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
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
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!
September 26, 2006
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.
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".
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
Massad Ayoob has written an
excellent article in Backwoods Home Magazine about the current popularity of old
western style single action handguns
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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)
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
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 convention...in, 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.
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
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
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
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.