltale excrement or alerting my useless dog. Since the firebox is supposedly sealed to all but the cabin exterior, I have no idea how that’s even physically possible.

What’s more…


…as I hooked the nest bit by bit out of the firebox I saw an adult mouse and two fully-furred babies, none of which showed any willingness to leave the firebox despite all my commotion.

When I was sure I had removed all but the sweepings of the nest I lit the pilot, which as if in compensation for my other troubles went unusually well…


…and I’ll leave it that way for the rest of the day and night, but if they haven’t vacated by tomorrow morning I’m firing up the heater and living with the roasted-mouse smell till it fades.

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Two tons and counting…

D&L are sort of trading downtime back and forth. She’s getting her strength back from chemo, and now he’s scheduled for some delayed surgery that will put him on crutches for a while. But winter won’t wait, the bitch, and so…


…we’re stocking up on wood pellets and horse … well, pellets. If I understand correctly there’s a pallet of both yet to go in the next week before D gets cut on.

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I’m not ready for this. Seriously, just no.

I knew when Tobie and I went for first walkie in the dark that the weather was quite unpleasantly cold, damp and windy. And there were occasional … bits of something … flashing by in the lamp beam.

It was only when the sky lightened up that I saw…


…it’s snowing. Well, sleeting, which is technically snowing. At 12 October. Yeah, I know, nothing special for Minnesota. This is the SW desert and I am not yet mentally prepared for this.

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Hey, don’t laugh. By our standards this is a monster.

Look what the July floods brought us!

Not quite sure how to unwrap it and bring it home, it’s a bit much for my chainsaw. No way this is juniper, I’m assuming it’s cottonwood since AFAIK that’s the only actual tree that grows here – and not in great numbers. There are some in the canyons where they benefit from more frequent waterings.

Not sure how big around it is. I don’t carry a tape measure (prep fail!) But…


…my knife blade is 3″ so compare the two visually, naught, naught, fetch down the naught, and…

It’s probably bigger than my chainsaw can deal with, and I don’t like how it’s embedded in sand and rocks. Or maybe it’s really soft and/or lighter than it looks. One way to find out.

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How you know the curator isn’t a gun guy…

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When Tobie challenges the Jeep to a duel, it’s time to go home.

Okay, enough procrastination. Ian asked me to put a coat of stain on the exposed wood of his porch/sunshade/gazebo?-looking-thing, and I’ve been putting it off. Then when he actually paid me for having done so, I figured I should take the hint and do what I’d promised to do.

I have two modes of getting ready to leave the Lair: “Tobie’s coming with” and “Tobie’s staying here.” I think maybe he’s learning the difference, because he became positively militant in his opinion that I was making the wrong choice.

I figured maybe I was: Maybe he’d stay in the Jeep and be a good boy while I worked…


…and he did, too, for half an hour or 45 minutes. But he has obvious tells, same as me. And when you can hear him doing that Cassius Clay stutter-step of his from halfway across Ian’s front yard, you know he just declared war to the death on one of my belongings. Given that whatever it was was inside the Jeep at the time, it was probably the shotgun seat’s remaining upholstery.

Turns out it was the work gloves from out the driver door pocket, but that didn’t matter. Nothing further would be accomplished until he went home in mild disgrace. Probably for the best – I didn’t get back home myself for another three hours, and that was far too much to ask of a bored puppy.

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Okay, this is too perfectly cute…

Tobie and I had a busy afternoon, heading up to T&S’s mesa in the Jeep for the last time, assuming they make it home as scheduled. We got home a little after five, he got his food and his evening walkie, stopped by Landlady’s to tend the chickens, then when we got home for the last time I was distracted by something I needed to do and forgot my final essential Tobie-related task of the day.


…and sonuvabitch if that very smart puppy didn’t quietly stand behind me until I turned around, then drop his frickin’ Kong tire at my frickin’ feet.

Because I was supposed to give him a couple of treats packed inside it, and I seemed to have forgotten…

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One ton of wood pellets

I’ve mentioned that an unexpected side effect of having lots of thermal mass in winter is that you really can’t afford to let it all get cold. So D&L burn their pellet stove 24/7 for almost six months in the year. That means we’re already behind schedule in stocking them up.


And the plan involves really stocking up since Neighbor D is due for a knee replacement, I think later this month. He won’t be up to schlepping big sacks of stuff for a while. And of course L never is, weighing as she does about as much as a hummingbird.

I can’t believe how much of this stuff they go through; that’s not two months’ supply. Don’t even want to know what it costs.


“You work cheap, Joel.”

Yeah, if you only knew…


I haven’t really started woodcutting yet; I did this much just to see what needed tweaking/repairing in my chainsaw and sawbuck.


I much prefer pallet wood and old lumber, but this hasn’t been a good year for that. Half an hour’s work increased my pallet supply by 50%, enough that I think it’s worth dragging out the sawzall and generator to cut them up.

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Bedtime for Tobie

I bitch and moan about him, ’cause he drives me crazy, but all in all Tobie is a fine young man.


He’s only the second puppy I’ve ever raised, but apparently they all need their treasure spot. Little Bear’s was outdoors, since we slept in a tiny RV trailer. This one is about to become problematic since I don’t think it’ll fit in the bedroom. It’s too close to the woodstove once that goes into winter mode. We’ll work it out.


Tobie starts to settle down once it’s dark outside, going in and out of sleep… Continue reading

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I’m always a little surprised when this works…

One day to go on the T&S gig, and the Jeep can do it with one engine cylinder tied behind its back.

Yeah, only two days before the gig was supposed to start, guess who got another rat nest on top of the engine and an injector connector wire bitten through right at the frickin’ connector so I can’t splice & solder it. At this point it’s like a curse: Every time I get a T&S gig and really need the Jeep, something Jeep-related goes badly wrong. White knuckles the first couple of times I hit that last really steep spot on their driveway, but the Jeep did it – and nothing new has fallen off on the bumpy bits.

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I got a little stressed yesterday morning…

One bad thing you think you’re gonna kiss goodbye when you become a cedar rat is scheduling conflicts, particularly when none of the several things you’re supposed to accomplish simultaneously are optional. I’m certain you know exactly what I’m talking about if you live or have ever lived in a city: When other people are setting your schedule and priorities for you, conflicts will ensue and you’re just sort of expected to somehow gracefully make it all happen, and the impossible is not free to take a little longer. Or at least that’s the way my days often went.

In honesty, a lot of that is on me: I was a neurotic mess when I lived in the city and had a hard time saying no. I blamed others for my troubles at the time but as I’ve said, hindsight can be a harsh judge. If I’d told certain other people to go jump in a lake from time to time my life might have gone considerably smoother. And yesterday wasn’t nearly as bad as I used to let things get, in terms of scheduling conflicts, because of course it wasn’t. You can call my current life a lot of things, but ‘fast paced’ seldom fits. Mostly there’s always mañana.

But sometimes there isn’t, like yesterday morning. Basically I was running from five in the morning till noon, and the allotted times for required tasks sometimes clashed. When you’re already behind schedule at 7:15, you know you’re in for one of those mornings.

The first three tasks are all Tobie-related, of course, and the first one comes with a pretty severe penalty clause: He’s still just a big puppy, and he can only hold it for so long. The fact that, every single morning, I get a cold nose on my back within ten seconds of the first time I consciously stir tells me he’s been waiting impatiently for that to happen. So step one: Get dressed without delay and take Tobie for the first of two morning walkies. If he’s feeling patient, you can get the coffee water on the stove before you go out.

Step two: FOOD. Of course. Big puppy is a growing boy.

Step three: Second and much longer walkie. This can be tailored somewhat to the needs of the day but typically this walkie is a minimum mile and a half and takes about an hour.

For the past week, I’ve been driving across the eastern plateau and up T&S’s scary mesa twice a day, and I’ve been trying to arrive in the morning somewhere around seven am. This round trip can also take in the neighborhood of an hour depending on what chores need accomplishing (with this unexpected October rain I haven’t needed to water gardens [plural] so that’s good) so if it’s already quarter past seven and I haven’t left yet that’s bad, especially since yesterday I was supposed to drop off laundry at L’s house at eight. Since that pretty clearly wasn’t going to happen I switched things up and drove to S&L’s place first, leaving the hamper on their porch and texting an explanation of why I skipped the usual polite visit. I had to be back to the Lair at least before 8:30 because at any moment I would get a text from D&L who wanted to drive to the biggish town about 35 miles away for a visit to the Palace of Food. I happened to be flush with cash and didn’t want to miss that, but they might decide to leave anywhere from (typically) 8:30 to 9:30 depending on how their chores went, and I could either be ready to meet them or not. They usually but not always give me a heads-up when they know what the time will be. They’re doing me a favor letting me tag along and it’s up to me to be ready.

That, for me, amounts to a very unusually busy morning with everything seemingly needing to be done at once. And when it happens, I tend to fall into the bad old habit of getting all stressed out over it.

I was going to get home around noon, which would be just in time for Tobie’s lunch and mid-day walkie, and lately I’ve never exactly known what condition the Lair would be in when I arrive. I’ve gotten much more careful about where certain things are stored before leaving him alone for any serious length of time, but he doesn’t always take alone time very well and can be diabolically sincere about finding things to chew into pieces. Let’s just say I’ve grown happy about the Official TUAK Rolltop Desk, or I’d probably have found my electronics in pieces on the floor before now. I never used to bother closing it, but now I do so very carefully.

Happily, yesterday Tobie was a Very Good Boy and contented himself with his own toys while I was gone. Otherwise I’d probably have completely blown my top, and I hate when that happens.

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Tobie takes matters into his own paws…

Tobie didn’t get his morning Jeep ride to T&S’s yesterday, mostly because I was mad at him for the (bad dog) way he behaved during his morning walkie. Since I got back from T&S’s only to drive straight away again for the Monday morning water run, that meant he spent nearly all morning locked up alone in the Lair and he didn’t like that, not one little bit.

And apparently he remembered, because this morning he took steps to ensure it should not happen again.

He planted himself in front of the door, eyes bright, tail wagging madly, as soon as he saw the signs of imminent departure. Then when we got to the Jeep he dispensed entirely with the usual ‘getting Tobie to jump into the damned Jeep” rigmarole and just sailed past me at chest level as soon as I opened the door. Until recently Tobie, a large, strong, leggy young dog, has labored under the impression that getting into a jacked-up Jeep is this really hard thing requiring mental preparation and sometimes several tries. It’s kind of annoying, and I’m happy to see that he seems to be getting past that. Tobie is capable of jumping onto the roof of the Jeep if he wants to, but I’ve had a difficult time convincing him of that.

We may or may not be going back together this afternoon, because it’s forecast to be another rainy one…


And the mud is only now starting to fully dry from the last time. So while it’s unlikely that the afternoon run up the mesa will be entirely rained out, it might be difficult enough that I don’t want to chance getting both of us stranded halfway there or back. Tobie does not share my distaste for mud, and in its presence he becomes an insufferable pain in the ass.

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One ton of horse pellets…


Neighbor L has been done with her chemo for maybe a month now, and is starting to get some of her strength back. She was able to empty the whole pallet by herself, which means…


…that we’re back to the Three Amigo method: She unloads, I transport, and D stacks. Makes short work of what would be a big job for one or two old folks.

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