Saturday, January 31, 2009


Blew off our third sub-freezing morning in a row by attending part of our January HOA meeting at the "now closed" Terlingua Ranch Lodge. The "powers that be" out here like to refer to it as the resort. Let me tell you....I've stayed at resorts before - this is barely a hunt camp. Anyway....didn't learn anything new and lost half a day.

Spent the afternoon twiddlin' with the SHWH. Had to drain an additional 10 gallons out of the system in order to update the plumbing - mounted the intake valve closer to the tank and adding a section of clear hose as a sight gauge for the fill level. This way I can accurately cypher how much water I use per shower. In regard to questions I have received about the grey water from the shower - it's just going into the ground for now....will be doing some plantings by the shower to take advantage of the water a bit later on this year. Had 10 longhorns in the yard all afternoon to keep me company and cheer me on.

Almost quit early to hang out with my visitors but got a second wind late in the day and challenged myself to build before sunset, the insulated door for the exposed plumbing on the west side of the tank enclosure. Finished it just as the sun was beginning to go down behind Agua Fria mountain. Since today was yet another day of plumbing and longhorns....for some variety - here is my winter time refrigerator outside on my front porch. It is powered only by the cold evening temperatures that chill the refrigerant (beer) that lines the walls. I open the lid in the early morning to collect the cold and shut it during the warmer daytime hours. The trick is not to drink the refrigerant too fast or I will loose the chill factor that 50 beers provide. It's a constant battle.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The wait is over...

Another cold morning....this time a 23 degree low just before sunrise. Had a great night's sleep with no overly dramatic dreams to wake me up. Got in 9 1/2 hours of shut eye. For 2 nights in a row, parts of my SHWH system froze up - and still no damage. As I was on the ladder checking the hoses this morning, 2 new longhorns arrived for a breakfast snack. A young mother and weened calf that I have named Beatrice and Guillermo.

Took my time readjusting the hot water manifold and added a longer hose to the tank outlet. I lowered and centered the manifold on the stall and hinged it at the top to it can be tilted to catch more sun as it is tracing higher in the sky each day this time of year. Was just about ready to build the west insulated end for the tank enclosure when I decided to hold off as I figured out that I need to do a slight plumbing adjustment and would need to drain some water. Had a plan for draining some water a bit later in the day. My new bovine visitors showed back up far an early dinner so I served up some range feed and water, pulled up a chair and a beer and joined them as we listened to "All Things Considered" on NPR. I sat next to them for about an hour while we all listened to the radio and they munched away.
The wind picked up again this afternoon, so I hung a tarp over my shower opening and as promised.....I took a shower - a most excellent shower I must say. And this wasn't just any shower....the longest I have ever had here at The Field Lab. A slow/steady/warm flow for 25+ minutes and there was plenty more if I wanted. I'm guessing I used about 6 gallons. I think the new system is going to work out just fine!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Marbert on the mesa... I'm building this fantastic off the grid experiment with incredible organization and artistic designer appeal - helping my friends on the side when they need it....and what happens?!?....Some woman hits on Ronald in the comments section. Oh well...Ronald seems to be a chick magnet so how will I ever be able to compete. I reckon there is something to be said about being the nicest guy in Texas.

Got up this morning at 5AM...seemed like it took forever for the sun to finally rise. Cold and breezy in the pre dawn hours with a low of 24 degrees. Was a bit worried about the exposed piping of my SHWH system and was really pushing the limit with that low a temp overnight. Luckily, nothing burst although the hose connections were frozen solid. Only took about an hour of sunshine on the system to thaw it all out and get the thermosyphon flowing again. Drilled an eighth inch hole in the high side of the tank to relieve the pressure. Now everything flows beautifully. Still need to build the folding insulated door that with cover the glass around the tank at night.

Met up with Chuck ( the second nicest guy in Texas? ) and took a drive north to our friend Marbert's place on Taurus Mesa. He is the guy that offloaded and positioned my shipping containers for me with his crane. The purpose of the trip was to visit of course (Chuck has never been up there) and to check out a travel trailer Marbert had for sale and to see the greenhouse structures he built. The interior of the trailer was just too God-awful 70's ugly to even consider now that I think about it...but the greenhouse structures were incredibly perfect and simple....

Back to the Lab at 2:30 with the usual dilemma of what to do with most of the day already gone. Decided a water run to Terlingua was just the ticket. My 550 gallon tank was down to 225 gallons so it was time to add another 125 gallons ($10.25)to the reserve. Cooked a chunk of london broil in the solar oven while I made the trip. At 5PM the shower water was hot enough but the wind suddenly picked up. Was torn between the thought of a good shower but freezing with the wind or just staying warm and stinky.....I hate being cold and I'm kind of used to being stinky - so just one more day....a shower tomorrow for sure! The sun baked beef was GOOD...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Day Off

Took a day off to help a friend today...Ronald (the nicest guy in Texas) was stranded in Alpine. Seems his little green ghost of a car may have bit the bullet. He has driven this poor little beast into the ground over the past year but who can blame him at 35mpg. Scooted up to save him from the clutches of the big city to bring him home to nirvana....grabbed a few supplies and shot over to Marfa to drop off Fiona Mae's hat at the radio station. Got back to the ranch in the late afternoon with no time for stuff at the Field Lab (including a shower). That's ok....had a chance to help out a really good friend today and that's all that matters. Now that Ronald is stranded home, he has nothing to distract him from getting his new house built.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Field Lab Sunshine

Drove down the ranch road to check out a small travel trailer that I heard was for sale.... looks ok from the outside - I really need to take a look inside but the owner wasn't home. Smelled like rain as I headed east - lots of humidity in the air. The creosote gives off a nice fresh odor that permeates the desert when it's really humid or raining out here. Tweaked around more with the SHWH this morning. Had good sun until about 2PM then clouds into the evening with just a brief sprinkle of almost nothing. No hot water yet but I learned something about fluid dynamics today. Seems I really need to vent the highest part of the tank - know just the part to get but I will have to drill and tap a hole in the tank in order to make the connection. I mounted my last chunks of glass on the top and south side of the tank enclosure this afternoon. Just closing it in with what I have handy until I decide on how to finish it up. Kind of wrapped things up early and battened down the hatches once again as we have a 30% chance of more showers overnight...good news is tomorrow is supposed to be sunny(=shower for me). I saw the weather report for my old home town and they are expecting another snow storm tonight and tomorrow. Emailed my former next door neighbor Robin some good news about the storm. Seems this wintry mix is coming from the southwest and is the result of a cold air mass coming south out of Canada that is mixing with warmer/moist air rising north out of Mexico, passing right over my head here at the Field Lab. I told Robin that the silver lining of her next snow storm is that it will contain a little bit of Field Lab sunshine in it.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Another Dam?

Not a typical Monday like in the real world. First of all, I didn't slave away for someone else all week just to have my two precious weekend days off. And best of all, I didn't go to bed last night dreading this morning. However I had really weird dreams last night that woke me up at 3:45 AM...nothing special really, but just the kind of dreams where the first thing you think when you wake up is.....where on earth did that come from? More entertaining than disturbing. Didn't go back to bed until 5AM....woke up at 7:30 from yet another weird dream...maybe I need to change my diet....

Thankful to be back in reality in my waking hours - I took most of the morning fine tuning my SHWH. Not a good Full Sun Day, but the water has started heating up. Not enough yet for that elusive shower. We have 2 more cloudy days on tap so I will really be pushing the shower limit. Early afternoon I rigged the pull chain ( rope ) valve mechanism and built and installed one of the insulated side walls for the tank. ( the north side )
Just as I was finishing up some more shower stall bracing - my brilliant friend Whitebear showed up with his digger/grader to make quick work of yet another project at the Field Lab. There is a spot just downstream from the dam I built last year that needs some major clearing in order to build another dam. He dug out the spot effortlessly and created a nice berm to direct water. This guy really knows how water runs out here and exactly how to move earth to sway the flow in "a more appropriate" direction. Each pass of his box blade was a whole days worth of digging by hand. Now I just have to wait for the next good downpour (someday) to wash out the area so I can build the next dam. Nice to have a project lined up that is most likely months away from having to be completed.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

perfect day

Today was a perfect day here at the Field Lab as far as progress and great weather are concerned (what else is there, really...). Not a cloud in the sky with a high of 84 today. Plumbed up the solar hot water system with the aid of the Big Bend Ranch Supply store that provided the 7% of parts I still needed. Took a quick break in the action to load 2 chicken breasts into the solar oven. Filled the system with water (no leaks) and now I just wait to see how long it will take to heat up. Still have to rig my pull chain for the shower valve. Just as I finished pumping the water up, my friend Tom Michael showed up with his family for a visit. Tom is the General Manager of my local NPR station, KRTS - Marfa Public Radio - 93.5 on the FM dial with live streaming through the internet at After almost a year of hounding him, he finally came out to interview me for their local show, "Talk at 10". The reason I love this
station is because they produce and air so many great local shows with just the right mix of nationally syndicated NPR programming. I'm looking forward to renewing my membership to the station next month. Tom's children earn the honor of being the youngest visitors to the Field Lab. Here is his daughter instinctively finding the only shade available in the desert - under my solar oven.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

La Isla Del Albolado

Not a very sexy day here at the Field Lab - no major 3 dimensional reality came to life...but the groundwork has been laid. Had to do quite a bit of staring at the tank outlets, trying to pre visualize the layout. Tricky part is the pull chain on/off valve that will be inside the insulated box. Think I got it figured out. One more trip to the hardware store and now I have 93% of the parts I need. By now it was afternoon so I pursued more sides for the insulated enclosure. Built the two ends and the north side of the box. The west end side is where all the plumbing magic is going to occur.....tomorrow?

Since no photo of the day from here, I present my pre-Field Lab. These are some montages of my first off the grid experiment on my former property back in upstate NY...I spent 2 incredible summers out there. I sure do miss all that green and the jungle effect that the area had in the summertime. My camp was called "La Isla Del Albolado" - Woodland Island. It even had its own mini lawn that I had to mow once a week.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Tank on Top!

Well...not a drop of rain last night....not even a mist. Only just partly cloudy by morning. Pushed myself right into the project at hand this morning. Flushed the tank 2 more times. All sorts of mineral deposit chips just kept coming out. Think I got enough out so I won't have to worry about a clog in the line. Next I built the insulated base for the tank which will be resting on it's side. Plumbed in one line to the tank...the low point which passes through the base - which will feed the colder water down to the thermosyphon. Mounted the base on top of my shower stall and drilled the appropriate hole through the deck on top of the stall.

Now the fun part - getting the tank on top of the stall. Fought with it about an hour trying to get it up my 2x4 ladder. Close but no cigar - was being extra cautious as I was working alone. It's not real heavy...but just enough to be unwieldy. Took a breather to think about it for awhile. Suddenly I saw in happen in my mind by using my long extension ladder. Got that ladder set up and in about 2 minutes, the tank was on the high perch! Was so easy, I thought about bringing it back down and trying again see if I could do it even faster. Decided not to press my luck.

Ended the day by adding some bracing to the shower stall structure. Filling the tank up there will add about 400lbs of dead weight above my head. I would rather it all stay up there until called upon to lightly sprinkle down on me. Word at the Field Lab is: I'm good for at least 3 more days without a shower!

Got an email this morning from the writer - the article was out in the Big Bend Sentinel today, and he apologized that they credited him for the fab photo I big deal as far as I'm concerned. This was the reporter I happened upon when I stopped by to see my friend Bennett last week in Alpine. The writer offered to buy me lunch next time I come in out of the outback - I'll order the most expensive thing on the menu to get even. Nice blurb about the Field Lab.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Skipped a day, sort of...

Well today was almost a total far as progress in the realm of physical reality. Finished cleaning out the water tank and did A LOT of thinking about how the project will come together. The small chance of rain we have overnight consumed my thoughts most of the day. Hopefully the information accumulated in my brain ( minus the rain stuff ) over the course of the day will be downloaded successfully through my hands tomorrow so I can bring it all to three dimensional reality. With that I leave you with my two shopping stops of the day....The Ranch Supply store and Bee Mountain Hardware. Not much to look at from the outside but you would be surprised at the amount of useful stuff these stores have. Highlight for me on this dreary day was two visits to Betty's Grub Shack and a ride for Aunt Kathy in the go kart. Warm evening tonight - 65 degrees at 7:45PM

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Transition day

Really had to shift gears this morning after all the excitement yesterday. Did one last test on the hot water coil and it is ready to go. Looked like it was going to be a long sunny day so I popped some chicken breast cutlets into the solar oven in a covered clear glass Pyrex cooker. Made a quick trip down to Study Butte to pick up a few items....we have a small chance of rain over the next 36 hours so now I'm absolutely ready. Happily got stuck at H2O to Go chatting with Carolyn. I could shoot the sh*t with her for hours.

Back home in the afternoon with just enough time to start flushing out the old hot water tank that I got from Carolyn months ago. This will be the batch tank for my SHWH. I used extra water I pumped out of my 550 gallon catchement tank after it started to overflow during our second to last rain event in September - into one of my spare 1550 gallon tanks. From October of last year until tonight we have had barely a 1/4" of rain. Expect to finish cleaning it out in the morning so I can get started on plumbing and boxing it in on top of my shower stall. I like to challenge myself on shower projects. I vow not to shower until I can use the system I am installing. I'm good for at least 3 more days and that should be plenty of time...although if it takes a lot longer, I might not be invited again to dinner at Chk&Kthy's until I do shower. Speaking of dinner - I had half of the chicken I cooked in the solar oven earlier today for dinner - it was excellent! It cooked in it's own juices for 2 1/2 hours at around 275 degrees.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

15 Minutes of Fame

Well that was painless! Started the day cleaning up as usual.....the chaos was surrounding me again....only took an hour to get it under control. Main thing on the list this morning was to repair and re-test the hot water heater coil. Today was the day for the camera crew from Texas Country Reporter to show up. The rest of the morning was all about getting things ready for their visit. Had plenty of time to not only get things in order...but also prepare a mix to do some solar oven baking for them....Field Lab Cornbread on the menu - going with what I know works well. Luckily the sun was only obscured by clouds for the early morning. It cleared up just as they arrived. The cornbread was baked throughout the course of the day and served to all at 4PM.

Had a great time with the crew during the taping of my segment. They were here for almost 6 hours. Finished off the endless question and answer period with a ride with Bob in the go kart. The host, Bob Phillips was super nice and he made it very easy to relate to him during the whole interview process. I have watched a bunch of their shows on YouTube and really enjoy their down home feel. I will post the link again I'm really looking forward to seeing how they chunk it all together. Will be keeping an eye out for the first air date.

Now back to business....

Monday, January 19, 2009

Just one leak - that's all it took

Began the day charging my Ryobi 18v batteries. These 3 guys are showing their age after over a year of constant use. Two of the batteries are still in pretty good shape. When the first one was charged, I cut the parts for the SHWH frame. Drilled out the holes for the pipes to pass through and soldered the valve connectors. Painted everything black and assembled the unit for a hot water pressure test. Filled the coil and installed the glass front and set 'er in the sun. After an hour I had one small leak - one out of 36 solder joints ain't bad. Will re-solder the bad spot tomorrow. After an hour and a half in the sun with the valves closed, I drained the coil and that water was steamin' hot. The coil volume is 1.25 gallons. Will be interesting to see how long it takes to heat 40 gallons of water to a cozy shower temperature.

Hooked up with my buddy Doug down at the Starlight for 241 night. He is building a stone house in a much more remote part of the ranch. I'm only 2.5 miles from the highway - he is 15. That's 45 minutes of slow dirt road driving. Hope to go check out his project very soon.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Foiled again

Dang!! I was so hoping for a good time lapse of the ISS fly by tonight - thought the light would be just right but alas, it looked good but not good to shoot....I will catch it when all is right. Started off the day 13 hours ago by tilting town wind turbine #4. I took a shortcut when I first rigged the swivel portion of the mount and I paid the price - it kept binding and wouldn't react to the wind direction very well. Took about an hour and a half to do the modification and tilt it back up. Of course I forgot to shut off the kill switch so I blew the fuse as I was disconnecting the turbine - had to replace it with a new one. Wind picked up just as I secured the guy wires. Swivels on a whisper now.

Project 2 of the day took awhile to get going. Had to search for my propane torch - I knew I had seen in recently but had to dig through both shipping containers for over an hour before I found it. Finally by 1:30 I was ready to assemble the thermosyphon for my new solar hot water heater. Of course being ready meant it was ok to take a break so I went to lunch at Chk&Kthy's along with our friend Craig - plus I really needed a break because looking for something I can't find drives me CRAZY.

I often thought it would be a good idea (but never did it) to set up a video camera in my old Brooklyn studio when I was working on a project. That way, if I misplaced something - all I would have to do is review the tape to see where I put it. Perhaps a live web cam ( not on the list for this year ) will help me out in the future. 3 to 5 was the afternoon work shift and I finished cutting and sweating all the pieces for the SHWH. With my plumbing experience backing me up, I got it together just as planned. It is 3/4" copper - the thin (cheaper) stuff, type M. The coil is 16" x 48". Will start on the frame tomorrow after I do laundry.

Special note #1: While looking for my soldering torch - I came across the photo that was meant to go with my very first blog post back in August last year. That's me at the piano in forth grade, wearing my little league uniform (multi-tasking even at 10 years old). Our team was J A Jones - sponsored by the construction company my dad worked for. Go back to post #1 and check it out if you like.

Special note #2....the dog food I bought for Chef Betty yesterday was for her dogs, NOT her breakfast sandwiches! Thanks Julianne for asking me to clarify that.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

White trucks

Was thinking last night about my solar hot water heater project and decided when I went to bed go do another supply run to Alpine in the morning. When I got up this morning the idea seemed less appealing. Spent a good pre-dawn hour thinking about this project. As the sun rose and the temperature climbed - I decided it was a good idea after all, especially since I had figured out a plan for the project. Began that journey north with my favorite start - a breakfast sandwich from the Grub Shack. Added two cans of dog food to my shopping list for Chef Betty.

Got to Alpine by 11 and made all the appropriate stops - dollar store, Alco, Johnson Feed, McCoys and just missed the weekend bank hours to deposit the $100 Christmas check from my stepmother ...I forgot it was Saturday.

Stopped by my friend Bennett Jones' house for a visit. He was being interviewed by a local newspaper - I was there just in time to be included (press whore that I am). Chatted with Bennett for too long and then headed to the grocery story for a few more items as long as I was in town. Final stop was to gas up the truck and three 5 gallon gas cans. There sure are a lot of white pickups in Texas.

Got home at 4PM just in time to unload and find Mrs. H longhorn coming over for a snack (without her calves in tow). I put out some range feed at the end of my driveway when I left this morning. She found it late this afternoon. Decided to join her as she ate - I hung out close by so she will get used to me. Later I decided to pursue my new favorite pastime - trying to shoot a time lapse of the sunset. No luck tonight. Did however shoot a picture of me with my solar panels requested by the reporter I met at Bennet's. Back to work here at The Field Lab tomorrow.

Friday, January 16, 2009

good night sweet prince

Started my day transporting my "compost" to its final resting place. All tucked in now to cook away for a year. Good night sweet prince. For those of you unsure or terrified about "humanure", check out The Humanure Handbook at . Since that necessary chore took till noon, I moved indoors to take advantage of some high sun battery power.

Used up the afternoon firing up my desktop computer to copy picture files onto CD so I can load them into the laptop. That took way longer than I thought it would - but now I have plenty of archival photos at my disposal if I need one to fill some space here.
Good news....I did in fact shoot a photo of the day today....tested out climbing up tower number one and it's solid as a rock. Was hoping that would be the case as I will need to get up there to attach "stuff" to them. Wished I had my video camera set up to capture the photo session - I scampered up there about eight times .....with my digital camera set to give me a 10 second head start each time in order to get into position before the exposure. That did it for me today. What did you do today?

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Got a call bright and early from my old next door neighbor Robin, back in upstate NY. She is the brilliant inventor of the whipwatch... Robin called to chat and complain about the cold NE and that her furnace was running non stop. They are really getting hammered by super cold weather this winter. A couple of years ago - we had a weeks worth of sub zero temps that prompted me to make ice sculptures since it was too cold to do anything else. My favorite was to fill water balloons and set them out to freeze overnight. Next day I would peal off the balloons and build pyramids with the ice balls and put a light in them at night ....or break off icicles from Robins roof and stick them all over a frozen ice ball to make a star. Those were the good ol' cold days. We had a high of 72 here at the Field Lab today...

Was feeling a bit out of sorts this morning so in order to prolong the agony that is mixing concrete by hand - I whiled away the morning by doing just a little more prep work. Pre-rewarded my efforts by treating myself to a sausage,egg, and cheese on Texas toast over at the Grub Shack. Reward in stomach, it was time to get to work. Propped up tower one in place and tweaked it around a bit ( boy, I sure hope this looks right on GoogleEarth someday). Took about three hours to get my water ready, mix up 9.5 bags of concrete and do the pour. I always place a coin in every pour I do. Finished up so early that I built a new compost bin for my unmentionables. Going to transfer my first years worth of "all that came out of me" and close it off to cook for another year. Look for the first batch of "PooMatoes" in the summer of 2010.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Longhorn parade

The H. family longhorns were just outside my door this morning when I went out for my early morning tinkle. Not sure if I want to keep luring them in with snacks - I miss Benita...she always moved slowly-no charging toward the grub. Decided I needed a real day off so did a grocery run to Alpine with Chuck. Trying to psyche myself up for a couple of days of concrete mixing for the entrance towers.

Chuck had a real shopping list for a change (from Kathy) and was very diligent in his shopping and crossing things off the list. When he makes his own list - he ends up forgetting to bring it and forgets half the things on the list that he forgot to bring. I forgot a few things but you can bet that he didn't this time. One of the things on Kathy's list was "bring the list back home".

I got back to the Field Lab with my booty at 3PM and proceeded to get reorganized. The dreaded chaos of a small living space was growing again and it was time to attend to it. Will be using the new/super improved spiral method of cleaning of the next couple of days in between building chores. This method should work well because the chaos is most concentrated in the center of my new world so as I clean up spiraling outward - the task gets least that's what I think.

Going for concrete pour #1 tomorrow. Looking forward to the labor now that I have rested up. The H. family longhorns were still hanging out at the end of my driveway till about 5PM - then they wandered off NW of me. Suddenly out of the south...another group of 14 longhorns came walking up the road. Don't reckon they knew the Longhorn Cafe was reopened because they walked right past my west entrance. I "moo-ed" out to them and they all stopped to take a look - then continued on north of me. They seemed to know exactly where they were headed. Nice to seem longhorns in the neighborhood again. Most traffic I've seen out here in some time...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Longhorn in the workzone...

Can't say that I started off the day with much gusto. Only thing on the schedule today was to dig the second foundation hole for the entrance towers. I HATE diggin' holes out's either layers of sandstone or clay that's like concrete once you get a couple of inches down. 2 hours and almost a heart attack later - I was done. Best part of today's chore was having 3 longhorns hang out and watch me. There was a cow who I have named Mrs. H. in honor of my old high school girlfriend's mother and two bull calves both named HCH in honor of her father.

After I finished digging I decided to chill out with a drive through the wilderness. Found a few nice fossils and a bunch of old deceased longhorn bones. My neighbor Capt. Kirk says, when a longhorn dies out here - there ain't much left after about 2 weeks.

As I was washing my dinner dishes just before sunset - The H. longhorn family came back by so I dished out the standard fare here at the Longhorn Cafe. The cow came running which can be a bit unnerving. I have a feeling they will be back for breakfast.

Just caught tonight's fly over of the ISS - no good to shoot but fun to watch...perhaps a good photo op will happen over the next couple of nights.

Monday, January 12, 2009

brought 'em home

Nothing like a great weather day where absolutely everything goes as planned. Not a cloud in the sky and a high of 72 today. Finished the welding at 3:45 and trailered them home at 4:15. Took a quick shower - my 3rd one in a that's a record! Returned Chuck's trailer and took him to dinner as part of a thank you for his grid power over the last couple of days. We went down to the Starlight Theatre for 241 burger night. The place was already packed at 6PM and they were expecting a 100 eighth graders on a school trip - so no room at the inn. We headed down to the Eldorado ....good food but not much ambiance. We stopped back at the Starlight to see what a restaurant full of eighth graders looked like - looked like way too many young strangers in our local hangout.

Just as I walked in the door at home...the phone rang - that never happens. It was my new friend Dan Stricklin from the television program,Texas Country Reporter. I emailed him a couple of months ago about what I am up to out here in the middle of nowhere and they want to come out to do a segment on the Field Lab next week. Check out their style of reporting at Very Charles Kuralt as Dan pointed out to me. This should be fun - I always loved "On the Road" with Charles Kuralt when I was a kid. The last time I was interviewed for a television program was over 10 years ago when I was a sculptor in Brooklyn. It was a Japanese show called appropriately enough, "NewYorkers". I still have a VHS around here somewhere...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Holy Crap! I've been BoingBoinged!!

So yesterday I get an email from my friend Shawn at Make Magazine. She says she is a quest blogger at Boingboing and can she mention me and my website....I say sure. Next thing you know...I come home tonight and find a message from my brilliant/demented friend Brett Doar congratulating me on getting Boingboinged. This blog has gotten over 2800 views so far today. That being said.....Howdy, ya'll!!

The big full moon woke me up this morning at 5:15AM. Somehow the early morning hours drifted away and the next thing you now - it's 10:30. It was COLD at sunrise this morning....18 degrees. Tried another time lapse, this time of the full moon setting. The sky was too bright by the time it went down over the horizon so no show today. Warmed up to almost 70 degrees today.

Plugged away at my welding till 6PM....Finished tower 1 and 90% of tower 2. These "towers" are for my driveway entrance. Perfect platforms for future wind sculptures, flags, solar lights, ranch signage, propane flame throwers, ect... Will finish up tomorrow and trailer them home in the afternoon. Hope to plant them in concrete early this week. Another cold night ahead but expecting a sunny high of 75 degrees tomorrow.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

September Spider

Welded up the frame for tower 2 today - also installed one set of cross bracing. All went according to plan. I have my friend Julianne to thank for letting me try out her wire feed welder months ago - it changed my life (well...sort of). Breezy cloudy day today...a high of only 62. Lots of sun and back into the 70's tomorrow. Meanwhile, my old town back in upstate NY is getting hammered with snow tonight.

Photo of the day from September 1, 2008 - one of my spider buddies. He/she had its web at the southwest corner of my house. I must say it's rather nice not to have lots of creepy crawly things around now that its "winter".

Tonight's full moon will be the brightest of 2009 - so go take a look...

Friday, January 9, 2009

Welding Day One

Seemed to take forever today to get going on the welding....finally fired it up by 12:30PM. Welder worked like a charm and my design came together perfectly. Got the initial welds done on tower 1 for my ranch entrance by 4:30PM. Will weld up tower 2 to this point tomorrow then add the cross bracing for both on Sunday. Aunt Kathy shot this photo for me. Cleaned up the work area at Chucks then headed home for a shower - boy that felt good!! Set up the camera and was able to catch a pretty good burp of a sunset this evening.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Post from the Past

Missed the first fly by of the International Space Station but caught the second pass. My time lapse test didn't work well enough to present. Exposure was just a little to bright. DANG! Perhaps next time...

Got my welding cart from UPS today and cut some of my re bar in preparation for the tower construction. I'm "ready to go" to start full on tomorrow. Other than that....nothing of any consequence today other than some prep and lots of good intentions.
With that....I leave you with what I really got done last year on this day. - from my journal: "Installed and painted the interior door frame and same with my last interior window frame." (I still have some of that yellow paint on my sweatshirt.) Finished this day one year ago by building the form that I used to pour concrete for the 3 buttress bases of my front porch.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Rise and shine at 5:30 a good glimpse of the International Space Station as it flew over at 6:58. Carried on with the internet till way after sunrise. Spent the late morning at the ranch supply store hanging out with Whitebear. Finally around 11:45, a UPS truck came along. He drove right by heading south, but stopped and turned around to meet me. The driver only came back to tell me that Jerry was off today and another new driver had my boxes. I waited about 10 more minutes and along he came so I flagged him down. He seemed rather relieved that he wouldn't have to come out and find my house - even though Jerry had drawn a map on one of my boxes to show the driver where I lived - now that's service!

Worked on the assembly of my new welder and studied the handbook. Everything seems to be in order and ready to go now. I packed up 6 pieces of re bar and strapped it down to my truck. Fit just right overhanging the pickup bed my 3', passing through the back window, through the cab and out the passenger window about 2'. Took it slow and drove over to Chucks where I will do the initial welding. Too late to get started so I called it a day.

Did another time lapse test with the exposure lock off and it doesn't work very well. The camera is always trying to keep up with the changing light and it just looks bad. No sample to show off tonight - but will try to catch the Space Station fly by's happening twice which is a rare occurrence. First low / short pass at 5:52 AM, then a second pass at 7:24 AM with a 4 minute view much higher in the sky. That's the one I will try to capture as the morning light should just about be perfect at that time of day.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Got a great 9 1/2 hours of sleep last night! Woke up to just a few clouds and no wind this morning. warned of high winds today and they started up right on cue at about 9 AM - full blown by 11:30. My McCoys delivery arrived right around 11. The support truck and 18 wheeler made it out my road without a problem. Now I have 180 more cider blocks, 20 bags of concrete and eighteen 20' lengths of re bar to play with. The welder is due to arrive tomorrow - then back in business.

Super gusty all day today. Too difficult to work outside so took a couple of drives to kill some time. According to my instruments: average wind speed today from 9 AM to 7PM was 16.7 mph, and the max recorded gust was 39.3 mph. My turbines screamed all day - batteries are charged full and the diversion load heated 8 gallons of water. The wind finally died down at 5:30PM. Nice calm evening.

Since I was thwarted in my desire to work outside, I decided today would be a good day to do a test ( for Chris Callis ) of the time lapse feature of my digital camera. I shot this piece from 5:04PM to 6:45PM - uploaded to YouTube tonight. This test was shot with exposure locked on. Video was shot at 1 frame every 2 seconds. I shot this from just inside my front door looking north. Way too windy to set the camera up outside. Next test to be done with the exposure not locked.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Hardly a drop fell

Well....that was some rainstorm we got last night. I didn't hear a thing yet when I got up this morning, I noticed the ground had gotten a sprinkle - checked the rain gauge and found .005" of water in it. Our 50% chance of rain today turned into a 20% chance with a nice sky to greet my first look outside just at sunrise.

With no more rain in the immediate forecast I went out and dug the hole for the foundation of tower #1 of my ranch entrance. Sweater courtesy of my old pal, CMHC. Took almost two hours to dig the hole. Diggin' really helps warm you up when its chilly outside. My materials delivery should make it out here just fine tomorrow morning. Feels good to get the next project underway.

Spent the afternoon with Chuck'n'Kathy with a drive out to her 10 acres in Big Bend Valley. We toured the land while Chuck guarded the limo. Kathy has a nice chunk of desert out there. I spotted this blond squaw rock hunting nearby.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

chance of rain

Wouldn't you know....just as I am expecting my building materials delivery on Tuesday - we have a 50% chance of rain tonight and tomorrow. A quarter inch of rain will ruin my road. Not a total loss though - sort of a win/win situation. If we get enough rain to crud my road, I can postpone the delivery till Thursday without a problem and I will be able to fill at least one of my 3000 gallon tanks. One of the important things I have learned about living out here is - be aware of and ready for the weather when it happens. I don't take any chances.

With our gloomy forecast in mind, I spent the day prepping for a downpour - just in case. Got everything buttoned up for some drizzle at the least. Did an early morning laundry and supply run to Study Butte. Had breakfast at the Motor Inn Cafe - just like old times. Last year, as I was building and before I got my phone and DSL line, I would have Sunday breakfast and free wifi ( to get caught up on my email ) at the cafe. Clouds started rolling in and the wind picked up just as my cloths finished drying on my solar dryer ( clothes line ). Wind has been howling all afternoon and evening (20-25mph) which is good because my battery bank by the turbines is due for a full recharge. Let it rain....

Saturday, January 3, 2009

bad beard day

Woke up at 3 and 5AM to check out a meteor shower.....only saw about 10 - not much of a show. Got back to bed and slept in till 8:30. Ran over to Chucks to drop off two 3 liter bottles of Coke that I picked up for him in Alpine. Took a quick ride over to David and Susan's property to check out post holes that Chuck started on - lots of rock so we tried out his air chisel and it worked pretty well.

Returned home to organize my rock collections and sort through my chaos. Had it all sorted out by 2PM. Nice to see some order to the grounds again. To reward my effort - I drove all the newly graded roads to the south of me ( about 15 miles ) . I have never been out most of these roads. Came across two gates along fence lines that mark the border to the Longhorn Ranch. Must be a hole in the fence somewhere cause there are tracks and poop all over the place on my side of the fence. Some of these routes go through ridiculous terrain. Discovered another road that connects my side of the hill and yet another that gets me within a half mile of the swimming hole. Came across lots of old fence out there.

Had a bad beard day so I took a long hot shower just at sunset. Now the beard is all fluffy and snag free. Grilled a steak for dinner and had it with fresh boiled cauliflower. Nothing from a can tonight!! except beer...