Tuesday, November 30, 2010

cow path...

Too chilly today to get back up on the roof.  Set myself up to do a soil test with wheat grass - 2 parts TFL lake bottom soil, 1 part vermiculite, 1 part Benita poop.  Soaking some seeds to sprout and will transplant tomorrow into the little pot of experimental dirt mix.

Took a long hike this afternoon tracking Benita.  She headed SW Sunday afternoon and may be gone for the winter.  Downloaded GoogleEarth onto my new computer and calculated her trail to the winter range.  The green line is as far as I walked (still on her trail) and the blue line is where I think she goes.  Total distance to the winter range is about 6 miles.  I really should get a GPS transmitter on the old girl. 39,63,26,0,B

Monday, November 29, 2010

shower parts...

Plopped a new piece of plex over the thermosyphon to help hold the heat in...installed a new sensor to monitor the water temperature.  Had to add 15 gallons of cold water to the tank this morning (due to the breach).  Heated up just enough by late afternoon for a lukewarm shower.  Indulged myself this evening with the first 241 burger night in months.  49,74,39,0,W

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Needfull Things

Cold overnight again but warmed up nicely.  Tended to a cold snap breach in my solar hot water system then did a run to Study Butte for a load of agua (mostly for Benita).  While south, I happened to notice a new shop in town.  My friend Sandy has opened a "second hand stuff" store near the Motor Inn Cafe - between the laundry and the stables.  She is open Thursday through Sunday and fully stocked with very cool stuff folks have given up on and deals you can't live without.  A new must stop for visitors to the area.  63,78,27,0,B

Saturday, November 27, 2010

it's all about the cow...

A bit nipply overnight.  Did a major supply run to Alpine today...refrigerant, food, particulars for the rest of the greenhouse roofing, solar water heater insulation, tools for the Ural, parts for some new solar ovens, and a bale of hay for Benita.  Normally she doesn't care for coastal, but she seemed to take to it this afternoon - probably has a little more flavor than what is growing out here this time of year.  Trying to lure her into wintering over at TFL. Last year she left the day before Thanksgiving and was gone for over two months.  48,70,23,0,B  

Friday, November 26, 2010

Dinner with Grace

First sub freezing night last night - time to extract the swamp cooler today.  Porch is now cleared and primed for Christmas lighting.  Benita still staying close to home.

My buddy Ben the stilt house builder is out for the weekend and brought me some precious glass leftover from a couple of his renovation jobs.  Hopefully I will get to use it before I lapse and let it break.

Had dinner at the stilt house with him and wife Vanessa and my BFF Grace - and Chuck and Aunt Kathy.  Grace made the center piece for the table.  42,78,26,0,C 

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Thanksgiving day started off with an exceptional sunrise.  Good way to start the holiday.  Worked on putting together the Field Lab shipping department so I can expedite the postcard orders.  Hopefully, adding the "Buy Now" button from Paypal on the right side of the blog page will make ordering quick and painless.  I have included some discount options for multiple set orders. 

Please make sure to include your shipping address at checkout - let me know if there are any problems with this payment method.  Decided to post of photo of the entire set all at once instead of a card a day for the next 11 days.

Had a great community Thanksgiving dinner thanks to Jerry and Eva!  56,79,45,0,B

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Black Wednesday

Card#2 Me and my dog Goldie, December 2007
Just got the rest of the postcard order in today and they are good to go.  Over the next 11 days I will be posting a sample here.  The sets are packed and ready to ship just in time for Christmas.  12 Field Lab postcards for five bucks including shipping.  Buy 4 sets for only 18 bucks.  The first 250 orders get a free bonus Benita postcard.  You can send cash through the mail to John Wells 2500 Mailbox Rd. Alpine, TX  79830 or paypal me at my email address - lifeoffthegrid@yahoo.com   All proceeds to help sustain the Field Lab experience.

Worked on the Ural all morning.  Did a down'n'dirty purge of the left carburetor, then changed the air filter and spark plugs.  It's riding sweetly again!   61,82,38,0,C

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

november flowers

Early winter issues to deal with at the Field Lab.  Benita might be gone now for the holidays and the Ural has a carburetor problem to suss out.  http://www.examiner.com/motorcycle-travel-in-denver/diagnosing-issues-on-my-ural-fuel-delivery-fuel-path  Found a tear in the air line from the filter that might have sucked some dust in on one side.  That's on the list for tomorrow.

Went to Chuck's to interpret my uneducated diagnosis of the problem.  Got there just in time for a quick consultation then helped him move and offload a chicken coop into a tight squeeze with only a quarter inch on all sides.  Found a little plant nearby still trying to do its' thing.  

Delivered the Kombucha Scoby to her adoptive parent tonight.  BTW - The new Starlight Theatre is better than ever and very well worth a visit.  57,81,43,0,C

Monday, November 22, 2010


Had a very high low overnight.  Beautiful GrubShack breakfast, laundry, and longhorns. Cranked up the Bike'0'Worsher then bottled another batch of Kombucha and put the word out that I had a spare scoby up for adoption. 

My friend Teren from the Ghost Town piped in and will get the delivery tomorrow.  No roofing - just busy work at TFL due to windy conditions.  Worsh went well and the clothes were dry in 20 minutes thanks to the breeze and the sun.  Benita had two friends in tow all day today.  They all got along famously.  Here she is napping with one of them.  60,83,60,0,W

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Saturday, November 20, 2010

West End

Decided a couple of days ago to add one more section of metal roofing to the east and west end before putting up the polycarbonate.  That should give me a nice "window" with a hefty metal edge at the exposed sides.  Mulled the process over long enough so it was time to install the west end.  Funny how no matter how long I think about it, nothing seems to happen out here unless I actually do it.  61,83,39,0,C

Friday, November 19, 2010


The Pland girls (Nina and Nancy  http://www.itspland.org/ ) came out today for a GrubShack breakfast and the Field Lab tour.  Nancy won the flip of the coin and got the honor of being my first passenger in the sidecar.  Cleaned the hut and grounds to the max and baked some Field Lab Solar Oven Bread for them.  I pull out all the stops when women come to visit.  They are out here to do some work at the Art Ranch with my NE neighbors Greg Donner and David Kruger  http://offcite.org/2009/02/26/open-house-at-skydive  57,76,33,0,B

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Hole

A friend is drilling a new water well...thought it might make for a good video experiment.  Lowered my Kodak Playsport down 45 feet to check the view up(down)close and personal.
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsXDwTAm-zc  55,76,36,0,B

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Lull in the action at the Field Lab so let's talk about luxury steam yachts.  Early this year I met a woman at the GrubShack that spends her winters out here in the desert...Chris Cobb.  She is a real sweetheart and one of Benita's biggest fans.  She almost cried when she met Benita in person.  After several months, I finally met her mystery husband, Steve.  They both disappeared for the summer to get back to their jobs - cruise director and steamship captain.  Steve was just back out here last week, renting a backhoe to prep for the foundation on their desert home.  Only in Terlingua can you meet someone who can operate heavy earth moving equipment and is an expert seaman in charge of restoring a vintage yacht.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/greatatlantic/sets/72157600469317708/  hmmmm....wonder if I can get him to relocate it onto Field Lab Lake.  59,75,38,0,W   

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Thanks for all the marketing ideas...I always welcome suggestions.  Two things I will never do is fill my blog up with Google Ads or put up a Donate button.  If I have something to sell, it won't be someone else's ad and I will never ask for a donation. Nor will I ever ask someone to pay me to come build something for me just to learn how to do it. 

That being said...I just received part of my latest postcard order and completed the order for a set of 12 Fieldlab postcards to be offered up for sale just in time for Christmas. http://www.vistaprint.com/   The set includes some of my favorite images that document my new life in the desert over the past 3 years.  This photo of Benita is one of them. Ordering details in about a week. 54,78,38,0,B

Monday, November 15, 2010

glass in the wind...

Nice calm morning then gusty west winds all day.  20 - 30 mph till about 6PM.  Lost another really good piece of glass on my solar oven today because I wasn't paying attention.  I have lost more glass out here because of mental lapses than I care to admit.  Benita sought refuge on the east side of my house all day.

Stranded inside most of the day working on the marketing plan.  This monster I am creating in the desert not only has to feed me, but it also has to pay some bills.  The biggest nut is health insurance - yes, I actually pay for health insurance, and it aint cheap. No way to be totally self sustainable in this world without being commercial in some respect. 57,70,40,0,G

Sunday, November 14, 2010


On and off all day clearing the north side.  Sorted debris and scooted stuff out of site for a pic.  Walter has retired for the winter to the south side of the greenhouse.

Working on breaking in the new boots.  Getting through the incredibly painful phase quite well.  Just a couple of hours a day just before the blisters bloom.  My old boots are falling apart but they feel like melted butter when I put them on.  Did my break-in session this morning then sandals for the rest of the day while I let the glue set on a loose heal.  59,79,34,0,B

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

It's Chuck's Fault

The Ural arrived today....took it out for a long test run to get the hang of it.  Drives like a dream.  It would have never occurred to me to buy a motorcycle with a side car, but Chuck was one of the first people I met out here and he has two of them - so I have him to blame now.  Benita and Mr. Floppy were curious but not impressed - they probably don't understand horsepower.  If the greenhouse doesn't work out - it will be a helluva garage for the new vehicle.  56,80,42,B

Thursday, November 11, 2010

last form pour pulled

Long string of visitors today....I dragged Allen Hare and his wife Ok Hwa over on their way back to civilization for a photo op.  Already looking forward to their visit next year as they are two of my all time favorite friends.  Three other tours came out today - all welcome of course.  Managed a little labor into the schedule... pulling the form off of yesterdays pour, some site cleanup, and a water run down south. Good news is the Starlight Theatre is due to re-open on Saturday!  65,80,38,0,C

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Early GrubShack breakfast then right to work.  Only plan of the day was to get set for the last perimeter pour.  It all came together so quickly - I decided to giteralldone....finished up by 2PM.  Once the blocks are set...I rip lengths of 2x4 and wedge them into place along the back edge of cinder blocks under the container.  Next I bend the ends of a single long piece or re bar to run the length of the blocks and fit into the left and right ends of the blocks.  The form gets set about 3' outside of the line.  Concrete fills the outside - pours into the block voids - and seals out the outside world up to the bottom of the containers.  This pour took another 24 bags because the form started to shift and blow out on the left side....caught it just in time and weighted it down with extra cinder blocks.  60,79,40,0,C

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Cut 7 cinder blocks in half the long way to fit them in for the last foundation pour. Lots of noise and lots of dust but my trusty circ saw did the job.  Me thinks the masonry blade is just about spent.  Looking forward to the last big pour of the season along the NW edge of the greenhouse - and getting it over with.  60,82,37,0,B

Monday, November 8, 2010


Been thinking awhile about a more economical vehicle for my grocery supply runs.  Something with character, perhaps.  Several friends of mine have Russian Ural motorcycles with side cars.  My friend Jim Wright up in Marathon recently decided to sell his and I just couldn't pass it up.  Good for rugged off-roading and street legal too.  Took a drive north today with two "foilheads"(Chuck and Jessie) to check it out and seal the deal.  Don't worry Ara  http://theoasisofmysoul.com/ , I wont be getting a pit bull....and no - Benita will not fit in the sidecar.  64,79,35,0,C

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Friday, November 5, 2010

Thursday, November 4, 2010

bad with names...

A new crew came in today for the FL tour.  Forgot to write down names so these guys are known as the crew till I hear from them again.  Usually I write down every one's name but somehow I missed it this time.  Very nice folks - just like all the visitors I get.  Sorry guys...send me a message so I can change this paragraph and add the names!  [Got an email the next day from the crew - that's Mike, Bob, and Jason in the photo.]

Colder nights are starting so I figured I had better get the next two concrete pours done soon.  Best to avoid overnight freezing temps for the stuff to cure correctly.   Finished resetting the block for the SE section this afternoon.

Dusted off Mr. Heater and put him into service tonight.  Ready for the big cold now.  60,69,39,0,C

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


It's that time of year.  Making the transition into the winter season.  Just moved the ice box out to the front porch tonight - no more ice purchases for 4 months.  The chilly overnight temperatures will keep the food fresh.  Reckon I will extract the swamp cooler tomorrow.

Another batch of solar bread went into the oven this morning.  Just as I plopped 'em in, another chili cookoff crew came in for a visit and tour.  My friends Curtis and Melissa came out for their second visit (they were here last year on November 5th) and brought some Odessites - my new best friends Carl and Melinda.  The only thing better than getting visitors out here is getting return visitors.  They were a bit disappointed that Benita wasn't here this trip, but Mr. Floppy came in for a snack and a photo op. 

Late this afternoon, Benita appeared on the horizon and decided to make an appearance - a bit too late for the visitors.  Nice to see the old girl again.  Pretty windy today so she dined in the great hall that will be the greenhouse courtyard.  67,78,40.0,W

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Easy day off after the round trip north.  Cleaned up a bit and whipped up a batch of bread dough for the solar oven.  Had a GrubShack lunch with - then tour for my boyz from Arkansas -  Bruce, Dick, Lee, and James.  These trouble makers are in town for their annual chili cookoff trek.  I have been in touch with Bruce for the past year so it was good to finally meet him and his gang.  Sent the boyz packing with 4 loaves of my specialty bread to share with the crazies down south tonight.  My secret recipe goes great with any kind of chili....even chili with beans!  64,80,46,0,B

Monday, November 1, 2010


OK....so no private party yesterday.  Did an overnighter at Motel6 in Odessa for some leisurely errands today.   More FL tshirts dropped off for my friends at Mueller Steel, new boots, a real idler pulley for the Bike'O'Worsher, 3 cans of BatterBlaster, lunch at Hooters with my buddy Guy Hodges (the manager there shut down my live webcast), and a stop at Home Depot to pick up my order for 30 sheets of  polycarbonate for the last section of greenhouse roofing.  The rack did the job.  Quick stop at McCoys on the way through Alpine to order another pallet of concrete mix.  Back to recording the temperatures tomorrow.