Got a couple of nice gifts for the bike…

I don’t think that title quite works grammatically. What I meant to say is that someone sent me a couple of nice gifts to be used on the bike.

These weird-looking panniers, which stick up in the back high enough that the old man will never be able to Riker-maneuver his sole remaining leg over them – but it has to be that way because…

…they fold down, you see, and in theory will hold a ton of groceries. The awkward part is that they replace saddlebags that are already half full of things I’m not comfortable going without, like water and a spare tube (bulky, with these fat tires) and a big intimidating chain and lock and other sundries that won’t fit in the tool bag. So where do they go, I asked myself.

Turns out that the second gift kind of made an answer to that question non-negotiable…

Now, this is cool and addresses a problem I’ve wrestled with ever since the bike arrived four seasons ago. It’s a handheld electric tire pump with enough power to actually inflate a fat tire. This is serious: a CO2 cartridge won’t do it, a little hand pump won’t do it before the heat death of the universe. My only practical method of inflating a bike tire has always been the electric inflator in the back of the Jeep. Not convenient to the side of a remote dirt road when I’m on the bike. I have never had to replace a tube on the side of the road yet but I have limped the bike home with a puncture at least three times just having been lucky. It’s been on my mind: my luck isn’t usually that consistently good. So I really wanted one of these things, and the gift was remarkably timely here at the beginning of the warm season when I’m playing hopefully with the bike every day and praying for the rain to stop.

But it did create yet another storage issue…

…it wouldn’t fit in my conventional underseat tool bag. Bother!

So now I had enough theoretical storage space to evacuate Ukraine but it was all folded up, so there was no place to actually store all the stuff I usually (and very much want to) carry with me! Huh!


With those folding panniers sticking up like that the top of the cargo rack – which I normally use to actually carry cargo – becomes kind of useless. So – I can’t believe I’m really asking this – could I get a(nother) cargo bag sized to fit the top of the rack? Turns out that yes, I can. So I sent away for one before I talked myself out of it.

This is starting to feel a little silly. Sure hope it all works when I’m through.

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Duct tape comes in colors.

Notes from the “People throw away the damndest things” department: A couple of years ago I inherited this very excellent chair from the neighbors. With the addition of Tobie’s bed the Lair has room for exactly one comfy chair and this, being the best, survived the cut.

This past winter I also received from friends a windfall of books I hadn’t read before. Spent months on Neal Stephenson alone. In short, to Tobie’s disgust I spent a lot of winter time in that chair. Even hauled it away from the wall and made use of the reclining feature. And that’s when I discovered…

…its single physical defect. Hardly a killing flaw, but it did kind of irritate me for some reason. After being irritated occasionally for basically the whole of winter, I finally asked, “What shades of brown does duct tape come in?”

Yes, I’m a redneck. So?

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“Are your videos suddenly working better?”

Got a text from D&L this morning wanting to know if I wanted to go to town. Badly needing gasoline, I said yes.

Ever since getting a smartphone recently Neighbor L has become addicted to short animal videos, which has had the positive side effect that she doesn’t care how long you leave her sitting in her truck while you fill gas cans or whatever. I got back in to find her learning all about a talking dog or some dumb thing and it occurred to me to ask the question above. She answered in the affirmative, and her service improved at roughly the same time and as abruptly as mine did yesterday.

So what I’ve been blaming (with decreasing levels of conviction) on weather for weeks was apparently a local hardware issue it just took somebody a very long time to get around to fixing. Again, so much for high speed rural broadband.

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Almost hit a calf…

All in all I spent nine days going back and forth across the plateau and up and down S&T’s mesa to feed and care for their dogs and generally keep Murphy at bay while they were traveling. I told them at the beginning that I could no longer promise that the Jeep was capable of doing that sixteen or eighteen times in a row, so T lent me the use of his truck for the duration. T’s dogs are rather smelly, not that Tobie would have needed them to be to know he was in other dogs’ territory, and although he enjoys a ride as much as the next dog he never quite warmed up to T’s truck. Also…

Every single frickin’ morning and evening the plateau was crawling with cows and small calves, most of which seemed to prefer to hang out somnolently in the middle of the frickin’ road for some reason. I have lost all patience with cattle in general long since, but I remain aware that keeping the poor darlings from harm is somehow my responsibility. I also know that the only creature on Earth more stupid than a cow – leaving chickens out of the conversation as clearly the undisputed stupidest creatures in the physical universe – is a calf. When a steer calf gets spooked it wants its mama, and it will do anything no matter how suicidal to reunite with her. Therefore…

As I was easing through the morning’s cattle herd in T’s truck, I paid careful attention to the behavior of all the many calves around me. They all look alike, you can’t tell which one goes with which cow, and it is inevitable that at least one cow will move off the road without concern for which side of the road her calf is on. Rather than simply stand still for two seconds until the coast is clear, the poor bereaved calf will always try to outrun the truck and cut in front of it to reunite with mama. When you see a calf apparently racing the truck, be aware that it absolutely will make a suicide run for the front bumper. You are legally responsible to prevent its grisly death.

So I was watching this one calf very closely as it built up velocity beside the truck. I couldn’t speed up and outrun it because I was still making my way through the herd, but I could slow down just enough to let it live when it cut in front of the truck. I was watching the calf so closely, in fact, that I completely missed the fact that there wasn’t just one calf.

Yup, mama had twins. Frankly I’m surprised the cattlemen let this runt live: I almost didn’t, for I looked up from watching the first calf safely cross the road just in time to see a second, smaller calf disappear at great speed in front of the truck.

People, I fully expected to feel a bump but somehow this tiny creature made up in afterburner what he lacked in size. He veritably squirted back into my vision inches from the bumper. It’s kind of a shame he’s already been castrated: they should breed him as a racing cow.

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Popping in to say hi…

The past couple of days, except for brief windows of opportunity that tend to vanish suddenly, I haven’t even been able to see the Internet. This being one of those windows I’m thumbing this message out on my (new!) phone. Yes there’s been a sudden cornucopia/holocaust of new tech here at the Secret Lair and it has accidentally removed the laptop’s ability to connect to the network. A classic Apple Catch 22: I can’t connect the laptop to the network with the new phone until I update its software, which I can’t do because I can’t connect the laptop to the network. I’ll probably end up taking them both to town and sorting it out with the public library wifi.

Which, happily, I am regaining my ability to do! Spring is here, and I’ve already taken my first bike ride to town of 2023. I’d have happily told you all about it, but you know.

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That didn’t go as planned…

Yesterday was very mild all day. The forecast said rain and the clouds agreed but it never actually rained until about 3 this morning, when it rained real good and now I’m dealing with mud again. Anyway…

Yesterday morning I had breakfast with S&L, and I took that opportunity…

…to do something I’ve been putting off all winter. I borrowed S’s jackhammer again.

Ever since last September I’ve been dealing with wet concrete on the south-ish side of Ian’s slab. It’s not caused by any problem in the water system, and given that last summer’s long soaky Monsoon popped a number of new springs here and there I am forced to conclude that that’s what’s going on here. It might go away by itself in the fullness of time, but Uncle Murphy says that’s not the way to bet. In the meantime…

It’s causing difficulty. So I asked Ian for permission to hammer a small hole in his floor in an out-of-the-way spot behind the bathroom door…

… to test the feasibility of installing a sump pump. Yesterday, after much procrastination, was the day.

I know I can install the sump without much difficulty but I had real misgivings about how hard it would be to make a big enough hole in the slab all the way down to dirt. I couldn’t remember how much reinforcement the slab had but I knew there was some. And we all know how much fun Murphy likes to have with that sort of thing.

But in the end…

…it was no trouble at all. I had a fist-size hole down to dirt in less than half an hour. Turns out jackhammers are a lot easier to work with when gravity is being your friend.

Now: The outcome of all this that I was hoping for was that the hole would fill with water overnight, or at least get good and wet. That would indicate a condition that a sump pump could actually help with.


…that’s not what happened. The sand under the slab is damp, certainly, but it was damp yesterday. It’s no wetter now than it was then.

I’m going to check it every morning for a week, and if the situation doesn’t change I’m going to have to conclude that the answer is No. And then I’ll fill the hole with cement and live with a wet slab, because a sump pump is the only possible solution to the problem I’ve been able to come up with.

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And once again…

I did a pretty cool thing this afternoon, and in a spirit of unrealistic optimism I took pictures so I could share it with you. But once again and as usual lately I can’t open the blog on the laptop to do my job.

If this isolation ever ceases, normal blogging will resume.

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“Other dogs have been in here!”

I’m spending the next week going to T&S’s twice a day, and I had to admit that I couldn’t guarantee the Jeep could make the trip fourteen times in its present condition. Once or twice, sure, but that’s always been a bad-luck gig for the Jeep. So T loaned me his truck while they’re gone.

And you just knew somebody was going to have an opinion about it…

I practically had to toss him in the first time: Once the door opened and the cavalcade of new and extremely interesting scents hit his nose he more or less went full autism and forgot all about why he was standing there.

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For the record…

I went to town this morning for the usual monday morning water run, and my phone didn’t work any better near the cell tower than it has for the past several days far from it. It was the only time I had a chance to compare my phone’s performance with that of Neighbor L’s, and she was having trouble too.

Solar issues? Hell if I know. I’m just a desert hermit. It’s not a big “system down” issue like we had a year or two ago. It’ll clear itself up when it does. I guess.

This is why I like paper books.

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Aaand it’s gone again…

(Thumbing this out on my phone again) I’m getting tired of complaining about this. My connection has been so bad today that I’m basically living a pre-internet lifestyle but just about half an hour ago this abruptly improved to the point where I could at least open the blog on the laptop. So I tried to make a post with some of my backed-up material. I really did.

And then it all abruptly went away again. And it seems in no hurry to return.

I’m not ignoring you. The celestial aether is.

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So it’s not the signal booster…

For the record I’m laboriously thumbing this post out on my phone, because once again although it’s working fine I can’t use it to get the laptop online. I strongly suspect that this is weather-related, even though it’s a still clear day, because it’s not as if this is the first time it has happened.

Anyway, last night I got a text from Big Brother wondering if perhaps the problem was some fault in the signal booster he sent me back in 2020. I said I had no indication that there was anything wrong with the booster but that it was something easy enough to check on. So this morning I just reached down and unplugged it while watching the signal bars on the phone. All hell instantly broke loose: clearly it was only the booster that was allowing me any signal at all. It was only several minutes after I plugged it back in that I got the use of the phone back.

So it’s just the unsettled weather that’s causing my troubles, same as usual. And it’ll go away when it goes away, I guess, same as usual. So much for high-speed rural Internet.

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Hey, it opened this time!

Couldn’t open the blog on the laptop this morning no matter how I tried.

Overnight we got the snow we were promised yesterday. Yesterday all we got was wind – lots and lots of really cold wind. Really sick of winter now. Blowing through firewood at a record pace – I have some serious restocking ahead between now and next winter. Forecast says tomorrow and the weekend will be milder – we’ll see.

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Good news, everyone!

The price of eggs is edging down!

Not in the crappy little town nearest where I live, of course. That’s been $7.50/dozen for months now. But in the Palace of Food in the biggish town about 35 miles away, it’s down to $6.50/18, which is substantially cheaper less obscenely expensive than this time last month.

You probably already knew that. I just learned it today.

I kept laying hens for so long that eggs became an essential part of my diet. I picked the wrong year to stop keeping laying hens. But today I learned that maybe the price – in non-captive markets, at least – may be headed in the right direction at last.

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Time to drag this thing to the top of a hill and update the software, maybe…

We have a still clear day ahead of us, it appears – though the forecast says otherwise so I don’t know. The forecasters haven’t been so good lately, except in broad pictures. They said we’d get a dusting of snow on Sunday, we got three inches(ish, who really knows) in a raging blizzard. Yesterday most of it melted…

…and now we’re up to our asses in mud again. I looked at the clear sky and the temperature that was above freezing before eight ayem and decided to do laundry while I could, because the picture for the rest of this week doesn’t look happy. Tobie was glad to get out of the cabin for a while, though.

We’re both barnsour as hell, but he’s just a puppy. Last evening while climbing the hill for the last walkie he completely lost sight of decency and body-checked me in the back of the knees, something he hasn’t tried since he was a little puppy. I went down like a sack of painful flour and he didn’t like what happened next. Never did appreciate practical jokes.

Tomorrow we’re supposed to get a big snow. That would cancel Senior Day at the Palace of Food, because in a blizzard the road to the biggish town about 35 miles away – actually any road anywhere – is a windswept nightmare, and old people don’t like those.

Can’t happen though: Tomorrow is the first of March, and I have declared it the complete end of winter. I’m putting away the firewood box, turning off the bedroom heater, sharpening and storing the axe and hatchet. The winter clothes go under cover and the summer clothes come out. I have proclaimed 30 days of shooting festivals and picnics. Fire up the barbecue, boys, we’re done with winter. I have spoken.

Yeah, I know. I say that every winter, because every winter by this time I’m thoroughly sick of sitting around. But March is the month that breaks your heart.

Meanwhile my connection problems continue in fits and starts. I came back from Ian’s just now: The iPhone worked fine, airdropping the pictures above worked fine, but the Macbook wouldn’t connect to the blog or indeed to any website at all until I rebooted it. Now it’s working perfectly. Sometimes that works, sometimes not. Annoying.

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Sorry, I’m having connection issues.

Even when the phone works – I’m tapping this out on the phone – I can’t open websites on the laptop. Happens sometimes when the weather is unsettled, and for the past several days the weather hasn’t been able to make up its mind what it wants to do. Bear with me, everything is fine here.

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Hey, that works!

Not really surprising, but confirmation is always nice.

At this specific moment we’re getting a break from the storm but it’s due back around noon and this morning I ate up the very last of my homebaked bread. So the first item on the morning agenda was bread baking. This time of year I normally wait till afternoon when the batteries are charged but even though it’s sunny at the moment the batteries are unlikely to GET charged. So screw it, this way I can get some oven heat in the cabin with that fresh-baked bread smell…

…while at the same time not worrying in the least about what it’s doing to my half-charged batteries…

…because I’m ignoring the solar panels and pumping juice into them with my new big-enough-to-actually-accomplish-that DC charger to offset the massive drain of the stove’s oven heater…

…using the Honda for power.

Synergy! And to think that earlier in the winter I was going to poke a hole in the floor in the cabin’s kitchen corner and run a permanent extension cord outside so I could run the oven directly off the generator. Would’ve worked, but it sure would have been clunky.

Speaking of clunky solutions to unexpected problems, yesterday we got freezing rain! For some reason that rarely happens here and I don’t have a stock solution. But I do already have quite enough mobility problems, thank you very much, so before I could take Tobie the Battering Ram that Walks like a Dog anywhere near the porch stairs I had to do something about it.

Fortunately I happen to hoard table salt…

…and half a pound later the problem was on the road to solving itself. Now I need to sweep up the mess I made, since half a pound turned out to be rather too much.

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And this is why I worry about creosote…

I woke this morning feeling not good at all – I’ve had occasional migrains all through my adult life but this the first time I remember waking up with one. No headache, that always comes later if at all, but a general fuzziness and inability to focus my eyesight or hearing – like I can hear words but the sentences make no sense.

Anyway, I stumbled through the morning routine. It wasn’t very cold at rising but there was the beginning of what turned into a terrific windstorm, the temperature dropped and now it’s snowing, and even though the thermometer said it wasn’t really cold enough for a fire I felt cold so I not only lit the woodstove but stoked it hard. Which meant that by the time we returned from our shortened (wow, the wind) morning walkie the cabin was stifling. The fire had taken hold more fiercely than I normally allow, and I got to wondering what the chimney temperature was.

I have a magnetic thermometer I don’t usually use, since it’s a topic over which I choose not to obsess. And with everything as hot as I ever remember letting it get, this is what it said…

…or barely in the “good” range less than a foot above the stove collar.

People sometimes ask if I couldn’t use the top of the woodstove to cook, or boil or even distill water and my answer is that in another setting I probably could but in my situation the stove rarely burns all that long or all that hot. The main cabin is only 200 square feet, and even with its high ceiling it doesn’t take long to get comfortably warm when I’m in my winter clothes. It’s pretty easy to get too warm. In this case, by the time the stovepipe situation was what is conventionally considered happy, I was stripping off layers and cursing the heat.

So I compromise by scrubbing the stovepipe a lot.

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Tobie and the lizard…

I mentioned I have a bathroom lizard which has somehow survived all the way through the winter so far, and somebody asked why Tobie has allowed such a thing to happen.

Truth is, Tobie is fully aware of the lizard and doesn’t seem to mind the little guy being around. I happened to be, er, occupying the ivory throne yesterday and saw them together.

You’d have thought that after that second picture the lizard would have become a tidbit, but not so. Tobie was just sniffing. The lizard didn’t seem to enjoy being sniffed, but Tobie’s intentions were in no way hostile.

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Of rivers of mud and expendable power supplies…

So several days ago we got a lot of snow all at once after a deep cold snap, followed by 3 days of increasing warmth and sun. The result was inevitably going to be epic mud.

The worst was over by yesterday’s Monday water run. But there were still a couple of shaded places and one steep uphill patch that Neighbor L found a bit of an adventure. Just something you have to live with, and a reason I really kind of like extended dry spells.

And I fully intended to post the above yesterday, but couldn’t because when I sat down at the ‘pooter to do so I couldn’t get a connection. Sometimes the wireless connection is wonky, especially in the evening, always has been and that’s the way it is. But lately I’m having special trouble getting my phone’s connection to come back after I lose it in some dead spot, and that would have been particularly galling if it happened this morning with two blog posts backed up. I rely on the phone for all my connectivity: No phone, no internet, no blog.

So I carefully managed the morning walkie to minimize moving through known dead spots and actually still had a connection when we got home. I gave Tobie his treat, took off my coat, sat down at the Official TUAK Desk and opened the laptop…which did not oblige me by turning itself on like it’s supposed to.

Oh, not again. This is the second time this has happened in as many days. The battery was dead.

Sitting on my desk, permanently plugged in, and I can’t keep the battery charged. Further, this isn’t even the first time it has happened. These things…

…appear to have a limited useful lifespan. Is this a thing? Am I the last person to know about this? It’s the second time I’ve gone through this, which means after the first time I decided to treat power supplies as expendable equipment, which of course means I have a spare. And I dug out and connected the spare this morning, and it appears to be working substantially better than what it’s replacing.

This makes no sense to me. Macbooks and iPhones are wonderfully well-designed gadgets. Why are their power supplies such crap?

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Can’t believe this little guy’s still alive…

He’s been hanging around the shower tub all winter long, sometimes on the windowsill that’s actually a major source of heat during the winter. I can’t imagine what he’s eating, but then again the spiders haven’t died and they eat bugs too so probably there are tiny insects surviving the winter – but not him or the spiders – inside the Lair.

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