Sunday, August 31, 2008

Concrete Event

Sunny day today until about 4PM. Now just partly cloudy. Chance of a thunderstorm tonight buy I'm feeling luck. My wind turbine is still spinning nicely. It's truly amazing extracting energy from nature this way. I could stare at the thing for hours.

Poured the slab for the battery house foundation this morning. Mixed up a total of 7 bags of concrete in three batches from my wheel barrow. The whole process only took about 2 hours and now its done - I always takes me awhile to psyche myself up for a day of mixing concrete.

Had a visit again today from another neighbor. He rutted out the road even worse in the bad spot. I was going to drive my truck to there and ride the bike the rest of the way but I figured I couldn't do much more damage so drove all the way in FOR ICE! A longhorn cow must have recognized the truck because she came running and frantically mooing when she saw me...unfortunately, I didn't have any range feed with me to toss out. She chased me for about 100yds with her calf right behind but finally stopped. Funny watching her looking a bit perplexed as I drove by with no snack offers this time

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Turbine Flying!

Been swamped in now since Wednesday. Mostly cloudy and only one light sprinkle today - otherwise the most perfect of days. Took all day to finish up and mount my first wind turbine since I moved to SW Texas. I feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment at today's endeavours. The norm in flying wind turbines for the first time is that there is absolutely NO wind, but in my case today it was absolutely perfect - the bird took off as soon as the mount was tilted into place. I couldn't ask for a better day. I will go to bed happy tonight. Such a good day that I uploaded a new video to YouTube of my wind turbine.

My friends Chuck and Kathy drove out today in their 4 wheel drive "go anywhere vehicle" to check on me - BUT THEY DIDN'T BRING ICE! and they rutted out the road in the worst spot. My neighbor Capt. Kirk came by to see my wind turbine just before I mounted it. He said he drove his quad in to the store yesterday - AND DIDN'T BRING ME ICE EITHER!

Took a drive at 5:30PM to check the road....all good except for the worst spot that is still goopy. If no rain tonight, I should be able to get out tomorrow morning - worst case scenario, I will drive as far as I can and ride the electric bike the rest of the way so I CAN GET SOME ICE!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Turbine #1

Yet another day of overcast skies. Spent the morning hiking out to my mini grand canyon to figure out the eventual path to freedom I hope to concoct. Pretty mushy down in the canyon but I found a spot to build a bridge to get across the mire. Hope to eventually create a minor road to bike or walk in order to get to the store 2.5 miles away when my road is washed out.
Finally got to work on my first wind turbine. Step 1 was to sand and give the parts a good coat of Krylon. Drilled and tapped a plate from a commercial set of blades to mount to the hub of one of my treadmill motors. I bought this set of six blades almost 2 years ago and it feels great to put them to work after all this time. Mounted the motor to the tail beam I had welded 2 months ago. Held the sucker up to the wind and it really took off ( watch you fingers! ). The blades and hub seem well balanced so tomorrow I will cut and install the tail, wire it up and give it a test run on one of my turbine mounts.

Light rain at 2:45PM for about an hour then partly cloudy with some SUN late in the afternoon... Bright skies most of the day even with the clouds - so my solar panels are keeping me charged up. Still a good chance of rain the next 3 days so I must take it as it comes. Kind of looking forward to at least another half inch of rain so I can watch my water tank overflow....Road still too mucky to drive out so will continue to search for a viable walk/bike path. I could really use a new block of ice tomorrow.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Magical Fruit

Well today was a total washout. Cloudy but no rain in the morning. I checked with McCoys about my delivery and they said it would be coming on the second truck in the afternoon. After checking my road I decided there was no way an 18 wheeler was coming out my way and I didn't feel like having them drop it off 5 miles from me only to have to truck it out here in multiple trips. I rescheduled the delivery for next week....about an hour later the heavens let loose and I got 1/2" of rain in about an hour. That added to the 1/4" yesterday has sealed me in here at the lab for at least 2 more days. It also means I got over 110 gallons of rainwater off my roof. Forget about the 1000's of gallons that whooshed by in the stream beds nearby - its probably in Mexico by now.

Days like this that swamp me in used to bum me out - but I have shifted my attention toward having the chance to get inside my head when this happens. So to amuse myself in my captivity I actually read my new Buddhism books for about 2 hours. Since reading makes me sleepy, instead of going right into a nap - I decided to do some exploring once the rain ended. Hung out by my mini grand canyon for awhile and just listened to the water rushing downstream. Strolled around my frontier for awhile and found some bones that looked rather petrified so I will have someone take a look to see if they are really old or just kind of old.

By late afternoon the sun came out for a perfect finish to a not so great weather day. Dinner tonight was my favorite canned beans - with some canned peas and chicken added. Such is life.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Nice cool morning so headed out to prep the site for the slab that will be the floor of the battery house by my wind turbines. Fairly easy to level the spot. Foundation will be 4' x 5' and 3 1/2" thick. Cut and screwed together the frame and cut the re-mesh mat to reinforce the slab. Added about 1" of sand to the base to further level the spot building it up about 6" from the forms. This way the outer edge of the slab will be a bit thicker to handle the load of the rolled earth walls I will build. I learned this technique from my neighbor Don Hills back in upstate NY. He built the foundation for his garage workshop this way to avoid having to trench out and pour underground foundation walls which is fine for a non living space in the cold NE where you have to accommodate a 4' frost line underground. Of course here there are no building codes nor do I have to worry about underground frost ( and I won't be living in the battery house anyway ).
By 1PM it was already 110 degrees so I decided to drive down to Study Butte to pick up a 5 gallon bottle of water. I have yet to add a filter system to my rainwater catchment tank so I splurge on bottled water twice a month for drinking. I get my drinking water from a place called H2O to Go. The woman who runs the joint is a real sweetheart and I enjoy going down there just to shoot the breeze with her. She is sort of a surrogate mom to alot of folks out here.

Our forecast through the weekend doesn't look good. Good chance of showers every day. Light rain started here at about 4PM. Spent 2 hours under the mist filling a big rut in my driveway. Nice to work in such cool conditions - I sweated like a pig this morning digging for the foundation. Heavy thunderstorms east and west of me. If the rain stays light here and stops overnight, I will be able to get my materials delivery tomorrow. In the event that my road gets too swampy - the building supply delivery will have to get dropped at my neighbors house 5 miles away from me.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Chelada Buddhism

I think I descovered the secret to efficient ( if not so cost effective ) shopping runs. After coming yesterday afternoon and relaxing for the evening at the Antelope Lodge - my shopping today went especially well. Even though it is only a 60 mile drive each way to Alpine, doing a round trip in one day, plus the shopping has always seemed to be an ordeal. One day trips seem to make me anxious and I end up hurrying through the list and always forgetting something vital. Today was absolute leisure as far as spending everything on my list plus some things I needed but hadn't thought of.
An interesting thing happened to me late last night....I woke up seeing some lights and hearing a car and jumped out of bed - realizing as soon as my feet hit the floor that I was not out in the desert and someone wasn't driving up to my hut in the middle of the night. Being amused at my confusion, I found it a bit difficult to get back to sleep.

Arrived home at 5PM and unpacked all my goodies. In addition, I have 180 cinder blocks and 20 bags of concrete being delivered on Thursday - Hope it doesn't rain between now and then!

A couple of books I ordered arrived in the mail today. My brain food for the next couple of weeks of nighttime reading will be Buddhism for Dummies and The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama. Both to be taken in with my new preferred evening cocktail - the Chelada - Budweiser and clamato juice. I know it sound weird but Budweiser actually cans this concoction and it is absolute genius as far as beer goes. Could life get any better than this?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Antelope Lodge

Spent the morning doing more planning on the battery house and going over my list for the supply run to Alpine. At this stage in my life I seem to do an inordinate amount of planning before actually jumping into a project. I tend to try to visualize each step first. Checked the mail at noon - nothing yet for me...expecting books from Amazon and some parts from Harbor Freight. After having been swamped in last week for a couple of days I was getting a bit stir crazy. Called The Antelope Lodge - my favorite cheap ($35/night for Terlingua Ranch residents) hotel in Alpine in the off chance their bargain room was available and it WAS. I have gotten to know the owners and the folks that work there and they are all sweet as pie and I love the rooms because they are like little cottages. Each room has its own kitchenette and separate bathroom, cable tv, and wifi. So I decided to treat myself on a little overnight getaway before the next batch of rain comes through. Gettin my fill of cable tv tonight. Loading up on materials and groceries in the morning then will head back to base camp and get back to work.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

3 Days

Well what do you know...been blogging less than a week and already missed two days. Still stuck out here on Friday with drizzle. Was able to to do a test for the walls I will be building for the battery house by the wind turbines. Sort of a cross between adobe and rammed earth. My recipe calls for 14 parts clay, 5 parts sand, 2 parts portland cement. I mixed the parts with just enough water to wet it down and packed it into a 2x4 frame. Instead of ramming it to compact it I used a metal pipe to roll over the mix in the form. This really compressed the mix well with out the intense labor of tamping it over and over again with a heavy chunk of 4x4.

On Saturday I wrote 7 new stanzas for my cowboy poem and rehearsed it over and over....still haven't memorized it yet. Spent a good part of the afternoon exploring my property. To my surprise I found two sotol plants that had sprouted stalks - first ones Ive seen all year - reckon is was due to the dry summer. I have also heard that a beetle has been killing the stalks before they can grow. The stalks grow up to 10ft. and up to 2" in diameter and are strong as bamboo. Local artisans make ornately carved and painted walking sticks out of them for the tourists. They are also collected and used as roof shade on porch structures. The meat of the plant can be distilled into a kick ass liquor - thats definitly on my list.

Sunday: Partly cloudy skies = a dry road finally. Drove up to Spirit Tracks Ranch to take a tour and measure for a swamp cooler I will be building for the folks. Planned out the foundation for the battery house. Made my shopping list for an Alpine run tomorrow....mostly construction materials for the swamp cooler, battery house foundation, lumber for the forms for the rolled earth walls and a solar oven, and various items for my wind turbines. My rolled earth block test is hardening up quite well.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


On Terlingua Time today....means not much ado about nuthin. Swamped in by last afternoons storms so staying put today. Spent the morning cleaning up the area around my wind turbine mounts - clearing all the construction debris. Worked on my cowboy poem that will be my next YouTube video.
Storms all around this afternoon but just a little spit on me here. Was worried about UPS trying to get out here so called my neighbor on the busy side of town to accept my package today.

Made another batch of flour tortillas and shutting down early tonight. Here is a photo of my buddy Jerry from UPS on his very first delivery to me back in March. He knows this area like the back of his hand and recently got an award for 35 years of service without an accident....God bless'em....

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


In the big scheme of things, very little was accomplished today. Had to settle on planning and thinking. Need to make a run up to Alpine on Friday to order cinder blocks for my greenhouse building and creek dam, get some extra parts for a swamp cooler I am building for a neighbor, and check back with the county clerk about 120 acres that is tax delinquent adjacent to my property. Hope to make my new estate a full quarter - 160 acres.

Had a quick thunderstorm late this afternoon that dumped just over 1/4" of rain in a half hour. Pains me to see thousands of gallons of runoff pouring past me when I am not yet able to catch it for future irrigation. Hope it dries out quickly as I'm expecting a UPS delivery tomorrow afternoon with some vital parts for my DIY solar oven.

Major accomplishment of the day was getting just a little bit closer to the wild burro that is hanging with the longhorn herd nearby. I was warned by my real cowboy relatives in Colorado not to get a burro/donkey/mule because they can become a part of the family. But this poor guy looks like he could use a friend other that a bunch of longhorns that probably think of him as some kind of freak....and I'm kind of in the mood for a pet again.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Nice clear morning - not a cloud in the sky. Decided to do some laundry so headed down to Study Butte. Started the load then drove over to the local auto service to check on when I can get my inspection done that is due this month. Archie took me right in right away and it was done in 5 minutes. No emissions inspections in Brewster County so just a quick look at all the truck lights and horn and I was done. Went back to the laundromat just in time to add fabric softener to the rinse cycle. Stocked up on beer and cigarettes then grabbed my wet load out of the machine and headed home. Hung up everything on the clothesline to do some solar drying.
Just enough cloud cover and cool outside temps to finish putting up wind turbine mount #4.

Took some time to clean up the house and organized things. A photographer from Alpine was coming down to do a portrait of me for her series on South West Texas. I contacted her after seeing a notice that she was looking for subjects in the area. She worked in NYC for a bit and we have a couple of folks back there we know in common. Being a nomad of sorts, she is on the road constantly just doing her thing. Check out some of her work at She made it out here late this afternoon just after some storms passed nearby that fortunately didn't swamp my road out. Had a very nice visit with her and she shot a couple of rolls of film. We talked quite a bit about the photog world and the rat race that is NYC. Jennifer is scheduled to do a portrait of my buddy Whitebear tomorrow morning. I told her about my digital point and shoot Canon G9 and of course she had to check it out.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Flour Tortillas

Threats of thunderstorms all day but only got a spinkle again....was able to get out during a cloudy period and dig two more holes and pour concrete for the final 2 guy wire anchors for wind turbine mount #4. Checked in at the Ranch Supply Store with my friend Julie and she requested a Pepino Swamp Cooler for her RV. She and her husband Whitebear have been spending up to $400 per month on propane for their generator to power their air conditioner. My swamp cooler design works without a generator using only a small amount of battery power from a solar charged power system and will keep their habitat just as cool.

Spent the late afternoon preparing a batch of flour tortilla mix...cooked up 9 tortillas for the next couple of dinners. How often do folks in the "real world" have time to devote 2 hours of their day to do this - and then have the time to photograph the results with a rainbow in the background? Thats why I'm here!

Sunday, August 17, 2008


Woke up early this morning. After some coffee and a cigarette I was ready (to go) - so I headed out to the compost toilet. It was just dark enough at 6:30AM that I decided to bring my flashlight. Lucky for me I spotted a scorpion on my toilet seat. Although I have only seen 3 scorpions out here since my arrival in December '07 - this one being in such close proximity to my tender nether regions, scared the shit out of me...literally!

Thus began the day....It was cool and cloudy all morning so I poured the foundation for wind turbine post #4. In the afternoon I was able to dig and pour two of the guy wire anchors. Eight bags of concrete mixed by hand.

Lots of thunderstorms in the area today but I only got one light sprinkle. Sweaty and tired by the end of the day so I took a shower and relaxed for awhile. Dinner was cheese casadillas with cherry tomatoes from my plants I started back in late February. Nothing from a can tonight! (except beer)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Wind Turbine Mounts

We had some rain last night...less than 1/4" but just enough to swamp me in this morning. Cool and cloudy till noon so I got outside to work for a change. Put up wind turbine pole mount number 3 and dug the main foundation hole for mount number 4.

Sunny all afternoon then started clouding up around 3PM. Was thinking that perhaps we would get another afternoon thunderstorm so I went to the Ranch Supply Store to get a block of ice for my icebox, a cinderblock for the next wind turbine pole mount, and 3 boxes of Junior Mints. Also had a chance to see another human for a few minutes.

On the way back home my truck was chased by 8 longhorns that thought I had some more range feed for them. I gave them some on my way in to the store and I reckon they wanted more.

Friday, August 15, 2008


Welcome to my blog! I have been meaning to set this up for months now, but couldn't figure out what my first post should be. So instead of putting it off any longer, I decided to just git'r'started. My website is finally up and I need a place for folks to read updates of my progress out in the desert.

I just returned from a quick round trip to Austin in order to retrieve more of my belongings out of storage. Although I deeply culled the total mass of my worldly possessions before leaving NY, I still have too much STUFF! The big question is....Do I bring my piano out to the desert? For some time now, I was planning on selling or donating it - but now I'm thinking it would be interesting to have it out here. It is the piano I learned to play on when I started lessons in the third grade.

Over the years I have kept the piano under cover but the poor thing has gone through several freeze/thaw cycles and suffered through high humidity - not a good thing. I wonder how hard it will be to find a piano tuner to come freshen it up?