And the stacking begins.

That’s all I got cut to stove lengths today. I intended more and in fact was raring to go and had lots of wood left to be cut. But I had to quit…

…because the switch on my chopsaw packed up. I can probably fix it – I got it free from a neighbor because of the switch, and I’ve already fixed it once so I’m hopeful. And even if I can’t I’m not out of business; a couple of years ago I inherited another from my dad. But it’s a much nicer saw and I’d rather not use it out at the woodlot unless I have to.

In any case, in the end I was happy to have stopped where I did, because…

…the final step is always hard on my back. Load the stove lengths into a wheelbarrow…

…and stack them as neatly as possible. This isn’t physically difficult at all, but a lot of it is done while constantly bent over. I did at least remember to put my brace on before the pain began, and though I’m currently a little sore I don’t feel at all damaged.

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Woodshed floor repair

This is what the rats have done to my nice stone woodshed floor over the past 3 years. Needless to say my hopes for keeping them out of the back of the woodshed with hardware cloth didn’t entirely work out but believe it or not it could have been a lot worse. They mostly confined their actual damage to the second-to-last tier and even that didn’t actually ruin much wood. So it’s tolerable and I won’t go to a lot of extra hassle to change things – and I’m going to concede that there’s not much point going to the immense PITA it would be to fix the stone floor at this point. So… Continue reading

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Goat’s milk! Huh! What is it good for?

Within the roughly 4 mile2 area I consider the Gulch proper, we have some new neighbors. I’m not going to get into their particulars because I don’t think they’d like that but they have two unique features about them: Their living arrangement is … rustic in the extreme – I genuinely don’t know how they plan to cope with winter – and they raise goats. Quite a few goats, in fact, and they seem to subsist largely on goat meat and milk. To the extent that, when I went to visit, this was their guest gift:

I’ve never gone out of my way to encounter goat milk, not being much a milk drinker. I found this a little thick, a little strong-tasting but not unpleasant. But it would take me longer to drink a quart of it than it’s likely to last in my cooler so I did the only other thing with it I could think of. I made pancakes.

And since my recipe is adapted to a much more watery substrate using milk powder, these came out kind of weird. The batter was way too thick, for one thing. But they weren’t bad. Not outstandingly better than usual, either, to be honest. I may have to beg off next time, when I return the jar.

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I learned a new word this morning!

Doomscrolling and doomsurfing are new terms referring to the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing. Many people are finding themselves reading continuously bad news about COVID-19 without the ability to stop or step back.

English is usually kind of a pithy, prosaic language, aside from some of its bizarre grammatical and spelling rules. But once in a while somebody comes up with a coining worthy of the romance languages.

And on more or less the same theme, here’s TUAK’s quote of the day…

H/T to Our Lady of Snark, of course.

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Warning: This is how weird the world outside my Gulch has become…

At first sight I was prepared to take this picture seriously.

NBA Players Wear Special Lace Collars To Honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg

You guys stay safe. This old man’s never going out there again.

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Second day of woodcutting

When I got ready to move into the Secret Lair about nine years ago, planning to heat it with wood, I looked around at all the dead juniper everywhere and saw an embarrassment of riches – I really thought I had that part nailed. Because, as has so often been the case, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

And what I didn’t know was a) as firewood goes, juniper is lousy firewood. It’s generally very porous, the pores are full of dirt, and it never burns very hot. Also b) my free woodstove was very poorly suited for the purpose – in hindsight I really think it was designed to use forced air – and between it, the 8-inch stovepipe and the juniper it was a terrifying chimney fire waiting to happen. Because it produced smoldering, smoky, relatively cool fires that may as well have been designed to deposit creosote rather than, you know, heat my cabin.

So I got a new boxwood stove near the start of my second winter in residence, and gradually began my tradition of collecting old pallets and scrap wood through the summer. Can’t say I don’t burn any juniper, because of course I do and anyway the stove and pipe are more squared away than they were at first, but to the greatest extent possible I burn old lumber. And that’s why my principal woodcutting tools are a Sawzall and chopsaw and my chainsaw hasn’t been out of mothballs in years.

Cutting up pallets for firewood turned out to involve more of a learning curve than I expected – there are right ways and wrong ways – but I think I’m getting it. Today I did eight in a little over an hour.

This is the biggest and most complete of the morning. It was the sixth of the day and the blade was getting worn so it was also the most time-consuming. I decided to see just how long each took, with my improved tools and technique…

And reducing it to that pile on the table took me a little under eight minutes. I changed the blade and the next one went much quicker.

Speaking of blades, other than gasoline that’s my only monetary outlay. They do wear out rather quickly and unlike chainsaw chains you can’t sharpen them. I wouldn’t go near a pallet with a chainsaw, though – too many nails. Chains are far more expensive than recip saw blades, which are designed to cut nails.

And that’s the pile at the end of today’s session. More like it – and after it goes through the chopsaw it’ll make more than I really want to stack in one go anyway. Stacking turns out to be the hardest part on my back.

But I probably won’t cut it up tomorrow because first I have to give some attention to the woodshed floor, which has been largely undermined by rats in the past three years. Turns out my hardware cloth/sand/stone floor rather did the opposite of keeping the rats out. Some found it quite inviting.

And as much easier as the woodcutting has gotten in the past few years, I’m still a stiff old man and I won’t say it isn’t a workout…

Anyway, now that that and the chicken chores are done, I need to wash up and start baking bread.

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First official day of woodcutting…

And technology is my friend.

Unlike yesterday the Honda started cold with one gentle pull on the starter and whirred happily as soon as I opened the choke.

And this thing…

Being unfamiliar with the prosumer or professional grades of power tools I often don’t know what I’m missing. The only thing I can find to dislike about this saw is the old-fashioned blade attachment. The motor is far more powerful than either of my other saws and doesn’t all the time act like she’s givin’ all she’s got but she just canna take any more, cap’n. The bearings actually seem to work; I put in an hour on it and it never got particularly hot. And for efficiency…

As long as I can keep the blade from digging into wood it peels a pallet like a banana. I’m putting in much less work; I was barely at the woodlot an hour this morning and dismantled five pallets. My normal routine is to run the Sawzall for a day and then run the chopsaw for a day, mostly because dismantling pallets is so much work. But I may go ahead and knock out a whole stack of pallets before I bring out the chopsaw and cut the pieces to stove lengths.

Five pallets don’t make a very impressive pile of wood and I could have kept going; everything was working fine. But I’m not in a hurry and thought it best to sort of feel out how my joints are going to deal with it this year; I’ve had years where I pushed it and then had to work with an aching back. It’s early in the season and there’s no point straining anything that isn’t already strained.

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So I was just cleaning dust off my game camera before putting it back out at the watering station, right? And…

…my finger went right through the badly-fogged plastic that covers what I take to be the light sensor. Might explain why it hasn’t been working so well lately. UV for the win.

I’ve had a lot of fun with this one, and it did last a few years. But I’m open to suggestions for a better model than the Browning.

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I’m turning into a maudlin old fool.

It’s been a couple of days over a month since I lost Laddie, and life has pretty much gone back to normal. New, dogless normal. At least I’m no longer grumping in my chair all day and drinking too much at night. I can look back and say, “that was an unusually bad day and night” without some flavor of meltdown.

Mostly, anyhow…

I was doing some stuff behind the Lair when I saw the glint of a little cartridge case among the pebbles. Reached down to pick it up, perplexed because while there’s nothing strange about finding .22 cases on the ground around the cabin, I don’t even own a 9mm. I picked it up and looked at the headstamp.


I don’t own a 9mm Luger. I do own a 9mm Makarov – which I last fired at 2 AM on August 20, a day that shall live in infamy. And for a few moments I flashed back so hard I swear my vision whited out.

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Love that Honda…

Three years ago a VERY Generous Reader sent me my very own Honda generator, new in box, after life changes rendered it irrelevant to the reader’s future plans. I confess I was both excited to receive it and also – almost reluctant.

I’ve never been on the kind of budget where acquiring a machine like a Honda EU2000i could be done casually – or at all, really. I always settled for cheaper sorts of machines and they had a habit of letting me down. The Honda has a very high reputation for reliability and I frankly didn’t want to see it broken. That would probably turn out to be my fault.

So when I mothball the thing, I do it very carefully. And I always take it out of mothballs with some serious trepidation.

Back in December I changed the oil and drained the fuel most thoroughly. The carb bowl has a draincock that makes that easy. So nothing but a rat chewing through a spark plug wire should keep it from starting up again no matter how long it sits. Right? Hell, BB even sent it a dust cover so it doesn’t even get dirty in storage.

Check the oil and see that the aforementioned petcock is tight. Remember to open that valve on the fuel filler cap. Pour in some gas…

…and then feel your heart sink when it doesn’t kick at all after the sixth or seventh pull, even though you spent all morning up to this point telling yourself that it always does this after being dry, it always takes this long for the fuel to get where it needs to go. Because my experience with small gas engines just naturally makes me the result of an unholy mating between Eeyore and Joe Btfsplk. Don’t ask me how they reproduced.

And then when the carb finally starts vaporizing fuel and squirting it into the cylinder, the Honda naturally starts right up and undoubtedly will for all its active season, because it’s a helluva tool. And it has taken an amazing amount of the labor out of scrap wood cutting.

And things should go particularly smoothly this time out, because…

…in July Big Brother sent me this. A genuine Milwaukee Sawzall, freshly lubed and rehabbed. I have a Craftsman recip saw that’s only 2 years old and already coming apart, and I hope confidently expect this machine to work ever so much more reliably – but it can’t work at all without a generator at the woodpile. So now we’re ready to destroy old pallets, chop them into stove lengths, and slowly fill the woodshed.

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Getting the autumn itch early this year…

Autumn isn’t officially here till tomorrow but we do seem to be ramping up for autumn chores here at the Secret Lair.

Both propane stations are locked and loaded, and…

…as of Saturday all the spares are full. This is a state of affairs that only exists during winter, because keeping bottles full is an expensive hassle that only makes sense then.

And for my next trick I think I’m going to take the Honda generator out of mothballs and get ready for woodcutting. I’m going to need a lot this year because I barely cut any the last time and the very mild winter let me get away with it but still depleted the woodshed. This isn’t Minnesota: You never know what winters here are going to do but even at their worst they tend to be episodic. So actually running out of wood wouldn’t be the disaster it might be elsewhere because most times there would be mild enough weather to cut more without real hardship. Nevertheless this is the place Murphy lives and he can be a malicious little bastard. So no excuses on woodcutting this season, I want four full tiers by November.

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This should do it…

I mostly dislike having to buy things. I really hate having to buy things twice, but I suppose I did this to myself. I went cheap and shouldn’t have.

When I got this bypass regulator both of the hoses that came with it leaked. So now I’ve gone with what I should have gotten in the first place and it’ll probably be fine.

I needed the longer hoses to fit these #40 bottles which don’t fit well on the bedroom regulator but should relieve me from one of winter’s more irritating hassles: Waking up and trying to make coffee on an icy morning only to find that the stove’s single propane bottle has sucked empty overnight. Really don’t know why it took me so long to get a bypass regulator for the kitchen.

Next step before this chore is done is to cover the regulator and bottles, because they’re right under the Lair’s main drip edge. My old arrangement had a shelf attached to the cabin, which turned out less than ideal. I don’t think it’s going to be a problem though…

I’ve got plenty of scrap plywood I can use to make a cap. Slap a coat of paint on it and call it genius.

And now, having had breakfast, I need to return to this week’s burden and get it out of my life…

Got some thinset yesterday and lost my last excuse not to re-tile that bare spot on the floor.

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Never know what the stores will be out of next…

The running gag of the early part of the lockdown was toilet paper. Then it was any sort of baking supplies. Flour has come back, sort of. But if you need sugar you’d better take out a loan – and don’t look for it in a dollar store.

I had to cut the hummingbirds off early, because they damn near ran my sugar bucket dry. I can buy it – don’t tell them but I did – but not in the crappy little town nearest where I live. And at damn near a dollar a pound I’m not feeding it to birds.

Yeast is still at a premium, too – but I had so much yeast stored at the beginning of the year I was able to share with neighbors.

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Almost at the equinox…

Always makes me a little sad when the days get shorter. This hasn’t been a great summer for me but normally I much prefer summer, heat and glare and all.

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Oh, there has to be a better way…

I was able to scrape out all the old thinset under the tiles I replaced on the kitchen/woodstove side of the Lair with scrapers and chisels. No fun, but doable. But what I mixed on the door side was somehow made of sterner stuff…

…as in a chisel barely touches it. If I hoped to finish scraping out the old thinset within the exhaustion range of a stiff old man, I had to do something I really didn’t want to do…

I’m barely more than half done with this part of the job and the entire (hopefully only the main room of the) cabin is thickly covered with mortar dust I’ll be cleaning up for probably the rest of the month.

Roughly ten seconds into the job I channeled my inner Zelda and rummaged around the tool side of the powershed for my respirator…

Hating life at present, but slowly gettin’er done.

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Reality officially cancelled: All world events are now satire.

Struggling CNN Just Starts Stealing Headlines From The Babylon Bee

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Gulchy adventures in concrete and concrete-like substances

There’s an overall word for that and I have spent fifteen minutes or more trying to remember what it is. Annoying.

Anyway – A few weeks ago I had to put on my Joel the Sexton hat after burying Laddy, to make the pedestal for his headstone.

Talked to Landlady over the weekend about the precise wording, and in the course of that conversation she asked me to make a couple more pedestals while I was refreshed on the technique. So Monday I brought home some concrete, and yesterday and today I did exactly that.

Yesterday afternoon I began the process of replacing some of the more crumbled floor tiles in the Secret Lair…

I have to do that to about a third of the overall floorspace and I learned, not to my surprise, that replacing tile is a hell of a lot harder than laying it in the first place. The thinset may not have adhered especially well to the tiles, but it is grimly determined to remain bonded to the cement board backer.

I can picture Big Brother rolling his eyes as he reads this part, since he offered to finance the vinyl plank floor I could have simply laid over the tiles. And I agree that’s the way to go, and next year for sure. I didn’t have any trouble with the work of overlaying the floor – hell, it’s less work than what I’m doing now – but there were opportunity costs I just never got around to paying. Short version, obtaining the flooring just got too complicated and this summer has gotten away from me. I really haven’t accomplished very much during my traditional building season.

Update on the Jeep’s rear window: The parts are ordered! And so in a couple of weeks the Jeep should have a fully functional window for the first time in at least two years. Also coming is yet another indoor latch for the driver door, because rolling down your window to open the door in a snowstorm is an unpleasant hassle.

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Vote for OUR GUY!

Most important election EVER!!!

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(Annoyed Grunt…)

What’s wrong with this picture?

I was bashing through the wash yesterday, in a bit of a hurry because I was late to meet with D&L for the Monday morning water run, when the rattletrap the 19-year-old Jeep has become suddenly got quite a lot louder.

And then I was later still as I did some off-road surgery to take the rear window off before it fell off. Knowing I had to haul some heavy stuff back to the Lair later, I left the window on the bank of the wash till I returned. Danger of it being stolen in the interim: Approximately zero.

The window itself is undamaged but I’ve been a little worried about something like this happening for some time. The gasket that latches the window closed against the tailgate has been broken for a couple of years now, making the window impossible to secure.

Eventually one of the pot metal hinges just fatigued apart. Fortunately it’s fixable: Various commenters have clued me into online sources of Jeep parts, and it’s clearly time to stop procrastinating about refurbishing the Jeep’s rear bits. Winter is Coming. So I’ll get on that today. Should have done it yesterday but yesterday got kind of wonky.

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Dusty level unlocked

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