Finishing Torso Boy’s grave, and some other stuff

So yesterday and the day before I glued TB’s marker to its pedestal, caulked and painted it…

…and this morning it was ready to put in the ground.

I couldn’t finish the grave properly, it seems, until I went into the wash where the floods had piled up smooth/pretty/colorful rocks…

…and after altogether too much of that and some fiddle work, the grave is done…

…and up to the standards of our totally not over-the-top family cemetary. 🙂

Continue reading

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Phoebe’s back!

For the fifth straight year.

Click for bigger, she’s in there.

Set right to work building her nest in the usual place.

I keep thinking of deepening that ledge for her, but then I figure if she didn’t like it the way it is she wouldn’t keep coming back. And as precarious as it sometimes appears, she’s never lost a baby over the side.

Also found a visitor in the old chicken coop yesterday…

The bull snakes are really active this time of year. I’ve only seen one baby so far, in Landlady’s powershed. They’re more squirrelly and hostile, being less familiar with their place in the world I guess. The adults just sort of wait till you go away. Unlike rattlers, bull snakes are quite welcome around the Lair as long as they don’t try to come inside – which has happened.

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Care packages!

So you might recall that five months ago there was a teeny problem with Torso Boy’s grave marker.

It took a while, but Landlady stayed with it and voilà!

I have everything I need to get this one attached to the ground, so it’ll likely get finished this week. Further dead pets will almost certainly need a different sort of marker; this company is convincingly out of business.

I learned this weekend that a Generous Reader hit my wishlist in a very generous way!

Thanks! I actually do use dry milk in baking; the dehydrated eggs may seem an unlikely precaution for a chicken-raiser to take, but sometimes my girls go on vacation without notice or permission. So it can’t hurt.

And since I passed near a Trader Joe for the first time in two years, I stopped for a couple of care packages to my own overindulged self..

Ready for summer now. 🙂

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And that is quite enough of that.

A very long drive for a very brief visit. Brought back some goodies, but that’ll have to wait till tomorrow because I’m going to go collapse into a chair.

But first: I must share with you the funniest and most “makes me want to buy a lot of that” commercial advertisement I have ever seen in the course of a long life.

Saw that last night at my friends’ house and decided on the spot that that needs to go on the blog at my first reasonable opportunity. I truly want to know how many takes they did before they got it right.

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Spring is Sprung!

And oh what a beautiful morning. I lay around until almost 6:30, then took my first cup out to the workbench. The woodstove is put to bed for the season – I even turned off the propane to the bedroom heater – but before I forget all about it for seven months I wanted to put the finish on a little ongoing project…

I’ve been gradually reducing the blade angle on my kindling hatchet since last autumn, gingerly and a little at a time because I’m not exactly Paul Bunyan and only theoretically know what I’m doing. Continue reading

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Trip to town…

I still get a kick out of this place…

My neighbors D&L have formed the habit of going to the Palace of Food in the biggish town about 35 miles away on the first Wednesday of the month, that being when this particular store flashes a substantial senior discount.

And I tag along when money permits, and it still makes me stop for a moment upon entering the store so I can close my mouth and stop gaping like I’d just dropped in from some village in Chad. America – Land of glorious excess.

Of course there’s a possibility that the excess may be coming to an end, as even a desert hermit can’t help noticing that dollars buy less and less lately. So stocking up on packaged meat seems like a smart thing to do while it’s still practical.

I take my meat straight to Ian’s Cave, where there’s a freezer. I have a stash of packaging material there…

And then I have a fat couple of months worth of luxury safely stored. Don’t have to worry about the grid power going down and ruining my bounty.

I did forget to bring a proper trimming knife, for cutting the fat away from my cheap cuts of chicken, so…

…I was happy I had kept a useful edge on my folding knife, which only comes out of the drawer on the rare occasions when I take all the usual shit off my belt and dress for town. But when I got back to the cabin, I was reminded that…

…my taste in tools really hasn’t changed that much. I bought that Benchmade folder during a brief prosperous period shortly after the turn of the century and carried it for several years until I learned that folders really don’t deal that well with the desert dirt. I put it away and started carrying a solid belt knife sometime in 2008. Year before last I got my current everyday knife, and it’s not that different from a good folder except that it doesn’t have any gadgets and crevices for dirt to settle into.

In the place where I live, people don’t get worked up over the sight of a not-very-concealed pistol so normally I just throw a shirt over the .44. But still, going to a bigger town I sometimes get self-conscious about it. This morning I dragged out my one IWB holster and my old Mak…

…mostly because this coming weekend I’m going to do something that’s really off my beaten path – I’m going to the big city for the first time in two years. And that means taking the time to think about what needs packing between now and then. I spend so much time all by myself, pretty much doing the same things every day, that suddenly doing something that far removed from my routine is kind of stressful and preparing for it needs plenty of advance thought.

This coming weekend is likely the next big adventure.

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Salt cedar in the wash…

This stuff has grown in the wash since before I came, and for most of that time I never knew what it was called. It greened up pretty in the spring if the winter had been wet, and spread like wildfire after a flood. Cattle, which will eat just about anything else, won’t touch it. In late summer 2018 we had a big flood that buried it all under megatons of silt…

…and I thought maybe that was the ballgame for that stretch of once-green sand. Since then I’ve learned to have more faith in our invasive weed. It was a relatively wet winter and a sporadically rainy spring, and I noticed on a trip through the wash yesterday that…

…the damned stuff is doing just fine.

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And when you’ve met enough of those people, drastic steps must be taken.

And that’s how you end up a frickin’ hermit in the frickin’ desert.

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Hummingbirds have come back to the Lair

Neighbor L had her hummingbird feeders out 2 or 3 weeks ago and said she already had a few customers, but I hadn’t seen any until this morning. I just got back from my morning walkie when I got buzzed by a hummer on the porch: “Hey, humie! I’m back. Make with the sugar water.”

Being a good and loyal subject of my tiny feathered overlords, I promptly obeyed.

I had to put a kibosh on this last year by mid-summer because they were running me right out of sugar, that being one of last year’s early shortages. But it’s back in stock at the dollar store for now and not (yet) at absurd prices. So I may as well oblige the hummers before they get violent.

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This turned into a good work day.

May at last! My favorite month. Took a nice cool walky the long way around for morning chicken chores. Came back by way of Ian’s powershed where I store some big sheets of cardboard…

…which I thought I would need to slide the woodstove into place. But I’d already put on my back brace for a later trip to D&L’s, and it turned out I could carry it the short distance.

Big Brother sent some oversize furniture coasters, and I held off on that plywood pedestal till I saw whether they would solve my floor-gouging problem. Looks like they will, so I dispensed with the plywood.

That probably simplified the problem of shortening the stovepipe to fit a little. Or maybe it complicated it, I’m not sure: Turns out I cut off too much, and now sometime before next autumn I need to get a new coupler. Pretty sure the screw holes aren’t supposed to show. Oops – but I guess it could be worse. Continue reading

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Bad Joel! No cookie.

So I mentioned that it rained yesterday and is forecast to rain off and on today. Knew that.

So I wrapped the woodstove in a tarp and strapped the tarp down to protect the stove from blown water. I’ve had it for eight and a half years and it’s in perfect condition; no point inviting rust at this late date. Right?

Uh huh. I was putting my boots on for morning chicken chores when it suddenly dawned on me that the stove was only mostly covered. There were other bits, removed for weight reduction and then forgotten out in the open in front of God and everybody!

Okay. I always wanted to check this anyway. Starting with something important is kinda dumb, but here we are…

The “WD” in WD40 is supposed to stand for water displacement, right? I use it routinely as a lubricant, but it’s really supposed to be a rust inhibiter.

Sigh – we’re seriously putting that to the test this week, brethren and sistren.

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If I’d known it was going to take an hour

…I’d have done it three days ago.

So last Tuesday I put down the new floor in the main cabin, right? And I thought it went quite well but it definitely went slowly. I started at seven in the morning and didn’t straighten up until 2 in the afternoon. Then another hour’s cleanup and storing. So seven or eight hours’ hard work for the old man. The next day I could not bend over; my back and I strained something in my thigh…it was not a good moment when two poorly-applied floor seams popped right near the kitchen counter where the only way to fix it was to pull up almost the whole thing. I was so bummed I actually considered just applying some finish nails and letting it go. Ten years ago that’s exactly what I’d have done. Which is of course why the earliest parts of the Lair are the most amateurish and unfinished.

But no – I was going to be an adult about this and do it right. I needed a couple of days to heal, honestly. Then I needed another few days to work up the want-to – pure procrastination but I always intended to do it.

And when all my excuses were gone, as with most things I really don’t want to do I resolved to hit it first thing in the morning before other thoughts could intrude. And in the end…

It only took an hour. Seriously – I could have knocked this out in an evening. I stacked the ‘planks’ very carefully as I pulled them up, to ensure no confusion about going back exactly the same way they came up. By the end of the job last Tuesday I definitely knew what I was doing which is why the oopsies happened early, and this morning I knew what to look for and what not to do. Of course I didn’t have to go in and out cutting pieces. I shouldn’t have any further problems.

Unfortunately I still can’t bring the woodstove in from the porch…

…because I obviously wouldn’t have been happy with the result of putting a cast-iron stove on this fragile laminated floor. I had to come up with some sort of pedestal, and the solution I settled on is – though I say it myself – a marvel of the scrounging arts. Wish I could show it to you, but it’s currently in the powershed. The pallet base that S&L’s new floor came strapped to is a 2×4′ piece of almost clear 3/4″ plywood that right now I couldn’t even afford to buy. I pulled it loose from the pallet very carefully, stained it, and then yesterday I hid it in the powershed because it rained yesterday – and it’s raining right now and is forecast to rain off and on all day. I need a couple of coats of urethane first but it will fit neatly in the woodstove corner and should make an acceptable base for the stove, which is currently wrapped in a tarp to protect it from the wet.

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When you’re waiting for the Jeep’s transmission to finish failing…

…confirmation bias can lead you to error.

So I’m coming home from the Monday morning water run, right? And I get to the wash…

…and tap the brake, which causes the bottle of drinking water on the shotgun seat to topple over.

I set it back upright and don’t give it any more thought. Then I reach down to put the Jeep in 4-wheel, hit the gas…

…and the engine goes Vroom but does not propel the Jeep in any direction. I figure the trans lost pressure, since it’s still kind of cold. Press the gas again. Vroom, no movement. A third time, same result. This is bad. Has the trans chosen this inconvenient moment to stop pining for the fjords and become no more? Has it passed on? Ceased to be? Expired and gone to meet its maker? Is it a late transmission? Bereft of life, does it rest in peace?

I despair and begin concocting strategies to get six gallons of water and two grocery bags through half a mile of soft sand. A few terrible seconds pass before it occurs to me to check whether that falling water bottle hasn’t knocked the shift handle out of drive. Which, of course, it has.

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Oh god why…

So in a comment on the last post, Ben said,…

This seems like a job for a length of inexpensive chain. Even the strap will wear out from abrasion.

…and I was more than a full sentence into a rather dismissive reply when two stray brain cells and a synapse came home from a sabbatical or something. I began to say that while of course that’s true, in my life there’s no such thing as ‘inexpensive’ chain, as typified by the fact that I hoard scraps to keep the target stand in repair…

…which I could hardly forget about since they hang from a limb right in front of my front porch stairs.

And then – as I was writing that reply – and only then did it suddenly occur to me that I did indeed possess at least one long chain. In fact, if my obviously senior memory wasn’t doing me wrong again, I – embarrassingly under the circumstances – actually owned a logging chain.

But I had to go on a lengthy search for it/them, because it/they* was/were so precious that I hid it/them somewhere special against the day when I’d need it/them and then of course forgot all about its/their frickin’ existence.

Sometimes it’s just embarrassing to be me…

*See how properly careful I’m being about pronouns? Still a cis white guy, though, so never mind.

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On Hauling Driftwood…

No surprise here, but cheap hardware rope has limited applications. Dragging heavy logs out of the boonies is not among them.

I do have a lovely length of 1/2″ nylon, kept safe in the Jeep kit…

In terms of getting hard stuff done alone, that piece of rope has gotten me out of a few real jams, as much from its length and durability as from its strength. The nylon has come out a couple of times in the past two weeks…

…but again, only because it’s my longest rope, for when I can’t back the Jeep any farther. I don’t use it for dragging wood long distances, because I am absolutely not going to use it up/wear it out in small pieces. Particularly not when there are better options…

…like this heavy tiedown strap I scrounged or someone gave me years ago, that I never found a use for before now. Sometimes a little less convenient to untie from tight knots than rope, it’s more forgiving of abrasion damage and right away it offered an unexpected bonus…

…an unobtrusive and totally secure way to attach it to the Jeep, which even eliminates the length lost from tying loops.

The plan remains the same…

…get as much of the hauling part of firewood cutting done during the coolish months as practical. I’ll probably forget all about this during the bulk of the summer, then come September or October I can concentrate on cutting and stacking, same as when I exclusively burned old pallets and lumber.

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That autumn my yard thought it had died and moved to New England…

I just happened upon this quick old Forgotten Weapons video, which was shot in my yard during the autumn of 2013 right after the wettest Monsoon in memory. These tall flowery bushes popped up everywhere, reseeded like crazy and grew – less tall and numerous but still present – for two more seasons until a cattle apocalypse put an end to them.

I kind of miss those flowers. Come to think of it I miss Ian popping around at odd times asking me to hold the camera, but he progressed to a much more professional level of presentation long since.

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Wow, it’s true what they say about hot stovepipes…

They stay a lot cleaner.

Over the past couple of years I finally shook the last of my chimney fire phobia and let my woodstove’s freak flag fly – ironically much reducing the probability of another chimney fire due to cool smoldering stove fires.

While the stove is still on the front porch, and since it’s time to put the whole thing to bed for the year anyway, I naturally planned to give the stovepipe a good end-of-year scrub. I last did it a little over two months ago, which would once have been unthinkable – eight years ago my neurosis had me doing it weekly.

And this is how much soot I got out of the pipe…

Not even worth doing.

Landlady always gets the last laugh on this topic: She has a short, double-walled pipe with little hanging out in the wind, on top of a potbelly stove that gets things really toasty – and she never has any soot in her pipe at all, burning exactly the same wood I use. I have a very high ceiling, single-wall pipe, and mine sticks out in the wind four or five feet to clear the front peak, so it never gets nearly as hot as hers. At the top it’s probably seldom more than warm to the touch. Design matters.

So does wood choice, but I’m stuck with whatever wood I can find. This winter I mostly burned hardwood pallets and as you see things went very well, but they’re mostly gone now. I’ll be forced to a diet of juniper driftwood next year – so you can bet I won’t be tempted to slack off on stovepipe maintenance.

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Tah. Dah.

So yesterday I dragged the woodstove and the big chair out to the porch, then hooked up the trailer and brought the cutting table, saw, and pieces of floor to the Lair.

Got the generator out of mothballs – started right up and ran like a champ all day today, because I love that Honda.

This morning I hit it early. I had the used underlayment, which had already been sort of collapsed under a lot of traffic, and also a new roll of roofing felt that BB brought me. Spent most of a week debating over which to use, and this morning I split the difference and used them both. Seems to have been the right choice.

I had to work under the kitchen counter’s kick panel, which meant that kind of had to be my zero line.

And that was good, because then I could work backward to fill in the part of the floor normally covered by the desk and the big chair. It allowed me to practice on the part nobody’s ever going to see, and then I could do the main part of the floor the right way.

And several hours later…

Not bad. Not real bad.

One thing that became very obvious early on was that this stuff is fragile. It’s gonna get all scratched up very quickly, which I don’t really mind but also don’t really want to encourage. So I dragged out a spare rug I’ve had in storage for years.

And I’m still working on a plan to get the woodstove back inside without gouging the hell out of my new floor. But I’ll work it out.

I should be straightening the place up but my back is singing to me for the first time this year. I got the tools and unused materials put away, and now I’m going to crash.

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Blog posting causes blood clots.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. You can’t be too careful at my age and social stratum, even with all that white privilege.

Actually it turns out BB and SIL picked a perfect time to visit, as April is an unpredictable month and things got quite sit-inside-and-wait-for-it-to-pass right after they left. Yesterday was the worst; never got out of the mid-forties with lots of wind and rain and even some hail. Nothing to do but sit inside and read books, leaving nothing to blog about. I gave up the political filler years ago, cutting my reader numbers in half* but leaving me calmer and happier.

Anyway, today it’s sunny and mid-fifties, and tomorrow’s supposed to be gorgeous. I’m officially starting the New Lair Floor project this afternoon, bringing the saw and materials out of Landlady’s barn and moving furniture out to the porch. I’ll hit the pain-in-the-knee part first thing in the morning.

The wind reminded me of why inside-rated doors shouldn’t be used outdoors…

That’s the door to the chickenhouse, and it doesn’t take too discerning an eye to see that it’s not quite right. We used it because it was what we had at the time, but now it’s not in the greatest of shape.

In fact it developed a warp years ago, to the point where I had to kind of cofferdam it with concrete to keep pullets in and predators out. And lately it’s gotten so bad that…

Even with the heavy-duty latch the wind can buckle the door enough to push it open. Which was weird and unexpected. The snap link seems to have fixed it at least temporarily, forcing the bolt to stay in place. I’m thinking of repositioning it on the door, since the hole in the threshold has gotten a little battered.

*By 2/3 when I don’t bother posting…

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…you might be a redneck.

Monday I had guests at the Secret Lair, which is not a common thing. Big Brother and New SIL stopped over on a long road trip west.

This meant that part of Sunday got spent cleaning the Lair – also not a common thing – and making sure possibly embarrassing Bachelor Hermit Foibles were corrected or stashed out of sight.

This evening I was sorting out some photographs, and it occurred to me that one of the embarrassing things I’d chosen to correct probably wouldn’t have made a big difference to visiting townie relatives…

…but at the time I didn’t even think about it. Wouldn’t have done to be seen trying to cut something with a dull knife.

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