Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Piano Tuner

Not much to report today....did a live webcast of how I make Field Lab Solar Oven Beer Bread, fed and watered and scratched Benita, cleaned up the house a little, took a shower. The big news of the day is that my friend Julianne came out to start tuning my piano. Will probably take a few visits but it on its' way to harmonic perfection for the first time in 30 years.

Shot down to the Ghost Town for the party....met a lot of really nice folks - mostly professional photographers plus some locals I've heard about and have now finally met. All the photogs had big ol' digital cameras on them. I opted out of doing any shooting or video - the place was digitally saturated as it was. As much as I dread parties, this one actually didn't suck. Even met a cousin of a guy that lives in my old hometown in upstate NY. The loaf of bread I baked today was a big hit. Thus ends the day... 53,82,27,0

Friday, October 30, 2009

Winter Mode

Hit the GrubShack for breakfast this morning. I'm happy to report that the food is still excellent there. Jerry and Eva are doing a bang up job on keeping us all fed well out here. Managed to drag truss 5 up on top is still much more of a chore from this end but I only got one to go now. Cool day with wind so it was sweater weather. Wrapped up the labor detail by 4PM.

Still way to much day left so I decided to start switching the hut back into winter mode. The Pepino Swamp Cooler is no longer needed so that got extracted from its' window. The poor ol' guy is pretty beat up so I reckon this beta version is retired after 2 seasons - just hope I get around to fabricating the new one before it starts getting hot next summer. Shuffled some stuff around inside so I could mount the heater back into position. Last on the list was moving my ice box out to the front porch. I get 4-5 months of ice free cooling thanks to the nighttime temperatures as long as I keep it stocked with plenty of refrigerant to hold the cold.

Heading down to the Ghost Town tomorrow evening for a shindig being put on for a bunch of photographers visiting the area. Hope to broadcast some of the festivities starting at 6:30PM at 52,67,31,0

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Super crappy weather and a good excuse to stay inside all day - with stellar results. The Field Lab IT department just earned their bonus today. Thanks to 50 cigarettes, 6 cups of coffee, half a can of Spam, 7 beers (all on my end) and a couple of hours of Skype calls and some desktop sharing with the help of someone who knows what the f*ck they're doing - the new IP cam lives. Who'd a thought that someone from 5,103.42 miles away could become such an integral part of the Field Lab experience....Cheers, Mate! More tweaking to do but the connection is up. Tune in tomorrow to see the high res view at 43,48,38, .10

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Sure is a good thing I got the heater going last night....the temp just kept falling and falling. Low temp over the past 24 hours happened at 7:33AM. Soon as the sun was up - it all went back to normal.

Took advantage of the perfect weather day and worked outside, avoiding the computer and that pesky IP cam. Welded up the temporary supports for truss #4 then added on to my back door rig to make truss launching easier (I hope...).

The batteries for my good ol' Ryobi tools have finally bit the dust. I must say - they really hung in there over almost two years. Every cut made and every screw placed in my little hut was done with those batteries. Just got my replacement yesterday. 18V lithium ions and a new drill. The beauty of it all is that the new bats work in my old tools as well. 69,80,29!!, 0

Monday, October 26, 2009


Gusty all night last night and chilly/cloudy/windy all day. Good day to stay inside and get a couple of steps closer to launching the new web cam. Getting close....but they sure don't make it easy. Mark this day on your calendar - the Field Lab dug up the heater out of storage this afternoon and fired it up for the first night of the winter heating season. Normal weather reporting a bit screwy today....our high temp ( 65.5 ) happened at 1:44AM...low temp yet to happen but its currently 48 degrees and falling. Got just a brief sprinkle this morning.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Betty has left the building....

Our beloved GrubShack Betty left for Looziana today. Seems she has answered a higher calling in that she is going home to take care of her mother who is recovering from complications due to knee replacement surgery. Although we will all miss her, it is for a good cause - and one that too few in our society would even bother with. Most folks these days just stick their parents in a nursing home and just leave it at a call once a week...but Betty is better than that. We will all miss her but know she will be back.

The good new is my friends Jerry and Eva are taking over the GrubShack. Rather fitting that almost 2 years ago (to the day) when I came out to buy my land, Eva was the first person I met when she was working at the now closed forever Terlingua Ranch Lodge. Even better news - Betty will have internet access back home and be able to keep up on all the news via my blog.
Baked a batch of solar baked banana,walnut,blackberry muffins for her this morning. Just caught her at her house as she was all packed up and ready to head out this afternoon. See you again soon Betty! She aint gone forever....just on hiatus. 66,88,46,0

Saturday, October 24, 2009

a day in the big city

Just shopping today and making the rounds in Alpine....interrupted Bennett Jones while he was working on the installation of his super-duper evacuated tube solar hot water system. I stayed long enough to get a fantastic vegan lunch. Didn't get home till almost 6PM - unpacked then just basked in the silence that is the Field Lab. 69,90,40! ,0

Friday, October 23, 2009

truss scoot

Got another UPS delivery today...Jerry was off so I met the other driver up at the highway at noon. This package - two 16' active USB extension cables for my little webcam. Another point for plug and play technology! Hooked 'em both together with my laptop on one end the the cam on the other and worked like a charm. Did a little "sky cam" shooting for this afternoons show of truss #4 getting scooted and welded into place. Had the camera mounted on top of my scaffold for the view from the top, while the laptop sat in the shade.
My IT friend in the UK has a blog going loaded with his seamless knowledge of all things computer - especially stuff regarding video...Check out Neils blog at I think he really needs to come vacation at the Field Lab this winter... 65,82,43!, 0

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Let's get ready to RUMBLE!!!

As I hadn't totally figured out the truss raising on the east side....had a bit of a battle with truss #4. I won the fight and finally got it on top. Need to add some more bracing against that block wall as it sticks out about 3' from the containers. Next truss will be easier - the last will be a breeze.

Wonders of technology: The HP Mini Netbook I ordered yesterday morning with free express shipping, showed up via UPS at 5:30 PM today - out here in the middle of nowhere.....amazing!! Thank you Gonna plug it in and bring it to life tonight.... 65,89,45,0
Just fired up the Mini....took 30 minutes to set it up....plug and play at it's best...all is well.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

the storm has passed...

The NW edge of the storm just passed over me and nothing but blue sky in the foreseeable future. Got just a drop of rain today but that was it - nothing to measure.

Got back to work on the greenhouse today. Had to adjust the south edge of the SE container - jacked it up and shimmed it 1/4"....that's much better. Prepped to drag my last 3 trusses to their final resting places. Had to move my comealong blocks to the east end containers. Set my ladder across the gorge and just slid them across. Truss 4 should be on the way up tomorrow.

Some great deals on HP laptops and netbooks tomorrow to coincide with the launch of Windows7. I just ordered this netbook today to dedicate to my weather station and Stickam webcam.

What other product can you buy in this world that just keeps getting better and cheaper each year? This netbook cost just a little more than my first fancy calculator - bought in the early 70's. Moore's Law rocks! 67,83,64, a sprinkle

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Last Storm of 2009?

The Field Lab Channel: Tune in tonight starting at 7PM central time for live coverage of what may be the last rainfall of 2009. 60% chance that the northern edge of the storm that surrounds Hurrican Rick will spit on me. or

Just storm prep today....just in case. Everything is packed away and the pumps are ready to go.

No rain as of 9PM....but lots of wind out of the south - will keep an ear out for the pitter patter on my roof overnight. 75,92,56,?

Monday, October 19, 2009

rain prep...

Just in case....although it looks like Hurricane Rick won't directly effect the Field Lab - for some reason we have a 50% chance of thunderstorms tomorrow night. 50/50 is good enough for me so I got work on the "B" list of chores. Removed the remains of my wind turbines off their mounts, secured my 2nd solar panel to cinder blocks, and shifted my hut panels back into winter mode. The hut panels do just fine hugged up to the house this time of year. My wooden roll out solar mount took quite a beating from the elements over the summer, so when its time to shift them back to mobile mode in 4 months - I'll weld up a steel rack for them. Two more Field Lab visits coming up tomorrow then back to work on the greenhouse. 76,94,53,0

Sunday, October 18, 2009


My friends Chuck and Aunt Kathy lost one of their dogs last week. Hanna was a great dog and a good friend of mine too. At Chuck's request, I welded up a marker with her name to be embedded in the concrete slab that will mark her final resting spot. It was my pleasure to perform this task. Nice low tech day today helping out a friend. Worked a load of laundry into the mix and that was about it.

As of this morning...hurricane Rick might give the Field Lab a little rain later in the week. Don't hold your breath.... 70,89,47,0

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Just Field Lab visitor day today....met more great folks. First was musician Kelli King out for a visit with her folks, Phyllis and Gene. Kelli is playing down in the Ghost Town tonight. Next up was Rick. He is in town to see all the great music going on down south this weekend. All got the grand tour. People in Texas sure are nice...

Not much else to report today other than cooked another game hen in the solar oven for supper. Stayed away from my tech issues. UK Neil is helping me figure it all out. THANKS! 65,68,50,0

Friday, October 16, 2009


Was inside almost all day battling technology. First I lost 10 months of weather data stored in my station before I could download it into the computer....then I screwed up my wifi and had to reconfig the router - twice....and to top it off - I don't think I am going to be able to get the new web cam working without a PHD in computer science. High Tech - 1...Field Lab - 0. Looking forward to getting outside tomorrow for what I do best.....manual labor. 71,83,59,0

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Happy Birthday GrubShack!

Time flies out here in the desert. Just one year ago today, Betty opened the GrubShack.
Shopping vs. Supply Run: When I go to Alpine, I don't go shopping - I go to buy. The difference is lots of wasted time and money vs. being an efficient consumer. I was in and out in 2 hours and got everything on my list and nothing more. Passed this new cow on the road home - I'm sure she smelled the truck load of range feed.
BillyBob landed safely back on Terlingua Ranch for a visit. As soon as my road dries out a little more he is going to try and navigate his behemoth motor home out to the Field Lab to park for a spell.
The new IP Cam arrived today! Most folks would just rip open the box and start plugging stuff in....not me. I prefer to savor the experience. The manual will be my bedtime reading.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

trusses almost painted

My little raccoon buddy tried hard a couple of nights to get into the latched container where the bird seed is stashed....he must have gotten pretty frustrated chewing part of the rubber gasket off the door only to find steel. I think he has given up as there's no more signs of further attempts.
Pulled the forms of the poured caps and all looks good - will let it cure for a couple of days before I drag the other 3 trusses into place. Good thing is I can use these same forms to pour all the rest of the caps when their time comes.Spent the rest of the day spraying the flying trusses...pooped out before I could finish them.

My road is just about dried out - hopefully good to go for an Alpine run tomorrow...getting dangerously low on Benita treats. 81,98,64, .04"

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

missed the rain

Well dang!! a good dose of rain quickly last night around 2AM that I completely slept through. Missed what might have been my last chance this fall to top off my tanks with creek water. Could tell this morning that the flow was more than enough to add the 3600 gallons I had room for. A good half inch fell in about an hour. One more slight chance tonight of rain so I will sleep with one eye open.

Being swamped in for the day - nothing better to do than to work. After about two hours of prep - I mixed and poured the caps for both sides of the east greenhouse wall. Took 12 bags of concrete mix. i forgot how much "fun" it is to mix that much concrete by hand. All in all, it really didn't take that long but the sun was out and it got up to about 90 degrees. Also prepped 4 cinder blocks for the stand for my second 123watt solar panel. Had almost enough left over concrete to fill the blocks. It is about time I got this going as that second panel is just laying on the ground.
Benita and Beatrice were here all day - not helping, just hanging out. Caught Beatice posing next to the go kart late this afternoon.....yeah, maybe I've been out in the desert by myself too long. Topped off the day early with a much needed shower. 77,92,62, 0.50

Monday, October 12, 2009


I don't know what I was thinking when I mentioned the Facebook link....forget I even mentioned it. I'm keeping the Facebook thing only for old friends - so until the new 24hour webcam is up on, it's still hit or miss on my website and stickam.

Ryan came by this morning to request my services....seems he was on his way home late last night from the Legion and got his truck stuck due to a quick rain and had to walk about 1.5 miles home in the dark mud with Diego tucked into his coat. I went out with him in his 4WD Mule to get the pickup....he already winched it out of the muck. Checked my road on the way back and it was only bad in a couple of spots... .21" of rain last night.

Really dreary this morning but it partially cleared as the day wore on. Breakfast with Benita was cancelled. Cut all the parts and finished off the cap form for the north side of the east wall. Took a break in the middle of the project to drive out (with numerous detours) to the highway to wait for UPS. Didn't want Uncle Jerry to get stuck coming out to me. Got my package and zig-zagged my way home to clean up the latest project mess and put away all the tools....too late in the day to start mixing concrete. Another 40% chance of thunderstorms tonight. 67,80,56, 0.21

Sunday, October 11, 2009

cap form

Benita was late for her show this morning. She may have been confused by the cloudy conditions as she usually shows up just as the sun is coming over the hill....she sauntered in about an hour overdue.

Drove down to Study Butte to stock up on some "pre supply run to Alpine" items. Slight chances of afternoon thunderstorms coming up. Shot this peculiar reflection (in the side of a red truck) of my truck in the parking lot at the Big Bend Motor Inn Cafe.

Came back home - set up the live feed - and went to work on form building. Finished off the cap form for the south side of the east wall. Lots of notching with the table saw and tricky miter joints but all came off without a single miss-cut. Packed it in at 4PM when some clouds came blowing in from the SW. Ryan reported in that he was getting a good dose of pea sized hail. Checked the doppler radar and there was just a little green blob right over him. Hope that I don't get a downpour later as I'm expecting a delivery from Uncle Jerry (UPS) tomorrow.

FYI....I have linked up the live streaming video to my facebook account so now there is a status update there when I go live. 59,79,54,0

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Day off at the Field Lab due to a visit from my new best gun totin' friends Jan and Joe. Benita and Beatrice put on quite the show and even exhibited some mother/daughter love. (so that's what a cowlick is...) Happy Birthday Jan!!

Don't forget....Breakfast with Benita each morning at 8:30 central time. If you sign up for a free account at you can interact with yours truly and others watching the feed at Please direct any technical questions you might have to my IT guy in the UK....Neil.... 71,93,48,0

Friday, October 9, 2009

truss painting

Good morning show - with Benita and Beatrice right on que ....even got a mention about the webcam on my favorite radio station KRTS Marfa Public Radio. My friend Neil from the UK joined in this morning...and both he and my Texas friend Paul tuned in tonight.

Nice/cool crystal clear day today. Trimmed the rebar on half of the east wall and secured some cross pieces - getting ready to pour the cap. Wasn't quite up to building the forms so I fired up the sprayer instead and coated 1 1/2 of the three high trusses to fill in the day.

Ordered the super-duper IP cam today..... 73,89,52,0

Thursday, October 8, 2009

moon impact

The huge storm that hit Lajitas HARD just sprinkled on the Field Lab last night. Heard sketchy reports of some blown off roofs and flooding. I only got .21" and just some 35mph gusts. Glued to the Doppler radar last night and was sure I'd be pumpin' water out of the creek but no luck. This vehicle for sale down by Bee Mountain Hardware had its top peeled off - bet the asking price will go down.
Stacked more block and fetched more sand today. Only worked about two hours what with a lunch break and a trip down to Study Butte to stock up in case of more rain before I get to Alpine next week. Had to free up the outside truss with a quick sturdy stand so I could use the scaffold back inside the courtyard. Finished off the east wall and now ready to build forms for the concrete cap that will top it off.

Decided on the webcam to buy for my future live feed. Will be sending that video to the fieldlab dot org site but will still use the site for live interactive video from time to time. Two live feeds for the price of one! For now I am broadcasting live from about 7:30 to 9AM for the sunrise and the Breakfast with Benita show at 86,97,63,0
Don't forget to tune in tomorrow morning by 7AM eastern time to catch the NASA moon impact vehicles.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

almost a storm

I found that it should be pretty easy to schedule in some regular webcam time in the morning as long as I'm online checking out the daily news at sunrise - so stay tuned. For those of you who missed it - this mornings show featured breakfast with Benita. Got a bit of a surprise when I went to get bird seed this morning - a raccoon helping himself. Closed him in till I could get the camera - got one shot and off he went.

Nice cool morning so I shoveled 6 wheel barrow loads up to the east entrance and bucketed it up to fill the top 6 courses of cinder blocks on that end of the greenhouse. Quick break for ice tea at the GrubShack then back to pop an experimental blueberry cake in the solar oven - blueberries courtesy of Ugly Betty and Lynn. Cooked for about 45min then the clouds rolled in. Had to finish it off in the propane grill. Started to sprinkle as I was trying to finish stacking block so I shut down for the day.

The clouds rolling in were backed my a nice looking storm. I was sure that the Field Lab would get hammered with rain but only ended up with .17" and lots of nice lightning and thunder.