I feel smarter now.

If you’d asked me at the beginning of this week, “If it were all going to fall apart tomorrow, what panicked preparations would you take,” I would only have been able to think of one: I’d do something about all those empty propane bottles.

And now I have!

Tobie helped.

ETA: Meant to add that, unlike the last time the price of gasoline skyrocketed, so far at least locally the price of propane hasn’t mirrored it. Mid-grade gasoline is selling for about $3.50 here at the moment but I only paid $2.57/gallon for the propane and that’s not significantly higher than it was before the new administration improved things. So I beat the inevitable inflation.

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Look who’s … still not exactly thrilled with Jeep rides

I mean he’s gone from panicked to resigned, which is pretty good progress in less than a month. He’ll get in on his own now – with sometimes quite a bit of prompting. He hasn’t tried to jump out lately. He’s making progress.

He seems to have overcome his digestive issues. He has been introduced to the sublime pleasures of peanut butter…

…and found them good. Torso Boy was a terrible disappointment to me in that one department. A dog that doesn’t like peanut butter? Sad.

We’re making progress. I think I kind of rushed getting him off the leash. Once he learned that there really wasn’t any way for me to control him once he was out of reach, he decided that meant I stopped getting a vote where he goes outdoors – and that’s not how this is going to work. So we’re going to need sessions with the trick collar, and unfortunately the receiver on the set a Generous Reader sent me doesn’t want to charge up. So I’ve got another coming with the next mail drop, but until then he’s stuck on the leash again.

Other than that, he’s settling in nicely! He’s got such a great disposition, and unlike TB’s first year here he really seems to like me. Which, since he’s definitely still a puppy, can get a bit irritating when he decides it’s playtime.

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A major propane run

Sometimes the stars align to do something unseasonable. This is the Secret Lair’s current propane situation…

Bedroom heater: One empty, one full

Kitchen stove: One empty, one still surprisingly heavy so maybe half-full

Expended bottle dump: Three empties

Ready supply: One full

In mid-June on possibly the hottest week of the year – by far the hottest to date – two full reserve bottles hardly constitutes a propane emergency. In fact except for that empty kitchen bottle I would not normally be giving propane a single thought. But I just got paid for that editing job, so I’m flush with cash that’s worth a little less every day, and I have five empty bottles that should ideally be full of propane which seems to go up in price every day. Seasonally speaking I should ignore the situation but logistically it’s time to make like a citizen of Zimbabwe and turn money into commodities as quickly as humanly possible.

And tomorrow that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Neighbor D wants to go to town for some stuff, and has agreed to help me with a truly epic propane run.

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I fought the Kong and the Kong won…


From appearances, it Kong-fued his ass halfway across the cabin and took his bed away from him. Slippery rug didn’t help…

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In regard to Tobie’s digestive issues…

Ian just sent me a funny…

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Tobie’s first kill

Oh, brother.

So on our afternoon walkie, Tobie got his first clean shot at a rabbit. He blasted off after it, and having no choice I let him run without making a fuss. Young as he is and in this heat, I didn’t expect him to run far and he didn’t. I found a rock to sit on and called him, and after about five minutes he came back quite happy with himself. I’ve always said it’s okay to chase, it’s just real important that you come straight back when you’re done. And he did, so he got praised for that*.

Then we went out for our last quick walkie of the evening, and Tobie faded around a tree and disappeared like he’d learned to vanish. First time he ever got away with that. Several minutes later I found out why: He came back down the gully behind the cabin but didn’t want to approach me – or let me approach him – for fear I’d take his big juicy rat away from him.

I had the same problem with Little Bear, except his taste was exclusively for rabbit. So I let Tobie keep his distance until he finished his meal, and then he trotted back to me and the cabin quite happily as if nothing had ever happened.

I’m expecting big smelly puddles on the rug again by the morning. Sigh.

Morning ETA: Nope, prediction failed. Dog biscuits give him the squirts, but a nice fresh rat sits just fine. Oh, he’s going to fit right in around here.

*If I can just get him into the habit of coming straight back after a run, I’ll settle for that. Little Bear got the lifetime leash because he could never learn to reliably come back.

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First hundred-degree day of the year.

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Solar water heater update…

Sometimes you gotta ask yourself: How much is too much?

Because I think live steam is too much.

And I don’t believe the plumbing, which is basically good-quality garden hose, is really going to keep putting up with it.

But in fairness it’s saving time and propane while it lasts.

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Care Packages! – Puppy Shower Edition

Tobie is a happy dog! He got a helluva lot of presents in this care package drop.

A new big bed!

Far too big for the original 200 sq. ft. cabin, but we’ll work that out. I was afraid this was going to be an expensive bust, not because there’s anything wrong with the bed – it’s obviously an improvement. It’s just that the perversity of the universe tends to a maximum, so I naturally expected Tobie to be an asshole about accepting it. Instead he stepped right in and said, ‘yeah, away with the old. This is my bed now.’ Continue reading

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Tobie’s New Game

In the morning we usually go down the wash for our walkie, in a more-or-less straight line from the driveway.

At that point it’s an interesting semantic question as to whether it’s a wash or a canyon. Tomato tomahto. In either case, Tobie has learned that he can climb the walls.

Lord of all he surveys…

And yesterday he discovered a new, fun game, which he spent a good part of this morning’s walkie perfecting…

You charge up a talus slope, as high as you can go before losing traction…

Then turn around and slide back down in a great avalanche of clay and ash…

…with points scored for how much belly contact and drift you can get without rolling over.

I imagine a rulebook is in process, with a system of competing teams and leagues. When he gets major city contracts for stadium construction we’ll all die rich.

I don’t mind that so much but I do wish he’d stop sticking his damned snout into every snag and under every rock…

Yes I know he’s only sniffing out rats and there’s no danger to anyone but the rats, and they don’t get a vote. But I’m paranoid about rattlesnakes.

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Again with the Old Neighborhood Rifleman…

So I was at a neighbor’s house this morning, and he asked if I wouldn’t have a look at this old SKS he picked up cheap for his grandson, you know, make sure it works safely before passing it on. I was happy to do that.

And oh, this was one bubba’d-up gun. I mean, I get it: 20 years ago SKSs were ubiquitous and cheap. Had one myself and wish I hadn’t sold it on when I got my AK because a light 10-round semiauto is a lot more handy as a homestead gun than an AK, to be honest. But it’s not … tacticool. And it doesn’t have that great big banana mag. And whoever got his hands on this one just had to have that.

Anyway, I took it back to the Lair, figured out how to get that awful ‘tactical’ stock off the receiver, and…

…well, let’s just say that the mark of the true mall ninja is swapping out stock parts for cool-looking parts without even bothering to clean all the cosmoline out of the working parts. Then shooting it anyway, until the grease in the gas tube gums up the piston good and awful. I imagine its original owner sold it on when it ceased to function, and I hope he (it had to be a he) lost his shirt on the deal. I went through a lot of rags and patches and Ballistol. But I got the piston moving free, and the bore’s in really good shape. Had my doubts about those magazines.

I told my neighbor that it would be better if he could score the original stock and magazine, but to my surprise…

…once I got it cleaned up it ran like a top, even with those removable 30-round mags. I have no personal experience with them but they had a terrible rep 20 years ago. These appear to be more recent manufacture and apparently somebody worked out the bugs. Now I just have to see what I can do with that cheap red dot, which is nowhere near zeroed. Paper targets tomorrow.

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There now.

Hot water won’t make that leak.

Corrosion might, in the fullness of time. But heat won’t.

D&L have a regular Wednesday doctor visit in the big town about 50 miles away for the next two months or so. Which means I have a regular appointment to feed and deal with the hygiene needs of their horses and dogs.

Since they’re on the road toward town I decided to take the bike, combine chores and go to the hardware store to get some proper galvanized plumbing for the water heater. And if this doesn’t finalize the job I can’t imagine what will. 🙂

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The extra dogs were just too much provocation.

Tobie has been doing really good with walkies. Today’s setback was due to poor route choice on my part.

We took what I think of as the long circuit: overland directly to Landlady’s ridge to visit the chickens, then down the far side of the ridge to connect with the dirt roads and take them for the long way home. And for all of the first part of this, Tobie was perfect.

What I’m trying to impart is that he can veer off the path and have a sniff any time he wants, but he has to come back when called and he may not hare off after things that run from him. So far that last thing hasn’t been an issue but this morning I led him into too much temptation.

At one point on the road there’s a house visible. In the house there’s an old lady whom I’ve mentioned before: She’s my physically closest full-time neighbor and I’ve literally never met her. She takes ‘hermit’ to heights of perfection I would find unpleasant. But (so says the jungle telegraph) she’s lately been in poor health and so has been getting lengthy visits from family whether she wants them or not. I know those people have unleashed dogs, because I’ve met them before on the road. So when I saw extra vehicles in front of that house I probably should have reeled Tobie in. Instead I let it play out, and that was a big mistake.

I knew I’d lost him the moment I saw him take the scent.

Sigh. So I followed him through the trees onto private property, and unsurprisingly found him cavorting with two larger, surprised but not unwelcoming dogs. One of the family members was out there with them, and we had a pleasant conversation about dogs before I leashed Tobie up and dragged his protesting torso away from the scene of the crime.

“But I want to go play with the doggies!”

We’ll stick to the wash circuit until the visitors are gone. Really need to get one of those trick collars.

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Simplifying my simple solar water heater even further,…

…in hope of correcting last summer’s near-total failure.

The poor-man’s solar water heater is made of a free fiberglass box and a whole bunch of black garden hose. That part seems to work fine. But – mostly for artistic purposes, I suppose – I supplemented all that with PVC running across the roof and down to the spigot. And that part never worked for very long, because the water temperature kept melting the adhesive. And in fact it damn near melted the pipe. And despite further efforts it just went on like that.

Then I suffered a very painful shoulder dislocation which made any further carrying of hot water buckets around moot for a while – and then Laddie got cancer and very unpleasantly died – and I gave up on the project for the season.

But I always intended to take it up again this year, because of course.

The plan, obviously, is to eliminate as much as possible of that PVC. Continue reading

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This picture was taken at 4:46.

Somebody knows suppertime is 5:00.

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Little Bear had Magnus to teach him and keep him safe when he was a little puppy; Tobie, alas, only has me. And lacking a fenced safe yard to run and play in, and hampered by an overprotective Uncle Joel, Tobie was in danger of spending his life on a leash.

But he has been so remarkably good about not running off after every little movement and scent that he’s mostly off the leash already. Which means he can indulge in every puppy’s favorite game…

Running and playing!

I’ve said it before; the desert is a wonderful place to be a dog, until something kills you.

And I’m determined that, so far as it’s in my power, nothing like that will happen to Tobie.

But the wash is open and relatively safe for a game of “can’t catch me.”

And nobody knows better than me that you can’t bubblewrap the world.

So run and play, little man. Enjoy. But don’t go out of sight.

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Snakes on a Jeep

Oh, I missed the perfect photograph yesterday evening.

I’ve mentioned that lately I’m up to my armpits in bull snakes, which is not so unusual in spring/early summer.

Unlike rattlesnakes, bull snakes are entirely harmless and beneficial and I do nothing to discourage them from hanging around – as long as they don’t try to come inside, because snakes are creepy.

But yesterday evening Tobie and I were coming home from his evening walkie when I saw something hanging from the inside of the Jeep’s right front wheel. I looked more closely, and there was a snake working its way up the axle joint and spring and slithering into the engine compartment. Unfortunately I didn’t have my phone, and by the time I got back and opened the hood the snake was inside the fan shroud and headed for under the engine – and there’s no good way to take a photograph of that so you’re almost going to have to take my word for it…

…and strange as it seems I wasn’t all that unhappy about the situation. I’ve had at least one mouse living more or less permanently in the Jeep for quite some time now, apparently immune to traps. Maybe Ms. Slither and Hiss can do something about it.

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To the best of my knowledge I have no Finnish ancestors…

…and I feel kind of cheated. Because the Finns actually have a word for this.

If I were a Finn I’d know how to pronounce it. Then I could exercise the hell out of my white privilege.

ETA: Okay, turns out I’m not the first person to be bothered by the pronunciation thing…

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English is a dreadful language

I just stumbled on this: May have read it a long time ago, it seems vaguely familiar, don’t know who wrote it but he/she wasn’t wrong…

I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble, but not you,
On hiccough, thorough, lough and through?
Well done! And now you wish, perhaps,
To learn of less familiar traps?
Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard and sounds like bird,
And dead: it’s said like bed, not bead –
For goodness sake don’t call it deed!
Watch out for meat and great and threat
(They rhyme with suite and straight and debt).
A moth is not a moth in mother,
Nor both in bother, broth in brother,
And here is not a match for there
Nor dear and fear for bear and pear,
And then there’s dose and rose and lose –
Just look them up – and goose and choose,
And cork and work and card and ward,
And font and front and word and sword,
And do and go and thwart and cart –
Come, come, I’ve hardly made a start!
A dreadful language? Man alive!
I’d mastered it when I was five!

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This little guy is an absolute doll.

Sorry about the no-posting thing: I’m dealing with an unusually protracted early-summer allergy situation here and the antihistamines have me doing nothing with my days but regular chores and wanting to nap. But I do want to take this opportunity to say…

…Somebody’s loss was my gain. This puppy/young dog is like a movie sterotype of a dog. He’s quiet, calm, smart, wants to stay close outdoors – we’re already doing leash-free pee runs, though I’m still waiting for the inevitable rabbit encounter. Has gotten with the routine in two weeks. Doesn’t mind being left alone, which is good since he still resists Jeep rides though he’s getting less freaked out over them. Acts like his whole day is made when I get home. Sleeps through the night now that his little digestive problem has cleared up.

He really needs to chew – my sandals will never be the same but so far he has resisted the temptation of my boots after only being told twice. You guys were right about the rawhide bone: Made in China. I had to take that away from him but he really needed to chew so I sectioned some smooth juniper branches, and…

…now I have to sweep splinters rather often. At least he doesn’t eat them.

He likes carrots. Was very skeptical at first but he’ll try anything he sees me eating – if I have any complaint it’s that he’s a terrible beggar – and the next day he decided he really liked them. I’ve met dogs that liked carrots but none of my previous dogs ever did.

What triggered his loose stool was apparently Milk-bone biscuits: After he dried up I gave him a couple and he promptly started shitting puddles again. So they’re off the diet. I still have some bags of pupperoni in the pantry but I’m a little afraid to give them a try.

I’m also afraid of overfeeding him the way I did Little Bear, so I’ve got him on three small meals a day. Which means he has learned to tell time – and also my days of lying around after waking up are over. Which I was really starting to need.

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