Monday, August 31, 2009

tool time

Been getting into the low 60's at night finally - I think the big HOT is on the way out for the winter. Got a late start this morning....called my neighbor Marbert about borrowing some of his scaffolding - left a message. Kind of waited around just in case I got a call back quickly and decided to do some quiet work by hand painting part of truss number 1. Didn't hear the phone ring but kind of got into the zen of the paint job and kept at it for 2 hours even though using the sprayer will be the way to go.

Fired up the gen and started chopping rebar by the long lengths cut for truss 3 then had some other neighbors stop by for a visit. Back to work for about a half hour and the chop saw shit the bed ( time to replace the brushes I reckon - will deal with that later ). As I need to make at least 1,000 more chops - time for a brand new tool. I shot up to Alpine and bought a chopper of my own. Quick round trip and I was back in business - finished cutting all the parts for the first half of truss 3 by 8PM.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Quality Control

Made an easy day of it today...concentrating on checking my welds. Went over truss number 1 up to where I could reach and added some extra metal to the joints. Cleaned up the ends of both trusses and marked and sealed the good welds with some spray primer I had on hand. Thinking I will do this to the next 4 trusses while they are still on the ground. Planning on firing up the Wagner sprayer I've had for about 6 years (never been used) to give 'em all a good coat of paint before I hoist them into place. I reckon by the time I get to the last truss, I will have it all figured out. By then I will so be over building trusses that I will probably never make another. Another skill to file away - just in case I ever need it again...

Friday, August 28, 2009

long day

Woke up at 3AM to the smell of wet creosote - which means rain. Took a peak outside and sure enough it was drizzlyn. Got out and put away my welder and a couple of tools. Came back in and checked the doppler radar and saw it was just a passing cloud. Ended up with only .o3" from the event. Got back to sleep by 4 and stayed that way till 8.

Decided that it was time for another supply run to Alpine with more threats of isolated thunderstorms on the horizon. First stop was a visit to my brilliant friend Emily. She took me out to see the land she has on the NW side of town where her donkeys live now. She has a newly refurbished Aermotor windmill for water pumping that keeps the grass growing and her donkeys fat'n'happy. Missed stopping by Bennett's and just got the usual supplies. Clear and sunny in Alpine but looked ominous down south so I headed home to unpack. There is real food in the ice box now - it's buried under the refrigerant.

Settled in with my stash by 4PM. Not a drop of rain at the Field Lab today but cloudy and cool - just barely made a high of 90 today. Took advantage of the chilly (82 degrees) weather and got the second truss scooted and welded into place. Wrapped it up at 8:30.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

git 'er up

Spotted this Mexican General watching me as I performed my morning outdoor bathroom duty. These guys are as big as they are gonna get now and seem to be everywhere. Won't be long before they all disappear for the winter.

Finished up the welding this morning then headed to Ugly Betty's for a late breakfast sandwich. Hung out till about noon then came back to the Field Lab for an unplanned nap...seems I get really sleepy when I read, and as I was reading my mail - I fell asleep for an hour. Dragged myself out of bed for the second time today and prepped the rig to raise the truss. Waited a couple of hours for the HOT part of the day to have its way then did the deed at 5PM. Shot a time lapse of the event....took about 20 minutes in real time.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

more of the same

Got a call last night from yet another disgruntled alternative energy system owner. Ryan, Diego, and I headed up to check out the problems. Seems a neighbor that came out here about the same time as I did has gotten screwed (not in the good way) by just about every contractor she has hired. Ryan found so many F-ups on this system, I won't even mention them till he comes back to do the repairs so I can photograph them. Note: If you come out here to live, you better be able to do it all yourself because the labor force out here is PATHETIC. I don't mind posting that here because it is so true.

That dilemma solved...back to work at the Field Lab. Welded up my two halves, stood it up and got half the final welding done by 8PM. Now that I have the procedures figured out, it's all factory work till the final truss is raised.

Now that the solar oven is back in business - been doing my dinners the last couple of nights. Pop it in at 6:30 and when I finally get around to eating at 9, its cooked and still hot. Set it and forget it...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

saved a spider

Did my good deed of the day first thing this morning. Saved a drowning spider from my swamp cooler reservoir. Not too worried that this little guy will ever come back to bite me because he is only about 3/8" long. Took him a couple of minutes to get his land legs then off he went like a shot. Sure hope someone doesn't leave a comment that this is some kind of horrendous killer to watch out for. Punched in at 9 and more truss work. Popped the second half of the truss on top of the first half and placed all 78 cross pieces. Benita was in and out a couple of times today for snacks and water - not much help with the welding. Off and on all day got the second half welded up. Spider-Welding-Break-Welding-Lunch-Break-Welding-Break-Welding-Beer.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Beefed up the welds

Lots of the same coming up work wise for the next couple of weeks so I'm going to have to mix and match to keep myself amused. First order of business was changing out the wire on my welder. Switched from .030 to .035 flux core wire. Bumped up the juice one notch and turned down the feed one notch and found the perfect mix. Took about 3 1/2 hours to weld up the section I set up yesterday with stellar results. What a way to start a Monday morning.

Got hot so I switched gears to the solar oven. Mixed up a batch of "Dr. Doug Loaf" to deliver tonight at the Starlight. 4 cups self rising flour, 1 TBS Mesquite seasoning, 4 TBS sugar, 2 cups Monterey Jack cheese ( invented in the US according to NPR's Science Friday ), 1 1/2 cups of Hickory Smoked SPAM, and a 16oz can of Budweiser Chelada Beer. Baked in the solar oven for 3 hours at 275 degrees. Shot down to the Startlight and delivered it still hot from the oven to Dr. Doug. Funny thing is when I got there he was talking to his brother Jon ( Dr. Doug's webmaster ) and he put me on the phone to chat for awhile. He has featured the Field Lab quite nicely on the website...

Entertainment feature of the day: As much disdain I have for popular culture, I am a sucker for these videos of the latest great talent to be found. Regardless of how their lives will change for the worst if they aren't really really careful - I just love to witness the moment of personal triumph and a new beginning.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

got the jump on Monday...

Chilly 66 degrees outside this morning got me all gung-ho...kind of like how my old dog Goldie would get all riled up in the cold weather back in NY. Decided to see how far I could get with truss #2. I rather enjoy having a productive Sunday when the rest of the traditional working world is savoring their last weekend day and dreading Monday morning back on the treadmill. 400 linear feet of half inch rebar and 214 cuts later I had all the pieces prepped and the first half of the truss laid out for welding. The effort took most of the day, 4 1/2 hours of generator time and about an inch off the cutting wheel on the chop saw.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

t-shirt day

Did a little manual stress testing on the truss this morning and decided to give the green light to proceed. Will heed Ryan's suggestion to beef up my welds a little bit. Since I wasn't quite inspired to cut a quabillion little pieces of rebar today - I opted out for lunch with Chef Ronaldo and some laundry.

Ended up with way too much day left but no desire to fire of the generator and chop saw. As I was poking around the containers, I found some stencils I bought last year and a can of red Krylon Fusion spray paint. Since I had a freshly laundered t-shirt hanging on the line I decided to make an experimental work shirt for the Field Lab. Struck one of my favorite catalog model poses for the finished product.

Friday, August 21, 2009

thinkin' time over

A friend of mine back in my NYC days used to tell me....stop thinking about it and just do it. Since I'm much happier after a day of "doing" as opposed to a day of "thinking" - I decided to just do it. Scootched the truss down to the other end of the containers - blocked it off and welded it into place. Added some temporary braces to secure it for now. It all came together much easier than I thought it would. Had a short break in the middle of the project as a thunderstorm cell squeaked by just south of me. I only got .03" of rain out of it. Had a quick lunch after the sprinkle - a superb BLT from Ugly Betty and finished up the project my 7PM.

Nabbed my video this morning. Been wanting to get an underwater view of Benita drinking water so I built a small frame and placed plexiglass in the bottom. Set it up on cinder blocks and stuck my camera under to capture the sucking. Just add water and one thirsty longhorn.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

time to reflect

Now that I have one truss up on the roof, it's time to sit and think a bit about how the next phase is going to come together. I missed my photo op for the mystery project from yesterday - so no video....perhaps tomorrow. Over and out....

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

that was easy....

Built the jigs, raised the truss, squeaked in another project I've been meaning to get to (video tomorrow), replaced the glass on the solar oven, celebrated with beer and solar baked crab. Thanks to Chuck for the chain and extra comealong - although he made me divulge the plan sketched out on a napkin. It was signed and dated so look for it on Ebay someday.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

just when I was about to give up on the world

No work - just disdane for the current administration, popular culture and the media at large. This is the only news of the day that makes any sense and really perked me up:
Paul Reubens has announced his triumphant return to public scrutiny: Pee-Wee Herman will appear live onstage in Hollywood with a limited engagement beginning November 8 at L.A.'s The Music Box @ Fonda, according to Entertainment Weekly. (Tickets are on sale as of this morning.) According to a statement, The Pee-Wee Herman Show will feature Miss Yvonne, Cowboy Curtis, Jambi, Chairry and all your favorites." Long live Pee-Wee Herman...

Monday, August 17, 2009


Had another one of those "where did that come from" dreams that woke me up at 5AM. As long as I was up early, I decided that today was the day to decide what to do about the trusses. Spent a couple of hours online doing a little more research. By 8:30 I was pooped so laid back down to relax and think about it some more. Just as I was about to fall asleep - it finally came to me. Shot out of bed, got dressed, fed and watered Benita and hit the road to Alpine for the parts I need to complete the manifestation of the big plan. Photo is a sculpture outside Blue Water Natural Foods on the way in to town.

Finished the design process in my head during the hour drive north. Got exactly what I think I will need at McCoys and True Value. Shopped quick then popped in to see Bennett Jones for an overdue visit. Did the usual stop at the grocery store, gassed up and did the drive through at my favorite restaurant in Alpine for lunch to go...a number six (crispy) with large coke and fries.

Got home and unloaded then took some time to reflect on the plan - looks like it is still a go...Headed down to the Starlight for 241 night with my NYC friend RB. Stuffed myself then back to the Field Lab to wind down the day. Benita was standing guard by the road when I arrived.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


day in...dinner out.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

One Year Anniversary

Somehow a whole year has gone by since I started the blog. To celebrate my one year anniversary and in homage to my August 15, 2008 post, I present the following brief concert performed on the very piano I took lessons on back in 3rd grade. This is a piece I wrote over 30 years ago when I was in college - followed by my favorite end riff.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Truss Staged

Lots of thinking....some scrounging for parts...and a little bit of action. Managed with little physical effort (and some moral support from Benita) to get the truss into position to be raised. what?

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Didn't get rained on last night but have a stretch of 30% chances coming up so made a quick Alpine run this morning. Sorry I didn't get a chance to visit with any of my city friends. Did stop by Big Bend Telephone to pay my bill and chat up the girls in the office - they all remember me because I brought them a bottle of champagne right after my phone got hooked up. Got home just in time to unpack the goodies then go meet my friend RB at the GrubShack for lunch. He came out for a brief updated tour and had a chance to bond with Benita. Just after he left another visitor showed up for the full tour....Jim Maloney. A real swell guy who has been following the blog and is interested in this kind of lifestyle. Had a great visit with him. Last up for the day was receiving via FedEx, a care package from my new friend Dr.DK. Lots of very useful stuff for the Field Lab - THANKS! Like Christmas in August. Photo of the day is part of one of the many flowering bushes that are coloring my desert for now. Nice to see something other than green or brown for a change.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

welding wednesday

Made a morning run down to Study Butte....we got lots of showers floating around out there and I was almost out of coffee. Also picked up 5 gallons of H2O to go from H2O to Go. Missed Carolyn but stuck my money in the envelope and came back home. A bunch of longhorns followed me up the driveway and I had to show them some tough love. I gave them a scare and they stampeded out of here. Benita followed them out and got into it with some of them to make sure they stay away. Then she slowly made her way back and got her reward.

Late lunch at the GrubShack and didn't get to welding until about 4PM. Finished up all the welds by 8:15. Now the official tally is in: each truss takes 18 pieces of 20' rebar. Time logged on the generator which has mostly been used for the welding is 15.4 hours. Next step is to get 'er mounted on the containers (I think these are going to work just fine) ...then 5 more trusses to fabricate. Photo of the day is a funky bug that eats flies for me.

To Seth, the 100,000th blog viewer - fire off your address to my email and I will send you a special Field Lab prize!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Monday, August 10, 2009

more cuttin'

Had enough time off and the eyeball feels back to normal. Built a jig so I could finish cutting the rest of my cross braces for the two truss halves. Strapped on the new safety goggles and chopped 40 more 6" pieces so I am ready to mate it all up tomorrow. My eyes felt safe and sound. The one chunk of shade cloth I hung up came in pretty handy today as I worked out in only 20% of the typical blazing UV.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Tourist Day

Had another excuse (my eye feels back to normal now) for a leisurely day today - a Field Lab visit from my new friends Trent and Courtney from Odessa. Unfortunately, their visit began with a bang...only got about 1/8 of a mile down my road when their tire blew out. No way to fix that hole. Now the bad part is that he has a locking lug nut on each of his tires and his Toyota dealer apparently did not return the "key" to him last time they rotated his tires....oops. So they came to my house to call AAA for assistance but had to wait 3 hours for help to arrive, which was just fine because we had a chance for the full tour and more time to just hang out and get acquainted. The flatbed arrived and he loaded up Trent's truck and we bid a fond farewell.

This is the third time I have heard of this happening out here so I decided to investigate the situation ( sorry, but a bit too late for Trent and Courtney). I pretty much figured out by searching the web that these lug nuts are fairly simple to remove without the "key". Next trip to Alpine, I will add the necessary parts to my tool kit so I will be ready to assist the next stranded motorist. If I could figure this out in less than a 1/2 hour, you can bet that the tow truck driver knows the drill but preferred to get the towing fee. I fired off an email to Trent suggesting that after he gives the Toyota dealer hell for not returning the key - have them remove the locking lug nuts because they only inconvenience the unprepared motorist - not the criminal that really wants to steal your wheels.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

just resting my eyes

My dad used to do a bit of snoozing while watching the evening news and waiting for supper. He would always say he wasn't asleep - just resting his eyes. Took a cue from my history and decided to spend the day resting my eyes. The old eyeball is healing and feels much better today - thanks! for all the comments and concern. I managed to sleep a nice long 10 hours last night which felt really good.

Next work on tap at the Field Lab involves lots of metal grinding and welding...and the thought of all that molten metal and tiny steel shard hazard doesn't really appeal to me right now so I took the day off to heal and watch the grass grow. The brown patch of earth across the road at the end of my driveway is growing quite nicely now and I'm starting to miss the riding mower I had back in NY. Only progress of the day was the delivery of a food tote from my neighbor BM. This will be used for an aquaponics experiment in the greenhouse.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Eyeball Mining

All afternoon yesterday, my right eye was bothering me. Not sure what was caught in it but by midnight it was driving me crazy. Even when it was closed - it throbbed. Needless to say, I didn't sleep very well last night.

When I got up this morning, it didn't feel quite as bad but my eyelid was swollen and the ol' ball was very sensitive to light. First order of business was to find an optometrist - I take my eyesight very seriously. Both offices in Alpine were closed today (of course). I struck gold with an office in Ft. Stockton that could take me at 3:30. Left the Field Lab at 12:30 and made the 2 1/2 hour trip north. Arrived at the office a little early so I had a chance to catch up on 2 issues of People Magazine - it made my eye throb more.

Got ushered into a room by an "eye tech" and she took down all my info, tested my vision, did a glaucoma test, and took photos inside my eyes through the pupils and shot microscopic cellular level photos of my eyes (I have good cells).

Shifted to another room and Dr.Urias came in to give me the once over. I showed him the photo I took of my eyeball with the little offending brown spot left of my pupil. Stuck my face into his eyeball microscope and he took a close look. Then he gave me some numbing eye drops. He then folded back my eyelid and swabbed the eye and the lid with an official Qtip. The real fun started when he actually dug out a hunk of something using the tip of a tini hypodermic needle. Photo shot from his computer screen of the magnified needle with the little blob of stuff he removed. Didn't even feel any pressure much less any pain. Next up was Dr. Pass to do the final pass. Another drop of numbing fluid and he actually took a little Dremmel tool like thing and extracted the final offending bits. Again - no pressure, no pain. The beauty is that my new health insurance just kicked in after the mandatory one year wait for a pre-existing condition so 2 hours of professional eyeball mining only cost me $30. Hopefully all is well now but have to wait a couple of days to be sure - with antibiotic eye drops to pop in there every 4 hours. Aches a little tonight but its a healing pain as opposed to a damaging pain......I think.

Stopped my the hardware store on the way home and bought a new pair of safety goggles.