Tuesday, March 31, 2009

camera down

Cleaned and cleared the courtyard...tweaked and torqued and prodded and pried - now 20,000 pounds of steel is leveled and lined up. Measured some diagonals and I seem to be way closer than close enough. Shifting all that weight successfully makes for a very satisfying day at the Field Lab. I got some more really good pictures, but.......

On the down side....I beefed up my internet security and downloaded window updates today. Now the computer doesn't recognize my camera. Ought to be fun figuring out what the dealeo is on this little glitch. Happens every time I start messing with the OS....Dang!


Monday, March 30, 2009

mixin madman

So nice to wake up to my peaceful desert this morning. Infrequent trips to big cities really helps me keep my new life in perspective. It ain't for everyone - put I can't imagine a more perfect life for myself living where and the way I do now. Most folks take vacations to get away from their lives. Trips for me take me away from a life that I love. The last hours of days away are my favorite because I'm getting ready to come home. The stretch on I-10 through El Paso is heart breakingly horrible.

I watched the sunset and just relaxed in the quiet after four days away and 11 hours of driving yesterday. All was well at the Field Lab except Benita has gone away on another walkabout. Woke up with the sunrise this morning. Dropped off some goodies to Aunt Kathy and Ronald this morning then raced home to get back in the game. Set the forms and poured all 4 legs for my last container. Took about 6 hours and 16 bags of concrete, but was a great way to spend my first day back. I reckon I'll switch gears now and pour the footings for my cinder block walls using portland c-ment and my own aggregate mix (and Ben's cement mixer!).

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Got container #4 situated. Packing up and locking down for a quick trip to Phoenix to visit more relatives there...My game warden buddy is watching the ranch while I am gone. Good to know the spread is safe with someone with more firepower than me. More soon from on the road.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


The cousins left bright and early this morning. They called me from their motel at 7:15AM to let me know they were on the way out so I could meet them at the corner. Being woke up by the phone was almost like having an alarm clock. ( I haven't used one in years ) No wonder this world is such a mess with the multitudes having to start their waking hours with a loud noise to get up'n'atem. They stopped only long enough for a couple of photos and a quick goodbye just as the sun was rising. Gave Markus an old longhorn bone I found, much to his pleasure.

Had a long breakfast at the GrubShack then headed home. Benita stayed right in front of my house all night and has been here all day. We got all caught up on the past 5 months. She was quite impressed with all the progress here....as for her, it's been pretty much business as usual for an old longhorn. She doesn't appear to be pregnant so perhaps her breeding days have ended at 20+ years old. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUe-d7hFdmw
Headed over to one of the unfortunate junk yards that has occurred out in the desert to pick up a couple of chunks of rusty steel I've had my eye on and more Sotol stalks for my shower door. Spent the afternoon adjusting my green containers to line them up. Set container 3 down off its' extra blocks set for the concrete pour and twisted it a bit to line it up with container 2 ( which still has to scoot about 3/4" toward container 3 to leave me with three perfectly aligned containers. A tightly stretched piece of string, two hefty chunks of chain, a 2 ton come-along, a 6 ton bottle jack, and an attentive longhorn made easy work of it.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Well Howdy Stranger!

Worked on a Sotol stalk door from my shower all morning. Spent the afternoon touring around with the cousins. Got home just before 8PM and surprise!...Benita was finally back for a visit after a 5 month absence. Gave her a BIG snack...she's probably tired so we will catch up on what's been going on in our lives tomorrow. Very nice end for another perfect day here at the Field Lab.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

more new longhorns

Began the day early (5:30AM) but was rewarded with a very nice sunrise a couple hours later. Had a big crew in for breakfast this morning including two more new calves - Freckles (with mamma Frieda) and Kahuna. Fed them at the end of the road then Beatrice, Guillermo, and another calf came up to the house for some personal attention. Guillermo is quite friendly now and enjoys getting his head scratched. Those 3 watched while I wired up my new inverter for the wind turbine battery house.

The visiting relatives headed down to Study Butte to do laundry this morning. Cousin Phil is working on a cold so opted out for some bed rest today. Liz and Markus came out and we toured around for a couple of hours. Who needs to go to the National Park when there is so much to see around here. I ended our tour with a sidewalk hockey match with Markus back at their hotel...he won, but only on a technicality.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Baked another loaf of Field Lab Bread for my friend Julianne. Toured around my section of earth with the relatives, including some junk yard ruins just north of me. Fed some longhorns. Planned tomorrows itinerary. Ended the day thinking about my greenhouse courtyard plan. Hope to emulate what my friends at Eve's Garden have created up in Marathon. They were also recently featured on Texas Country Reporter. http://www.evesgarden.org/

Friday, March 20, 2009

Cousin Phil

Began the morning by bidding a fond farewell to David, Susan, Laurie, and Zuki...on their way back to life in the "real" world. Hung out as they finished packing up the truck then had one last coffee at the GrubShack and they were on the road.

Came back home and started cleaning up the house and grounds. Did my best to eliminate some of the dust inside my house and washed a big load of dishes that have been waiting for a bath for days. Had two different groups of longhorns in today. The second group included a new calf only two days old. Mom and son have been named Hortense and Zuki ( Zuki named after David's dog and Hortense because of those horns of hers)

Stripped the forms off the last pour and organized some of my construction materials. Had two separate visits from some locals today. Might just have to hire a tour guide if this kind of traffic keeps up.
UPS dropped off an order of goodies from Northern Tool late in the day as I was finishing up cooking dinner in the solar oven. My cousin Phil - wife Liz - son Markus arrived at 5PM. Gave them a tour then they went down the highway to check into their motel while I finished up the dinner prep. A totally solar cooked meal of Field Lab Bread and Spanish rice/chicken gumbo. We dined just out of reach of the windy evening on the west side of my house. My first official dinner party.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Low 50 - High 83. In and out of Alpine pretty quick this morning. Got re bar, range feed, bird seed, and beer. I think that covers the four major food groups for the Field Lab. Checked in with Bennett of http://www.alpinesolarsales.com/ His panel order should be arriving in about a week. He and his partner Eric from http://www.alpinefurniturestore.com/ are gearing up to start getting everyone out here hooked up on the solar bandwagon. With over 300 days per year of pure Texas sun shining here in paradise - it's a no-brainer. Keep an eye on these guys over the coming months as the business evolves. No PV yet but full systems coming soon.

Got home at 1PM and dove right in to mixin'n'pourin' concrete. Took 5 1/2 bags for each leg of container #3 as their forms where 17" tall. Nice breeze out of the east so hardly broke a sweat mixing up all that concrete by hand. Finished up and set my coins by 4PM. Passed over 118 to visit with David, Susan,Laurie, and Zuki. They are packing up tonight and heading back to Florida in the morning. Had just ONE Rum'n'Coke and came strait home. Beatrice and 7 others showed up for an early evening snack. They all hit the road north by 8PM to where ever it is they bed down at night. Lots of wind tonight so I will have to tap into some of that juice tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

one drink too many

Low 43 - High 100. Felt a bit sluggish all morning - perhaps it was that last rum'n'coke I had last night (or maybe it was the three I had before the last one). Had my breakfast sandwich at the GrubShack then came back home and took a 2 hour nap. Woke up to my phone ringing...my friend from the Solitario was on his way back to the big city - I met him up at the highway because he too got a late start today. He had some leftovers for me and we bid farewell. Kind of reminded me of my best weekender friends when they would come and go from their country house. Sure am glad I don't have to leave here to go back to a life on the treadmill.

The guy I bought my land from came out for a visit this afternoon...He was happy to see the progress I've made out here so far. Finally got in the game just as the temp hit 100. Built and set the forms for the ass end of container #3. Managed to cut my re bar and considered only for a moment, continuing on with a pour. Decided I was done for the day and ended by stripping the forms from the last pour and running my leveling strings to prep for jacking up container #4.

Got an email today that my cousin from Canada will arrive on Friday. Making an Alpine run tomorrow morning to stock up on goodies for guests and parts for the pours coming up for container #4. The quest quarters are far from being finished so he and his wife and one of his FOUR kids will be staying just down the road at the Longhorn Ranch Motel. Funny that my first visit from a relative is coming all the way from Canada.....Canadians seem to love SW Texas...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

All is well...

Low 37 - High 94. Had one of those serendipitous days here at the Field Lab.... The morning started off with a small group of longhorns for breakfast. Trekked over to downtown this morning for a Native American Indian blessing of David's land. A perfect ceremony.

Got a call this morning from my FedEx driver asking how the road to my place was as he had my solar panel delivery from Harbor Freight. As far away from the real world as I am out here - delivery service is exceptional. I met the driver on the road after he had just dropped off my package... and he had a funny smile on his face. There were 24 longhorns all around my house when I got home. Lured them out with a snack by the end of my driveway.

Set the forms and poured concrete for one corner of container #3. The longhorns were all chilling out right next to the pieces of re bar I needed for the next pour. Drove out and they followed me over the hill north of my property then I zoomed around and came back to retrieve my re bar. If I had gone up to get it while they were in the vicinity - they would have followed me back to the house and I would have to keep chasing them away. Finished up the second pour by 3:3o. Just as I was setting the coin in the last pour, some visitors came by on motorcycles. These folks have been here before so I welcomed them.

The latest tour ended by 4:30 so jumped into the shower....perfect 108 degree water. Did my natural desert solar dry off then headed back East. Had rum'n'coke cocktail hour at Davids for more than just an hour. Came back out to the Field Lab and decided to build a bon fire. KRTS was playing classic rock tonight so I basked in the glow of the raging flames to Led Zeppelin. Does it get any better than that?

Monday, March 16, 2009

On The Level

Long stretch of nothing really accomplished this morning - just a lot of basking in the desert sun. Beatrice and 4 unnamed longhorns snuck up on me from the south and I obliged them out at the end of my driveway. Beatrice came back in and got another snack at the house. They hung out by my road till noon then finally went NW for a drink. Spent the morning prepping and baking a loaf of the Field Lab Specialty Bread for my buddy David to help celebrate his house blessing tomorrow.
David and crew came out for a visit followed by my bodyguard....I chastised him for not keeping the riff-raff out. Gave them the full tour and sat in the shade for a bit to catch up on all the details that haven't been included in my blog. They took off at 5PM to head down to 241 night at the Starlight.
Took 2 late hours to level and set container #3. Had no trouble at all getting the low end jacked up and set in place. Now I have three 5000 lb. containers leveled within 3/16's of one another. Put off the shower for one more day as tomorrow will be an extra sweaty one what with setting the forms and pouring the next bit of concrete.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Solitario

Low of 39 - High of 78. Took the day off to go a callin'. A friend of mine bought a place out in the Solitario section of Terlingua Ranch....way, way out in the Solitario. He is spending his first week there since the purchase. I found his place on GoogleEarth and plotted the location on my GPS. Did a load of laundry in Study Butte and headed out for a visit. The cheap little GPS I bought at Radio Shack last year is amazing...all the un-named dirt roads were on it and it guided me right to his front door in the exact middle of nowhere - turn by turn directions in a female English accent, no less.

Hung out in the outback for a couple of hours then headed back to the civilization that is The Field Lab. Got home to find a little group of longhorns patiently waiting obediently at the end of my driveway. Snacked them then hung my laundry to dry. "Worshed" my bedding for the first time in 3 weeks so looking forward to a crispy clean sleep tonight. Plenty of sun in the coming days so perhaps a nice hot shower tomorrow afternoon.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

light at the end of the tunnel

Low of 39 - High of 65. Day started off gloomy but cleared up beautifully by the afternoon. Headed to the Grub Shack for my favorite breakfast after feeding my favorite longhorns. Two idiots rutted the hell out of my road during the rain event. DANG! Will post a sign at the highway suggesting "in a friendly way" to please not drive the road when it's wet.

Went around to visit some other humans as I have been cooped up since Tuesday night here at the Field Lab. Checked in on David and he is just about done with his shade structure - not quite in time to catch any of the rain we just had though. He kept plugging away at it even with the chilly temps of the last couple of days. Reckon it beats working in 110 degree heat!

Just as I was heading out to collect some gravel from my road - I came across another group of longhorns heading my way. Turned around and they chased my truck back to the homestead. Gave them a hearty snack and noticed a new calf with the group - I named him Buck, his mamma is another favorite of mine - Angelina. He is less than a week old and must have had a tough start in life with the rain and cold.

Got started leveling off container #3 late. Taking my time with these last two as they are filled with all my stuff from NY. Got the high end set and will work on the lower end tomorrow with my double blocks I poured a couple of days ago. Found I need to tweak #1 and #2 a bit first as they are 5/8" out of alignment. Once they are set I can finish propping up the final two.
Sure is nice to see stars at night again...

Friday, March 13, 2009

gone fishin'

Low of 38 - High of 48

Thursday, March 12, 2009

water in the bank

Low of 36 - High of 50. Cold dreary day today with lots of fog in the morning and low clouds all day - but no more rain for now. One of the few swamped in cloudy days I will get for the entire year. Finished pumping out the pond and filled the 3000 gallon tank by 4PM. That's 25,020 lbs of water earmarked for growin' food this summer. My little 12 volt pump worked 12 1/2 hours over the last two days to do the job. The good thing is the new dam holds the water till I'm done pumping, even at that rate. I think I will move the other big tank down to the reservoir as it has proved to be an easy spot to snatch and store the water when it happens. Had a brief bit of sun just as the tank was dribbling over and dashed out to enjoy a glimpse of my shadow.

Ordered one last set of the cheap (on sale) Harbor Freight solar panels to dedicate to my swamp cooler once it warms up to the point where I will need it. Will try to remember this chilly day fondly when we start hitting 110 this summer. Also ordered two 123 watt solar panels through my friend Bennett Jones in Alpine - one for fun in the future and one to supplement the wind turbine battery house. With all the cloud cover we have had for the past two days, I'm powering this blog tonight with the juice from the turbine battery house via an inverter and 300' of extension cord. Seems I've got water and power to spare now.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Eternally Grateful!!

Low of 44 - high of 58. Slept in this morning till 8:30AM to the pitter patter of rain on my little bldg. Good and steady till about 10:30 then it stopped....just missed the flash into my dam by 10 minutes - that's all it took to fill the area to overflowing. My digital rain gauge and the NWS manual gauge measured exactly the same amount of rainfall since 7:45PM last night (.54"). Cold and breezy all day but at least the rain let up for the afternoon. Spent the day pumping water out of the reservoir into my tank. 1400 gallons by 5PM. The rain has started again tonight and I reckon the pool will fill and overflow yet again. Should have the 3000 gallon tank #1 filled by tomorrow noon. Here is a YouTube video of the success of the day. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0sonA3BmS4 Won't even think about the thousands of gallons that got away this time.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Dust Cutter

Low of 54 - high of 86. Had a huge rush ( 26) on cow snacks this morning including a bull and a steer. Kept my distance from the big guys but was still able to dissuade them from coming up to the house. Beatrice insisted repeatedly and was obliged. They mostly stayed at the end of the driveway where the food was put out - but occasional stragglers had to be chased off as I got to work. Decided to pour concrete into 2 double sets of cinder block to support the lowest end of my containers since they have to be raised about 20" off the hard pan. Most of the morning the longhorns layed down then finally wandered off around 1PM.

Headed up to Charley's to grab 55 gallons of his surplus water for more concrete mixing in the coming days. On the way up to the prize, I ran into Trevor ( the Don Ho of the Terlingua Riviera ) and my friend Hat. Chatted with them for awhile at The Grub Shack then did my water run. After unloading I shot back over to the busy side of town to drop off a bridge rectifier (I had a spare) to Hat for one of his wind turbines. That's just one of those things that should always be on hand out here in do it yourself/off the grid land.

Took a stroll to look for some flowers as the desert has started greening a bit with the warm weather. Somehow the plants hold in just enough water over the winter to be able to kick into action when the temps are right.

Started cleaning up all my tools and made sure everything that needed covering was covered in case of rain, as it is in the forecast for tonight through Friday morning. And guess what?...It started drizzling at 7:45 very lightly but has continued for over an hour. Our first rainfall of 2009 and the first since early November of last year. So far the rain gauge has recorded .006" in the past hour. Looks promising at this point for some real rain tomorrow. If the spot behind my first dam fills up tomorrow I will be eternally grateful....and so will these flowers.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Concrete for the ages

Low of 46 - high of 96. Got up and got to work. Finished the 4 corner pour of container #2 by 12:30. Feels pretty good to get all that labor done in the first half of the day. Sat back and admired the accomplishment then went online to check the weather. We are due for a cold front Tuesday night through Friday that may bring some rain. In advance - I watered my sprouting Lace Wing Elm that I transplanted from my friend Charley's place. He got this last year on Arbor Day as just a twig - it started to grow at his place and I adopted it when he moved away to California. My first tree at the Field Lab.

Since we have a chance of rain coming up, I decided late to make an Alpine run. I needed some more cinder block pavers to situate my final two containers. Also picked up some food items for me and Coke for Chuck. A nice mix of tasks accomplished for the day.

Got home by 6PM and waited for a sunset to happen. We had great cloud coverage but not the right amount of clearing to the west to turn it all red - another blue/grey sunset. Did capture the low sun almost at the equinox peak of my Field Lab Stonehenge. Shot the photo tonight as we may have too much cloud cover over the next couple of days. I'm thinking it might be in perfect alignment in 2 or 3 more days. Not quite a perfect equinox but I hope to be able to catch it at the exact mid point.