Sunday, May 31, 2009

more painting

Got about 4 more hours of painting in today - early morning then late afternoon (the in between is mostly a Field Lab blur - but included tweaking one of my inverters to work again and printing out some plans from the web for Ryan to check out...a solar powered ammonia absorption ice maker . All that is left now is the tops of 3 containers. Called my stepmother today. Saw these 6 burros. Ryan, Chuck, and Aunt Kathy were all here for a late afternoon visit. What else is there?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

snake pit...

Almost stepped on a rattlesnake this morning while going out to feed the birds. Made a deal with it and poked it on its' way. Almost stepped on a second bigger rattlesnake and the deal was off for this one. Put the .357 into service as deadly force for the first time. Two shots - dead snake. The most unnerving part was the fact that the body slithered slowly 3 feet away from the head after it was severed. Cut off the rattles for my BFF Rachel (I owe her a birthday present). I would rather not to have to do this on a regular basis so I am moving the bird feeding station further away from the house as the seed might be attracting a small rodent population - thus the diamond backs. Live and let live - but not so close to my house...

Finally opened up a new can of paint and went to town with a brush. Finished all the cutting in after 4 hours. Now all that's left is roller work. Benita spent the day admiring my work and the shadow of her longhorns.

Friday, May 29, 2009


When I re-mounted turbine 3 I knew I was taking a chance mounting the hub with only one stainless steel bolt and two crappy stove bolts. I even picked up the new bolts and lock washers two weeks ago but failed to install them in time. So I go out in the morning and do my rounds picking up stuff that got blown around last night and I come across a chunk of wind turbine blade....slowly I turned...step by step...inch by inch...glancing over my shoulder I view three wind turbines with blades and one without. Just goes to show you it don't pay to skimp on the proper hardware. I have one more back up set of blades to mount......very carefully....

Ryan came by at 8:30 and we headed over to hook up the trailer I found for him. Chuck came by to lend a hand and Ryan was on his way to Alpine by 9;30 to pick up the bobcat - before he hit the road, he checked the trailer lighting, bearing grease, and tire pressure...I stopped at the GrubShack for breakfast with Chk&Kthy.

Came back to the Field Lab and got all prepped to finish priming the containers then ended up spending a couple of hours peeling the last EVERGREEN letters off the south side of the SW container. Stopped back at the GrubShack for late afternoon ice tea. Betty sells ice now - $1.50 / price south of Alpine!

Took a go kart ride over to check on Ryan. He just finished up all the digging including his newly leveled spot for his trailer, a rough cut road to the top of his hill, and some Terlingua Ranch Road repair he needed to do. Then he offered to come over for some dam digging for me. I obliged. He trailered the rig over to my place and spent an hour and a half digging out more dirt for the lower reservoir. He ran back and forth with the bobcat effortlessly. Now all I need is one more good rain to flush the area out and I will be ready for the new lower pond. Looks like we are near the end of evening thunderstorm threats. I predict we are in for the traditional 6 weeks super hot'n'sunny dry spell for June and part of July.

Worked a loaf of solar oven bread into the schedule today. This one is pretty spicy...with chipolte peppers. Ryan got a big chunk to take home for his efforts. That's the barter system at its ' finest....I hook him up with a trailer and get two weeks worth of what would be hand labor finished in less than 2 hours. My friend the trailer owner will be handsomely rewarded as well. This is the diesel generator that Ryan uses for his trailer which gets winched up to this pickup when he is on the road. Diego waited in the full on AC cooled trailer while Ryan was digging for me.
Thank you blog viewer 50.000!... from Comcast Cable out of Houston at 7:30:41AM this morning. You win a free tshirt and loaf of Field Lab solar oven bread.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Worked off and on throughout the day and finished up the wheeled mount for my house panels by 7 PM. Last on the list for this project is to redo the wiring to clean it up but the rig works just fine. Ryan and Diego came by for a visit and to inquire about a trailer he can rent to transport a bobcat down from Alpine to start clearing his property to prep for a build. Luckily, I was able to hook him up quickly. Diego is a very cool dog. I'm thinking he needs a small set of faux longhorns to fit in with my regulars.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

rack 'em up...

Got a good start on the new solar panel rack today. Got more parts to screw together to firm it up and make it movable but at least they are off the ground now. Because of the wiring, the rack will only be able to swivel west to catch the afternoon sun.

Hit Study Butte at 4:30PM to get a couple of bags of ice to chill down the refrigerant for about 10 days as we have a good chance of an overnight shower. A couple more days of thunderstorm threats but I think the big June HOT season is coming up. In any event...I'm good to go (supplies wize and otherwize) for at least a week of swampy weather, just in case.

Did a late afternoon delivery to my longhorn buddies now grazing about 1 1/2 miles east of me. About 25 came a runnin' when they saw the mobile lunch wagon. Highlight was getting a chance to hand feed and scratch Guillermo amongst the crazy grazing mass of horns. Benita was at the house all day as usual.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Flowers for my gal...

Pretty damp all around the Field Lab grounds this morning - especially at the road at the end of my driveway. Drove the truck out through the dry shortcut to Capt. Kirks to check the roads. Took the NW loop up and around to try to get to Agua Fria Rd. About a mile out I came to a stretch of swamp - no go. Looped back and took the road past Leon's camp and the road was just fine...most of the .18" that fell last night must have been just on me. Safely to the HWY, I stopped at the Grub Shack for a breakfast sandwich to go and hit the road to Alpine.

Made all the usual stops: Johnson Feed for cow snacks, McCoys for more container paint and solar panel mount parts, Bennett Jones for a visit, the Food Basket for grub and refrigerant, and finally the gas station. In and out in about 3 hours. Stopped by Chuck's to drop off a gallon of paint I owed him and sat'n'chatted for awhile. Home safe and sound by 5PM to unload. On the way down the HWY, I spotted a fine looking Yucca bloom and snatched it for Benita. She was laying down when I pulled in but got right up to chow on the flowers.

Lots of sun all day that bumped my battery banks back full - which was agood thing as the sump pump was quite a drain on them. Topped off the tank that I had withdrawn 100 gallons from to mix concrete for the container footings. Now the pool is just two tiny puddles. (50% chance of more rain tomorrow) Unpacked and put away all the goods from the shopping spree and sat in the shade to drink a beer while Benita munched away.

Around 7 PM I happened to notice a red truck pulling a long travel trailer going west on the road just north of me. It was my friend Ryan on his way to his newly purchased land to set up camp. Knowing how and where he was going I shot out on the go kart to catch up to him....he was headed for a swamp. I met up with him at an intersection and suggested he ride just a little down the road with me to see what was around the corner. He was not to be deterred since he had come this far so he decided to go for it with the rig.....and was stopped dead in the middle of the muck. This kid knows all the tricks and has the right tools and pulled his big truck and trailer right out of the mud with the huge winch on the front of the bumper. He got the monster rig to his plot in no time. I really enjoy helping someone who knows what he's doing.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Canon Fails The Test

Cleaned up the house this morning and waited till 11AM to venture out my road. Only one swampy spot still - which had already been driven through as usual. Met up with Chk&Kthy at the corner and picked up my returned G9. Made a run down to Study Butte while the gettin' was good to gas up, do laundry, and purchase refrigerant. While the laundry was on the line, I decided it was time to deal with the high summer sun. Last year when my panels at the house started getting shaded - I pulled them off the frames and laid them on the ground for 3 months. Solar panels are not very fond of any shading. By the time I got around to thinking about dealing with the situation, the sun was low enough again to just mount them back on the rack - giving me 9 months to not worry about it. Well now it's time to just deal with it.

Another good chance for an afternoon thunderstorm tomorrow so may shoot up to Alpine for a quickie first thing in the morning - need range feed, bird seed, more refrigerant, parts for the enhanced panel rack, and some grub. A big ol' storm just missed me this afternoon with more in the forecast coming up.
Fired up the newly returned G9 to check it out. Good news is it works just fine again and they got rid of the 2 big spots that were inside the lens. Bad news is - now there are 5 new little spots inside the lens and the battery slot was filthy...hmmmm. Don't these guys have a can of DustOff in their tool kit? At least the electronics work - If the dust becomes a major problem, I will crack that sucker open and clean it myself. Canon did the work for free (as a courtesy - their wording) but pretty much threatened that there is absolutely no warranty on the work performed and subsequent repairs will be non-gratis. My kingdom for a dust free digital camera! I am quite aware that I live in a very dusty environment, but this is a recurring problem for a large number of Canon users. I wonder if the cameras on the Mars rovers ever have dust problems inside the lens elements?
A very good day at the Field Lab....because unlike Canon, I met all my own expectations.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Liquid Gold

It occurred to me last night that perhaps I inspired the dung beetle appearance by my rolling that big black tank down to the dam yesterday morning. Maybe not.... I didn't write anything yesterday because I fell asleep waiting for the Lot'o'Water video to upload to YouTube. Woke up at 11:40 with just enough time to get the links and photos posted.

Day two of being swamped in went nice and slow. Benita came by to hang out all day and keep me company. Took a go kart ride in the afternoon to check the condition of the road. The mile and a half from the Field Lab is good to go except for the final stretch to Capt. Kirk's turnoff. It's parts of the last mile from there to the HWY that usually is the worst and I haven't even gotten a look at it yet. Mostly sunny skies with a high of 98 with humidity at 9% - that should make all of the road good to go by tomorrow noonish. Need to get out soon because I'm running dangerously low on refrigerant.

Finally topped off the new 3000 gallon tank late in the day. I'm afraid the pool is closed until next storm.
When I talked to Chuck yesterday, he mentioned he was going to be having pizza for dinner. I started thinking pizza would be an excellent Field Lab dinner tonight and luckily I had all the parts to build one....

Friday, May 22, 2009


The day started with a brief light drizzle...just a dust settler. Beatrice and Benita were in for snacks - together here at the Field Lab for the first time. Met up with my new friend Myron Friend and wife and son at the Grub Shack for lunch. Lots of clouds out there today. They got a brief tour and it started to rain again so they skedaddled. Bits of rain here and there so I took a nap. Woke up to a phone call from who other than FedEx...the G9 was almost home. Told the driver if I ain't at the corner when he comes up 118, take it to Chucks house. Sure enough as I was ready to head out - the heavens let loose. At least the camera is safe and sound at Chk's now. Total of .69" through the day and still a light drizzle going on at 10PM. Had a brief let up allowing me to get the pump going for tank 2 located next to a creek. Beautiful sunset and a big ol' rainbow as I was out admiring the flows. The dam is filled to the brim - may move my new 3000 gallon tank down there tomorrow to fill from the latest catch.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Colorado Whoopenhollars

Talked to my Crazy Aunt Jean yesterday. (a term of endearment - she calls me Crazy Nephew John) Seems the book she has written has just about completed the self publication process. Look for it from booksellers in the fall. CAJ is an absolute peach and turns out that she is a very good writer on top of all her other talents. She obviously picked up her knack for story telling from her father who was able to keep his children amused from afar while he travelled and worked for the CCC during the Depression.

Just enough sprinkles to give me the excuse to postpone the mortar work today. Managed to finish up repairs to turbine 4 (new tail and wiring) and got 'er flying again. Also topped off all my batteries with a drink of distilled water. Shoveled up 2 wheel barrow loads of gifts from the longhorns around the perimeter then did some house cleaning. We still have moderate chances of rain over the next couple days so I gotta be on my toes.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

outta paint, again...

Checked up on Chuck this morning and they had finished all the final touches on his container by 10AM. Sadly, he needed one of the gallons of paint he picked up in Alpine that was earmarked for my containers. I burned through the other gallon he bought for me in about and hour and a half. I still need 4 gallons to finish up and called McCoy's today to find out they are OUT and may get more in on Friday. Looks like I will have to switch gears and start setting my first course of cinder block tomorrow. That's OK cause I'm ready for a change of pace and over the painting thing for now. Just as well because I just picked up 125 gallons of free - non potable water from Grub Shack Betty - perfect for mortar mix.
Benita was here for the duration today. One of two longhorns allowed in but I think the crew got the message because only about 8 hung out at the end of the driveway all day. You gotta be cruel to be kind...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tough Love

Layed down the law this morning...gave some snacks to Benita and Guillermo and told the rest to kindly F off. Seemed to work if only for today as there were only 11 in for supper. Aunt Kathy and I finished up priming their container by 1:30 - Chuck did the finishing touches. Swung by Julianne's to drop off a chunk of Field Lab Bread and got a look at her first harvest.

Made a late afternoon run to Study Butte Water Supply for 125 gallons to supplement mi agua. Got home at 5:30 and let it siphon into my 550 gallon tank. Snacked the small evening crowd while my dinner heated up in the solar oven (canned chili and vegis). Topped it off with some Field Lab Bread with avocado and cheese. Perhaps next year it will be an avocado from my greenhouse and goat cheese from my herd...I ain't about to try milkin' a longhorn.

Monday, May 18, 2009

ran outta paint

This longhorn thing is starting to get out of hand...20+ around the house overnight and over 50 in for breakfast....somethings gotta give.

Finished off the half gallon I had left to cut in container parts yet to be painted. Still have 3 long sides, 3 tops, 2 ends, and 1 door to finish. Chuck made an Alpine run for the grampa discount at Alco....and to pick up more paint for me. Decided to offer up my container painting expertise to help him finish painting his one container before I finish off all 4 of mine. Aunt Kathy and I are gonna git'er'done tomorrow morning.

Half day off chasing longhorns and checking on some homes of absentee friends of mine...Ben - check. Trevor - check (the markers are at his driveway entrance). BM -check. This is his place made from recycled metal roofing. No undies on the clothesline this time...

Saturday, May 16, 2009


One short visit from new friends...quite a few longhorns...a little bit of painting...a lot of wind. I was really banking on a rainstorm tonight but the 80% chance we had turned into 30% and ended up being 0%. Here is Carmella with her black calf Jack...the brown one isn't hers but his name is Hal. They are named after two great kids I knew in Brooklyn since they were infants but haven't seen in 10 years. I even changed Jack's diaper once ( that was quite a load for such a little kid) when I was left to baby sit while Paula (mom) was giving birth to Hal. Tempus Fugit...

Friday, May 15, 2009

James Evans

Had my moment in the spotlight this week being photographed by famed Marathon photographer, James Evans. He made it out to the Field Lab by 9:30AM. I helped him set up the seamless (no wind to speak of this morning - thank God) Been ages since I touched an autopole or a superclamp! I think he really enjoyed the inconvenience of having to come all the way out here to shoot me for Texas Monthly....for a pittance. Had quite a few PA's on hand in the form of hungry longhorns milling about during the shoot.

Got some more letters peeled off the SW container in prep for the primer job. Managed to cut in one long side then the wind picked up but got only a few sprinkles. Interesting trying to paint in high winds...the paint either flys off the brush or starts to dry between bucket and surface.
Got word the other day that the Ol' G9 is on its way home - due to arrive Monday... that was too easy....

Dear John :
We are pleased to confirm that the service you requested on your POWER SHOT G9 has been completed and your equipment has been shipped to you on 13-MAY-09 .
Thank you for purchasing Canon products and for allowing us this opportunity to serve you.
Best Regards,Canon Factory Service Center
Special Note: Tomorrow night, Trevor Reichman (the Buck Owens of Terlingua) will be playing the Starlight ( weather permitting - 50% chance of thunderstorms tomorrow) Also on the bill is Darren Jessee and Sam Watts. Check it out - no cover charge for an excellent show!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Told Ya So....

Ok....I had inside information but just wanted to make it sound like I was speculating on the immanent demise of the Ranch Supply Store. Like I said yesterday...soon to be gone for good. Cut in the south side of the SW container this morning - then breakfast at the Grub Shack.

Had more warnings of afternoon thunderstorms through the weekend so I shot up to Alpine for some goods. Ran into my buddy EOT at Johnson Feed. Stocked up quick on goods and coasted back home to big clouds building to the south. Passed off some water to Betty and Coke to Chuck then came back to the Field Lab. Got home just in time for the fact checker to call me about the page for the July issue of Texas Monthly. Not a longhorn in sight except for Benita who was right by the house. Her turn to chill out. A bit later I spied a black calf all alone out in the grass. A BIG group came in for a late-late afternoon snack and turns out Carmella is the momma of the lost one...Sergio must be the father.

Had a late afternoon downpour for about a half hour that only amounted to .08" of rain... just enough to cut the dust. Finished off the day chatting with my photog buddy James Evans from Marathon. TM tapped him to do the photo of me. We hope to nail this early tomorrow morning.