Okay, it’s officially winter.

First propane purchase. It’s down almost fifty cents a gallon from last winter, making it only too much rather than far too much.

Guess I can save the difference to buy holiday ammo for good girls and boys…

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Took a long truck ride for nothing. Nobody there, nobody answering the phone. Try again next week sometime.

I did get to help Neighbor S load drywall, but that’s the only useful thing I’ve accomplished so far today and a Lowes worker could have done that just as well.

Tobie has forgiven me. Now we’re going on a nice walkie while the weather holds.

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Oh boy, here we go…

Sometimes I think I take this ‘hermit’ thing too far. If I’m remembering correctly it has literally been years since I last visited the big town about 50 miles away. But today’s the day. I’m so excited my stomach is already griping.

Neighbor S, who actually makes money building off-grid power systems, has more grunt with vendors than I do. So a seasonally-closed retailer who won’t give me the courtesy of a return phone call will come out and open his doors for Neighbor S. And Neighbor S has graciously volunteered to use that superpower on Neighbor Joel’s behalf. So that’s what we’re doing this morning. If things go to plan, by mid-afternoon Ian’s Cave will have a whole bank of new batteries. When that turns out to have happened I’ll be ever so proud of myself. If it fails to pan out I’ll have taken a stressful journey to a place with lots of people for nothing.

Stay tuned, I guess…

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For the record…

The vital coffee-brewing portion of the waking-up procedure was unimpeded this morning.

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Plan B, cont.

Somebody in the previous post suggested that there was probably water in the kitchen regulator, freezing overnight. I had already come to the same conclusion and so was not surprised when…

…I removed it and water poured out. Somehow it really got a snootful during the rain of a few days ago.

I installed that regulator a few years ago, replacing a really perfectly good one…

…because I wanted a bypass regulator so I could stop going out and changing bottles in the dark on (inevitably) the coldest morning of the month. But there was never anything wrong with the old one, which I stored carefully as Plan B. And now my kitchen stove works again. Actually it started working around 9 this morning when the water melted, but that wouldn’t have lasted.

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Plan B: I haz one.

Or at least I always try to. When I get caught without a Plan B or when I reach for Plan B and it lets me down, I give serious thought to fixing that for next time. Because!

That’s why. No phone, no lights, no motor car you don’t provide for yourself. Ditto running water and cooking fuel. And when you build it yourself, with materials either scrounged or available on the consumer market, your chances of unexpectedly having to fix it under adverse conditions are – accept the word of one who knows – high. They’re high.

This morning’s case in point…

My kitchen propane regulator has suddenly decided that it doesn’t want to work when the weather gets frosty. Which it certainly did overnight. So I stumble into the main cabin, fill my teapot for all-important life-giving coffee, put it on the stove, light the flame, then take Tobie out for First Pee. Get back and find the pot, which should be whistling by now, standing over a cold inactive burner. I never CHECKED to see if the fire lit, I just assumed because I trusted the stove. It clicked happily away when I hit the igniter but no gas was coming out of the burners. It did nearly the same thing morning before last: The gas flow rate was very low until the sun warmed up the regulator. This morning it didn’t work at all.

Grumble! Curse! Also, where did I store my camping stove?

Before I moved here, when I did a lot of camping, I used the hell out of this thing. Now, the last time I remember using it was a memorable day in April 2015. It was a gross grody mess then, and that was going on nine years ago. I really ought to keep my gear clean.

Anyway, I only generally even knew where I left it. Also, the only little propane bottles that could run it were stored off-site. So I had to go get one and that wasn’t my greatest prepping moment, but what the hell.

I did eventually get my coffee and breakfast. Really ought to clean it before I re-store it. And get more of those little propane bottles. Oh, and I need a new kitchen regulator, dammit.

Meanwhile, speaking of Plan B…

It’s laundry day at Ian’s cave, which still doesn’t have a functioning electrical system. The problem here isn’t money but availability. There are still shipping issues four years after the apparent collapse of civilization caused by a bug, and my usual battery supplier is struggling to maintain supply. I’m just looking for some golf cart batteries, you wouldn’t think this would be so hard, but the big town about 50 miles away is largely a seasonal resort kind of thing and some businesses I really need to talk to right now are kind of closed for the winter. Fortunately Neighbor S is locally one of the big boys in the off-grid power biz, and some people who won’t give me the courtesy of a return phone call will come out and open their doors for him. So we’re going to take a trip together on Tuesday, when hopefully this will be resolved at last.

Meanwhile my wonderful donated Honda is keeping my scrawny ass wrapped in clean clothes, among other duties. I went without any generator at all for so long I just sort of learned to live without, but I’m really happy I don’t have to do that at the moment.

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First Snow

I haven’t been paying attention to the weather forecast so this came as a surprise. So far we hadn’t had so much as a little sleet with our rain – except for one brief cold snap it’s been very mild. But overnight the clouds rolled in and dumped maybe half an inch of snow.

Tobie always finds this very exciting. New stuff! New scents!

Which is why I immediately changed the itinerary, because our usual walkie trails involve going up and down the ridge and I won’t risk Tobie towing me down a steep slope when it’s slippery. He certainly didn’t mind: We seldom come into the wash together anymore so it was a new treat for him.

Here’s the Secret Lair in its hollow, pretty much hidden by juniper and snow…

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D&L Update…

Neighbor L is going through horse withdrawal. It’s been a week now since they went away and she says she’s down to checking on them through the windows no more than six or eight times a day now. And they’re never there, and you can imagine…

D is still stuck in a rehap center in the city far away. His most recent travail is an infection in his hip surgery, which a week ago was a big thing but which may be under control now. I spoke with him briefly on the phone this morning and he sounded much better. There’s hope that they might get him to a medical center closer to home in the next few days – but that has been promised before. All I can say is that he sounded strong when I talked to him. I’m still waiting to find out how this will really work out.

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Funniest Thanksgiving meme I’ve seen so far…

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I had an awful dream this morning…

I woke up at around 3:30 as normal, took care of some physical impediments to further sleep and laid back down. At some point I dozed off and found myself in the Gulch driving to Ian’s place. There I found that the yard was covered with litter and there was an open-top car with a family sleeping inside. When asked what the hell they were doing there, they informed me that they were moving here: That something called “Dark [something] Tactical” had declared that an intentional community was setting up right here and that lots and lots of people were coming. I informed them that they were mistaken or misled and that they should please kindly go away. I went into Ian’s place to find it gutted: Somebody was completely redecorating the place with new drywall. (Ian’s Cave is a cylindrical structure: You couldn’t actually drywall anything but this was dream logic) At this point I started to freak out just a bit: I went in the back and there was another whole family staying there with every sign of comfortable intention to stay.

I was having difficulty speaking: Somehow every time I inhaled to speak I snored. Can’t imagine why. Made it hard to express the extreme depth of my desire for all these people to go away. I went outside and now there were lots of people standing around. They all claimed to have been invited to move here – specifically to Ian’s Cave, which it seemed extremely unlikely that Ian had anything to do with this so I kept trying to chase them away purely on the basis of my authority as “the caretaker,” which I am but which none of the dream people seemed to find very persuasive.

I haven’t been so happy to wake up from a dream in quite a while.

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Getting back into winter habits…

Pretty morning here at the Gulch…

Tobie and I had a nice frosty walkie, then Neighbor L wanted to go to town. Now, I always schedule 15 minutes to get from here to D&L’s place through the wash, takes longer by road, and I really hate to be late. Seriously, I’ve always been neurotic about that. I hate when other people are late almost as much as I hate being late myself. I was supposed to be there at nine so I left the cabin fully geared-up at 8:45.

And then I remembered frost.

It rained for most of three days so there’s lots of humidity right now, all of which gathers together above the Jeep every night to freeze it solid. Scraping that puppy off will really tell you everything you need to know about the healing progress of your shoulder injuries, by the way. Whose idea was it to get a jacked-up Jeep anyway…

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First fire of the season

Yeah, I know – I took this pic right after most of the kindling had burned down and before I stoked the stove for actual heat. It’s a process. The process is kind of a pain in the ass, but once you own the infrastructure and tools it’s super cheap and reliable. It’s a fire in an iron box: The only way to make it simpler would be a stone circle on the floor and a smoke hole in the ceiling. The world outside the Gulch could go full Mad Max and I’d still have winter heat.

There’s only one complicated bit, and every year at this time I have this anxious moment while I wait to find out if the heat-actuated fan still works.

I’ve had bad experiences with electronic gadgets that work fine when I put them in storage and then never again. But this thing…

I’ve had it for a long time now. A Generous Reader gave it to me – I dunno, pushing ten years ago. I shouldn’t say anything stupid like it’s apparently never going to break, but…

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Do you have this problem?

Texting is an unalloyed blessing to introverts, I think we can all agree. Basically everyone who lives in the Gulch meets that description or they’d live somewhere else, so most remote communication involves texting. It was such a comforting alternative to voice telephony that even the boomers among us find it a big improvement.

There is one disadvantage, of course. When you’re a certain age, it’s kind of time-consuming.

We’ll never get the hang of all those abbreviations.

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It has come to this…

The day dawned almost completely clear, after all the rain of yesterday and last night…

…and when I came ’round Ian’s place I found my frozen meat pretty much all thawed. Cold, not yet ruined, but very not frozen. There’s not a lot of meat left in there so I’m not getting emotional about it. But Tobie and I have upped our meat intake.

And anyway I need to wash clothes, so…

It has come to this. Give me enough extension cords and a place to put the Honda and I can move the … well, the washer and fridge, anyway.

ETA: Oh, I should have mentioned that there’s a plan. There may be new batteries as early as the middle of next week.

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Wet morning. Also, someone stole my fridge.

It’s been such a dry autumn that actual rain came as a shock. Seems unnatural to have water falling from the sky. What’s with that? Also…

A shoutout to Generous Readers who are the reason I possess rain gear. Don’t use it often, but walkies must happen even when it’s raining and so it does get used.

And it was raining.

Cold, wet. Happily the wind didn’t pick up till later when Tobie and I were snug back in the Lair.

Along the way we stopped to investigate something I had sort of noticed before, but the significance of which didn’t quite sink in till this morning…

Along one of our walkie trails there’s an old Toyota cabover camper that has been filling with rat poop for far longer than I’ve lived here. There has always been a hole in the side, which is probably why it took a while for it to dawn on me that the hole had suddenly gotten substantially bigger.

And the reason for that was that someone had ripped the propane refrigerator right out through the side of the camper shell. 😀 I don’t really condemn this – I stole the stove out of it years ago – but what the actual cliché do they think they’re going to do with it? If they ever get it working I want to learn who they are so I can visit and marvel at their skill. Funny thing: They didn’t make a mess of it, either. There’s always been a sort of debris field around that truck and if anything they tidied up a bit before leaving.

Coming home, I praised Big Brother without whom the Lair probably wouldn’t have a porch and definitely wouldn’t have a covered porch, because…

…the only thing I hate more than mud outside is mud inside. 🙂

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Crap. That barely worked at all.

Four elderly batteries turn out not to be enough to run Ian’s system. It would boot up but not stay running for more than a short time, and this morning I finally figured out how to display the error message…

“Low AC output voltage” can only be caused by low DC input, and that’s that. My brilliant improvisation did not work.

Or at least not well enough. The system seems to cycle on and off to the point where so far my frozen stuff hasn’t begun to thaw, which it certainly would have by now if the freezer were simply unplugged. So there’s that. May need to bring out the generator if I want to wash clothes, and that’s going to be an interesting adventure since I’ll have to run power to the washer AND the pressure pump at the same time. Good thing that back in 2020 I impulsively made a way to provide alternative power to the pump, huh? Powering the water heater isn’t strictly necessary for clothes washing but it would be if I wanted to use the shower. And then there’s the question of what the water softener will do without power…

Yeah – I’ll bet not one of these batteries would pass a load test.

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That got complicated…

Sorry. Life kind of came at me from all sides this week but I think I have a good grip on it now. Could be wrong. Continue reading

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Okay, I’m done for now…

Woodcutting season is officially closed.

I have put away the power tools, raked up my mess and hauled it to the burn barrel.

I’m not entirely comfortable with what I’ve put up, but winters in the high desert are episodic: If I don’t have enough wood to get through till April there’ll be plenty of warning. No law says I can’t cut more in February or whenever.

For right now, I’m reminded of the old cliché I spout so often: It ain’t the years, it’s the miles and the collision damage. And right now I’m feeling mine. Maybe I’ll get more ambitious when my shoulders heal back up. Don’t bet the farm on it, but maybe.

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Tobie won’t sleep with me…

From day one, Tobie decided that my bedroom made him very uncomfortable. Little Bear liked it. Torso Boy liked it – and in fact insisted on sleeping in the bed. Tobie finds it repellent.

I expected him to get over it, maybe even decide he wanted to sleep there at night. He’s perfectly welcome to, I always leave the door a little open for him, but nope. So far this is as far as he has consented to unbend on the issue…

When I turn on the light to get dressed, he’ll come in to keep me company – or maybe just to keep me on task because the first pee and breakfast are on the line. As soon as I go bipedal and vertical, he turns around and leaves. The only other times he’ll enter the room are to shoot guilt rays at me through the window when I leave without him, and to hide from the vacuum cleaner.

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Chilly morning…

Our window of September-like weather may be ending. But if so it’s doing it in a rather polite manner. Woke up to high 20’s.

Got a lovely view of the late crescent moon and (Venus, I think) while accompanying Tobie out for an early pee. But the phone wasn’t up to the snapshot. Continue reading

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