This job always gives me a terrible headache. Don’t know why.

I’ll use almost any excuse to procrastinate before crawling around under the cabin. When I was a kid crawlspaces didn’t bother me but I’m high-mid-sixties now and the part with the plumbing is really low. You are sincerely belly-crawling all the way.

Backstory: At the beginning of last winter I thought I had finally worked out my plumbing insulation issues for good and all. Apparently an enterprising pack rat thought it was nice, too. Either found or chewed an entrance over one of the sheets of rigid foam I’d bolted between the joists, clearly chewed it bigger, then moved in above the batting.

Oh, he probably thought he’d finally scored that split-level in the ‘burbs his wife had been on him about all those years. And he’d have been right, but – being a packrat – he just had to get hoardy. Continue reading

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Nice to have decent tools at last…

I’ve upgraded my tools every chance I could over 14 years of gulching, that quest having been helped a lot by the various incremental upgrades in my electrical system. Today I was able to knock out in less than an hour a chore/ordeal I really used to dread: Drilling holes in a new burn barrel.


Using the old saw buck as a stand, I scratched 12 24″ lines and then measured and punched locations for four holes per line. Then using a proper drill motor the Lair’s inverter can comfortably run and one of those nice new sharp bits a Generous Reader sent me two years ago, I quickly drilled 48 holes…


…and there we are. Job finished before the day even got hot.

I sincerely hope that with the addition of that new lid, which previous barrels have conspicuously lacked, I won’t have to do this again for quite a long time.

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Okay, the fire basket turned out to be not my greatest idea.


Because wind.

Even when the wind doesn’t knock it down, which it does daily, I’ve got ashes all over everything downwind. Colossal hassle.

So I had to ask around, but there actually is a guy in the little town nearest where I live who had some oil drums for sale. He had six on Wednesday, three when I went there with D&L this afternoon, and now he’s got two so I think I got lucky on the timing.


And this one’s got a lid, and none of the other drums I’ve used for fire barrels did, which is probably why they rotted out where the ashes met the rain water. I’m hoping this one will last more than a couple of years.

In the morning I drill a bunch of tedious holes.

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It’s May!

The afternoon wind is still blowing strong, but at least it’s warm.


High eighties, to be more precise.


Hardly a cloud in the sky. Winter is over!


Yes, yes, Murphy. I know. Six inches of snow tomorrow for sure. Whatever. It’s May. May is my very favorite month.

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It’s a part of life, I guess.

Neighbor D’s horse Bud is old and has been on various pain therapies for as long as I’ve known him. It’s gotten insupportably expensive and D&L mentioned on Monday that they were arranging for euthanasia.

Then yesterday when I passed their place I noticed them out on a part of their property where nobody ever goes, and Scott the Road Guy was also there with his backhoe. I’m not super observant when it comes to other people’s stuff but I did draw an unhappy conclusion from the confluence of those facts.

Yesterday afternoon Neighbor L texted me asking if I would come over this morning to help D with “some tractor work.” I drew a not very pleasant picture of what that work might entail, but when I showed up this morning Bud was still alive and as well as usual in his usual run and D only wanted help changing oil and replacing filters on their little IH tractor.

Took me a while to work up the nerve to ask the obvious question, what was Scott doing on their place with a backhoe? L got a sad look and said, “a grave.” D&L’s little tractor has dug graves for any number of dogs and at least one cremated human but a horse requires a hole of greater magnitude. And unfortunately getting the horse into the hole will also require hired heavy machinery, so the whole matter needs organization.

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This is why we can’t have nice news any more…

h/t

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Rural Coronavirus quarantine report…

Rode the bike to town yesterday. Very small, spotty town in the rural southwest that arose for no good reason I ever learned and has been slowly dying in sections like a juniper since probably before I was born. And as for the “shutdown” rules…


People still pay attention to all those lines taped on the floors but I notice the makeshift face masks are mostly gone.

The only retail outlets still closed are the thrift store and a probably doomed storefront gym that just opened before the shutdown.

Both restaurants were doing brisk business at their drive-throughs, as was the only liquor store.

A little coffee shop that (to my great surprise) did really well when it opened a couple of years ago but that closed immediately after the shutdown is taking this opportunity to do a lot of construction and is apparently expanding as a restaurant into an adjoining building – but it’s still closed.

The auto parts store is “open” again but you have to call ahead and the manager will meet you at the door with your purchase.

The Subway sandwich shop, which was closed for a couple of weeks, compromised by leaving the eat-in booths closed and asking people to wait outside if there’s more than six people in line.

And there are sneeze shields everywhere, which probably isn’t a bad thing anyway.

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This wasp is drunk.


I’ve had the hummingbird feeder out for maybe two weeks now. It started getting business right away but so far not a lot – in fact I wish it’d pick up and finish that first jar because the inside really needs a scrub it didn’t when I first hung it out. Anyway, the few hummers I have right now are more interested in mating behavior than sitting around tanking up on sugar water, so any bird that tries to settle on a perch is virtually guaranteed to get strafed within seconds as the males all vie for Hottest 2-Gram Bigshot at the Gulch.

This guy, on the other hand…


I sat out on the porch for hours yesterday evening, the first time it was warm enough to do so, and for the most part this wasp did not move. It just hung like that with its head shoved as far into a crack as it could get it. Occasionally it would briefly stagger around the outside of the jar as if looking for somebody to bug for drink money. Then it went back to jamming its head into the feeder.

I’m not at all sure it made it home safely. It wasn’t in any condition to fly.

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A note of thanks to the true heroes of this crisis

I confess I don’t need the assurance and inspiration that comes from watching celebrity quarantine videos, and so have never actually seen one. But I hear that it’s really moving when hyper rich people show you their coping mechanisms. Like, people say it moves you to want to burn their mansions down around them.

In other inspiring news:

Inspiring: Celebrities Spell Out ‘We’re All In This Together’ With Their Yachts

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Phoebe’s back.

I tried to get a picture of her but she wouldn’t cooperate, and anyway you’ve probably seen a brown bird. Picture a small brown bird with a slight crest and you’re there.

But she got busy right away…


So undoubtedly she’s already well on the way to producing this year’s crop of little Phoebes.

This is her third year in a row nesting in exactly the same spot. I know I said I was going to deepen her shelf for her and it would be extremely simple to do, but frankly she seems to find that spot so satisfactory I’m reluctant to screw with it in any way – I mean, who knows why a bird does anything? She might just really prefer narrow windy ledges and putting up a ‘better’ one might scare her away.

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A Pleasant Morning Jaunt

We’ve had a few days designed to fool me into believing Spring has finally come – in fact today was t-shirt weather right out of bed. And a good thing because I have a perfect way to spend a gorgeous morning – doing an electrical job in the very back of Ian’s Cave, which is black as black can be when the inverter’s turned off and pretty much the same temperature year-round.

But I have the perfect tool for that, which I don’t get enough chances to use. I’m really not much of a headlamp person but sometimes nothing else will do and a nice one is very good to have.


And every time I take it off its peg, I think kindly about the person who donated it even though I can’t recall who it was.


On the way out I finally took the opportunity to measure that blank spot on my ground mount’s rack. And wouldn’t you know – it’s perfectly suited to that heat exchanger box like it was designed for that purpose and no other. One more excuse bites the dust, though I’m not 100% it’ll bear the weight as distributed.

I got well into my electrical job when I realized I should have brought the cordless drill. Had to walk back to the Lair to get it, and on the way I met this brainless fellow denizen…


…who just stared at me like he had no idea what a person was for. And I said to him aloud – and this is not the first time I’ve had this onesided conversation,

“Hello, there. Please don’t let me interrupt your pleasant morning, I’m only this area’s apex predator. Yes, I eat creatures exactly like you, almost daily, so you probably shouldn’t just stand there insolently staring. Seriously, I could – if you’ll excuse the expression – blow your head clean off at this range and I’m thinking about it. Really. I’ve been practicing.”

It’s true, too.

“Good thing for you the trailer tire is immediately downrange at this moment.

“Well, don’t let me bother you. Have a nice day.”

I got the drill kit, headed back to the Cave, and soon enough realized I had two recycled duplexes and a switch but no way to bolt them to their boxes. That meant I had to go all the way to Landlady’s barn, where all the surplus electrical and plumbing bits are kept. Nice day for a walk but I have more jobs in mind than this, only have so much energy in a day and really didn’t want to use it all up walking back and forth. Also didn’t want to go back to the Lair and hassle with the Jeep.


Good thing I store the ebike in Ian’s cave. 🙂 My life contains perfect moments.

Beautiful day to spend half an hour out of the cave, and I didn’t even have to make up an excuse!

Finished up. No sparks, no unexpected oh shit moments. On simple things, after going on fifteen years of fending for myself I often actually know what I’m doing.


And I finally got a chance to seriously use that tool tote Neighbor D and I made several weeks ago!


So, good day so far. Except that it has taken forever to compose this and I won’t be sure it’ll post until it does.

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I only want to say…

That I’m trying to upload pictures for a slice-of-life post at this very moment and finding it impossible. I really do have a very nice post all laid out but there’s only one bar on the smartphone that’s my hotspot. I’m not ignoring you, but the cellular network is ignoring me pretty consistently lately. At this moment I couldn’t even send this placeholder but that’ll change any second.

As if that weren’t bad enough I have Emmylou Harris playing in one ear and Torso Boy rather distractingly howling in the other. He does this every frickin’ time. I truly don’t know if he hates the sound of her voice or is trying to sing along.

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I have a scheme.

A neighbor is cleaning out a packed long-term storage shed, which is always a dangerous time for me to come near. He had some sheets of clear acrylic and black plastic stuff, and I thought those would be two of the expensive bits of a heat exchanger for summer hot water, maybe even a built-in shower. When I mentioned the notion he showed me this…


4X8, with the glass. Already drilled for piping, it’s literally made to house the sort of heat exchanger I envision.

But it’s substantially more … substantial than I had in mind, and I need a few days to read and think and kind of grow into the idea so I didn’t commit to taking that box off his hands.

But I don’t have any big building project on tap for this summer. With that box and a couple of hundred feet of ABS or even black hose…

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Care Packages!

Look what a Generous Reader sent me!


This is a much newer pattern camo than my other stuff. Heavier fabric, too: Might even do for winter wear with longjohns. I always reluctantly give up my BDUs in winter. Thanks!

There were some included goodies…

Munchies for dog and man and some rifle cleaning gear, always useful.

Big Brother is determined that I shall not starve on his watch…


Lots of canned chicken this time around! Honey and cookies and apple sauce. And Landlady topped off the Lair’s coffee stash…


…so that we have coffee for months if they decide to ride out the pandemapocalypse up here in the sticks, an eventuality that looks more remote by the day. Better luck next time, I guess.

Thanks, guys! You rock.

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Do you want rats? Because this is how you get rats.

Firewood storage at Landlady’s place has always been kind of an issue. No matter what expedient we cobbled together it either fell apart in the weather or became an elaborate rat nest. Late this winter, to celebrate her nice new deck she decided to cut through the nonsense and bring a nice plastic bench/chest. That seemed to work fine except that for the past couple of weeks every time I come around to check on things I found the lid wide open…


…and it took me a while to figure it out. I mean if it was only the first time I’d think maybe she just left it open. But I know I closed it, and now it’s open again. I’ve never been bothered with poltergeists.

Spring gets really windy, and the wind can really swirl around that porch in odd ways – especially since we laid down all that exposed floor space. So, since the chest has a couple of locking rings and I have a few little snap links I never found any other use for…


I think that’ll chase away our little poltergeist. If it doesn’t I’ll get worried.

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Found it!

Thought about it while I was writing the post below, in fact, though I was already boiling chicken for dog food and couldn’t run right out to test my theory.

In the previous post I mentioned that I have a new(ish, now) Lee manual primer tool that uses proprietary shell carriers. Comes with a whole set of them.

That reminded me that I also have an old manual primer tool that does not use proprietary shell carriers, and that I did not look on it for my one and only carrier that fits .44.

So later, after the chicken and rice were done cooking, I went back to check…


…and there it was, safe and sound.

It never made sense to me that I would have lost that one singular essential component out on the ground somewhere when everything else seems just fine. I mean if I were missing a whole bucket’s worth of stuff I’d be looking for where I absently mislaid that bucket. But I’m really not.

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It’s the little things that make you want to kick stuff…

Grrr. I suppose it was inevitable, though…


In the interest of easing myself back into this ‘reloading’ thing I decided to pick up more or less precisely where I left off by addressing a years-old sin of omission. Wideners, which is probably not talking to me anymore, sent me 2 pounds of pistol powder supposed to be perfect for big-bore in exchange for an ad on my sidebar – which they got – and a review – which they didn’t because before it even arrived I took a bad fall, tore a rotator cuff and enjoyed a very painful winter going up and down the loft ladder. For months I couldn’t raise a coffee cup with my right arm, let alone work a manual ammo press. I always felt kind of bad about that – but I’d already unsealed the powder cans and anyway they didn’t ask for them back.

So let’s start with that. I downloaded the Western Powders loading data guide – which whatever the virtues of their powder, leaves a great deal to be desired in providing data for .44 Special and Magnum – came up with a sensibly minimum powder charge for 200 gr. cast semiwadcutters, and toddled off to my shiny new loading shack.


And everything went swimmingly – with new batteries the powder scale works perfectly and no spiders built nests in the dumper – until the moment when I had ten shiny primed cases each containing precisely 7.2 grains of Ramshot True Blue and ten waxy bullets waiting to be seated in the cases.

And that’s when the inadequacies of my packing strategy jumped out, stuck their thumbs in the corners of their mouths and screamed, “booga booga booga.”


I guess I just assumed the case holder was still on the press. Where else would it be? The only caliber I loaded for years was .44, and the primer tool uses a proprietary holder (I still have a full set of THOSE holders. Because I didn’t need them today.)

I looked everywhere I could think to look, everywhere I might have squirreled a small important part away. Nope.

Went back up to the old RV that was my former loading shack before the rats kicked me out. I still have a ton of components and redundant gear in there, or rather Ian does.


Nope. Found a bunch of cool stuff I’d kind of forgotten about including a real digital caliper clean in its case which might work with a new battery. But shell holders? Nothing that will fit a big rimmed cartridge case, no.

AARG!

Maybe I’ll load some 45 ACP while I’m waiting for the mail order to arrive. I’ve got that holder, though no need for ammo.

Good news, while traipsing up and down the hill to and from the RV, I passed my favorite little barrel cactus…


…and look who’s going to bloom this year! She’s got the prettiest flowers in the desert. So that’s nice.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have to give Brownell some money.

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Your driveway doesn’t have problems like this…

There was a lot more of this on the game camera’s mem card and I tried off and on for 2 days to make a more extensive .gif but my up/download speed has been the worst lately. So we’ll have to settle for this snippet because I’d like to clear the card and turn the camera back on.

I haven’t complained much about the cattle so far this year because so far they really haven’t been any hassle at all. At most they give Torso Boy a reason to vocally yearn for his ancestral Welsh plains from time to time. Even when a herd finally made its way through my yard as captured by the game camera, they didn’t pause to knock a lot of stuff over and slobber over the rest.

But who’s cleaning up my driveway, cattle? Huh? You think this is San Francisco? You do know there’s a pandemic going on, right, and that I shouldn’t have to shovel up other … creatures’ … excrement? Yeah. When I start hawking my lungs up I’m gonna track down each of your calves and cough right in their individual moronically cute little faces.

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FINALLY getting the new reloading shack up and running.

I hurt my shoulder in 2016 and couldn’t even work a press for a while. Unfortunately by the time I could get back to it I had thoroughly lost the war against the rats in the old RV I used for a reloading shack. And you’re either in the habit or you’re not, so it was a while before I even considered it much of an issue.

But I’ve been wanting to do more pistol shooting and commercial ammo is out of the question for anything but defense loads – the only local ammo dealer doesn’t even stock .44 Special – so I had to get back to it but it really has taken me a while. I built the bench out of cut-up fencing and pallets almost a year ago. Cleaned out the RV of everything but the deep-storage stuff in Autumn but got stuck on the need for a shelving unit. That last excuse issue was solved by a neighbor a couple of days ago, because people throw away the damndest things.

And yesterday and today I set up the shelf, wired up some lights, and got busy emptying buckets…


It’s a little cramped; a tiny room in Ian’s powershed originally intended for ammo storage so not entirely inappropriate to repurpose it for loading. Really just exactly big enough with barely an inch to spare. Just the way I like things.


I still have to come up with some tunes, though. Seem to have completely lost my old MP3 player but I believe that tablet computer my brother gave me a couple of years ago will work at least as well.

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A lovely sign of Spring!

I came out from where I’d been working in Ian’s powershed and scared this guy up on a piece of concrete rubble…


Since he didn’t seem especially skittish I went around the other side of the column…


Half the size of a full grown iguana. The more common sort of lizard is much smaller. Good to see the reptiles again, though I’ll have to start paying attention to where TB’s walking. Last Spring he stepped right on a bull snake before he noticed it.

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