Wednesday, December 31, 2008

happy new year!

Received my last Christmas gift today....the "Backstage Handbook" from my former NYC employer and now buddy-Chris Callis. Kind of special that he sent me this book as it is so appropriate to my professional history. I started off in college as a technical theatre major. This book contains all the technical info I would have needed to know way back then, had I pursued that career or my imaging careers (in theatre, film or still photography) - with illustrations that remind me of my favorite manual: Architectural Graphic Standards. The Callis book arrived just in time to help me reflect on my past and future with the year coming to an end. No regrets, so far....It just seems to be getting better and better.

I can't help but be thankful for the easy success I have had (year one) in this harsh environment, thanks in a great part to the friends I have made here. Good people seem to gravitate toward one on another...Chuck, Kathy, Ronald, Craig, Carolyn, Jim, Julie, Whitebear, and Trevor top the list for this year. Looking forward to an incredible '09 in the middle of nowhere - for all of us!

Tonight I am celebrating with the Field Lab House Wine.....Yellowtail Merlot. No way will I make it till midnight - so Happy New Year ( plus 1 second ) to everyone!! There is a lot to do in '09 - so stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Very important note: If 2008 seems to drag on and on tomorrow it's because "the powers that be" (in regard to time keeping) are adding one second to the worlds clocks. Something to do with the earth spinning just a little slower. The last minute of 2008 will have 61 seconds. I hope everyone makes good use of this extra time and that it doesn't throw off your new years countdown.

Had to run some errands down in Study Butte this morning. Passed Dan on the highway - can't miss his red BMW roadster. Caught up with him at Kathy's Kosmic Kowgirl Kafe and had coffee and chitchat with Dan and some tourists. Felt myself getting sucked in to a day of hanging out so skidaddled out of there and hustled home.

Made my last major online purchase for the year....a small MIG welder from Northern Tool. I have several projects on the slate for '09 that will require bonding metal to metal. I will be using it at Chucks house to begin with since it requires grid power - but ultimately will add a gas generator to my collection of essential tools so I will be able to use the welder at the Field Lab and out and about.

Exhausted after my shopping spree - I took a drive to the nether regions west of me. Mostly just exploring and wandering around....with a little rock hunting. Sometimes it's hard to tell if I'm walking on some distant planet or just lost in the desert. Can't help spotting lots of little treasures that have been on this landscape for ages. Photo of some odds'n'ends I have been collecting from my property.

Monday, December 29, 2008

No news is good news....

The year is winding down and so am I. Getting my ducks in a row for 2009. Photo from the archives - one of only two snakes that I have seen since being out here for just over a year. A Red Racer: non-poisonous but long and f a s t !

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Wind Chill

The wind has let up for now - calm, sunny, and cool (66 degrees). Seemed to get back into the swing of things today... mounted sheet metal to the sides of my solar oven reflectors - got up to 310 degrees today. Tried a cooking experiment this afternoon but it didn't work out very well - not enough oven time and I will have to tweak the recipe before revealing it here. It was OK but I had to top it off cooking-wize with the propane grill. Palatable, but that's about it - if anything happens overnight because of the meal, I will let you know tomorrow. That's why this place is called The Field Lab. Made a run over to Chuck and Kathy's to pick up the latest issue of Mother Earth News from them - for some bread recipes.

As I have been in drastic need of some personal cleansing - I turned my attention to a task for the solar shower that has been on the list for a long time. I joked with my Aunt Mary Lou yesterday about my need for a shower - "do I stink it there is no one here to smell me?" Finally stapled up a canvas tarp around the shower - I bought the tarp for just this purpose about a month before I even moved out here and began construction. This has nothing to do with modesty and all to do with WIND! I don't care how warm the water or how hot the sun is - if it's windy, it's COLD to shower in the great outdoors. With my new wind break in place I took a nice hot shower with no wind chill. Ahhhhhhhh....probably the last for 2008. Next on the list is a new/more efficient solar hot water system - especially for these winter months.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Long View...

The Saturday after Christmas has to be the truest of all days off. It was for me. Nothing of much consequence to report today - other than lots of wind last night and this morning. Noted that my 4 wind turbines combined are maxing out at about 500 watts in 30+ mph winds. Getting excited about what is in store for me next year. With that - I leave you with this parting shot of Christmas '08.

Friday, December 26, 2008


Zero'd in in my SE corner today. Marked it with a flag on a 10' piece of re bar. Primarily used GoogleEarth to mark the spot based on distances and directions from visible landmarks. The posted flag is approximately 350 yards from The Field Lab headquarters. My four favorite technologies are the Internet, Doppler Radar, GoogleEarth, and portable GPS. The physical world at my fingertips.

Decided to explore by foot - out and about. Chose an easy route to check out for a first look. Even left a note and a map of the proposed route at my house....just in case - a smart thing to do when living and traveling in the outback. In my travels, I came across a cattle trail. I wonder how long they have been taking this path. Mostly longhorn tracks but also some signs of coyotes. I call it the critter trail. My trip was only about 1.5 miles in 3 hours but lots of incredible scenery and rock formations. Had to wind around quite a bit on the return leg due to deep ravines feeding the canyon. No super-duper fossils found on this trek.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas day!

Well....chock up Christmas number 49! Have there really been that many?

Left my Christmas lights on all night last night. Nice to wake up early and see them blinking away outside. Got 5 great gifts today....$100 from my good ol' (94+ yr old) stepmother. We have a running joke about me always needing new socks. Guess its kind of like wearing clean underwear in case you get hit my a this case, having good socks in case you get bit my a rattlesnake?....or something like that. She is still concerned that my boots don't fit because I clomp when I walk in them....what a "mom" thing to say. A sweater and book from Chuck and Kathy....and a sweater and a book from my first girlfriend - really glad I tracked her down on Facebook six weeks ago or I would have been 2 presents short. She is still a sweetheart after 32 years of separation. Gotta get on the ball because no presents have gone out from here yet....

Baked another batch of solar cookies and donned the Santa disguise for one more important delivery. Just caught Ara and Spirit as they were getting ready to motor off for a days worth of travel and socializing. I will really miss them when they get the itch to hit the road again - but at least I know that they have a home base now on the Oasis - just a couple of miles away from the Field Lab.

Headed out to the nether regions of my 40 acres to try and mark the far SE corner of my property. Between GoogleEarth and my GPS, I'm getting close. Posted a flag to try and zero in on the spot. Found lots of new giant clam fossils out in that direction. Finished the day with calls to the "A" list relatives ( especially to my Crazy Aunt Jean ) - and a sunset bonfire for my Christmas finale....CHEERS!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Santa's coming to town...

Solar Baked Shortbread Cookies: Cooked with heat of the same SW Texas sun that warms my soul every day. Santa was busy all day mixing cookie dough and prepping for the afternoon solar bake-a-thon. Had to refrigerate the dough for a couple of hours and needed to get a bag of ice - there goes my carbon credits for having baked the cookies with my solar oven....Finished the last batch at 4:30PM and wrapped up a bunch of gift packages for my favorite people out here. Broke out the Santa suit and hit the road to spread some Christmas cheer. Folks really like Santa - especially when he actually drops in on them.

My hope for all on Christmas day - that each and everyone receives the happy medium between what you think you want and all you'll ever need, and the forethought to see the difference between the two.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Big News!

Well, not really....not much new to report. Super dreary morning - cold, windy, cloudy. After posting the photo from my old house in NY yesterday, I was really ready for some snow this morning. Decided to bug out to Alpine for some last minute "Christmas Shopping". Just a few more coveted items for myself ( an 8 Gig SD card for my digital camera ) and some treats for Chuck's dogs. Me and Santa just love the critters.

On my way out today, our dreaded HOA road crew was out to dredge my road just a couple of inches deeper - at this rate I will need a burro or a canoe to get out my road during rainy season. Seems like it was just about this time last year that they came out to do their damage. The road was just fine - they smoothed a couple of bad spots but over all - ignored the worst spots and just dug a deeper canal for the water to flow through next time it rains. Our HOA is the only blight on this beautiful landscape. I reckon there always has to be a down side to every perfect situation.

Allzwell in the desert and now I'm on final count down for Santa. I've been really good this year. I do have a few tasks to perform tomorrow so all is not lost. The next post will be packed with excitement and adventure - I promise!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Winter Solstice

Photos of my first and second Winter Solstice sunsets. Cold and windy ALL DAY today. Our high temperature was 54 just before sunrise. After the sun came up the wind kicked in, the temperature dropped. The low during the day was 43 and it never made it up past 50 even though the sun came out all afternoon. Killed the dreary cold morning by doing a laundry run to Study Butte. When I got back, I noticed that turbine #3 was making some weird noise in 25mph+ winds and I wasn't getting as much power as I expected out of all 4 turbines. Waited till I got a break in the wind and shut it down and checked the fuse...sure enough it had blown so the turbine was over spinning and sending juice nowhere. I had a small spark when I wired it up to the pole mount - probably blew it then. New fuse is in and all is well.

Got a photo today from my genius inventor/neighbor Robin back in upstate NY. ( ) She sent me a winter solstice view of my old garden, barn and house buried in the snow. Makes me kind of sad to see the old place - guess I miss it more than I thought. The big tree just to the right of center was an old maple that I tapped and made syrup from my second year there. The shortest day of the year was always my favorite. Just meant that each day from then on was going to get longer and longer...although spring never hit till mid April. I really miss the sound of the late night snow plows grinding by with their yellow lights flashing in my windows.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Day off

Since I made no plans last night for today's schedule - I seemed to have given myself a free day. Tomorrow will be the shortest day of the year so I will plan in advance tonight for some scheduled tasks to fill it. Found myself a bit lost so just puttered the day away...untangled my Buddhist prayer flags, went rock hunting, and did a lot of pondering my existence. Did some reading of the manual for my Canon G9 to figure out the stitch mode for a big panorama next time there is an excellent sunset. Also found in the manual that in movie mode, I can shoot time lapse video. Been dying to try that with some good moving clouds or perhaps the next flyby of the space station - now I know how to do it. Wrapped up the day getting my high res web cam and my Blue Tooth headset hooked back up to the laptop. I got a Skype video call last night from a friend back home in NY and wasn't ready for it. He is planning to call back tomorrow during his family's annual Christmas party so I can attend via the web. Might just have to break out the Santa suit for that. Since no photo of "the day of not much" is yesterdays photo of the flying anemometer.

Friday, December 19, 2008

moving day

Woke up at 5:30 this morning in time to get ready to photograph the International Space Station fly by. Right on cue, it appeared in the very early morning sky at 6:19. Shot this 15 second exposure at about 6:21AM as it crossed close to the moon. A great way to start my second year in the desert.

One year ago today I moved in to my little desert hut. Took 7 days of construction and two days off to get in the barely finished box. It's come a long way since then. Was kind of creepy that first night out here but with each day it just gets better and better. Now it feels creepy to be anywhere else. Pretty rewarding to own it all and do it all yourself. Feels really good to be home. ( Note: did some visiting today and got the anemometer up and wired)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Slow Dome Builder

Scrambled this morning to prep my ingredients for another batch of solar baked cornbread. Before mixing up the liquid portions, I waited to see if the sun was going to cooperate today. While it was still cloudy, I ran the wires for my solar panels and the anemometer through conduit into the battery house. Suddenly it looked like a patch of clear sky was coming so I decided to go for it and mix up the batter and toss it in the oven. While the cornbread slowly baked, I wired up the connections from the solar panels. The cornbread was done 2 hours later.
Picked up a bag of concrete mix and prepped the hole for the anemometer pole mount. Got it all situated and poured the concrete. Tomorrow I will install the pole and supports - and the anemometer readout in the battery house. By 3:30, sun looked like it was about to be covered by clouds so I took a nice warm shower while I had the chance.
Drove over to ( reluctant rock star ) Trevor Reichman's dome project to check up on his progress. I'm trying to light a fire under his ass to git'r'done. The light was just right for a couple of photos. The dome and the exoskeleton.

Scooted home at 5:30 to pick up my cornbread and drove to the American Legion Post for the monthly pot luck supper. This is the first one I have attended since moving out here. Had a nice chat with some of the old locals I've gotten to know. Excellent amount of food and lots of variety - and all good people. I didn't know what I was missing.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Marfa Public Radio

Shopping run to Alpine today. Loaded up on more baking supplies for the solar oven, parts to mount my anemometer and some wire to hook some solar panels up to the battery house. got home at 4PM. Also bought my Christmas present - the GPS for my truck. This may just end the age old fights between couples who travel and get lost, because the man refuses to stop and ask for directions. I for one am guilty of this. A couple of times I relented and let the girl ask for directions. I think this is because guys hate to look stupid but women love appearing vulnerable - their greatest weapon against man.

Light wind tonight and all 4 turbines are spinning......a gusty night would be greatly appreciated.

I would like to take this space to wish all at 93.5FM KRTS, Marfa Public Radio a very Merry Christmas. I am a proud supporter of our local station. KRTS was my lifeline to the outside world during my early construction phase last year at this time and continues to inform and entertain on a daily basis. They are the perfect mix of national NPR programing and excellent locally produced shows - even if it is the only station I can get out here. If I could only choose one station to receive, it would be KRTS. Funny how things work out...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Wind turbines and shoes

Only made it to 21 degrees this morning. The desert sure is nice when it is chilled. Warmed up to almost 70 today. Got right out into the cool morning and into the turbine project. Got the first one up by 1:30 and the second by 4:45. I feel really good now that all 4 wind turbines are up - considering how long ago it was that I finished all the prep work for them. Nice calm day and probably will remain so for some time now that all 4 are ready to crank out the juice. I shot about 10 photos of the turbines as the sun was going down. My buddy Ronald called to tell me about the late sunset sky which I almost missed. Ran right out and got this shot of the fab four. Thanks Ronald.

Something has occurred to me since the media blitz of President Bush getting shoes thrown at him at a press conference in Iraq. The Muslim world is always ripe for calling for the blood of western civilization if only for a political cartoon that may insult their religion. Now that the shoe is on the other foot (so to speak) the Muslim world should be quite grateful we are not so insulted as the insult was intended to be - otherwise, Americans would be rioting in the streets calling for the feet to be cut off of the offending journalist. Lucky for you, we are too busy shopping for Christmas to be bothered.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Back to Earth...

Cool and windy all day today. Really reminds me of a couple of days last year at this time when I was getting my house built - and it was just two chilly to get much done outside. Only reached a high of 56 today with winds averaging 14 mph out of the east - with gusts up to 25mph. Dug up all the parts for the next two wind turbines and plugged away at them. Got the tail sections ready for wire, painted and tail lettering done. Finished mounting one hub and quit at 4:30 'cause I was gettin' cold. Already 38 at 7:45PM and heading down to challenge the 20 degree mark tonight. Not worried about a cold night because I got the propane and 18,000 btu's of heat potential at my disposal if I need it.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Don't believe a word of it...

Needed a change of pace today so I "launched" my secret pet project. Been developing a large rocket with engines propelled by longhorn dung and propane. Controlling the robotic mission from an old desktop computer running Windows 2000. Navigation and communication handled by a used GPS unit and a hacked Trac Fone from Walmart, some wire coat hangers for antennas, and some solar panels from old garden lights for power in outer space. Only bought a 200 airtime minute card so this better work quickly. Fired the rocket at 10AM this morning. Took ages to get FAA clearance for the launch today. All three stages worked precisely as planned. The whole reason for this experiment is to retrieve that tool bag lost by an astronaut during a recent space walk at the International Space Station. My rocket is due to catch up to the orbiting tool bag at 1 AM. If my robotic arm made with a Legos Mindstorm kit works correctly, I should be able to grab it on the first pass. Hope to stow it safely in the capsule and re-enter earth's atmosphere at 5AM tomorrow morning. If the wind is blowing just right, folks out here on Terlingua Ranch might see a huge silver parachute just after sunrise. The capsule and tool bag are due to touch down within 100 ft. of my house at 9:08AM. If all goes according to plan, I will be selling the "lost in space" tool bag next week on Ebay.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

the swimmin' hole

Day off today....woke up at 4:45AM and couldn't go back to sleep - thus began a very long day off. Killed the early dark morning hours by dancing around on the internet. Cooked up bacon and eggs outside just as the sun rose. Chilled out with Ara and his friends all day. Started at 11 AM with snacks at The Oasis. Next we headed out to Terlingua creek and the famous swimming hole that I have finally seen for the first time - to collect rocks for Ara. The spot was breathtaking. Came back to Ara's for soup, his home baked (not solar, yet) bread....and bananas baked in his fire pit ashes, wrapped with foil and stuffed with marshmallows and chocolate chips. That was really good.

But I must say that the absolute highlight of the day for me was on the trip out to the swimming hole. We stopped by a rancher (Dick Cain) who was hanging out with about 7 longhorns by the road. No Benita, but he is the guy that owns her. My new friend Voni (the queen of red BMW's) captured this photo of Dick and I talking about his longhorn cattle. I described Benita to him and he knew exactly who I was talking about. Says she is almost 20 years old now and is wintering on the west side of Agua Fria mountain. Dick got a kick out of my stories of befriending Benita and some of her friends...and a real big kick out of the fact that I had named her. Going to track him down again tomorrow to show him some photos of her and perhaps try to find her to say hello.

Ended the day with Chuck and family at Kathy Korrao's Kosmic Kampfire with Holly, Tod, and Mustang Sally. They just came down from Odessa and brought a load of Christmas goodies for the less fortunate out here. Our buddy Ronald stopped by late just I as I was pooping out. 4:45AM was a long time ago....

Friday, December 12, 2008

Full Cold Moon

Last night I couldn't help but take some 15 second exposures of the landscape. The moon was really bright....You might not think so to look at it, but this photo was taken long after sunset - around 9PM central time. Also, I set the camera up to do its own sort of lunar-lander self portrait.

From Scientific American: If tonight's full moon appears larger and more luminous than usual, it's not because you're loony or due for a new pair of glasses. ( I thought it was really weird that they said that because I am a little bit loony and I am due for a new pair of glasses ) The moon, you see, orbits Earth in an ellipse with one end closer to Earth than the other; tonight's full moon corresponds closely with the orbit's perigee, the closer end of that ellipse. (The more distant end of the ellipse is known as apogee.) What's more, tonight's perigee will bring the moon and Earth closer together than they have been at full moon since 1993. That means that tonight's moon will appear 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than the other 11 full moons this year. The full moon in December is also know as the "cold moon".
Tried another solar oven experiment this morning....this time cornbread. Decided to avoid the rising dough mishap with a recipe that didn't require it. Cooked like a charm in just over 2 hours. Had time left over to do a load of laundry, come home and hang it to dry, and deliver my second solar baking sample to a few lucky Terlinguites.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Field Lab Bread

23 degrees was the low this morning....pretty frosty out there. I cooked some chicken last night on my outdoor grill - walked by it this morning heading out to the frigid tundra for my morning constitution and felt a warm blast of air. I left the grill on medium heat all night! Oops. Perhaps my solar oven will make up for all the propane I just wasted.

The day and I were both consumed by making solar baked bread today. Went to Chucks and picked up piece of radiant barrier to try out as reflective material for the oven. Worked pretty good but have to tweak the angle of the side reflectors about 5 degrees. Got to 275 degrees. Mixed up my bread dough but didn't place it in a warm enough spot to rise correctly.....ended up rather flat but hearty'n'tasty. Cooked the two small loaves for 2 1/2 hours. Gave a loaf to Chuck and Kathy and took one up to Dan's as I was invited to dinner there. Had a great steak. Must say I was pleasantly surprised with how the bread turned out - especially because I didn't have to end up using them as bricks. May have to give it another shot tomorrow. Not a bad first bread effort, unconventionally cooked....unlike me, the solar oven did exactly what it was supposed to do.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Perpetual Project

Alas.....still no cooking with the solar oven. Most of the day invested in a base with wheels and the frame for the reflectors. Pretty tricky figuring and cutting the sides of the reflectors. Perhaps a cooking test tomorrow? Funny thing can build a workable solar oven out of cardboard and oven bags in a matter of hours - I reckon mine is the deluxe version. It should certainly hold up better than cardboard...

Since my one year anniversary out here, I have felt an uneasy sense of urgency to get on the ball. I think it is because I got a bit lazy once I got cozy - now all I can think about are the days lost and what I have yet to accomplish. Also, last year at this time I was kicking ass getting my little house built. I reckon at this point it is best to fill my days with projects instead of fretting about what I haven't done yet. Less thinking and more doing.

My new blades arrived today for the next two wind turbines. Perhaps they will fly by the weekend. Priority number 1 is the oven as I'm just dying for my first solar cooked meal out here. Highlight of the day was an early evening fly by from the International Space Station. I waved - hope they waved back....
Only .o8" of rain from yesterdays sprinkle. Had little effect on my road other than settling the dust. That little bit of water froze in my National Weather Service rain gauge overnight - had to thaw it out to take the measurement this morning.

Don't you just love it when you hit the spell checker button and it replies with "no misspellings found"! Wouldn't you know that when I just wrote that last sentence - I misspelled misspellings!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Greetings! to all you visitors who have come my way via Ara's blog. Nice to seem some fresh faces pouring in. Hope you enjoy the "show". Ara and I are very similar in our take on modern society and how we live life - except I'm a "stay put" and he is a "gotta get on the road." Who would have thought that our paths would cross here in the middle of nowhere - I would have bet on it happening when I worked in NYC as a photographer - meeting a world class chef such as Ara at some high end fashion event.

Ara, Spirit and I drove up to Alpine today for our shopping run. I couldn't help but think that Spirit felt a bit naked without his helmet and goggles - riding in the confined comfort of the back seat of my pickup. I think we both had consumer success. (but I forgot cheese!) Luckily, I had a chance to meet his solar electronics guru of a friend, Ryan - who was still "camped out" in town. This kid really knows his stuff when it comes to electronics and alternative energy. He is living in his own self contained mobile world with every base covered. I think of him as an interesting combination of Ara and I. Ryan has a great dog named Diego that I quickly bonded with.
Started raining as we left Alpine. Got drizzled on all the way back to paradise. Just barely beat the rain back home. Dropped off Ara and Spirit on their talcum powder road and shot home to beat the rain. Started to drizzle at the Field Lab an hour later. Very light rain tonight so I shouldn't have a problem getting out in the morning. Only about 6 degrees of separation (temperature wise) between drizzle and sleet or a light dusting of snow.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Hot oven

"Finished" up the solar oven today - rigged the insulated door and built the stand. Ran another test today with no cooking involved. Easily maxed out at 250 degrees today. I said I was finished but I have yet to add two side reflectors to bump the heat up to 350. Super windy all afternoon with gusts up to 30 mph. Had to chase some of my stuff around as the wind blew. Cleaned up the days mess and went back to the Starlight Theatre for 241 night with my pal Ronald. Heading to Alpine tomorrow for some shopping with Ara and Spirit. Check out the fantastic photos Ara shot while visiting here yesterday - Loading up on some groceries including some items to cook up with the sun later this week as well as some new cookware suited for my solar oven. Ara gave me a good cornbread recipe that will be the first test. Getting caught up with the old girlfriend via email today. Will dig an old photo of us out of the archives soon. She's been married now for over 2o years and has two teenage sons. Me - never been married-never been divorced-happy as a desert clam.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

One year in the desert!

One year ago today, I started building my house out here in the middle of nowhere. The time just seems to move faster and faster. Hard to believe my home was once a wild chunk of desert onto which I first tentatively strode with machete in hand to ward off evil. Now I can't imagine every living anywhere else.

Tried as I might, the solar oven did not get finished today....close, but no hot meal. Chuck came out as I was working on the oven. Soon after, my blog hero (1,000,000+ views) - Ara came out with his dog, Spirit. I gave them the full tour and we hung out at talked about the photography world. We seem to have different missions in life but I feel like we are kindred spirits. Come to think of it....we look like brothers.
Note the new Buddhist prayer flags thanks to my step nephew, Stephen Butler. My first set from his sister Kristen (my favorite step relative!) were worn down by weather to just a whisper of a prayer.

After all the visitors left, I worked on the solar oven again to push it to the almost finished limit. Quit at 4 PM as my solar shower hot water was warmed up and I desperately needed a shower. Boy did that feel good. Cleaned up the construction zone and headed down to the Starlight Theatre to celebrate my anniversary with a night out at the bar. Had a nice time chatting with some locals and an attractive bar maid who winters down here. Also ran into a guy I've corresponded with via the internet who has posted some YouTube videos and has recently located full time to the area. All in all, a very good end to year one at the Field Lab. Icing on the cake was tracking down my first true love on Facebook today.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

almost cook'n

Thought for sure that I would finish up the oven this morning, but..... Had a hankering for a breakfast sandwich from the Grub Shack to kick off the day. Betty makes them on Texas Toast - which for those of you who are unaware, is a double thick slice of bread. Next stop was Study Butte to buy barbecue paint for the interior of the oven. As long I was down south I dropped in on Carolyn at H2O to Go...she is such a sweetheart, I hung out for an hour chatting with her. Finally got to work on the oven at 1PM. Only had time to almost finish and run a test which worked out well, but no hot food yet. Gotta push tomorrow for my first solar cooked meal. Still have to insulate the oven chamber and add side reflectors to bump more sunlight in there. Chance of afternoon clouds so I will have to work quickly in the morning.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Chilly day

Cold, cloudy, and chilly all morning. Below 50 degrees until afternoon. Got suckered in to some socializing twice today on my way to and on the way back from Chucks. I have found that it is a much more valuable experience to interact with friends when you are not surrounded by people 24/7. I needed to rip some slots in the rails for my new solar oven and Chuck's house is where my table saw is living these days since it prefers his juicy power pole electricity. Finished up the basic frame for the oven by 5:30PM. Hope to finish it up in the morning. Expecting a sunny day tomorrow so may just cook my first test meal with the solar oven tomorrow afternoon.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Don't fence me in...

Went shopping this morning - online. Ordered lots of stuff from 4 different vendors - including but not limited to; 2 sets of wind turbine blades, a wide angle lens for my G9, and a hammer with a bottle opener on the claw end ( who doesn't need one of those? ). Also a bunch of odds'n'ends I needed from Harbor Freight that I snapped up while on sale. No one gets trampled to death when you shop online...
Experimented with my solar oven most of the day...decided my flat box design is best suited for spring, summer, and fall but not really effective in winter, due to the low angle of the sun. I have been wanting to try this oven design I saw online over a year ago - so I guess now is the time. Hope to throw a prototype together tomorrow, weather permitting. We only had a high today of 59 with lots of wind. Tomorrow is supposed to be cooler, windy and cloudy. This evening at 8:20PM its gusting to 20 mph out there.

Took a drive in the late afternoon NW of my house to explore and look for Benita. Saw some longhorns but not "B". I am still amazed at how many fossils there are out here. This must have been quite an ocean. I found this fence line from a ranch long ago - about a mile away from my place leading strait back to it. It must have continued across my property as I have found remnants of it there and where it continued on south of my property. Someone went to a lot of trouble to keep something in or out.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Out of juice

Finished up the grounds cleaning as much as was practical...I really need my other two shipping containers to make it all work. Came this close to cutting two sets of blades out of PVC for the new wind turbines. Made an executive decision to invest in two more sets of commercial blades like I have on the first two turbines. Decided they will be the better bet in the long run.
Switched gears and dismantled my prototype solar oven to optimize the size. Had to cut down the box and ran out of battery power for the saw. Charged one of the batteries for over an hour and finished the cutting. This tool has worked hard for me over the past year and needs a little extra TLC to do the job now. Replacing the bad decision of sand as insulation with fiberglass - that was one heavy box. Will reassemble the oven tomorrow for a test.

Had two sets of visitors today....first was Aunt Kathy and my buddy Ginny Viles out for some rock hunting - Ginny got her first tour of my estate. Then my new NYC artist friend Robert Buck stopped by. Robert has been out about 4 times this year looking for a patch of desert to call his own. Something about this part of the country really has him hooked. He expects to be back again in January to continue the search for the perfect spot.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Circle Method

26 degrees at sunrise today but the morning warmed up quickly. High of 80 degrees at 4PM. A guy I met last Easter was out for the weekend - David Hinkle and his buddy Dwight. I have kept in touch with David by email since we first met. He owns about 500 acres SW of me...most of Panther mountain. They stopped by on there way out of the desert and dropped off a load of food they didn't get to while camping. Now I can add two more guys to my list of super nice Texans. David and his family will be out again next Easter and he is going to show me the easy way up his mountain so I can hike and camp up there next year.

Spent all day cleaning up the grounds around my house. Finally eliminated piles of stuff that just didn't belong. To enhance the cleanup effort, I hooked up my surround sound receiver for some really good stereo while I worked. I used a cleaning method I developed back when I lived in a tiny apartment in Manhattan. It was pretty easy back then to get overwhelmed with the thought of cleaning my apartment so I invented the circle method. Rather than haphazard cleaning - you just start at one point and work your way around the perimeter till you get back to the point you started and the next thing you know - everything is in its place. An improved variation of the circle method I also invented is to allow yourself to jump across the circle if something needs to be relocated, bringing you to another point in the circle. Just continue around the perimeter from there. I used both methods today and they still work for me. Out here there was a lot of jumping across the circle to bring things to order. Another day and the grounds should be spic and span.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Happy Recession

Quick day today. Returned my rental truck in Study Butte this morning. Chuck picked me up there and we went to Alpine. Got my truck and we parted ways for the day. I picked up some lumber for both of us and stocked up at the grocery store. Stopped by the Brewster Co. tax office and filled out the form for my homestead exemption which will lower my already low property taxes. The assessor will be coming out in January to "assess" my property with improvements. My 128 sq ft home will be a plus. The exemption will take effect starting next year.

Beat Chuck back to Terlingua Ranch so I dropped off his lumber and took my booty home. Picked up our local musical genius, Trevor Reichman and drove out to Dan and Paul's house to introduce them and pick up some tires and an old refrigerator they were getting rid of. Planning on some rammed earth columns with the tires - but not quit sure what I will do with the nicely shaped fridge.

Stopped by Chuck's on the way home and picked up some precious items I left with him while I was away. He's a damn good guard dog. Got home and prepped for the evening. Shot a load of photos of the Moon, Venus, and Jupiter Show. Tried a bunch of different exposure settings on my G9. This was shot at f2.8 / 15 seconds.

A little light painting in the foreground with my trusty flashlight.