Thursday, March 31, 2011

sucking air...

Made the rounds to the Waterboxx experiment today...previous sprouts are doing fine - a couple of new ones - and a few that looked like sprouts that didn't make it.  Gave them all one last extra drink but from here on out they are on their own.  Can the Waterboxx sustain life in the desert?

Long lunch lull at the GrubShack.  Looks like we may be looking at a cover charge soon - Jerry picked up my friend Pat Obryan's  guitar and can play just about any song ever written with only 3 chords. 

Ural maintenance on the schedule for today.  Discovered that one of the fuel lines was shredding.  Took a ride over to Chucks and he just happened to have an extra chunk of hose.  Replaced a couple of sections and it purred like a sick kitten but ran like a gem.  Alpine trip on the list now for gutter supplies and more hose so I can replace all the lines.

Found that my new tomato plant has its first fruit forming.   78,90,43,0,B

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

more rocks...

Met up with my buddy JLP (frequent blog commenter) and Sandra at the GrubShack for breakfast...then the tour.  Three generations of longhorns on hand - Benita, Beatrice, and Penelope.  I really enjoy showing long time readers the spread.  Although we have just met for the first time - it's like we are old friends.

Afternoon tour for my friend Stephen King (not the writer).  He is the Odessa branch manager for Mueller Steel in Odessa.   He has been following the progress at TFL since my first purchase.  Really glad he had a chance to come down and see their products as I have put them to use in real life.  I really gotta hand it to Mueller - they are VERY customer friendly. 

Did my "new cow" routine this afternoon to try and bond with Penelope.  Being so young, she doesn't quite get what range feed is yet but I finally managed to scratch behind her ears so I think she knows now that I'm OK.  She also figured out that my house is a good place to scratch her chin.

Late shift in the shade and I was back in the thick of it chopping out more rock on the NE end of the greenhouse.  Been rather labor slack lately so I figured it was time for some hard work - just to get it out of the way.  82,91,42,0,B

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

fridge upgrade...

Picking up 2 new 130W solar panels this week from my buddy Bennett in Alpine.  Going to bump up my overall electrical systems to accommodate the greenhouse and soon to be new container house.  Been thinking awhile about a refrigerator upgrade although cold is free in the desert about 4 months each year.  My icebox works pretty well but since I am spending about $160 per 8 warm months on block ice to keep things cool - it is about time to get free of the iceman.

Sundanzer's off grid refrigeration has been around for years but is way over priced IMHO.  Been investigating the chest freezer-to-refrigerator conversion  for some time now and I am ready to take the leap.  My genius friend Mikey Sklar has been working on his own version of a digital temperature controller that is quite elegant.  Check the store on Mikey and Wendy's blog of super achievement. Of course he can probably control it with the RFID chip he implanted in his hand.

Just checking the web today....a Sundanzer 12 / 24 VDC  5.8 cu.ft. chest refrigerator/freezer is $1100....OR....A Haier 7 cu.ft. freezer is $199.  Mikey's temperature controller for the conversion is $60 for the kit...$80 assembled.  Yes, you have to run it off 110AC with an inverter but by converting a chest style freezer to a refrigerator, the power consumption is very doable for most any off grid system.
My rock star buddy Trevor Reichman found a close contender - the new units by Edgestar....they run on 12 / 24VDC  or 110AC.  Don't have the noggin tonight to cypher out the wattage comparisons - you do the math.  Keep in mind it's gonna take a lot less power to just keep food cold than it is to freeze your stuff.

Monday, March 28, 2011

mesquite jungle...

Just in the past week - the mesquite has sprouted leaves and flowers.  Nice to see the sudden patches of green pop up on the brown landscape.  Had another cow day here today which included another big chew on the IP cam wire so one of my web cams is down yet again.  Got a 25' tower/observation platform on the drawing board for that cam so the gnawed wire scheme is soon to be a thing of the past.

My very first hand feeder longhorn is back in the neighborhood after a many months long absence - Beatrice, Benita's daughter.  She has a new calf this year which I have named Penelope after the writer of the NYTimes piece.  Little P is getting used to me and soon I hope to have her eating out of my hand. 

My buddy David (make sure to check out his blog ) told me this morning at the GS that the Marcums were out working on their place .  This is the couple I performed the wedding for at TFL over a year ago - and they are still married.  I took the Knob Creek over to crack open for a mid-afternoon adult cold beverage.
Worked in the shipping and handling department today boxing up the recent Benita Mug orders.  Thanks for supporting TFL by purchasing the postcard sets and Benita mugs.  BTW - the mug orders include an extra treat.  80,90,44,0,B 

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Terlingua Creek Cat's Eye morning.  Maria and Will from Sul Ross had a chance to sit down and discuss my special plant at The Field Lab with Bill Lindemann ( twice past president of the Native Plant Society of Texas) and his associate Jane Crone. 
The pros were brought out by my friend Carolyn Ohl.  I learned about the oasis she created in the desert about a year before I moved here and it was the inspiration for my dam project. 
We have fewer flowers happening this year due to the weather and many blooms are already going to seed.  Maria took a chunk of my biggest plant for further study and placed a GeoCache nearby. will be listed on the site soon.

Back to some real work this afternoon and got the SE tank into position.  71,87,45,0,B

Note:  I have received quite a few postcard set and mug orders in the past week - they will all ship tomorrow - you will get an email confirmation once they are in the mail.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

vsadil na solární energii

Another interesting day at TFL.  No construction accomplished but it's the weekend after all.  First up was a tour for my new friends Dewey and Meredith from Austin.  We met up for lunch at the usual pre-tour spot...The GrubShack!  They have been following the blog for a couple of years and almost knew the tour by heart without ever having been here.  Dewey gifted me with a very fine bottle of Knob Creek. 

Next up - A team of University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering undergraduate students who drove all the way out here for their spring break to show me their cutting edge fuel cell technology that has won several awards.  Thanks Marcus, Christian, Joon, and Jason for going to all the trouble to travel to the Field Lab.  I really gotta hand it to these guys for their dedication - this was not the kind of spring break I ever had back when I was in college.
To top it off - I got several emails today from the Czech Republic.  72,87,52,0,B

Friday, March 25, 2011


Yet another rare opportunity while living in the middle of nowhere:  Came in for a late breakfast at the GrubShack and the people coming and going were SO GOOD I couldn't leave.  The best locals all seem to arrive just around closing time.  No chance of rain in the near future so I didn't feel a need to get the next water tank in place right away.  We all got pretty excited when a slicked up Airstream travel trailer pulled up with a giant sign that said Million Dollar Road Trip on the side.   Even though they didn't have bags of money for us - we sat around for quite some time hearing about their story.   Seems that my buddy Tom Michael from KRTS Marfa Public Radio suggested that they explore south county and beyond as part of their journey...including a visit to The Field Lab and a chance to meet Benita.  Had a great time giving Walter and Tristan the full tour.  Nice to be a very small part in their mission to help and inspire young entrepreneurs.  Check out their website & Facebook page and keep an eye out for these guys when they come to a city near you.  If you see their rig - say howdy and tell them Benita sent you.  74,92,47,0,B

Thursday, March 24, 2011

old friends...

Visit today from lots of cows and new calves...including old friends Beatrice and Marlys with their '11 progeny.  I just named the new alpha cow ( the only one Benita will back down from) after my friend and Field Lab visitor - "Porter" Palmer.  Her pigment lacking white calf is named Bill. 
Did the split shift again today....moved one load of sand in the morning - some quality time at the GrubShack - laundry (at the laundromat - too hot for the bike'o'worsher) - more quality time at the GrubShack - then a final load of sand to prep the pad for the SE watertank.  81,93,54,0,B

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

plant day

Just couldn't bring myself to more tank level'n today - just a bit of prep for the next session.  Got an email last night from my buddy Bill about the waterboxx experiment.  Seems the seeds might need another extra dose of agua to help them sprout.  Headed over to the site with water in tow and dowsed all the boxxes with 1 liter each.  Two out of 32 (I said 30 in a previous post) tests had seedlings sprouting already. 
Brought the rest of the water home and trickled it onto some of my favorite plants at the Lab.  More buds are popping out every day around here.  Fetched the flash drive out of the GardenWatchCam to check the 3rd test - worked well on the Cat's Eye plant at a full day with a shot taken every 5 seconds.  The camera is from   Caught quite a few pollinators doing their job.  Next test - a multi day shoot with one frame every 5 minutes to check bloom soon.  77,90,50,0,B

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

tank bath

Morning duty precision cutting some OSB for Chuck.  High winds for about 5 hours today so did housework and took a nap.  Capped off the day hosing down the inside of the skanky tank.  Sump pump in a 55 gallon barrel of water'n'bleach gave me good sanitizing pressure for the interior bath.  81,93,55,0,W

Monday, March 21, 2011

giant asparagus!

Chuck tagged along for a dual Alpine run today.  Interesting how conversation evolves when two New Yorkers get together.  Me - mostly Benita treats (she was patiently waiting when I drove up) and some parts investigation to inspire my gutter first flush and downspout systems...Chuck - lumber,parts, and tools.  Chuck splurged for lunch on the far west side of town at my favorite Alpine restaurant ...Texas Fusion.  Spotted two century plants along the road - Texas style asparagus (imagine what your pee would smell like after eating one of these).  Going to town was an all day affair so didn't get settled home till 5:30PM.  Nice total cloud cover for a change and an 80% chance it won't rain tonight so I cut a downspout hole in each gutter...just in case.   75,89,51,0,B


Note:  Visit number 600,000 happened today at 7:35:48AM -  from Jefferson City, Missouri

Sunday, March 20, 2011

nature calls...

French overnighters left...Maria the botanist arrived.  We made the rounds to some of the recent blooms I spotted on the Terlingua Creek Cat's Eye plant.  She carried on with her research while I went over the instructions for the garden cam she brought out.  Set it up for a test today and found it needs to be tweaked a bit.  Loaded the software tonight and programmed the flash drive for the camera.

Just in the last couple of days - the desert has been greening up with just the equinox heat and no water.  Can't help but think these plants are pumping out their last reserves just to get some buds growing.  Transplanted a store bought tomato plant into a bucket of dung'n'dirt.  First official vegetable of the unfinished greenhouse.  Made a run over to the waterboxx experiment and found no evidence yet of sprouts but all the tubs are still filled with water.

The Panther Mountain Clan left today and dropped off their leftover food and a Javelina head.  Had an endless sunset tonight.  78,92,57,0,C

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Day Off


Friday, March 18, 2011

tank move two

Double trip to Study Butte for a post office run - but missed the screwy bank hours.  Just makes no sense to me so I keep forgetting that the bank is closed from 11 - 2. 

Relocated 400 more gallons from one of the lower tanks then did the tip'n'roll with the empty one and got it close to its' final resting place.  The Panther Mountain clan is out this weekend so got treated to a fireworks show.  I reciprocated with a flame thrower show. 
It's getting hot out here - looks like swamp cooler season might be coming on early this year.  82, 95,54,0,B

Thursday, March 17, 2011

water shuffle...

Moved 1000 gallons today with the gennie, a pump and 200 ft. of hose to a high tank...dumped the last 200 gallons.  Now I got an empty far away tank ready to tip'n'roll.  Gonna have to climb inside and scrub out the slime before placing this one in position on the SE end of the greenhouse.  Still have the other tank to empty (pulled off 125 gallons at the end of the day for some select yuccas) but in no big rush to get that one into place.  With two 3,000 gallon tanks hooked up to the gutters - I will need about 4" of rain to fill them and I reckon it will be awhile till TFL accumulates that much this year.  80,94,52, 0,C

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

cows like water...

Didn't realize till this morning that we had an overnight rainstorm at TFL.  Would have missed it entirely except for the evidence on my solar panels this morning.  Probably lasted about 30 seconds.   Discovered today that it is not easy to transfer water to plants when one has over 50 thirsty longhorns milling about.  Gave it up after I started pumping the first tank load.  Will have to wait for the spring break longhorn crowd to loose interest before "mooving" on with this effort.   Did 4 Field Lab tours today...very cool custom camping vehicle came by this afternoon occupied by the Texas McBeast family.  78,92,50,0,B