Yeesh.


The rain lasted all morning but the clouds started breaking up right around noon, and if the forecast remains correct we’ll have a few dry breezy days to sort out the mud. The mud right at this moment is impressive. Even in 4WD I had a hard time just getting up Landlady’s driveway through this one big ash patch.

Coldest day of the season by far to date, topping out at mid-forties. The bedroom heater has been on and off all morning, set at sixty…

…and when I came back from chicken chores and checked the propane regulator, I got a nasty … not really a surprise…

Technically that’s not the first bottle swap on the bedroom heater, but the first one was a near-empty that was really just there all summer to keep spiders from building nests in the fittings and shouldn’t count. So that’s one full bottle used up and it’s not even December. If I’d done something so profligate back in the living-on-shit-shoveling days I’d have had to flagellate myself or something. As it is, I just chalk it up to “old men get cold easier.”

But it’s only a hair after one and the sun’s coming out now, so I expect the inside to warm up. Cabin gets nice solar gain in the afternoon since I put that big window in the bathroom in ’15.

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Harrumph…


Been doing this since night before last.

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Kinda makes me wonder if I’m missing something…

Almost two years ago I bought a bunch of stumpsocks from a site called amputeestore.com. I expect the unsolicited spam emails to outlast the socks.

But I haven’t done anything to make them stop because sometimes they’re just plain entertaining.

For example, I absolutely did not know this was a thing…


No, that’s not a rifle case. It’s a bag for your prosthetic leg.

Consider my cognitive dissonance – Since sometime in 1973 I’ve never been without a prosthetic leg – but at no time have I ever possessed more than one. It doesn’t need a travel bag. Ergo, if there is such a thing as a travel bag for a prosthetic leg, there exists a whole subset of amputees who not only possess multiple prostheses, but who carry their extra along with them.

I guess runners, maybe?

It shouldn’t surprise me that this demographic group exists unknown to me. Truth is, these spam advertisements have alerted me to a huge variety of products I also didn’t know existed. Maybe I should have ‘identified’ as an amputee long before now? Or maybe, since I’ve gotten along without most of these products* quite happily all this time, most of them are just fluff?


*gelsocks are awesome and I didn’t know they existed until this decade, so it could also be I’m just missing out…

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A profoundly misplaced potato…


It has taken him quite a while but Torso Boy has finally gotten to a point where I can trust him to stay close and listen when I talk to him, even when we’re out away from the yard. He’s not seeing much of the leash these days.

Rule #1 and most important: Don’t venture out of my sight. Everything here that’s higher on the food chain than a rabbit wants to eat you.


Sometimes he’ll see something that needs closer investigation and that’s fine; I’ll keep an eye on him but keep walking. But if he gets to feeling left too far behind…


Those tiny legs blur until he has regained his station at the front of the parade. Which is right where I want him, because appearances aside he’s still a dog and still capable of being led astray by an enticing rabbit when my back is turned.

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Jeep doors fixed!

All I needed was the right socket.

But first, you folks with some Jeep experience: Does anybody know what this bracket is for?


Because as far as I can tell its only function is to give the upper hinges something to wrap themselves around when the wind catches the door. Those brackets are the principal reason both upper hinges were bent.

Problem solved…


That compacted mud will clean off in the fullness of time. And the whole process was so quick and painless, I went ahead and fixed the passenger door as well, though it rarely bugs me.


And now both doors completely latch without slamming, and the driver door inner handle works. I’ll just have to retrain myself to use it. 🙂

I thought of scuffing them up and coming home with a can of yellow spraypaint, I really did. But the Jeep turns 19 soon and at that age, mismatched body parts are a sign of experience and honorable battle wounds not to be hidden.

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From the “People throw away the damndest things” files…

Check this out…


I got a text from some neighbors yesterday around ten, asking if I ever eat cold cereal. I don’t particularly, but I’m adaptable. They said they had some they were never going to get around to consuming.

And they did, too…


Seven boxes, each containing two sealed bags, plus two still-sealed bags. I don’t eat that much cold cereal.

I’ll be leaving for the Monday morning water run in less than an hour and I know Neighbor D eats cold cereal. I’ll see if he wants to share the bounty.

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Well, bother.

I thought I had the correct Torx socket to replace the Jeep’s driver door hinges…


…but it turns out I could only remove the mirror. Which ought to be replaced before Ol’ Yeller could be considered street legal, which in turn should indicate its priority level in my mind. Spoiler alert: The priority is very low.


Removing the mirror exposed the real bolts, which require the next larger driver. I have a Torx wrench that size but it’s nothing that’ll break those bolts loose. Dammit – I’m almost tempted to take the door off on Monday, load it in D&L’s truck, and drop it off at the local shop. Somebody with the right socket and an impact wrench could replace those hinges in a twinkling. But what I’ll really do is hit the auto parts store.

Good news is that I have confirmed – story of a once-in-a-lifetime miracle – I did get the correct hinges online. Now I just need the tool to actually remove the old ones.

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Uncle Joel tired now.

My plan for the morning was to get all that firewood cut and stacked no matter what, damage acceptable, if I had to spent the whole rest of the day sitting on my ass and moaning it would be worth it just to get it behind me.

Done!


Of course it wasn’t as simple as that – I was less than a half hour, maybe fifteen minutes from done when the phone rang and D&L wanted to go to town. That wasn’t on the schedule but it would sure be worth doing because my Jeep hinges ought to be in at the post office and if I knew the people there I’d have to go to the counter to get them and I can’t do that on Saturday.

Done! And if by some miracle I ordered the right ones, I can fix the Jeep’s driver door this weekend and hopefully be able to spend the winter opening the door with the inside latch and not have to open the window in the cold and fiddle with the outside latch just to get out. That door has been screwed up for years. Also had to get some new struts for the rear window, because the last replacements didn’t last two years.

And finally…


I got the last of my empty propane bottles filled. And before even going home to unload the Jeep, I went back to Landlady’s to tend the chickens early and finish cutting and stacking wood. I am officially, if not emotionally, ready for winter. And also ready to collapse into a chair for a while.

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That worked better…

Since I actually do need bread I chickened out on the 50/50 thing. I used more like 20% whole wheat.


And with that, it rose quite nicely indeed.

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Wonder Mill, and baking wheat bread. Good/bad…


So last weekend Landlady brought up this grain mill, which will allow us to do something about…


…the two sealed buckets of wheat berries that have been in the Gulch longer than I have. Since I bake all the time, this was a subject of some interest to me.


Simple enough…


You start the mill. It sounds more or less exactly like a vacuum cleaner. Once it’s up to speed you pour in a couple of cups of grain…


…and you end up with just about 2 cups of not-very-finely ground wheat flour.

I wanted to grind about nine cups of flour, because my usual recipe for two loaves of bread takes about six cups – and I had a feeling I was going to be baking twice today. I intended from the start to do the first bake with flour straight from the mill, and from the start I did not expect it to go well. I’ve tried making wheat bread before, and really always knew my usual recipe wasn’t going to work. Long-time readers know it took me a long time to find a recipe that worked for me at this altitude and humidity, and I have been very loathe to mess with it once I finally got it dialed in. But I had to try, and figured at the very worst the chickens would eat well.

So straight home to bake bread… Continue reading

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…and then I thought, “What am I doing?”

It’s really time to get back to work on woodcutting. I don’t want to cut a lot because everything currently in the woodshed – probably but not definitely a whole winter’s worth – has been in there two winters now and is one big packrat nest. I need to use it up before they just completely befoul and ruin it, if it’s not already too late.

Still, I do need to cut some wood if only for a cushion. Also I need to supply wood to Landlady’s place and I’m not at all confident there’s enough for that.

So I drove to Landlady’s barn to get my chopsaw, planning to haul it to the woodlot. And then I thought, “What am I doing?”


“I’m going to haul the saw and the generator and cord and tools to the woodlot, cut the wood, and then haul the cut wood to Landlady’s barn?” Which was the plan slowly congealing in my head, since I’m really not sure how to get her wheelbarrow up to her porch from her parking lot now that the deck and walkway are there, but I know I can get it down from the ridgetop where the barn is.

“Or…”


“…since the saw and lots of electricity are already at the barn, and the wood is supposed to end up at the barn, why don’t you haul the wood to the barn first and cut it there?”

er…because I’m a dummy?

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“ We going for a ride?”


I’m sitting here being lazy and waiting for things to warm up a bit before I put it in gear, killing time by watching a video on my phone. D&L told me on Monday that they might go to town this morning, so I wasn’t surprised to get a text. I don’t want to go to town today, so I texted back to say so and gave it no more thought.

But Torso Boy knows the sound the phone makes for an incoming text, and that the sound usually gets me off my ass and sometimes even results in a Jeep ride. So he considers incoming communication relevant to himself as well. 🙂

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Elk have come back!

And they’ve been having a party. Saw tracks in the yard – Torso Boy smelled them first, which added spice to his regular morning ‘let’s go have a shit’ walky. Then I took a nice hour’s walk through the boonie, and fresh tracks were everywhere I looked.


I’ve got to refurbish the game camera, figure out why it’s become so lackluster and insensitive, get it reset and put it back out at the waterer.

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Pickiest. Dog. Ever. Born.

Thought I’d give Torso Boy a little break from his boiled chicken & rice this morning, since I spaced on cooking more rice yesterday and what was left in the container was a little funky and we’re trying to solve intestinal problems, not install them. So I opened one of the two cans of locally-available soft food and gave him half. I expected him to dive right in. Instead he checked it out, took a few licks, and…


Are You F’ing Kidding Me. Little Bear would have ingested that with sufficient authority as to turn the bowl convex.

And I know it’s entirely my fault, that I’ve just spoiled him rotten and now I’m going to have to pay the price of convincing him that people food is for people and dog food is for dogs, and he’s a dog.

I know this, because this is what I had for supper last night…


…and you can believe he was all over me during the entire process, wanting his share. Which he didn’t get.

I’m paying for my sins. Unfortunately for him, I’m used to that sort of thing. So I’m going to win this.

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CCI Blazers contact rock. Mutual destruction ensues.

I want to see how long it takes before somebody starts warning of a global rock shortage.

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Damn right we’re going to take your…

Good luck with that…


I LOLed and stole it from somewhere on the tubes…

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Random gulchy moments, and an upcoming review…

Out on my walky this morning I saw something welcome…


Lots of very fresh mule deer tracks. Things have been very sparse around the Gulch lately; I’m not even flushing many rabbits and the coyotes are shitting juniper berries. But this morning there were lots of nice mulie tracks in the moist sand.

And something else, too, right among them…


…and at first I thought, wow, that’s way bigger than your average coyote. (I should have planted a boot print there for comparison but forgot) I got excited: Wolf? Maybe another feral dog pack? Continue reading

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Gotta get the reloading bench going again.


This is Serenity, the old trailer that’s been my reloading shack for all this decade. I used to spend a lot of time there because I used to shoot my pistol a lot more than I do now. I wrecked my right shoulder 3 years ago and it’s been a long time healing. It was the better part of a year before I could even hold a .44 out straight, and working a press for any length of time was kind of an ordeal.

Now I’ve been getting the itch again, and again I’m relearning that OMFG COMMERCIAL AMMO IS STUPID EXPENSIVE! I can’t afford to shoot that stuff for practice, which means getting back into the reloading habit.

Unfortunately… Continue reading

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I don’t really understand using wood pellets for heating fuel.

I just got back from helping D&L unload a full pallet of wood pellets into their garage…


…and as always it makes me question the value of wood pellets as heating fuel.

I get that pellets can let a stove run for hours on one load. I get that there’s less mess and labor than with cut wood. I don’t get where pellets offer any particular advantage over propane.

A pellet stove needs electricity to work – absolutely won’t function without it. When you live off-grid, there are going to be times when electricity is something of a luxury. Your basic home heating should not require electricity.

Even out here where services are often of … suspect quality, I know of three places that will trundle out to the boonies to sell you propane if you have one of those big tanks. There is no reliable supply of decent quality wood pellets. Oh, yeah: It turns out that pellet quality is variable between manufacturers, and makes a big difference in how well your stove runs. So when D&L can score a pallet-load of the good stuff, they run to nail it down.

D&L’s house is huge and has tons of thermal mass beyond number: they can’t afford to let it get cold the way I do nightly. In a really cold spell they go through sixty pounds – one and a half of those sacks – daily. So that big row of 40-pound pellet sacks might not be much more than a month’s supply. Leading to the last item in my list of “why do people use pellets:” It’s by far the most expensive option.

Lots of people use pellets around here – not so much in the actual boonies, but lots of townies do. There must be some advantage. I surely don’t know what it is.

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At the worst possible time. In the worst possible way.

Yes, Uncle Murphy visited D&L’s house this morning.

D&L have a big (YUGE) house with a big electrical system and an even bigger appetite for electricity. One gloomy day, and their batteries were done. No problem: That’s why they also have a massive, state of the art propane-fueled generator that starts up automatically…


Except when it doesn’t…


And so neighbor D, whom I may have mentioned recently had a stroke, was out trying to figure out why their faithful-for-six-years generator wouldn’t start. Wouldn’t even crank. If his brain were physically hitting on all cylinders he wouldn’t have needed any help from the likes of me, it was pretty obvious.

D is very good about maintenance. He’s positively neurotic about maintenance. No way the thing failed because it wasn’t being maintained. But the turnkey installation came with a small, sealed, maintenance-proof battery – over six years ago. It’s kept charged automatically with solar power. So the battery worked absolutely perfectly – until it didn’t. And when it didn’t, nothing worked. No warning.

As I said, normally D would have worked this out for himself without problem but he’s recovering from literal brain damage. So I came over and helped disconnect the battery. I didn’t have any way of load-testing the battery but all the fuses were good and the symptom (tickticktick) said bad battery. I admitted the battery might not be the problem, but anyway it was due so they wouldn’t lose anything by replacing it. The alternative, since I am not competent to figure out what else might be wrong with the complicated starting circuitry, was an expensive service call that at best would happen sometime next week. I left all the wires connected to the appropriate battery bolts so D shouldn’t need me to install the new one – but of course made clear they were very welcome to call me any time.

We had a lot of rain yesterday, and a YUGE storm last night. D&L took their Jeep through the mud to town for a new battery.

Just got the text: The generator works fine now.

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