September 2006

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Saturday, September 30, 2006 - Septic Tank

8 AM - This was the scene outside my window yesterday when the septic service came to pump out our tank.  I guess it's a gross topic for some but hey, it's a fact of life in the country.  Actually, the process is not that repulsive and if your septic tank is doing what it should, you'll hardly notice any aroma at all.

Don, the owner of the company, was here to appraise the leech field problem and he gave me advice on how to make modifications. The lines are working again though they don't drain nearly as fast as they should. Even though the previous owner who installed the thing was a plumber, he had a reputation for cutting corners and I have no way of knowing if he did the job up to code. Doing repairs will be a big job but definitely something that I can handle.

For those into details, our tank holds 750 gallons and the next service will not be required for at least another 3 years. Well, that's what the septic service people will tell you.  In reality I think the periods between service can be much longer but of course, your mileage will vary. So to speak.

5 PM - Just got back from Ikea after picking up an all wood cabinet that will go in our dining room.  I'm hoping to find a "no thinking required" movie to run in the background while I spend the rest of the evening putting it together. A couple of beers would be nice to go along with this but the shelves are bare.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

5 AM - I'm doing my best to stay in an upbeat mood in spite of all the depressing news.  Actually, I've developed a special technique that at least starts my day out in the right direction.  First, get a TIVO. Next, set it up to record The Daily Show with John Stewart, The Colbert Report and David Letterman. Finally, every morning before you do anything else, listen to those programs.

Bob, one of my readers, suggested that I stop listening to the network news all together. I've considered that but my problem is that I  get curious and before you know it, I've got CNN tuned in. At least it's not FOX news.

Catherine headed out yesterday on a 8 day backpacking trip to Mineral King while I'm staying home taking care of the cat & chickens. I suppose I should feel like a wimp for not going along but it doesn't bother me a bit. When it comes to backpacking, I've paid my dues and I'm definitely not going to keep Catherine from going if she still has the desire.

For me, staying home on our 20 acres is adventurous enough.  Did I mention that the septic tank overflowed. Now that's excitement!

2 PM - The stereotype that people associate with gun owners can often be validated by visiting a gun store.  More often than not, you will find yourself among people who are seriously conservative and who never fail to work their political beliefs into the conversation. I usually describe them as macho windbags or loudmouth blowhards and darned if there isn't always at least one in the store whenever I visit. Honestly, it makes me have second thoughts about this gun hobby of mine when I listen to the racist crap these people spew when they know they have a captive audience. And yeah, these are the guys who wear their guns around the house, "just in case".

Anyway, it happened again today and that, along with current events in the news, has put me in a foul mood. I hope Al Gore runs for president again and wins. If only the elections were being held today.

4 PM - Today they filled the propane tank with $300 worth of gas.  At least it should last well into the winter, maybe longer. Our winters have gotten warmer ya know. No, really!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

8 AM - Not much of a picture but it gives an idea of what I've been doing for the past couple of days.  The septic leech lines stopped leeching so I had to dig up the septic tank to gain access to the pipes.  I've run a hose down the pipes to try to blow them out but no luck with that.  I put in a call to the septic pro and I'm hoping that he has some tools that are designed to do a better job.  I hope he appreciates that I've done the hard part of digging out the tank.

And I've also been cutting up a downed tree that was blocking access to the propane tank which is due to be filled.  And I've also been moving stuff into the barn that's been languishing under a tarp for a year.  Quite a flurry of activity on my part, must be the cooler weather.

5 PM - The day is ending with a blistering headache and bad news at Doug's journal . He knows we all wish him and his wife the best.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

10 AM - I�ve been retired for 2 & 1/2 years now and I gotta say that I've been having a pretty good time.

I�ve spent those years getting my bearings and developing a philosophy. Actually, �developing a philosophy� sounds a little lofty. Let�s just say I�ve been mulling things over.

Richard Pryor used to talk about how he felt when he visited Africa and found himself among a population dominated by black people. He said that for the first time in his life he experienced what it felt like to be truly relaxed. That�s kind of how I feel. For the first time in my life I don�t have anyone with power hanging over me poised to pull my strings. Maybe it was just bad luck but I spent the first 54 years of my life dealing with temperamental drunks, megalomaniac bosses and teachers with a screw loose. The fact that I don�t have to suffer those kinds of people anymore is the best part of retirement.

And here�s some advice on how to get to retirement. Find a job you can stomach and show up on time everyday. That�s pretty much it and I'm always surprised at how many people can�t do that.

2 PM - I spent a few hours today working on my trail chopping down poison oak.  Fall is here and a lot of the poison oak has started to go dormant but the specimens growing on my trail are as green as if it were spring.  Hopefully I'm getting a head start on next years crop.  Another good thing about retirement is being able to wear shorts every day. The less poison oak the better.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

10 AM - Another weekend and the Santa Ana winds are blowing. The following passage is the one most quoted when referring to these "Diablo Winds".

"Those hot dry winds that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen."

-- Raymond Chandler, "Red Wind."

Thursday, September 21, 2006

10 AM - The winner of yesterday's contest was Charley of Lakeside California after he correctly answered, 1851 Colt Navy. His B&H t-shirt should should arrive next week.

The Colt 1851 Navy was the most popular six-gun in America up to 1873 when the Peacemaker was developed. The gun was used extensively in the Civil War and later by such notables as James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickcock. The gun design was adopted by the confederate army though because of metal shortages, they had to use a weaker brass frame. Robert E. Lee carried one but when it was fired after the war, it �chain-fired�, which is to say that all 6 cylinders accidentally fired at once.

The development of handguns in the last half of the 19th century is sometimes compared to the development of the computer in the 20th. New models were constantly being developed and competition between different companies was intense. Because of numerous attempts to counterfeit the 1851, Colt came up with a form of copy protection that is similar to Microsoft�s hologram that they print on their software boxes. Colt used an engraved cylinder that was difficult for the imitators to reproduce and was proof that you owned an original Colt handgun. The engraving depicts a battle between the Texas and Mexican navies on May 16, 1843.

Needless to say, I didn�t go out and buy an original Colt and these days authentic reproductions aren�t even made in America. My Colt was made in Italy by the Uberti Company which is affiliated with the well known Beretta manufacturer.

Massad Ayoob has written an excellent article in Backwoods Home Magazine about the current popularity of old western style single action handguns here.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

10 AM - I'm overdue for a check-in. Basically things haven't changed since last Saturday and I'm picking right up where I left off. I'm still fooling with my chainsaw after fussing with the chain and having the local hardware store screw around with the old one.  They don't just sell you a pre-made chain; they make a new one and custom fit it to the size of the old one.  It gets pretty complicated but you know how seriously us back-country guys take our chainsaws.

Anyway, the first chain they made for me had a bad link so I'm going back today to pick up the "second try".  And I've been sitting around all morning cleaning a new gun and eating Sausalito Milk Chocolate Macadamia Chocolate Chunk cookies. I didn't want to do that but the doctor told me not to take my medications unless I'm eating my biggest meal of the day so I polished off the whole bag.

And today's photo is the new gun.  First person to e-mail me with the correct identification gets a free t-shirt. Hint: The cylinder has a battle scene engraved on it.

4 PM - I finally had chain-saw success and was able to clear my hiking trail that's been blocked by a downed limb for over a week.  The only other notable event today was paying $23 for a small nylon tipped hammer.  Exciting!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

1 PM - This morning the wind changed direction and is now coming from the northeast.  That means the predicted Santa Ana is developing and by tomorrow we could have strong winds.  The type of wind that causes damage and feeds brush fires.

I'm not overly concerned about brush fires this year but I do know that this type of wind can really take a toll on our plant life.  My young Alders will be taking the brunt of the wind and before it's done, their leaves will be in taters.  The sycamores down by the creek crossing also suffer and they occasionally fall and block the road.

So today I'm servicing my chain saw.  Of course I already hit a snag when I discovered that the new chain I purchased last year is the wrong size. Man I'm not in the mood to go out shopping.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

9 AM - Up early on day 2 of the headache. No sympathy needed. Really, this is a mild one and it seems to be easing.

Went out early to check my traps, nothing, and to check the two automatic irrigation systems.  We have a big problem with sediment in the water and the filters to both systems were filled with grit & sand.  That's a bad sign because these filters are down stream of the main, system-wide filter which is supposed to intercept this stuff. (see photo)

We see this a lot this time of year when the water table has dropped.  The well pump is working harder and drawing in more debris. What I need to do is strip the insulation off the filter and disassemble the plumbing and flush out the accumulated sediment. Not a simple task and one of those chores that can eat up a couple of days.  On projects like this ya always have unexpected glitches like leaks and  broken irreplaceable parts. Of course, the water to the house will have to be off while I attempt this.

3 PM - The primary cause for gun damage is over cleaning. With modern day powders, the conventional wisdom that you have to scrub a gun inside and out after every shooting session, is false. For you veterans, the professional marksmen who work for the gun companies will tell you that your drill instructor was wrong. With a .22 caliber gun it's even more important to go lightly when cleaning. I've been advised by several people that cleaning the bore of a .22 handgun is unnecessary and one person I know hasn't run a brush through his barrel in over ten years. (Sounds like the punch line to a joke).

It's kind of hard not to get obsessive about cleaning valuable guns but I have seen first hand the unnecessary damage done from over enthusiastic scrubbing.  The photo is of my Smith & Wesson model 617 & the cylinder is left open to display how clean a new gun can look. After a single firing, those holes on the front of the cylinder will have dark black rings around them and many gun owners won't even bother to scrub them off. It's far more important to concentrate on cleaning any moving parts and of course storing the gun in a way that won't promote rust.

Hey, I've been doing this for six months so I know what I'm talking about.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

5 AM - During the last couple of nights we've been awakened by the howls of coyotes echoing off the valley walls. I believe this is the first time since the fire that we've had groups come through the vicinity. They're welcome here and their return is a hopeful sign that balance is returning to our burned landscape.

Yesterday I found the remnants of a rabbit near where the howling had occurred. We definitely have a rabbit population explosion going on and they should be easy pickings for a while.

5 PM - This morning I took a ride into town for groceries and hobby supplies.  During the trip I started feeling a subtle itching behind my right eye which is the precursor for a migraine. I knew that later in the day that itching would grow into the pain of a searing ember.  The doctor calls it an "atypical" migraine because it doesn't throb with my pulse like a typical migraine. Details details.

Yeah, I'm on medication and these headaches are nothing like they used to be. I've done the research to see if I can link them to my diet, stress or even the weather but nothing stood out as the smoking gun. I do know that something is definitely going on in my body during these attacks. Something has upset my body's chemistry and it isn't just a pain in my forehead. It's a whole body event that kicks me in the groin and takes the wind out of my sails for at least twenty-four hours. (An makes me overuse clich� metaphors)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

10 AM - I'm still obsessing about the appearance of our property. This morning while the light is right and the breeze is moving the brush and the leaves are rustling; I�m satisfied. Later today when the sun is high and washing out the colors, everything will be dull beige and all I'll see will be the burned stumps, dead weeds and piles of junk.

I guess the position of the sun has a lot to do with my perspective on life.

3 PM - Sunglasses!! Of course, it all seems so simple now.

Saturday, September 9, 2006

11 AM - We've been having some slightly cooler weather and I've been trying to take advantage of it.  Lately I've been becoming more frustrated with the junky appearance our property has taken on.  The fire burned a large portion of the crap that the previous owner collected but we still have ugly piles of metal lying around that we need to recycle.  I guess I was hoping that we'd find a local re-cycling station but that isn't happening. I'm going to have to start making 40 mile trips and whittle these piles down a little at a time.  I doubt the metal recycler will give us enough to even cover the gas.

And speaking of junky appearance, I'm really sick of looking at the burned fence that borders our property on the west. When the fire came through, it burned the fence posts that supported the rusty wire that indicated the property line. In some spots the black posts are still standing and the wire is still attached, though it sags and dips down into the weeds and dirt.

I started working on this today by knocking down and removing some of the posts that aren't even in the ground anymore. They were just burned sticks suspended in the air by the rusty wire that is still hanging to the few remaining unburned posts. Not a pretty sight.

Frankly I'd just as soon have no fence at all but we're concerned about the road grader that keeps encroaching on our property every time it comes through.  Without a physical barrier, the road just keeps getting wider and wider.

3 PM - And speaking of eyesores, this is my target range.  The black rectangles with the red marks are my steel targets that I cut out of the beams of an old burned trailer.  They're set at 25 yards except for the hard to see one at the top of the photo which is set at 50 yards. I shoot at these using my .22 cal guns or with my 38 cal. gun using hand loaded lead bullets. The powder loads are really light and I keep the bullets at around 800 feet per second.  That's really slow and is often called a "cowboy load" by the guys who shoot single action guns.

I decided against joining the single action shooters club that is about an hours drive away.  It was just too far and if I had purchased all the firearms they required, it would have come in at around 3 grand.  Instead I joined the SVSS (Sherilton Valley Shooters Society) which is right in my own back yard. Literally. OK, I'm the only member but I'm expecting to get good discounts at all the gun stores. And I'll be looking for special discount rates on hotel rooms when we hold our annual, Uhm... Samoa.

Friday, September 8, 2006

8 PM - I�ve been in a bit of a funk recently though it�s nothing serious. Maybe my biorhythms are at low tide or perhaps it�s the downer headlines we�ve been having. Today the Senate Intelligence Committee reported that Bush embellished the facts, twisted the truth and lied to get us into a war. The White House brushed this information aside by calling it �old news�. For me, the depressing part is that almost 50% of the American public still think that Saddam Heusen had wmd�s and conspired with the Ayatollah.

Ah forget it. This journal isn�t about politics.

It�s about Blackie, my cat.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

8 AM - Quiet days in Sherilton Valley.  The kids are back in school (not that we have that many here to begin with) and most people have completed cutting back their brush that could have been a fire hazard. Not a sound outside except the wind in the trees and the occasional crow of our roosters.

5 PM - A billion years ago when I was in college I took a photography class. The teacher gave us an assignment where we were supposed to take a photo using the theme, "signs of confusion". He wouldn't elaborate on the requirements and left it up to us to be creative and come up with something artsy. When we presented our photos he said it was the worst offering he had ever seen and that our photographs were nothing but predictable clich�s. I thought about him today when I took this obvious clich� snapshot. Gene Kennedy, this is for you wherever you are.

Saturday, September 2, 2006

9 AM - Up till 1 AM attending the Barona Indian Pow-wow. Not a very big crowd and the vast majority of the people were the ones participating in the Indian dancing competitions. It was my first exposure to a native American gathering but, similar to the Western Action Shooting groups, costume authenticity is not a requirement. These gatherings are not for the purist looking for true pre-Columbian replications of native dress. I guess you have to go to the Smithsonian for that.

Lot's of venders selling Indian themed nick-knacks like jade jewelry, rugs and pottery. Once again, the crowd was small and most of the browsers were the dancing participants. It's a three day event so maybe attendance will pick up.

On the other hand, I'm still working on my theory that America's love affair with small rural towns is over.  Maybe it's just that I'm stuck in an old mindset reminiscent of Charles Kuralt when he was doing his On The Road Series. In those days it seemed like people were really interested in the home-spun life of small town U.S.A.. These days, the crowds at backcountry events are thin and the predominant visitors to our national parks are from Europe and Asia.

No, I'm not necessarily saying it's a bad thing, I'm just observing with the eye of someone who majored in Social Science. Trying to figure out if it's a "sign of the times" or if I just don't get out enough.

Friday, September 1, 2006

9 AM - This year the B&H Ranch is hosting the annual D.G.F. festival so I was up early to buy supplies and meet with the security personal who will handle parking and crowd control. I also had to provide power to the media trailers where CNN will be broadcasting live feeds for all the major news networks.

12 PM - It was brought to my attention that a few people don't know what D.G.F. is.  Hard to believe but for those uninformed few, here is an explanation.