Augh – Summer’s first grassfire is here.

Or – well, not here here. Somewhere far upwind.

Normally they don’t bother me…

…but on top of my allergy woes this is a misery. My eyes are so sore and swollen I can barely see.

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Hymn to Breaking Strain

My favorite Kypling poem, by means of Leslie Fish and friends…

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Baby bullsnake

Found him coiled up outside Ian’s door when I came up for my evening shower.

Mature bullsnakes are docile as can be but babies, being less the masters of their world, can get salty when scared.

Still don’t have any venom, though.

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Last Day of May

Hanging out, not getting anything done but filling handkerchiefs. Not sleeping very well. About semi-conscious the past few days. May is still my favorite month – but I’m reminded of the downsides.


…even if I can’t smell the flowers I can still admire them. And try not to be injured by them. And speaking of injury…

I haven’t scheduled the tickertape parade yet but evidence suggests I’ve won the latest round of the on-again-off-again rodent war inside Ian’s Cave. That last kill ended any trace of new mouse sign. Till next time, but I take my victories where I can.

Now if you’ll excuse I’m gonna have a post-walkie liedown.

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I don’t know what the visuals have to do with the song, it’s just the only video I could find with the right audio. Happens to be my favorite Leslie Fish song.

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My big boy…

I was just reading some two-year-old posts about when Tobie came to live with me, since it’s been almost exactly two years. Came upon the story of how he told me he wanted his own bed…

Generous Reader MM promptly donated a bigger bed, which was a big hit with Tobie. We had one of those problems-I-didn’t-even-know-was-a-problem until the following Fall when I needed to move the new bed away from the woodstove. I ended up retiring the living room chair and setting up the bed in the corner next to the Official TUAK Desk, and that turned out to be a perfect fit and also what he had wanted all along. Now he can keep me company while I waste time on the ‘pooter.

And Tobie still likes his bed, and has grown to fit it…

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You fell victim to one of the classic blunders!

The most famous is “Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.” But only slightly less well known is this:

“When your gigantic bag of free food has been replaced with a mousetrap, don’t stick your head in it!”

Funny how often that trick doesn’t work. I have a sad feeling I’m improving the breed.

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“Oh yeah. I can do that now.”

Never fails: May is my favorite month but sooner or later some species of amorous plant is going to get my nose streaming. And here’s me out of any real antihistamine, and Monday four days away…Wait!

I can do this now! And finding myself unwilling to resume the boring ol’ reading chair so early after morning chores I did just that, and without having to talk myself into it. Which means I must be back in summer mode at last.

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“Who run Bartertown?”

Oh, there’s something in the air and it’s got my nose running day and night. All last week was rainy, and now it has turned clear and hot. Something’s spreading pollen and it has gone straight to my sinuses. Surprised I got as much sleep as I did, but I’m up for chores this morning. Continue reading

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And there it goes again.

I sometimes wonder if the managers of the crappy little food store in the crappy little desert town nearest where I live have even bothered to quantify how much of what ought to be their business they’ve driven to the Safeway in the biggish town about 35 miles away.

Surely the longterm loss of traffic more than offsets whatever they imagine they’re saving by not replacing or permanently fixing their meat reefer. It’s not just meat: Most of the dairy goes in there as well.

The Palace of Food used to be a twice-a-year indulgence for me. Now I tag along with D&L monthly and stock up for the month to the full extent possible because the closer store has deteriorated to the point where you literally can’t depend on being able to buy a dozen eggs at any given time.

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Tobie-proofing the muffins…

Tobie may not be the champion counter-surfer of all time but he has every other dog in my personal experience beat hands-down. And so…

…Precautions are required.

I always have to bunker the eggs anyway. You bet he can reach to the wall and neatly pull eggs out of the crate, but (oddly, now that I think about it) he won’t knock things down to do it.

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Somebody lose a piece of rainbow?

Seen during today’s morning walkie…

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First-world problem in a third-world setting…

This really annoyed me…

I needed my digital caliper for the first time in a long time, only to find its battery dead. Okay, no sweat: the battery didn’t owe me anything and I have a Plan B dial caliper. But it’s like the difference between a digital powder scale and a beam-type scale: Once you go late twentieth-century you really don’t want to go back.

So I put a new button battery on my shopping list for the next time I went to town. And guess which town didn’t have anything close, in any store there? Literally my only solution was Amazon, where of course I had to buy four. I didn’t want four.

Happily it turns out the caliper case has a place for a spare battery, so at least I’ll know where there’s one spare next time I need one – five or six years from now.

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Somebody asked about the goat people the other day…

One other thing happened during this morning’s bike ride. I’ve had to watch out while going past the goat peoples’ property because their dogs (there are now three but that won’t last) have taken to chasing cars and of course bikes. I outran them on the way out, but on the way back they started in front of me. The bigger two were content to chase but the smallest one closed, on my left side which I was careful to arrange, and actually tried to take a bite out of my left leg above the boot.

This went about as well as you’d expect for the dog. The chase ended abruptly.

Seriously though: Their property is surrounded on two sides by road and they’ve already lost one Pyrenees that got into the car-chasing habit. I understand that dogs like to run but there are reasons not to indulge them. When they moved in I started out by trying to be a good neighbor – now I just really don’t want to have any more than necessary to do with them. Neighborliness needs to be a two-way street. Keep as many animals as you want, but be prepared to take care of them.

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Great morning for a bike ride…

Hardly beautiful, will probably rain later. But it’s still cool and first thing in the morning there’s no wind to speak of.

And for the first time this year I rode the bike from Ian’s to town to Ian’s, no cheating. First time in the year it always seems like such a big deal, so I have to psych myself up to do it and rediscover that it really isn’t. The fat bike is so much easier to use on rough roads, and of course I’m not working myself into arrhythmia pedaling up hills. But still: 10+ miles going, and…

…11+ miles coming back. There’s juice left in the battery at the end but you want to make sure you start with a full charge unless you want to get out and push on the last serious upgrade. That bar graph charge indicator is imprecise to say the least. It’ll say there’s plenty of charge left when in fact you no longer have the full 750 watts available – and you’ll find out about that at the worst time in the worst way. And I don’t think Lance Armstrong could get that big heavy bike up that particular hill without help from the motor. With help, even the stiff old one-legged guy can do it.

Also, ow my butt.

Got back to Ian’s and found that I had a boarder who was unhappy with the accommodations!

Somebody’s looking for nesting material. That’s not good: I don’t want to spend the summer hunting down a new generation of indoor mice. Thought about moving the one active kitchen trap to the bathroom, only to find…

…that a pregnant female mouse had taken the bait at last. (chicken skin. Never fails for long.) Is it the same pregnant female mouse? Time will tell, but clearly the warm season contest is on. I’d love to know how they’re getting into the Cave this time.

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“Kenny! NOOOO!”

It’s like some weird tradition at this point.

The bucket trap on my porch* never catches just one mouse. I get why they’re attracted to it: If you have a bucket of water sitting around overnight in the desert further bait is really not required. But if I climbed a ramp to a tank of water, even if dying of thirst, and saw a drowned body inside, I think I could probably resist the temptation to dive in with it.

So what is it? Are they holding hands and jumping together, a mousey sort of suicide pact? Is one trying to rescue the other? Are they really just that amazingly oblivious?

One good thing…

It’s the desert. I’ll never run out of places to dispose of bodies so it isn’t necessary to fish them out, wrap them in plastic and stink up the trash barrel with them. Some enterprising coyote or badger or whatever will dine well tonight.

*And why oh why are so many mice attracted so unerringly to my porch at night? It really doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Not that I’m demanding logic from mice, but come on.

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My favorite flower, a beautiful sunrise, and damn but the phones keep getting better.

These little barrel-shaped cacti aren’t very common around here but I seek to know where they are in my stomping grounds because a) they are absolutely paved with the most evil spines ever: Surgically fine and brittle and hooked and barbed to boot, and b) they have the prettiest spring flowers in the whole desert. They don’t bloom every year, but…

This looks like it’s going to be a good year for them.

Night before last I got to bed late and woke (with some help from you-know-who) far too early. As a result, by 7pm I was nodding. I’m a big boy and can decide my own bedtime, so I said screw it and went straight to bed. And straight to sleep. Meaning, of course, that I was awake at 4 after nine straight refreshing hours of sleep. I don’t often get active before Tobie does but this morning he had to follow me for once.

Also we’re heading into a rainy week, it seems: First thunderstorm of a projected several happened yesterday, so the day didn’t dawn cloud-free. And it made for the prettiest sunrise in a while, noted during the morning walkie.

Wasn’t sure the camera on the “new” iPhone would catch the sunrays, but it kind of did. And speaking of the new phone…

I am, obviously, not a customer for the latest and greatest of every generation of smartphone. For a long time I was one of those boomers who delighted in bragging that he didn’t have and wouldn’t have one. Of course I dropped both claims about five and a half years ago when Landlady gifted me her cast-off iPhone 6. It is, as she predicted, transformative technology: It changes the way you spend your day, not always in good ways. Like everyone else, I was quickly hooked. But neato as it is, the 6 was old when I got it and lately (I don’t know which) either being deliberately crippled by its software or just physically going downhill. In particular it was getting harder and harder to keep it connected in our patch of boonies which is at the best of times pretty damned far from the nearest cell tower.

Not long ago, Big Brother gifted me his cast-off iPhone 8+. And in among my usual boomer complaints (“The button is here now when it’s supposed to be here! Dang it!”) I found that it is also more powerful in unexpected ways. The (originally excellent) camera is notably better. I get a lot more range out of a bluetooth earpiece. And the phone works in places the old one never worked before even at the best of times, like…

…Ian’s front yard, which was always an absolute dead zone. There’s a signal booster inside the Cave but it never used to be any use outside the Cave itself. Now I can listen to podcasts while doing every phase of laundry. Still not in the powershed, though. The “new” phone is better, not omnipotent. 🙂

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And maybe the horse will sing.

I was reminded just now of a story I heard a long time ago. Looked it up so as to get it right…

Nasrudin was caught in the act and sentenced to die. Hauled up before the king, he was asked by the Royal Presence: “Is there any reason at all why I shouldn’t have your head off right now?” To which he replied: “Oh, King, live forever! Know that I, the mullah Nasrudin, am the greatest teacher in your kingdom, and it would surely be a waste to kill such a great teacher. So skilled am I that I could even teach your favorite horse to sing, given a year to work on it.”

The king was amused, and said: “Very well then, you move into the stable immediately, and if the horse isn’t singing a year from now, we’ll think of something interesting to do with you.”

As he was returning to his cell to pick up his spare rags, his cellmate remonstrated with him: “Now that was really stupid. You know you can’t teach that horse to sing, no matter how long you try.”

Nasrudin’s response: “Not at all. I have a year now that I didn’t have before. And a lot of things can happen in a year. The king might die. The horse might die. I might die.

“And, who knows? Maybe the horse will sing.”

That story meant a lot to me. Sometimes I called it the triumph of hope over despair. Sometimes the triumph of hope over experience. Sometimes, at the risk of seeming overdramatic, it kept me alive.

I have lived a long and often unpleasant life filled with many misfortunes. Most were painful; some were positively horrid. There were times when things got really bad, when I thought there was no point in going on. There were times when I thought the smartest thing I could do to deal with my troubles was blowjob my .45 and get the nightmare over with.

I never did that, obviously, and the reason I never did that was because as long as I was still alive there was still some chance that sometime, somehow, life might just possibly stop sucking so damned much. If I kept going, and if I kept open to what came.

And one great day, my chance came. And since then my life has been happy.

I’m reminded of a friend. He’s smarter, prettier and far more gifted than I am but his enthusiasms seemed to drift, dropping one opportunity after another to chase (what I took as) some other dream. This went on for years: I began to fear that my friend’s doom was an inability to focus on any one thing to the point of success, until he would end a failure despite his many obvious virtues.

As usual, I was completely wrong. I judged him according to my own experience, imagining that he was drifting from chance to chance when what he was really doing was determinedly seeking the right chance. And when he found that chance, he latched onto it and drove it with energy and skill I never could have mustered. Now, more than a decade later, he’s prosperous and busy and – as far as I can tell – very, very happy.

It’s interesting to contrast the difference in our two lives. I bounced from mistake to mistake, drifting through despair until I found a means of escape and when I found it I determined that I would do anything – even get constructive – to make it stick. My friend was being constructive all along: He just took a while to find the one thing he most wanted to build.

We really only had one thing in common – we never gave up on the hope that at some point, despite the odds, if we kept at it, the horse might sing.

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We didn’t get everything right…

I know this will come as a complete surprise and I hope most of you don’t lose faith in me and my friends as building contractors. But yeah. The truth is none of us had a freaking clue. It’s a mystery to me how so much of it worked out so well.

Here’s something that didn’t work out well at all, and it’s been bugging the crap out of me.

The idea was to bury the powershed under the same sand that covered the Dome. But the powershed’s roof is just plywood – in fact at one point it needed emergency repair when the loader moving the sand tried to fall through it – and so Ian bought a bunch of pool liner to waterproof the plywood.

Trouble is…

The sand didn’t cooperate. In hindsight everything would have worked fine if we’d simply put a lip around the edge of the roof that sticks out. Hindsight is such a wonderful thing, always bringing glorious clarity far too late.

Anyway. That pool liner has been flapping in the wind and drying in the sun ever since. And I’ve been meaning to get around to doing something about it, no matter how ugly, for quite a while. Since the immediate forecast calls for a week of rain starting tomorrow, today seemed like a pretty good time to finally get around to it.

Patch the liner and secure it to the wood. I’ve done this before and the wind just tore it loose. Then…

Take some spare flashing that’s been laying around and screw that sucker down.

Ugly? You bet. But I bet the wind can’t tear the liner loose anymore. And all I care about is keeping the rain off the wood. Ugly, at this point, is non-negotiable.

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Pear Tree Maintenance

Say what you will about the pear tree, it’s certainly hardened to local conditions. In 2011 and 2012 we planted a whole bunch of fruit trees in what was supposed to be a veritable food plantation on Ian’s property. We went to extensive, nay, extreme measures to prepare the sites for the plantings. The trees got watered regularly with the really big irrigation network we laid down. Every one of those trees died like wimpy bitches, and they wasted no time doing it.


The single tree I planted in Spring 2011 got stuck in a hole behind what later became the woodshed. I remember to water it maybe twice a summer in dry years. I think I’ve weeded around it twice in 12 years, and every other year it gets a halfhearted pruning. In those negligent conditions it has – by desert fruit tree standards – thrived. Hell, it even fruited year before last and that makes it unique in the annals of Gulch fruit trees.

This morning I hoed the weeds away from it and laid down a mulch of rotted chicken shit and straw, and other than a few waterings that’s all the 2023 care it’s going to get and more than it gets most years. The perversity of the universe tending as it does to a maximum, the poor thing will probably die now.

Of course one precaution that absolutely must take place is the replacement of the anticattle fencing, because obviously.

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