Thursday, April 30, 2009

Beat the Heat

Put in a good days work and was done by noon. Poured (4 loads in Walter) the south entrance, showered and clocked out by 11:30AM. Just as well cause it was too hot the rest of the day. Had a brief visit this afternoon from John Soper - he caught the piece on KWES 9 in Midland yesterday and just had to come out to see the spread. Nice guy and he showed me some geometry/astronomy tricks to figure out the latitude and magnetic declination of the Field Lab. Who can't use a good geometry trick....Also worked another loaf of solar bread into the schedule but that was about it.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Deathly Hot'n'Calm Today

Nice cool morning but it heated up quickly without a breath of a breeze to calm the rising temps. Only Beatrice showed up early but the crowds grew quickly as the morning progressed. I strapped on the feed bag at the Grub Shack and came home to find quite the crew around my house. Lured them out to the end of my driveway with treats.....

Got hot our here quickly so I was only able to gather and sift my aggregate for the final pour. Contemplated doing the pour at the end of the day but lapsed into Terlingua Time and put it off till tomorrow. Banking on a nice hot shower after I finish up in the morning. Ventured up to my neighbor's to photograph the incredible stone retaining wall for his porch he just labored away at over the past couple of days. That's a hellova lot of rocks to move by hand.

Wrapped up the day prepping all the stone, sand and water for tomorrow and pulled the forms off the east entrance pour. Quite pleased with the results....

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

split shift

Met up with my friends Bill and Karen (and Jack, the ugliest dog in Texas) at the Grub Shack this morning for breakfast. They came out so Karen could get the full tour of the Field Lab. Karen was part of the deluxe tour that included hand feeding Beatice. They headed back NE of me and I got to work. Finished the first half of the pour for the east entrance footing by noon.

Prepped for the next half pour then took a break during the sunny/hot hours. Stopped back at the Grub Shack and chatted with Betty and Chuck for awhile. Uncle Jerry from UPS stopped by because he saw my truck and dropped off the wind turbine blades I ordered. Check out I'm tempted to try out one of his wind turbines later this year. Headed out to Bill and Karen's to pick up his scaffolding to borrow for awhile. It will come in handy when I do my cinder block walls.

Got home at 4:30PM and fired up Walter again. Mixed up 3 more batches of concrete and poured the second half of the east entrance. Finished up by 6:30PM and called it a day. A bit hot but nice and breezy during the slave labor portions of the day.

Word has it that my segment on KWES 9 in Midland will air tomorrow promises as usual with the media.

Monday, April 27, 2009

not so much a mystery after all....

High of 105 in the sun today (98 in the shade). Set the blocks into position as shown - level off side to side (front to back is not important). Bolt the 4' sections connecting the back sides and the front sides. Bolt the 3' pieces connecting the front to the back. As most folks figured out...I was building a rack for one of my 123 watt solar panels. Kind of like a heavy duty erector set. I've been pushing my luck - what with a $540 solar panel just laying on the ground propped up on a couple of cinder blocks. Now I have a semi-portable rack to anchor it firmly until I get around to creating a mount that will track the sun. For now, I'm getting plenty of juice as it is. The panel had mounting holes in the underside of the frame that lined up perfectly with the holes in the angle iron. Finished just in time as we have gusty winds tonight.

Baked a loaf of Field Lab Bread for my friends who fed me last night. Dropped it off along with a DVD of some of my recent press. I apologized to their ugly dog for calling him ugly yesterday. Spent a bit of time indoors this afternoon figuring out how to add all my recent press, including my NPR audio interview to a DVD. The Texas Country Reporter episode will be up on YouTube around December. It has to make the local and national rounds before they post it online. Dropped off a DVD to Ronald as well - he's been right in giving me a hard time about slacking off a bit but I am determined not to become a victim of Terlingua Time. Ronald's quote of the day is, " You gotta slow down to catch up to folks in Terlingua." Ronald is the "King of Terlingua Time". but he's happy as a clam so no fault there.

Finished off the day prepping for tomorrows pour. All the tools and materials are lined up and ready to go. Withdrew 50 gallons of water from the bank (my gully washer storage tank ) this evening for the concrete mix. Just hope old Walter fires up without too many pulls or another rope break tomorrow.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

mystery project

What could it possible be used for? Assemble materials...four 3' long angle iron, two 4' long angle iron, 2 bags of quickcrete, 4 cinderblocks, twelve 1" galvanized carriage bolts with matching nuts and lock washers, hack saw, tape measure. Total cost - $90. Cut two of the 3' angle iron pieces to render two 12" pieces and two 24" pieces. Set these pieces into the cinder blocks as shown and fill with concrete - about 1 3/4 80lb. bags of concrete mix will fill the blocks. Soak the blocks down good with water before adding the concrete. I use an old 2 liter Gatorade bottle with small holes drilled in the cap to sprinkle the water. Add a coin to each will keep them guessing some day in the future when someone finds them. Set aside to set up good overnight. To be continued tomorrow.........

Had a great dinner at Bill and Karen's place just a couple of miles NE of me. Bill has been going great guns on the construction but is starting to slack off. I told him I was going to start giving him a hard time on the blog until he gets up to speed so he can rejoin the Ben and David club of quick builders. Had a nice view back toward the Field Lab from the deck while their mutant dog Jack kept an eye out for danger.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Earth Day Alpine

Cleaned and loaded the solar oven and headed up to Alpine this morning for the Earth Day Festival. Cloudy when I arrived so I didn't bother even unloading it. Spent the day just milling around and chatting with folks about life off the grid. Fairly good turnout for the event. Bennett and Eric from Alpine Solar Sales where there in full force and based on my listing in on some conversations - looks like they got a couple of gigs out of the effort. They graciously donated an expensive solar oven as the prize for a contest....the first home made solar oven to melt a block of ice in order to retrieve a plastic egg frozen inside. There were about 7 teams of young kids participating. Not a great day for a solar cook off but nice to see these kids give it a shot. The winners are presented here. It was funny to watch the look on the face of the mother when she heard how much the oven retails for....kind of like when you see someone on Antiques Road Show and they are told their little doo-dad is worth a million bucks.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Texas Monthly

Not much to report today other than I did an hour long phone interview with a writer from Texas Monthly this morning. I am to appear in an upcoming issue on their page entitled "The Horses Mouth". (and no,'s not called the Horses Ass).

The sun was blister hot this morning...could really feel the UV pouring down. Not even a whisper of wind. Had another batch of thunderstorms and finally some high winds blow in this afternoon. I was ready but only got another couple of drops. Could see smoke from a huge brush fire 50 miles north near Calamity Creek.

Thanks for the comments on my cowboy poem. I just started my second one...extolling the virtues of an alarm clock free lifestyle. Saw my first snake of the year at the Field Lab(that makes 4 sightings in 16 months)...anyone care to identify it?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The West is the Best!

Slow/hot day today. Low of 48 - High of 101. Took a leisurely morning at the Grub Shack. Borrowed a sifter from Aunt Kathy and came home to collect more gravel for the next pours. Picked a nice big yucca bloom and brought it home for the first longhorn to want it. Angelina won. Gathered and sifted the next 4 loads for my concrete mix. Too bloody hot to consider stirin' it up so layed back for the afternoon. Managed to work into the light schedule a minor modification on my solar oven reflectors. Did an adjustment of about 5 degrees to bounce more light into the oven. That little task has been on my mind for months - glad I finally got a round tuit. Had some stormy looking weather blowing in from the SW so I battened down the hatches and tarped all my concrete mix. Alas.....only about two drops of rain.

Went into production mode late this afternoon and shot my cowboy poem. I was a bit disappointed that the Texas Country Reporter segment on the Field Lab only featured half of the piece. Now it's out there in it's entirety for all the world to see.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

all press and no work

Just a day of organizing things then about 5 hours of entertaining Wyatt (reporter/producer) and Mike (photographer) from KWES 9 in Midland. Gave me an excuse to clean house and show off for a day.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Fresh out of the oven...

Low of 43 - High of 89...another picture perfect day. Same longhorn group in for breakfast early this morning. Walked them out to the end of the driveway for their range feed. They all came back to the house as I was getting to work on the east footing forms. A couple of the cows went crazy and went running off to meet up with the new mom, Carmen. She came strolling in with a brand new calf wobbling after her. Interesting to watch the reaction of the other longhorns to a new calf. Beatrice was bellowing. I named the new calf Bulmer after my dad's middle name. This little guy is really new as mom still had some afterbirth hanging out of her.

The day shot by quickly as I finished up the forms. Made a trip to the mailbox and found some prickly pear cactus starting to bloom. At 4PM I commenced to grounds keeping. Bagged up all my recyclables and trash and stored it away till the next trip to Alpine. Cleared all the horizontal surfaces in my life and ended it all with a nice hot (wind free) shower. Saw Carmen and Bulmer off in the distance alone together late this afternoon, so I drove out to deliver a snack to the new mom. Solar cooked dinner on the veranda for me and all is well - as usual.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

yucca chew

Low of 44 - High of 84...not a cloud in the sky, again today. Plugged away at half speed (being that it was Sunday). Got all the re bar set for the south entrance and just about finished the forms for the east entrance. Started clearing the grounds for the next press visit on Tuesday. Heated up leftovers in the solar oven tonight.

Same longhorn group was here again all day. Named as follows: Beatrice, Carmelita, Carmello, Coolata, Amos, and Andy. Did you ever wonder if longhorns actually rest their heads on the ground when they are sleeping? Here is Carmelita and Amos during nap time this afternoon. Coolata has a nice wide spread and is starting to warm up to me. Good thing I got a photo of that yucca bloom yesterday - one of the longhorns ate it today - salad on a stick(stalk).

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Knockin' on Heavens Door

Low of 36 - High of 86...not a cloud in the sky. Sequestered at the Field Lab today except for a go kart ride to the mailboxes. Took most of the day to get the forms set for the south entrance...lots of digging rock to get 'er level. Seven longhorns spent the day at the end of my driveway. Beatrice came in to the yard twice for water. Started my dinner at 3:30 - Spanish rice and Cornish Game Hen in the solar oven. Ate outside while listening to one of my favorite Marfa Public Radio shows...Version Quest with DJ JD. This months show was a full hour of versions of Knockin' on Heavens Door...the best one being Adam Sandler doing Axel Rose. The Yuccas are all blooming out here now....this one is down by my dam.

Friday, April 17, 2009

stuff and press

I have to say one of the major perks of this lifestyle is getting at least 9 hours of sleep per night. Even with all the hard work involved out here, I can't say I'm not well rested. First order of business was snacking some longhorns (as usual) then ordering two new sets of wind turbine blades. Had to take down turbine #2 for some routine maintenance. Took a supply inventory and decided to make an Alpine run for goodies. Will have another McCoys delivery next Tuesday. Spent a good hour at Bennett's to discuss some solar stuff for my friend Crusty Ken. I am in charge of weening him from his generator. Bennett recently installed the latest feature of his brilliant alternative energy grid connected home in Alpine - the mini solarium.

Stocked up on enough to keep me back living and building at the Field Lab for another week. Didn't get home till 6PM. Had a brief sunset ceremony to retire my year old cowboy hat and the 5 1/2" saw blade that has cut just about every piece of wood out here since I started in December 2007. Sergio came in alone just as the sun was fading so I gave him a treat. I am happy to oblige him to get on his good side but ain't now way I'm ever gonna try to hand feed him.

Press whore that I am....I responded to 2 emails this evening about more interviews coming up. One for NewsWest 9 KWES-TV and one for Texas Monthly. If I ever end up on Oprah....please just shoot me!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Clean Undies

Low of 46 - High of 93. Not sure which feels better....the end of the day after a job well done - or the morning after. A good nights rest after a long day is the icing on the cake, I reckon. Lately I have been waking up just about the time the sun hits my curtains on the east side. Best alarm clock ever invented.

Stripped the forms off yesterdays pour and all was well. Not perfectly beautiful but should withstand the test of time. One thing folks don't seem to do out here is water down the concrete a couple of times a day after it's been poured. I make a point of doing it as nothing is better for a good hard cure than a little drink a couple of times a day for about a week.

Wasn't quite ready for another long dirty/sweaty day in the sun so I headed down to Study Butte to do 2 loads of much needed laundry and fetch 125 gallons of water for my drinkin' tank. The clothes dried on my solar dryer in about a half hour. Nothing like an interesting photo to top off a rather mundane day.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

go fly a kite...

Had 10 for breakfast....not a one of them willing to help me out with the day's pour. They all took off when I tried to get Walter started ( Ben named his cement mixer Walter ). I had everything ready to go but Walter's pull rope broke on about the 10 yank. Drat! I thought for a brief second that I might have to give up....then opened Walter up and took care of the problem. A few more yanks and Walter came to life. Took 8 loads in the mixer to fill my forms. Boy I'm glad that first try worked so well...I was putting off getting started due to the fact that I had to use an unfamiliar machine. Now we are best friends.

Wrapped the day up with and early shower then tossed my dinner into the solar oven. Had an hour or so to kill so I fired up one of the kites that Cousin Holly brought out for me. It's been soaring away for a couple hours now. Dined at a respectable 6:30PM. I will reveal my secret Field Lab concrete mix if it sets up without fail.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

early wrap...

Had 12 for breakfast today including Sergio - the BIG black bull. I give him plenty of space (out of fear, respect, and admiration) as his balls are the size of grape fruit. This guy appears to be all horns, balls, and muscle. Reckoned incorrectly that I would be pouring concrete today...apparently I didn't get the memo that there was a bit more form work to do. Took all day to double check and tweak the levels and install the rebar. Now I think I am ready for the concrete.

Checking in and out early tonight as I'm heading over to Crusty Ken's for a spaghetti dinner soon. Had just enough sun today to bake a loaf of Chelada Garlic bread in the solar oven.