Sunday, January 31, 2010

Longhorn Season!

Well I must say that having about 100 people come visit the Field Lab in one day was an interesting experience. The nice thing is that they were are genuinely interested in what I have going on here and I certainly appreciated that. I was happy to be a part of this fund raiser for our local community theatre group - Last Minute Low Budget Productions. I rather enjoyed showing off my project to 6 different groups today...and looking forward to no visitors at all for awhile. Funny thing is...after all the tours today, I only have photos of longhorns.

Now as nice as the day went with other humans - I must say that the absolute highlight was the return of 7 longhorns. Just after the first tour finished, I noticed some old friends approaching from the south. Of course I started mooing right away. I have really missed having longhorns run up to my house. This group was 5 cows and 2 calves - two of the cows I recognized. The brown one I named Wheezer last year due to her cough (she is much better now). The other familiar face I had yet to come up with a name for - so today I named her Marlys, after my BFF from the Big Bend Gazette. 46,69,35,0

Saturday, January 30, 2010

final countdown...

Got started early today and prepped a few more purlins. After about an hour of cutting and welding, it suddenly occurred to me that it was time to shut down production. Popped 4 loafs of bread in the solar oven to try out the new mini dutch ovens. Now I will have samples for the visitors. The rest of the day was all about curb appeal. Expecting 3 waves of folks coming by tomorrow for the Terlingua Homes Tour. Finished cleaning up outside and made a desperate run to Study Butte for last minute items. My road is only squishy in one spot so it's good to go for tomorrow. End of the day was all about cleaning the hut. Wish I could keep it this clean all the time. I have worked my way through most of the 128 sq.ft. and backed myself into the corner work area where this blog is produced every day. Will polish that off in the morning. 47,68,27,0

Friday, January 29, 2010

number 43

It took forever for the cloud cover to finally push out of here today. Even had to force a mid morning nap while waiting for the sun to appear. Wasn't till about 1PM when there was finally hints of blue sky. Short half day list was to fence in my "surplus pile of stuff" and weld up another 64' of purlin to round out the south side of the greenhouse.

Excellent late afternoon diversion courtesy of Stolt Packsaddle Ranch. 12 of about 22 non-longhorns came up to the house for a snack. My newest BBF (best bovine friend) is good ol' #43. 42,64,32, .13"

Thursday, January 28, 2010

rain off'n'on

It all started at 5:15AM....rain plinking on my roof. An ever so long half day of brief downpours and extended drizzle, mixed with brilliant blue sky through the clouds from time to time. Stormy weather melts away outside distractions which helps me to focus. Back in the sky by 2PM and placed another 80' of purlin to finish off the east end. One last blast from the clouds shut me down at 6PM. Now just a cold breeze from the north coming in at bedtime and the hope of clear skies when I wake up tomorrow. 46,68,48, .35"

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mama Crow

With advance warning of another round of crappy weather - I got in gear and welded up another 136' of purlin. Rain due here late,late tonight and into tomorrow afternoon. Late afternoon was all about packing up for a rain event. We shall see if Agua Fria remains agua nada over the next 24 hours.

Had another nice surprise today - this time in my real mail / not email. My newest BFF (Mama Crow) sent me a little box. Inside was a jar of unrefined honey - collected and blended from 6 different bee keepers around Texas. Also included were 2 bars of her hand milled soap. Two days in a row now - how sweet is that? Wish I could end every day with that line. 55,76,30,0

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Scruffy comes through like a champ...

Did my sky monkey thing today but was only able to fill in one row. I really need to get up to speed but rather sidetracked this week with the home tour coming up on Sunday. Trying to figure it out as I much more work to do on the greenhouse before I switch gears to final prep for visitors on Sunday.

And as usual...I had yet another side project going on. I just received four 1 qt. dutch ovens that I ordered last week. Planning on some more solar bread experiments with little loaves so I can go into production with a larger solar oven for the Terlingua Farmers Market this summer. While climbing up and down the scaffold today - I seasoned the ovens in my gas grill so "weather permitting" I can bake some bread on Saturday.
Had a nice surprise ending to the day. Got a message from my friend Scruffy Jones that my Benita wine bottle stopper was completed. (cmon....everybody needs a Benita wine stopper) Checked her link to photos of the finished work and it really made me miss Benita because she did such a fantastic job. Scruffy even included Benita's ankle sweet is that? 56,78,24,0

Monday, January 25, 2010

almost calmed down

Sunday: Fell asleep early last night and forgot to post my blog entry for the day...nothing much going on so reckon I can catch up by double posting today. The wind finally started to die down in the afternoon yesterday - enough for me to measure and mark all the trusses where the next rows of purlin cross over. Moved 240' of steel up on top for the next bit of welding.... 45,61,38,0

Not much work done on Monday....but prepped the next weld before my new best friend Marlys Hersey showed up to interview me for the February issue of the Big Bend Gazette. It was really nice to show her around and get to know her. Just as she finished up, my friends Jim and Carol from Austin came out with a gift. Jim has an etching business and brought me this slab. Now that it's etched in granite - I reckon the Field Lab is official. 42,73,21,0

Saturday, January 23, 2010

c l o s e d

Due to high winds, the Field Lab was closed today. From the archives - on this day last year: can you name that plane? 48,60,43, .04"

Friday, January 22, 2010


73,88,42,o...20 -35mph winds

Thursday, January 21, 2010

passed the half way mark...

Perfect weather today for just welding. A nice clear/calm day. Took a sun break from 3 -4 to soak up some vitamin D. Passed the half way mark on installing all the purlins. Eight more rows to go between the existing ones. Problem is, I have run out of the bar stock to make the 70+ more flanges that I need to fabricate. High winds in the forecast for the next 3 days. Will figure out the next step in the morning. 57,79,31,0

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

pizza delivery

Only got 2 hours of welding in this morning before the high winds kicked in...15 - 35 mph from noon till sunset. My friend Maria from Sul Ross University was out in the wind today counting and examining the Terlingua Cats Eye plants on my property. When they bloom in April - I will be setting up a time lapse camera to help her identify which bug pollinates them.

Windy day = good excuse to go visit my buddy Carolyn at H2O to Go down in Study Butte. Hung out with her for awhile then got back to the ranch around 3PM. Long afternoon just staying out of the wind. Didn't really deserve a treat after such an unproductive day - but UPS delivered it so I just had to cook it up and eat it. Even out here in the far reaches of the SW Texas desert, it is possible to have pizza delivered from Chicago. This is a very good thing, indeed... 54,77,31,0

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Plumbing in Flowerland

Exceptional weather day today. Not a lick of work done at the Field Lab today. Spent most of the day in Flowerland doing plumbing for my friend Rachel....also got to explore a bit further west today all the way to Presidio. Got home in time to check in with the coordinator of the Terlingua Homes Tour coming up in 2 weeks. In full press whore mode again with the homes tour and an interview next Monday with the editor of the Big Bend Gazette. More real work to follow. 60,84,32,0

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Early Tour

My two new friends Tara and Kelly (sisters) came by for an early tour today - on their way out of Big Bend. Tara has been following the blog for awhile from Corpus Christi...been wondering who that was watching me at Had a nice time showing them around as the sun came over the mountain. Tara had to get her sister to the airport so she could jet back to her job in the financial district in Manhattan.

Another fantastic weather day...almost too good as I kinda wanted to just bask in the warmth. Welded up the rest of the purlins to the south edge while keeping an eye on the great weather. Pushed through to tack the final row in place then quit at 3PM for a well earned shower. Had excellent hot water today thanks to the recent climate change.

Topped off the day with a wonderful evening at the Starlight Theatre...lots of old friends (really nice to have been here only 2 years and already able to consider some folks old friends) and met a couple of new ones. 58,79,32,0

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Saturday, January 16, 2010

the end of winter?

Beautiful day today...hope that was the last blast of winter. A great sunny outside to work in. Got a better amount of steel up in the air today. It all began as I checked my journal from last year on this date. 365 days ago, the sun rose over the mountain east of me at exactly 8:22:50 AM (according to the atomic clock in my weather station). Having found that information just in time - I watched as the sun peaked over the hill at exactly the same time as it did last year. Pretty spectacular to see the world work so precisely. Will be pointing the live streaming video cam at the hill tomorrow. Tune in at to see it happen Sunday morning at exactly 8:22:25AM central time.

Got a good bit of welding in this morning up until my 1:30 lunch break. Quick snack then got another hour in before the most recent Field Lab tour. Dona Lu and Wanda (mother/daughter team) came by after viewing some land SW of me. Looks like I might have another part time neighbor. Usually when I meet folks coming to this area to look for land, my immediate impression is they don't have a chance of making it out here. DL on the other hand left no doubt in my mind that she could easily make a go of it. Kind of refreshing for a change. 50,69,26,0

Friday, January 15, 2010

another rain delay

VLH....very little happened. Woke up this morning to the pitter pat of rain on my metal roof. This last day of crappy weather seemed to take forever to end. Finally got back on top and squeaked in 3 hours of welding.
Last year on this day - 11 longhorns came by for dinner. I think the latest cold snap must have reset their clocks. Fear not...sunny and 70 on tap for tomorrow. 48,57,41, .03

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Rain Delay

Low fog behind the Field Lab this morning. Got a good jump on the morning then got shut down for a couple of hours with some light rain. Only managed to get two more 20 footers secured into place today + an hour nap that I really didn't need. One more day of crappy weather on tap then we begin the slow slippery slide into summer. 48,56,30, .01

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

back in the sky...

Early day was a morning of math as I had yet to decide exactly what the purlin spacing would be. First of all - I am going to stagger the butt joints so I layed out the next two rows that start from the front of the greenhouse. Got 2 twenty footers measured, marked and welded into place. I think I will set up all the rows first going from front to back then fill in the rest between them from back to front. Final spacing on each row of purlins will be 32 inches. It's all becoming clear least to me. 49,69,20,0

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

oops, they did it again...

Hmmmm.....the dreaded POA road grader came out my way today. One has to ask ones self - what kind of manager of a cash strapped property owner association pays someone for a full days work that is just a waste of time. All the roads in my area are perfectly fine and have been since late last year when they chewed up my road a day or two before it rained. The irony is - there is a chance rain again coming up Thursday and Friday. Hello!?! - there are 1100 miles of dirt roads out here - you couldn't find any in worse condition to work on? Thanks for digging my road 1" deeper. How do they expect to collect fees when the only service provided is inferior road maintenance. please,please,please....just leave my road alone. I came to this area to become self sufficient...its enough to battle the elements much less a group of morons working against me. I sent an email to the manager about this tremendous waste of time and resources.

Stupidity drives me crazy so I moved on to my own style of productive/efficient use of time and materials. Cut up and welded 18 more purlin flanges (for lack of a better term). 28 done - 62 more to go. Need to move on to installing more purlins as I will need 60 feet more of 1/4" x 3" flat bar in order to fabricate the rest of the "flanges". (by the way - after all the cutting, I ended up with only 1/2" of scrap from the first bar) Building my parts list for another run to Odessa soon. Just received my whistle valves for the entrance gate flame throwers. I just hope I get those done in time to fire 'em off next time the inept ranch manager sends the grader back down my road for no reason. By the way....the flames shoot UP.....not ONTO vehicles on the road. Going for the "Great Invincible Oz" effect only. 44,65,17,0

Monday, January 11, 2010

just fixin

A short day of plumbing repair then more cutting and welding. Excellent night at the Starlight Theatre mixin' with the locals that got there early enough to get a table. Huge crowd tonight as 2 bus loads of teens came in. I hate to see these loads of tourists come in and bump the regulars from their usual night out. 42,71,18,0

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Power of Ice

Only made it down to a balmy 13 degrees this morning. Funny how one low temperature doesn't seem quite so bad when it has been even lower. My ice block from yesterday didn't even have a chance to fully melt.

I did learn the new extreme for my solar hot water thermosyphon manifold today. I filled the system back up yesterday thinking it would survive the overnight low. It has made it to 18 degrees several times but apparently 13 is a bit beyond tolerance levels. After the sun was up for about and hour, I heard water running. The big freeze popped the top right elbow on the rig. Caught it in plenty of time to shut off the hoses and only lost about a gallon of water. Pretty sure I have the parts to repair and get it back in service tomorrow morning in time for a warm shower by the end of the day.

Cut and welded together some flanges to add up top - giving a little more meat for the purlin attachments to the trusses. Seems like a good idea and it just felt like the right thing to do....that coming from someone who has no engineering training but plenty of practical building experience. I'll keep adding steel till I'm certain the roof won't blow away. 39,65,13,0

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Record COLD!

Now that's what I'm talkin' about.... 7.7 degrees at 7:07AM. Excuse me, but this is not the kind of temperature that I moved to the desert to experience. Not a breeze outside so it didn't really feel that cold - although I didn't stay outside long enough to get my bones chilled. 55 degrees inside when I woke up at 5:30 - my little heater only took an hour to warm me up to 72. Something tells me I will look fondly back on this morning come late June.

Took quite a bit of time for the sun to have any effect on the air temp. Was only able to get a half day in but made the best of what I had. Welded the top purlin into place with just a couple of little adjustments to get the 54' way more than close enough strait. The scaffold I borrowed from my friend Marbert has been invaluable in the effort. Had to make two passes with my rolling platform but it sure beats working off a ladder....and happy to not have to strap the welder to my back.

Kept catching a glimpse of my Hula girl beaded curtain in the setting sun while cleaning up after work and couldn't help but think about the warm days on the horizon....and looking forward to the seasonal climate change ahead. I feel pretty confident that this little chilly blast will be the last for the winter. I just hope that 21 year old Benita made it through the cold snap OK. Moo! 39,59,7.7,0

Friday, January 8, 2010


Been thinking about modifying my outdoor shower lately. Bathing in the great outdoors certainly has its perks, but there just aint no way to keep the breeze off out there. This mornings hot/steamy shower at the Antelope Lodge was a turning point. I would really like to fully enclose my shower system here so I can get that same steamy effect....of course with some windows that will open for the middle of summer when a hot/steamy shower is no longer that appealing. Another project to add to the list.

Had a great night basking so much closer to the edge of humanity in my motel setting. Got my TV and Pizza Hut fix for the month. Clouds from the latest cold front started clearing in Alpine around noon. First stop after checking out was the Brewster County tax office to pay my property tax bill for last year. $89.57....down almost 50 bucks from 2008 due to my applying for a homestead exemption. Sweeeeeet!

Made the usual shopping rounds and stocked up on all that's good. Problem was that I couldn't find some vital parts for the entrance tower flame throwers so I will have to make an Odessa trip to good ol' Home Depot. Last stop before heading back to the ranch was Bullshirtz - our local screen printing shop. Hung out and chatted with Rick McDowell, the owner. Getting ready for a production run of Field Lab t shirts......(you know you want one).
Not a cloud in the sky but still in the low 30's when I left Alpine. Unfortunately, I beat the sun heading south. Caught up to the cloud cover about 10 miles north of the Field Lab. 33 outside and 45 inside when I got back. My propane heater brought the hut temp up to 65 in about an hour. It sure is nice to spend a night every now and then at the Antelope Lodge - but there's no place like home. 27,35,22,0

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Butt Weld

Dreamy nights and endless days as usual here at the Field Lab. A GrubShack breakfast took the chill off the morning then I came home to ponder the plan. Was "too close to perfect" lining up that ridge purlin that I couldn't just leave it at good enough. Another day of climbing up and down position and mark it up just ever so right in order that the rest of he installation will go that much more smoothly. It really doesn't take that much more effort for perfection when you are so close. Beautiful day today ahead of the arctic cold heading this way - almost tshirt weather.

Not quite ready to commit to the final plan so I did my homework this afternoon. Practiced butt welding purlins together. Kind of got it on the first try but did one more just to make sure it wasn't a fluke. That much more confident now that it will all come together without a hitch. Just as I was setting up the scaffold for the high rise welding - my buddy Tony from Canada pulled up for a visit. He and his brother Russ came out for their first visit way back when - the day I was pouring the concrete for one of my house roof supports (a Canadian dime is embedded in that pour). We sat in the sun and caught up on all that's good in the world....with a couple of beers.

I have long had a soft spot for artists since my days of being one myself way back in my former life in NYC. Its nice to see that artists in Texas do not have that "head up their ass" edge that New Yorkers do. My latest favorite is my new buddy Scruffy Jones. I think she is the perfect mix of crazy and smart with just the right motivation to succeed on this planet. Check out a bit of her world at... 55,74,25,0