That feels weird. Sad and weird.

The yellow Jeep, my more-or-less faithful steed since 2008, never belonged to me. It always belonged to Landlady*, and at first it was a reciprocal matter of me keeping it running for her occasional use in return for me using it the rest of the time. Occasionally that was even useful to her, like during Monsoon visits when she left her ride at the county road and I ferried her to and from her place. More and more as time went by it just became a Joel subsidy as there was virtually no chance she was ever going to want to – or even be able to, given my various improvisations in the name of keeping it going on next-to-zero budget – use it or take back custody.

Now more lately Landlady has moved on, having no plans to maintain ties to the Gulch. And I’m afraid this week she made it official. She sent me the title.

Nobody ever gave me a Jeep before. I should probably feel better about that than I do.

—-
*She hasn’t actually been my actual landlady for twelve years, it’s just her blog name.

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Mothers, tell your children…

…not to do what I have done.

I snuck off and spent a quiet hour alone in the reloading shack this morning…


Really just stocking up on practice ammo since the gun I need to be practicing with is still in two pieces in a pistol rug.

Still, empty ammo boxes make Uncle Joel sad.

…and while I worked, I contemplated the penalties of poor economic choices.

I mean, we’re well into the third year of the latest Great Ammo Panic and I imagine that for a lot of people things have pretty much returned to normal, if probably at higher prices than completely desirable. Even out here 9mm is available, 5.56 is available. 12 gauge is available in bird, buck and slug. But revolver ammo is not to be found at any price. And .44 Special, my particular flavor, was becoming a unicorn caliber years before the panic. It might never come back.

I’m literally down to depending entirely on reloads for my everyday pistol, having completely expended my once-admirable stash of commercial ammo. Didn’t see that coming.

Would it have killed me to buy some sort of 9mm, back when I was in a position to buy guns? Just for a rainy day? Huh? Would it? But no. I never even considered it.

You can bet I’ve still got a shot-out wreck of a .45 1911, though. Because somewhere along the line I became a dinosaur.

Speaking of the reloading shack…


I’m in a battle of wits with at least one mouse with nothing better to do than crap all over my stuff. Meant to buy some new traps when I was in town last week, and they’re definitely on the list for Monday. He can steal the bait from my one remaining trap – and almost as an insult he stole yesterday’s pepperoni and then left it uneaten on the bench. If he could hold a pen I imagine he’d have left a taunting note.

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My memes folder is filling up…

…and I still don’t have anything worth blogging about. So here are funny pictures.

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My ebike has never yet stranded me away from home…

It has, however, just barely gotten me home on quite a number of occasions.

In this particular case, a quick trip to town from the county road went without incident. But when I took the bike off its rack to store it in Ian’s place, the rear tire was completely flat.

The problem was originally caused by a tiny spring I picked up, probably on the return trip…


But before I found that I tried to air the tire up and suffered a big blowout for no discernible reason.


So much for fixing that tube. Fortunately I stocked spares early in the season.


I did have to go to Youtube to figure out how to get the rear wheel off the bike in the first place; it wasn’t obvious just how that should be done. All my previous tire problems have been on the front, a fact that has always kind of worried me. But now that I’ve gained experience in the comfort of Ian’s Cave, it won’t worry me any more.

And now it’s starting to rain; I’ll worry about getting things properly together later in the afternoon, weather permitting.

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“Good boy, Tobie!”

Tobie and I went off road for a bit during our morning walkie. As we returned to a different stretch of dirt road, Tobie leading the way, he shied sharply to the left as soon as he broke cover. Following along, it was a second before I saw what he had nearly stepped on…

Another helpless bull snake, no doubt hoping with whatever desperation its tiny snake mind could muster that the sun would come out and warm it the hell up before this lunatic dog came back.

But there was no danger of that: Tobie stayed behind me the whole time I was digging my phone out of my pocket and taking that picture. Good boy! Praise and treats!

He’s getting the lesson I’ve been trying to impart: Snakes Bad Juju. Avoid Snakes.

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Me so deprived

Yeah, I’m spoiled. Pound for pound the consistently very best coffee I ever had in my life has come from Trader Joe’s, and Landlady enabled my entitled coffee fetish for parts of three decades. Alas, all things change: Landlady’s life has gone in a different direction and she doesn’t come around anymore. As my stash of real coffee dwindled, that left me with a dilemma. TJ’s doesn’t seem to sell the good stuff on its web site.

This past week I was in the Palace of Food during my not-quite-monthly trip to the biggish town about 35 miles away, and did something I haven’t done in almost 20 years: I shopped for coffee. You gotta understand: I have peculiar taste in coffee. Cheap-ass bourbon doesn’t bother me, canned meat doesn’t bother me. Used thrift store clothing doesn’t bother me. But coffee has to be right or I go all golden princess. It’s gotta be dark, it’s gotta be rich, it’s gotta be fresh-ground, it’s gotta be strong. Canned Folgers? Fuggedaboutit.

And the most promising product I saw in the store was this…

These are bold claims. Like Vincent Vega with his gourmet heroin, I’m not going to be easy to impress.

This morning I cut open the bag and ground some. And … y’know, not bad. Not Trader Joe House Blend (RIP,) but not bad. A little on the wimpy side (it is NOT the ‘world’s strongest coffee’) but acceptable, once I get used to it.

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Learning from your mistakes…

Oh, boy, have the past [many] years given me lots of experience in paying attention to the lessons of old mistakes and never more so than in the past nearly sixteen years, when I’ve had so many new things to learn.

Little Bear was my first puppy, and I was far too indulgent with him. Then he grew to be a 100+ pound sasquatch, and basically untrainable. I mean we got along fine, but certain lessons that should have been taught when he was a puppy never took. One thing somebody told me at the very first, which I ignored, was “Get him used to you messing with his paws, because sometimes you’ll have to.” Little Bear did not accept me fiddling with his paws.

So one thing I always did with Puppy Tobie was mess with his paws during play. He got to liking it. In fact in the evening when he’s looking for validation, one thing he’ll often do is hold up his paws so I’ll rub them. Good thing, too, because his claws have gotten long and intrusive and really needed clipping. And this evening they got that – and BOY he did not think it was right. He’s big and strong enough to have given me a very hard time about it but he trusted me enough to put up with it, and I credit that to taking good advice the second time around.

He’s a good boy. And I try to never be quite as dumb the second time around.

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TUAK goes all corporate image and shit…

There’s no practical reason I didn’t do this a year ago. For the past six months I’ve regularly had enough in the bank account that dropping an unscheduled $50 wouldn’t have been a big deal at all. But…

Fact is, that’s been the Official TUAK Chair since long before I moved out of the Interim Lair. Well over ten years. Inertia is a bitch. Attempts at cushioning my bony elderly ass were various, especially in the past 14 months since Tobie came along and started eating my stuff. Some months ago Mark M. sent me a big box of cushions – right about the time Tobie stopped being quite so destructive, so they all still live – but let’s face it: It’s a metal folding chair. And I spend a lot of time at that desk, and I’m pushing 70.

Week before last, after much procrastination, I finally did something 99.999% of Americans would have done maybe 12 years ago…


I dropped fifty-some bucks on Amazon.


And now I have a new – and hopefully much less uncomfortable – Official TUAK Chair.

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Always have a Plan B … I guess…

I broke my pistol! My very favorite gun! Or…well, my pistol broke. I swear I didn’t do it.


Happened a few days ago and it was like a death in the family. I had run a box of reloads through it earlier that day, and in the evening while watching a movie I took it apart to clean. Trying to put it back together, the yoke wouldn’t go all the way into its hole. I fiddled and fiddled, finally got it in, and then found out what the problem was when I tried to secure the yoke screw.

It was broken! And about half its threads were still in the frame, explaining why the yoke barrel didn’t want to seat. I fumbled the yoke back out and tried to chase the screw bits out of the frame with some plastic picks, but no go. Screwed!

I was seriously heartsick. Wasn’t till the next day that I came up with a plan of action more serious than digging my Plan B revolver out of the drawer it was relegated to for the past few years…


Yes of course I have a spare .44 Magnum. A penis as freakishly small as mine requires reliable compensation. But I hated the Taurus compared to the S&W, and after substantial dry firing over the past few days I can’t say my opinion has changed. Still, it works.

Then yesterday I did something I really hate doing: I talked to strangers on the telephone. Found a person who claims to be a gunsmith in the big town about 50 miles away, and as soon as I can bum a ride I’m going there to see what can be done for my beautiful baby.

Exactly how it happened is kind of a mystery. I know I didn’t crossthread that screw: First, you can’t accidentally do that – not with a small screwdriver. Second, I was a dealership mechanic: Crossthreading a fastener is like the most basic of the deadly sins, and I had thousands of opportunities to learn how not to do it. It’s muscle memory, has been for decades. I didn’t crossthread it.

Also: The screw isn’t just missing some threads – it’s broken. The hell?

In other news, I’m going to the Safeway in the biggish town about 35 miles away. D&L want to leave at noon, and at first I questioned that decision because it’s Monsoon: The wash has run for the past two days and you don’t want to get caught on the wrong side after an afternoon storm. But a look at the forecast says blue skies all day today, so maybe it’ll be okay. Anyway, that gave me time to make this baking day…


My loaves have gotten prettier lately. This one didn’t get much of an oven rise, though. Controlling the rise is still kind of a mystery to me.

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How to ruin your desert dog’s whole morning

All the wet sand clinging to the rocks I picked up earlier made a mess of the back of the Jeep. I swung back by Ian’s where there’s a wet/dry vacuum. Cleaned out the back and Tobie was fine with that, but then…


I opened HIS door and started working on the floor…


…and he was not okay with that at all. 🙂 “I didn’t know the vacuum cleaner monster could reach the Jeep!”

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Some early morning erosion work

In all we got almost two inches of rain yesterday, and it shows in the ruts on the slopes and the piled-up mud on the flats. My particular concern, erosion-wise, was at Ian’s place…


…where erosion is washing the sand out from behind his cave and threatening to turn it back into a dome in the fullness of time. This actually started a couple of years ago but yesterday there were noticeable inroads and it was clearly past time to do something.

To be honest I didn’t want to dam this up because the rut makes walking behind the dome for other repair easier, but enough was enough. This moist morning before it got hot, I took the Jeep to a rock field in the wash…


Loaded the back with as much as I could without bogging down in the wet sand, and then with those rocks and some concrete blocks…


…I made a quick’n’ugly dam. Unless the water plays a mean trick on me, that’ll stop the sand from returning to the wash from the top of Ian’s Cave.

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Tobie’s first big thunderstorm

The weather in the high desert likes its drama. Sometimes it gets downright scary even for a seen-it-all old hermit. This was probably the biggest storm Tobie had ever seen, and at its height it had him seriously considering peeing on the floor.


According to the rain gauge we got a little over an inch and a half in an hour. I would have guessed more than that – and at the height of the storm it was slamming down hard enough I’d guess accuracy is an issue. Continue reading

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Tobie meets a bull snake…

This actually happened during yesterday’s walkie but I forgot about it till just now. If I’d known it was going to happen I’d have put his shock collar on and set it to Barbecue Dog.

Instead I just waited till he crept forward for a sniff and then really sharply yelled at him. Already not sure this was a smart thing to do, he teleported about fifty yards straight back. It was a cool moist early-Monsoon morning and this poor snake was inert: Tobie could have eaten it without danger of harm, but I didn’t want him to know that.

I already knew he’s not reliably snake averse, but there’s been a shortage of good snakes to test him on.

I’ve only personally known two dogs who got rattlesnake-bit. They both survived but one went through some truly grotesque symptoms while we rushed her to the vet (we no longer have a vet so close) and I’m pretty sure she would have died without immediate treatment. The other was just sick and sad for a evening but he really didn’t get a good strike: Rattlesnakes are as fallible as anybody else.

Anyway, I’d be much happier about letting Tobie run free if I thought he wouldn’t try to be friends with the first Mojave Green he encountered…

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A casualty of the Great Circle of Brass…

The weather behaved itself this morning for once so I went out to practice with my newly-augmented pistol


…which is working out very well for me, by the way, so I moved on from slow-fire. Spread out a groundsheet and worked on holster and speed loader drills till I burned through my ration of practice ammo.

And I was planning to go right home after that. But I had a little time before lunch, and Tobie has gotten so much better at staying by himself without freaking out and wrecking my stuff…

That I decided to sneak off to the reloading shack to refill my ammo box. Continue reading

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How you know when somebody’s having a very bad day…

h/t

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52% humidity is not “ok.”

Big Brother sent me this cool little digital hygrometer, and from day one we’ve had a dispute…


One of the reasons I prefer a desert environment is that in my youth I broke several major bones and twisted basically all my joints, and now in my late 60’s I’m learning how much I truly healed from that. At the humidity where the gauge gives me a “dry” frowny-face, I’m quite happy. At the humidity where I don’t want to get out of bed, the stupid gauge gives me a smiley face and says “Ok.”

For the record it’s wrong and I’m right. My house, my rules.

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Tobie discovers rabbits

The population of cottontail and jack rabbits here goes through boom and bust cycles I’ve never tried to explain. Some say plague, some say predators. I say it just happens. During 2021 we were going through a marked rabbit drought, so they weren’t much of a factor in raising Puppy Tobie.

That has changed. At least the jackrabbits are coming back in a big way, and Tobie has noticed. In another year or so this hopefully won’t be a problem: He’s perfectly welcome to chase rabbits as long as he’s mature enough to come straight back after he’s had his fun. (This is a test Little Bear never passed, and he never got off the leash.) Right now, Tobie may have achieved his full size but he’s definitely not mature. And there’s just something about a rabbit that makes a young dog forget all about the business at hand.

This morning we went out for the early walkie, a utilitarian matter of dealing with physical requirements in as quick and businesslike a manner as possible so that Uncle Joel can have his morning coffee. But halfway up the slope, Tobie caught sight of a young jackrabbit.

Being only half awake, I wasn’t paying attention but since we were literally tied together I didn’t believe it mattered all that much: Tobie would hit the end of the leash and that would remind him to get back to business. Tobie had an entirely different approach in mind: Uncle Joel is welcome to come along but I’m chasing that rabbit.

We had words. Uncle Joel does not tolerate side quests when coffee is at stake.

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Time to rebuild the porch steps…

I was able to scrounge some used lumber a week or so ago…


Nearly new, since it came from some interior framing. I had asked Neighbor S if I could tag along next time he went to the Lowes in the big town about 50 miles away because I needed some lumber. He said he had just salvaged some and that I should help myself. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted but I did not argue. Continue reading

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Monsoon is getting more intrusive…

It didn’t even rain very much yesterday afternoon, at least not down here. I suspect the rain was heavier up on the plateau, because the wash ran just a little bit.

That in itself isn’t all that significant. What I found interesting – and a little ominous – though…


Open puddles twelve hours later? On deep sand? Oh, boy. It’s already saturated, and it’s not even July.

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Even my Plan B has improved…

It’s on the order of five years ago that S&L moved to the Gulch fulltime, and L started insisting on washing my clothes once a week. I did not vigorously demur: In addition to a washer and dryer, S&L have a water softener! And soon my clothing stopped being capable of doing alternate duty as abrasive material.

But after going on sixteen years living in the boonies on the economic edge I have quite a number of rules I stick to as faithfully as possible, and two of the ones at the top are:

1) Never get too dependent on other people, for shit doth happen to us all, and…

2) Always have a Plan B.

Anyway: Neighbor L went out of state and it might be a while before I see her again, right at a moment when my supply of good gelsocks has passed minimum. When you’re an amputee, Always Use Clean Stumpsocks is a rule you learn not to break very early. I’ve been obeying it for over fifty years now.

So anyway: This morning I’m looking at the contents of my nightstand drawer. And I get to thinking it’s time to implement Laundry Plan B. I’m still okay for a few days, but with the weather the way it’s been I might need that long for thick gelsocks to dry.

For just a moment I mourn the loss of S&L’s water softener, but then it occurs to me: There’s been one at Ian’s place for a year and a half!

Yay!

So this morning Tobie and I, and my old manual agitator, took ourselves to Ian’s big sink. Hot running water and a TDS count below 300? I’m there!

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