Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   Olivia is probably fine off leash
Sunday, September 24 2023

location: 800 feet west of Woodworth Lake, Fulton County, NY

I woke up early this morning, when there was just a little light in the sky, and went down into the basement to check the mouse traps. Neither had been triggered, though I heard a persistent gnawing outside the steel basement door, the one at the bottom of the steps below the Bilco doors (which I'd left open). So I went around back and saw a single deer mouse at the bottom of the stairs chewing at the corner of the door. After shooing the mouse away, I saw that he had managed to chew away a bit of weather stripping, but not enough to affect the door's seal. An inspection on the other side of the door (from within the basement) showed that a mouse had also tried chewing on the rubber sweep at the bottom corner of the door in hopes of getting out, probably during the week when all forms of egress had been sealed. I decided to keep the Bilco doors shut (assuming they can hold back mice) so the weather stripping on the basement door will suffer no further erosion.

After I slept some more, a chirpy Gretchen suddenly appeared, having spent the night in the smaller of first floor bedrooms after tiring of our dogs' whimpering and complaining long into the night about Christine's dog Olivia. Gretchen said she'd already done all her Duolingo and maybe even her yoga stretches for the day. I stumbled to my feet and steeled myself for entertaining guests, though my hair (which is now in an awkward phase) had me looking like a made scientist serial killer. There was some immediate kerfuffle involving the potential for an encounter between our dogs and Olivia, but that encounter didn't happen, and somehow the various dogs were given their necessary access to the outdoors.
I saw Christine out there with Olivia having an uncomfortable bout of nervous diarrhea. For some reason she had Olivia on a leash, which didn't seem to make any sense. When I asked her why Olivia couldn't be off-leash, Christine explained that she had no experience with being off-leash because she's lived in the city all her life and "wouldn't know how." What I didn't know at the time was that Olivia being on-leash was a result of Christine's hangups, not Olivia's propensity to, say, dash off and vanish forever. Christine had told me some time ago about a terrible roll-over accident she'd been in in North Dakota. She'd survived relatively unscathed, but her dog at the time, whose name was Olive, vanished from the car after the accident and was never seen again. The trauma of that loss is what keeps Olivia on that stupid leash even though she'd almost certainly act exactly like Ramona if she were free from it. This wouldn't be so bad if Olivia were a lazy couch potato like our dogs, but she's much more active, easily charging up and down the stairs and always eager to break into a gallup. Meanwhile it's Chrisine who is the couch potato, unable to take Olivia on good walks due to flare ups of her sciatic or to dog parks (where Olivia would be at risk of fighting with the other dogs).
Eventually we reached a consensus that we'd be having BLTs made on bagels for breakfast (Gretchen had gotten bags of day-old Bread Alone bagels at the co-op yesterday), and that I would be making them. So I made a whole package of LightLife Smart Bacon (my favorite vegan bacon), which I sizzled up in a pan with onions. Since Christine doesn't like mushrooms, I sizzled those up separately. The bagels were a hit, with Christine even taking a picture of hers for social media use. Gretchen doesn't like bacon (fake or otherwise) so she made herself a simple half bagel with a spread. Meanwhile my cousin Carol (who is at least as autistic as Temple Grandin) had fetched the assembly guide for the teardrop camping trailer she'd built, and I was thumbing through it asking questions. Carol has a technically-detailed manner of thinking, and frequently went into the weeds as she described various stages in the trailer's assembly. Her single-minded obsession and desire expound on it reminded me of my brother Don, though it was considerably less grating since Carol has none of Don's verbal tics and enunciation issues. Instead, she talks softly and clearly. But don't expect even a moment of eye contact; it's not coming. Don is much better at giving that than Carol is.
Unlike some of our other guests, Carol had actually brought something as a gift for her hosts (well, for me). It was a bottle of some sort of obscure Kentucky bourbon. At some point yesterday, after it was clear she'd be coming in late and thus being a particular pain for us to host, she'd declared to Christine that she'd be upgrading my present "from a round bottle to a square one." This was to say (probably jokingly) that classier boozes come in rectangular bottles. In any case, the bottle she gave me had unusually sharp corners on it, far sharper than you'll find on a bottle of, say, Jack Daniels.
Later Carol took us all out to give a tour of her travel trailer. We started in the back, where a hood opens up to reveal a standing kitchen counter complete with a sink and a toaster oven. Most of the little details of the trailer were in that area, though of course Gretchen and I were more interested in the main space of the trailer, where Carol sleeps. It turns out she has a queen-sized mattress in there, though a good fraction of that has only a foot or so headroom, as it's designed to be the part of the bed where feet go when one is sleeping (it's underneath the kitchen counter we saw in the back). The main space also had a flatscreen for watching movies and places to plug in electrical devices so they could be charged. All of this is powered by a 1 KW-hr battery (about 1/18th the capacity of our cabin's battry) that can be charged via 120v or via a 100 watt solar panel on the trailer's roof. Carol showed off all these technical widgets in the box welded to the trailer frame in front of the teardrop, but by this Gretchen had left and the audience was basically just me.
Then Carol wanted to hike down to the lake, but before that could happen I needed to take a bathroom break (I hadn't had a moment to myself since waking up that second time this morning). While I was doing that, Christine suddenly panicked, because she couldn't find Olivia anywhere in the house. It turned out she'd gone outside (perhaps through the pet door) and was just standing around next to Carol while she was doing something at her trailer. But Christine flipped out, saying that Olivia didn't know how to be off leash and that if she disappeared into the forest, the AirTag on her collar wouldn't even help her be found. (I'd made the mistake of explaining how AirTags work earlier today, saying they depend on a reasonable density of people having iPhones, which wouldn't be the case in the wilderness we were surrounded by.) Despite all that, Christine allowed us to take Olivia with us when we went down to the lake. Her sciatic was acting up again, so she wouldn't be coming. And Gretchen, who was with the dogs, wouldn't be coming either.

As Carol and I walked down to the lake, we discussed Christine's hangup about letting Olivia be off-leash, and we both agreed it was a predictable result of the trauma of losing her first dog in that roll-over accident. Carol had bought the AirTag for Olivia, probably in hopes of Christine giving her more freedom, and she herself had tried to test Olivia's off-leash behavior several times. But always ends with Christine freaking out. Even though we were pretty sure Olivia would be fine off-leash, we couldn't risk being wrong, so we kept her on-leash for the duration of our walk.
Carol kept having technical problems with her camera that kept bogging down our hike, particularly when she wanted to take an interesting photo of a cairn I'd made. This seemed in keeping with Carol's lack of social finesse, but it was extremely irritating. Still, somehow I managed to muster the necessary social skills of my own to conceal my feelings on the matter.
When we were on the dock, Olivia seemed interested in the water, though she didn't know quite what to do with it. And then, unexpectedly, she launched herself into it, perhaps (according to Carol) thinking it was a solid surface she could stand on. She disappeared completely for an instant but then bobbed to surface in about nine feet of water, relexively doggy-paddling towards shore. I helped as best I could to pull her in that direction, though she was wearing a choke collar, which isn't a great system for towing. Once Olivia was on the shore, she shook vigorously and was soon almost completely dry (since her fur is very short).
We then walked along lakeshore path to the beaver dams at the outflow, with Carol stopping to take pictures of the enchanted lycopod forest along the way. I wanted to show Carol the old Boy Scout campground, but Olivia refused to cross the outflow creek on the stone causeway that crosses it just below the lower beaver dam. So we hiked back to the cabin up on the trail that climbs through the granite cliffs and then, via a off-trail shortcut, to the upper section of the dock trail.
Meanwhile back at the cabin, Christine (who is something of a relentless talker) had been regaling Gretchen with the details of her not-very-happy life so far, starting with her abusive right-wing father in Alaska (a man so loathsome that when Carol changed her last name back to something other than his, she chose the last name of her maternal grandfather) and then talked about the abusive manipulative man she'd married in Oklahoma. Now though, for the past few months, she's had a boyfriend who is actually kind, something she didn't even know men could be, so perhaps her run of bad mileposts on the road of life is coming to an end. Gretchen is a great listener, though she quickly wearies of people who never ask her any questions about her life.
After an excruciating picture-taking session, where Carol kept setting up her camera and having us all pose for a picture it would take in eight seconds, our guests packed up their stuff and hit the road. The original plan had been to leave at 11:00am, but by the time they actually did leave, it was about 1:00pm.

I'd been squirting my portland cement every few hours for the past couple days, but by now all of it had mostly set. So I turned my attention to reworking the landscape near the cabin's northeast corner. That is the corner where the foundation footing is nearest the surface, which is why I started there about a year ago when I began the long process of insulating the foundation wall. My goal is to end up with less soil there than there had been to begin with, thus giving me more headroom under the screened-in porch (where I can store things out of the rain). But for now, there's a wide, shallow basin in the landscape at the cabin's northeast corner, and it's been that way for a year now. This means that the basin collect precipitation and funnels it through the ground towards the foundation. Ideally, though, there would instead be a runoff path out of this basin away from the cabin. With this is in mind, I enlarged the basin, decreasing the steepness of its walls and slightly raising its bottom, mostly to cover up a drain pipe that had been exposed. Then I dug a narrow trench eastward so the basin can naturally drain (via the forces of gravity) to the lower landscape east of the cabin. If I'd had a suitable pipe, I might've buried one in that trench and called it a day. But because I had no good pipe, I left the trench open.
All this digging exposed more of the slope above the basin along the cabin's north foundation wall to the west. So I then proceeded to take the anti-erosion measures I'd detailed yesterday. I gathered a five gallon bucket of papery old leaves in the woods, spread them out on the sandy slope, and then lay down a dozen or more sticks and logs on top of the leaves, all of them running parallel to the contours. Since I was doing this on a pathway that I frequently walk on, I tried to settle the sticks firmly against the ground, but there's always at least one that wants to roll like a ball bearing under your weight. It's unpleasant, but it worth having things this way (at least for a time) if it prevents erosion.
By this point it was raining intermittently and Gretchen and I were pretty much done with the cabin experience. Gretchen had originally said something about staying until Monday morning, but now she just wanted to go. It had been cloudy the whole time she'd been here with the bolt, and I'd only been able to put about 20 miles of range into its battery. But with 105 miles of range, she should've been able to drive home via "the scenic route" (through Middleburgh and East Durham). Gretchen wasn't so sure, and decided to improve her odds by having me carry both dogs and all the cargo (mostly food) she wanted back in Hurley in the Forester. She left a few minutes before I did, and both of us used the scenic route.
Normally when I drive to and from the cabin, I have a "road beer rule" about when I can drink a beer on the road. When driving north, the rule is that I have to wait until I get to the Catskill exit before I can crack open a beer. Interestingly, given that Catskills is much closer to Kingston than it is to the cabin, the rule is the same when driving south: I have to wait until I get to the Catskill exit to crack open a road beer. But on the scenic route, there is no Catskill exit. As a proxy for that, I decided the rule was that I had to get to Route 32 (which happens nearest to Catskill on the route) before I could crack open a beer.
Somehow I got back to the house in Hurley before Gretchen, meaning I must've passed her on the short bit of Thruway we use on the scenic route (between Saugerties and Kingston). But she was the very next car on Dug Hill Road, arriving while our dogs were still stumbling around like idiots after getting out of the Forester (and while I was pissing like a race horse without much concern about where that piss was going). Gretchen said she'd had terrible range anxiety on that drive. Apparently her car used up many more miles than expected early in the drive and then she was forced to drive slowly in an effort to make the range left in the car work out. But then once she got to the Thruway, it acted like she suddenly had plenty of miles, so she felt comfortable running not only the windshield wipers but the heat too. Upon rolling into our driveway, she had 22 miles of range left.
Inside, our house had an autumnal chill that forced me to kindle up a nice fire, one mostly fueled with scraps of plywood and particleboard from the ongoing garage cleaning project.

The deer mouse busy gnawing at the basement door early this morning.

My cousin Carol on the dock today. Click to enlarge.

Olivia the Dog, moments after she went for her unexpected swim. Click to enlarge.

The northwest corner of the cabin, where the sheets of cement board are gypsum-containing Durock, and thus does not match the portland cement used to fill the gaps between them (and around the penetrations). The portland cement is unusually dark here, though, because I've just sprayed it with water. (I've done so much spritzing of the portland cement that I've already worn out one Zep-brand "professional sprayer." Click to enlarge.

The finished landscaping and erosion control around the basement entrance bulkhead, viewed from the west. Note the portland cement veneer on the bulkhead. Click to enlarge.

Erosion control near the foundation wall just north of the cabin, viewed from the east. Note the seams in the cement board cladding (which, on this wall, are Wonderboard and match the portland cement filler nicely). Those large rocks are for a retaining wall I may or may not build under the east decks. Click to enlarge.

The basin near the cabin's northeast corner, showing the new ditch I dug to keep it drained. I lined the ditch with pieces of Durock and bluestone to keep it from eating deeper into the landscape. Click to enlarge.

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