Old Uncle Joel creeps into the 21st Century…

At last night’s surprise party I received a few Joel-centric gag gifts that’ll probably never be used and one that’s already in use…

…and a not-at-all gag gift from Ian, who came all the way up here to surprise me…

Arex Delta Gen 2, a sort of Sig-adjacent polymer striker-fired nine with all the latest improvements that can win the heart even of a boomer who spent most of his adult life dismissing polymer striker-fired nines as beneath his notice. This pistol even has a trigger that could be called crisp. I’ve been waiting for it for quite some time but Ian’s a busy guy, so it sort of became a Joel-turns-70 present. I really appreciated him and some other friends going to the trouble of coming all the way up here just to make my day.

So you know how I wanted to spend the day but I’d already made a promise to Neighbor L…

D&L have a roof leak where no such should be possible, and she thought she knew where it was coming from. I don’t actually agree that’s where the water is coming in, but what do I know. Anyway with D still laid up she needed help with the ladder and such. And having taken care of that…

…I could zero my new optic in preparation for practice/familiarization/break-in/fun. I’ve got quite a lot of 9mm practice ammo laid by in anticipation of the happy arrival.

I still have to score a holster before it can become my new everyday pistol but the timing on that is pretty good. I’ll be taking it to the biggish town about 30 miles away, which happens to have a pretty fair gun shop, on Tuesday. There’s no way they’ll have a holster specific to an Arex but it is said that some Glock holsters will fit.

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I’ve been ambushed!

Well, I can no longer say I’ve never had a birthday party.

Total surprise. Details later.

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Bread recipe, desert hermit style

Every now and then somebody asks for my bread recipe, and it has been a long time since I talked about that. So here’s the current version.

Keep in mind that bread in the developmental stage is very sensitive to environmental stuff, like altitude and humidity. I’m at 6000 feet with really low humidity and this is how I do it after seventeen years or so – your efforts may not work perfectly if you follow these instructions slavishly. Be prepared to adapt to your own circumstances.

Lots of pictures below the fold. Continue reading

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I want my own acronym.

Seriously, I was thinking about it this morning. Tobie and I were out early…

…and on the way home we saw our closest neighbor coming home in his new pickup, towing his flatbed trailer. It was a few minutes past seven at that point, and I tried to imagine what chore had him needing his flatbed and yet coming home shortly after sunrise.

But I knew I’d never ask, because, as I said out loud, “None o’yer business.”

And then I thought, “I say that a lot. I ought to make it an acronym. It’d get my name in the freedomista pantheon, if I could make it stick. I mean, Heinlein would have TANSTAAFL* even if he’d never done anything else, right?”

And I continued to trudge home behind Tobie, who continued to industriously check and update his neighborhood peemail because he doesn’t agree with my philosophy at all, absolutely considering everything in the vicinity of the Lair very much his business. Trouble is, None Of Your Business makes a terrible acronym. Or wait, maybe not. NOYB. Huh. It’s one syllable, isn’t it?

Oh, well. Probably already been done, then.

*a very little belated research reveals to me that while Heinlein may have popularized TANSTAAFL he didn’t actually coin it. Huh. You learn something new every day. I’ll keep attributing it to him anyway, out of tribal loyalty.

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So somebody got on my bad side last night…

I have so many flashlights I don’t know what to do. I have a really nice rechargeable I carried for years until quite recently, when I pruned down the stuff I keep on my belt. I have a sort-of-slightly-bigger-than-a-penlight that I carry currently. I have 2 old EDC flashlights here in my desk drawer, 3 or 4 cheap flashlights in my junk drawer, at least two more in my ammo drawer, 2 on or in my nightstand, seriously, I’m up to my ass in flashlights.

I only ever paid serious money for one of them, and I keep it on the business end of my bump-in-the-night rifle. Like the rifle itself it’s very seldom of any use because I’m not at all a night person but I keep it handy and in good repair because when I need it I need it right f’ing now and nothing else will do. Every now and then something goes bump in the night, and there’s nobody to call about it. Like last night, for example.

Around 8:30 last night Tobie got very excited and hostile about something outside. It’s his only real job, and to his credit he takes it seriously. I seldom know what he’s on about but I do at least look to see if I agree as to its importance, right? Turned out this time he was barking at something I could see and hear: It’s bedtime for sane people and some idiot is vrooming back and forth in the wash with an ATV. Made a couple of passes and then disappeared downstream. I figured that was that. A little while later I took off my leg and settled down on my bed with a book. Not quite ready for lights-out but pretty much done with the day. And about 9:30 Tobie started up again. And I didn’t have to look out the window to know why: That damned ATV was back! What’s more, judging from the sound it wasn’t just passing by.

Pro-tip: I don’t have any friends likely to do that, at least not without a warning phone call. And if you make me put my leg back on after I’ve taken it off for the night – well, I’ll willingly do it for a friend. For anybody else, I’m gonna be cranky.

So now I’m vertical and bipedal and out on my porch with my brightest flashlight but I didn’t need it to see where my intruder was because he had every light blazing – out at my rifle range, where he stopped, got out of the ATV, and walked around. And then that person got back in, did a u-turn in the sand, and drove away.

Okay: Now you’ve gotten me out of bed, made me put my leg on, and you’re screwing with my stuff. Now I’m pissed.

I had a fair idea who this was, though no proof. We few who live in the roughly four-square-mile little valley I call the Gulch used to say we’d gotten awfully lucky with our neighbors: Well, in the past couple of years the view hasn’t been quite that sunny. In particular there’s a guy sort of at the edge of the Gulch who has fallen really seriously into drinking and whose behavior has become peculiar to the point of concerning. And it’s not the first time he has taken it upon himself to cast his eyes upon my or Ian’s belongings uninvited. And among other vehicles he has an expensive ATV that sort of matches the silhouette that this one cast against the wall of the wash with its own several brilliant headlights.

I’m a retiring kinda guy. I’m not looking for trouble with anybody. But I live very alone in the frickin’ middle of frickin’ nowhere, there’s no cop I can call when things go sideways in the middle of the night, and for the record that’s why my brightest flashlight is coaxial to something with a 30-round magazine. And now my nocturnal visitor has me tossing it into my Jeep to go see for myself what mischief he’s been up to. After I checked out the range – nothing out of order – I knew I wouldn’t rest until I’d ensured that nobody had been screwing around halfway up the ridge at Ian’s place. Which I did, while I should have been asleep, because settling my mind about that was the only way I’d ever get to sleep now.

While poking around alone in the dark I was, at least, comforted by the fact that my only really bright flashlight was not only high in lumens but also in ammo capacity. Which is why I arranged it that way. Seriously, just don’t do that.

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Ironically I picked the coldest windiest day in two weeks…

…to put the woodstove to bed for the season.

It’s just been too nice outside for anything but play – till today when I’m relatively stuck indoors and so it was time for a good cobweb hunting and floor vacuuming. Which sort of mushroomed into emptying the woodbox, cleaning out the stove and the ash bucket, vacuuming the inside of the firebox*, et cetera until completion.

That makes it officially Spring at the Secret Lair.

*Pro-tip, which I didn’t initially know: Your boxwood stove will either rot out its bottom or not, lasting essentially forever, depending entirely on whether you allow water that finds its way down the stovepipe to mingle with wet ashes and form corrosive alkaline nastiness. So don’t leave even a little ash in your firebox during the off-season.

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Busy Day…

The return of pleasant weather has gotten me off my ass and out the door a bit more in the past couple of days, and loving it. Yesterday was a prime example…

Start early – indeed, as soon as the sun clears the mountain and hits Ian’s solar panels – with a load of laundry. Still catching up with the latest spate of sloppy weather when that’s not advisable, not to mention those days without any running water.

Then over to D&L’s…

It’s amusing to me that D&L have six trash barrels, and the time it takes them to fill them all almost exactly correlates to (corresponds with?) the time it takes me to fill one. Granted I pack mine more full and burn the burnables, but still. Once in a while I get a call to help them load their truck for a trip to the county dump, and it’s in my interest to be there for them because they leave space for one of my trashcans.

Here marks the sad end of Tobie’s first bed.

I’ve often thought that this is the best-chosen spot for a big landfill that I’ve ever seen. A veritable moonscape of no use even to tumbleweeds, dumping garbage here is like sinking an old ship on a sandy bit under the sea: It does nothing but increase habitat. The ravens seem to like it, and I assume so do the rats.

Then home, and after lunch…

…I finished the repairs to the Lair’s water system. I originally replaced the faucet while there was still (a little) pressure in the pipe, which means I did it hastily in a way unlikely to be completely leak-free longterm. So yesterday I did indeed find a seeping leak, and (since I can turn the water off now) re-did the repair in a more complete and esthetically acceptable manner. Opened the valve, tested it again, found it good, and then laid on new insulation/heat collector. Then I filled in my big hole. It’ll take a while for the dirt to pack down but that’s nothing new.

And there was bread-baking in there somewhere. Finished the day fairly satisfied with myself for once. Not bad for the old man on a beautiful Spring day.

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Finally got my water back.

I finally got a few consecutive hours of sunlight yesterday, and when I checked the tank it was clearly filling. Which eased my greatest fear – that the well pump would fail during its extended downtime – but didn’t answer why I still had zero pressure at the kitchen sink.

Nothing but drips
The yard faucet, the lowest outlet in the Lair’s water system, persisted in doing nothing but drip. This morning I even took the faucet off the pipe, thinking it had maybe clogged with scale the way my hot water system did last year. No joy. So I figured it was probably just air plugging the very long poly pipe between the tank and the yard, and I needed to stand there outside for as long as it took till it started to spit air and water. And calcium and iron oxide, of course.

This afternoon was pleasant enough that I was able to do that, if by standing around I mean finish all the little steps like putting hose clamps on either side of the new shut-off valve and making an access cover for the valve…

…all of which was going to take some time anyway. Tobie had a very nice time basking in the shade and keeping me company. And just about the time I started to worry, the faucet did in fact start spitting air and red water. I let it fill the bucket a couple of times and then hooked up the yard hose, already strung downhill…

…and let it go until the water ran clear.

I finished up, put my tools away, and then went inside to find nice pressure on the sink gauge, a lovely fully-functional toilet tank, and nothing but trickles coming from the sink faucet, which I’d left open all afternoon. Bother. I wondered about that until I saw all the brown water stains in the sink. That faucet has a rather aggressive aerator which does tend to clog up from time to time. Just a little goop in the water would go a long way to plugging the faucet. So I turned the valve off and unscrewed the aerator … and the pressurized water kind of blew up in my face in a comical manner. But once we got that straightened out, the Lair had complete running water again.

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Plumbing Repairs – Good news/Bad news

April is a problematic month for the comfort of an old guy doing strenuous chores outdoors. It might work out great. It might do the other thing. Lately it’s been cold and windy and I was beginning to think I should have waited before turning off the well pump and gradually using up the water in the tank at the top of the ridge until sometime in May. But yesterday we finally achieved emptiness…

…and it was actually kind of a nice day. Sunny, not particularly cold or windy. So I grabbed my tools, lay down in the dirt and installed the new shut-off valve in the feed line from the tank to the yard…

I finished fairly early in the day, in hope that if I turned the well pump back on I might have at least toilet-worthy pressure before sundown.

It did not work out that way – the one disadvantage of a solar-powered low-flow pump with no battery backup – and so it was necessary to go full redneck…

And of course just to put the cherry on top, I woke this morning to heavy overcast.

I checked the well pump during the morning walkie and no, it ain’t running. Maybe it will later. Maybe not till Wednesday. Meanwhile I’m glad I have lots of water bottles because it might be a while before the sink works again. The shower is definitely going to take a while.

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Yah, he’s good.

🙂 Tobie had kind of a rough evening. He normally checks out after the evening walkie and I don’t hear much from him till morning but he just couldn’t get comfortable. His bed wasn’t right and he was crashing all around the cabin and acting put upon. Finally well after dark he gave up and laid down to actually sleep on the new bed but he wanted it firmly understood that this was under protest.

By morning he was fine with it and by afternoon…

…no longer an issue.

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“Aw, c’mon. Really? [bad word]”

It’s supposed to top off in the forties today, with the same gale wind as yesterday. Murphy has made an unholy pact with the forces of weather.

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Tobie got his new bed!

Thanks to Generous Reader MM. I picked it up on the way home from the big town about 50 miles away.

Tobie is not completely sold, he’s only lying there because I told him to, but I don’t think it’s going to take long for him to accept it. If push comes to shove…

…I’ll drape the cover of the old one over it till it smells right. I’m glad I took that first picture before giving him his new bone, because at the moment he’s inaugurating it very enthusiastically in a way that will surely void the warranty.

Thanks, MM!

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Sometimes “oh god oh god” just doesn’t get it done…

I had to go to Wal-Mart today. For the first time in years.

And it was loud. And there were too many people. And I got through it okay this time, really, didn’t actually hyperventilate at any point, but I was never happier to see my ride home show up.

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Lemme just drag myself to the keyboard here…

My back went out again yesterday. While bending over to toss a couple of sticks into the woodstove. Which I was doing because…

…that’s the way yesterday started.

Today, naturally, it’s a gorgeous day. Couldn’t be better! Started out mild, topped out in the mid-sixties, no wind at all. A fact I’d have appreciated more if I could have gone out into it with any pleasure. Instead I’ve been sitting in my too-deep reading chair and making a huge production out of standing up to make tea or go to the can.

It gradually occurred to me this evening that I’d be more comfortable in the desk chair, which is higher and has arms I’m not afraid to push against. I can in fact get out of this chair without pain, so this is where I’m spending the evening. Whadaya think: Master and Commander or The Northman?

Oh, speaking of being a broken-down geezer: The Social Security thing actually happened! With no trouble at all. Starts in May, I’m told. I naturally assumed that because my life isn’t exactly conventional in any domestic or financial sense there’d be some all-consuming problem at some point but it seems the SSA isn’t the DMV.

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April doesn’t want me to think I’m out of the woods…


This, I think, is just because it got a little cold overnight. It rained all yesterday afternoon and at least some overnight, so snow first thing in the morning is not a surprise. It’s supposed to rain all day, once it warms up a bit. I very much doubt we’ll get any accumulation. Just more slop.

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Digga we musta. Again.

Right. So back in late December we learned to our displeasure that the plumbers hired to install a whole bunch of water equipment at Ian’s Cave had taken it upon themselves to remove my shut-off valve from the tank at the top of the ridge. This meant that I couldn’t fix the relatively simple leak at the Lair’s yard faucet until I drained the whole freaking tank.

I turned the water pump off a couple of weeks ago and have slowly been using up the contents since, hoping that an empty tank will coincide with workable weather. March is not really known for its predictable weather here – April’s not a lot better, but one can usually get some work done. No problem – I’ve gone whole winters without running water. Can’t do a thing with the actual plumbing until the tank’s empty. Tobie and I checked the tank this morning and it’s well over half empty so we’re getting there.

Now, if it were only a matter of a split faucet the actual repair would be simplicity itself. I’d even be tempted to try it with pressure in the pipe. But it’s not that simple. At a minimum I need a new shut-off valve, which may as well be put at the logical place at the Lair itself. And a spreading circle of wet ground around the pipe told me that the faucet wasn’t the only thing that split during that cold snap. Probably I was going to have to replace the upright. Which means digging the whole thing up. Again.

And it’s a nice warm day with nothing else scheduled, so it’s time to start digging.

As soon as I cleared a little dirt from the upright I confirmed that the PVC is indeed split. If I have to do the whole thing I’m really tempted to just put in one of those “freezeproof” hydrants at last. But those things cost the world and aren’t actually freezeproof at all – in fact they seem like fairly constant maintenance items to my neighbors, while I haven’t had that much trouble with my cheap expedient PVC-wrapped-with-black-insulation. Y’know – before now, anyway.

I have the new shut-off valve and a new cover. I have everything I need to replace the faucet and pipe. So it’s just a matter of finishing the chore of digging it all up while gradually draining the tank. Then another hour or two of muddy labor and I’ll be good till something happens again. Last time I dug it all up was five years ago to the month. That was the time both shut-off gate valves failed at the same time. Replaced them with expensive ball valves, one of which apparently went home with the plumbers.

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Finally some decent weather…

Two whole days of it, if the forecast is correct. Yesterday I washed a big load of laundry and got it out on the line for some serious sunshine…

…and then I finished off all the dirty stuff this morning, and although the sun is gradually disappearing under misty clouds it looks like the weather will hold long enough to dry it.

No guarantees going into the weekend, it’s supposed to get sloppy again for at least a couple of days. BUT!

I saw my first…chickadee? English Sparrow? There was some dispute about what kind of bird this is last year. Anyway – the birds that always nest in front of the local food store every Spring are coming back! I always look for them, and now a few have arrived.

So we’re at least provisionally saved. Winter may not have ended but it will end in the foreseeable future.

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Okay, look. Enough. Sick of it now.

Every morning for the past three. Never warms up past the mid-forties. It’s still coming down as I type this, so…

I don’t know how much we got this morning, I’m going with something over an inch which makes this the biggest snowfall of this new sloppy spell.

I’ve burned substantially more wood this month than I did in February. Which is not the way it’s supposed to work. I know I call March ‘the month that breaks your heart’ but this year I want to call it ‘the month that makes you want to wring its neck.’

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Once again, weather and timing…

Cool and very windy today. Early snow, then all day it’s been sometimes sunny and sometimes threatening rain. But always with the wind. I’ve had to burn the woodstove 3 times, which meant I needed to clean out the ashes but…

…first I had to empty the little bucket of cool ashes, because some of what came out of the stove would still be glowing red. And when I went to do that, I remembered that the big ash bucket was pretty much full and I kept forgetting about it. Dammit…

When I started living at the Lair in 2011 I dug a pit for ashes. That filled up pretty quick, and since then I’ve been dumping them into a heap at the edge of a little gully near the wash. Very important that nothing hot goes there. And you never know how long ashes will stay hot in the bucket, so definitely empty it first. But the problem today was that the wind is gusting to 25 mph all day, even down in my little hollow, right in my face if I stand at the top and pour out the bucket. That wasn’t going to work. So I ended up carrying the bucket down into the gully just so the wind would be blowing away from me.

Maybe that’ll teach me to stop forgetting about the damned ash bucket till the last moment. Probably not – never has before.

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D&L Generator Service: The weatherman let me down…

Today was supposed to be sunny and warmish until evening, when we’re due for another 3 days of sloppy weather. Neighbor L has been after me for the past two weeks to help service their generator but we kept having to push it back on account of weather. This morning dawned cloudy and a little raw but what the hell. Let’s get this off the list before Neighbor D blows a cranial artery.

I’ve mentioned before that over the years D&L worked out rather rigidly what was D’s maintenance territory and what was L’s. The generator falls firmly in D’s court but he’s still laid up. L had never done it before and of course neither had I, so there was some fumbling over this particular engine’s peculiarities. But we figured it out.

L grew up on an actual farm which makes her much more genuine country than me, and of course I was a dealership mechanic so changing oil and filters wasn’t really that much of a stretch once we figured out what was where.

Get it buttoned up and tested, and we’re done here.

Tobie is shaping up to be such a good boy. He’s gotten to where I can trust him to sit in the Jeep and enjoy the view without worrying about what parts of Jeep will no longer be attached when I return. Always makes me smile, remembering how much he hated Jeep rides at first.

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