Tuesday, June 30, 2009

lots of rain but none for me

35 longhorns took up residence this morning at the end of my driveway - only 4 wandered in to check out what Benita was up to. Had a surprise visit from Guillermo so he got a good back scratch and some snacks. Got another early start today and poured the last voids for the north and south entrance. Set the forms for the transition section on the east entrance and poured them as well. As I was cleaning up from the labor, I spotted some baby Mexican Generals (Mexican Privates?) by the shower stall. These little grasshoppers were barely a half inch long - but grow to over 2 inches long as adults.

Did a quick GrubShack lunch then headed back home to get some more work done. Benita was on hand all day but kept a low profile. Lots of cloud cover all day which really helps with the temps and UV. Around 1:30PM it started looking really ominous in the sky so I checked the Doppler radar - sure enough there were some major storms all around me. By 2 it looked like it was pouring east of me by the highway so I called the GrubShack for a weather update - Betty reported that it was a deluge just 2.5 miles away. Checked in with Chuck and he got dumped on as well. Meanwhile back at the Field Lab, not a drop of rain.

Took advantage of the natural evaporative cooling that the clouds and storms were providing and got back to work. Made 4 trips to my dam with the wheel barrow to shuttle sand back to the east entrance to fill the remaining blocks. Pulled the forms on that end by the containers and filled the last two re bar voids with concrete. Clocked out at 6PM.

Monday, June 29, 2009

I love Mondays

The work whistle blew at 8:30AM and off I went. Built and set up the forms for the south entrance - to fill in and transition where the walls meet the piers and footings. Started mixing by 9:30 and poured the two forms and filled 7 more re bar sections. Discovered today that the real trick is to get out and get to work before it gets hot and keep going as I didn't notice the heat while it rose slowly while working in it. Took a long break at noon. Got back tuit from 6PM to 8PM by building the forms for the east entrance, pulled the forms off the morning pour and set them up on the north entrance. Mixed up one last batch of concrete and poured it in.

Gourmet dinner of fresh cauliflower, Ranch Style Beans, and canned chicken with tortillas and cheese.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Colorado Whoopenhollers

Slow hot Sunday at the Field Lab....laundry, breakfast with Ronaldo, some reading and 2 naps is all I managed today. Photo of the day is my partially collapsed fire pit. Been meaning to move it as it disrupts traffic flow by the house (obviously).

The real news of the day is that my Aunt's book, "The Colorado Whoopenhollars" is available for sale now. This will appeal especially to folks who lived through the Depression or just long for a simpler time, so order one for you, or your parents or your grandparents...etc. I can hook up anyone interested with a special message autographed copy if you like. http://www2.xlibris.com/bookstore/bookdisplay.aspx?bookid=60879 or http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_gw?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=The+colorado+whoopenhollars&x=13&y=17 And check out her interview for a local newspaper http://www.clearcreekcourant.com/ type in Jean Duaine in the search bar on the top right of the page to go to the story ...she has the same philosophy as the Field Lab. Hmmmmm...I wondered where I got that from....

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Bird Whisperer

Met up with Ryan and his dad Marc at the GrubShack for an early breakfast. Just missed some folks hoping to meet me there but Chuck gave them directions to the Field Lab. Brenda, Butch and John came out to deliver some HVAC dampers from my new friend Gary outside of San Angelo. Nice contribution and will certainly work them in to the greenhouse. I owe Gary and the messengers a GrubShack meal next time they head this way.

Made a 3 1/2 hour round trip to Alpine for supplies and visits. Among other things, I bought an AC unit on sale at the hardware store - to experiment with and will ultimately help cool the quest house for future summertime overnight visitors. Ran into Bonnie Cane at Johnson Feed - her husband Dick owns all the longhorns that roam around out here. I told her that Benita was in residence at the Field Lab for the summer. She said that she and her husband appreciated my compassion for the beasts, especially good ol' Benita.

Got home just in time to buy 2 bags of ice to chill down my just purchased refrigerant. Unpacked the rest of the goods then headed over to see Aunt Kathy's new wards - a couple of baby birds she rescued from Chucks gutter....she's been feeding them for a week now and they are coming along quite nicely. Can't wait to watch her teach them how to fly...

Friday, June 26, 2009

back to basics

Decided to start from scratch in order to trick out solar refrigeration....borrowed a basics cooling systems textbook from Ryan (at his suggestion). I reckoned that how could I figure out how to do this without knowing exactly how it all works. The Field Lab compensates the director for taking adult education courses.

Poured 6 sections this morning and got 2 more in late this afternoon. My alarm clock this morning was the resounding MOOOO! from one impatient longhorn in a group of 12 at 7AM. I ignored the group till they left then gave Benita some breakfast. Set up her shade and she spent most of the day partially under it - close to her water bowl.

Progress photos for the next couple of days will look a lot like the last couple of days so the last photo of the day is from my friend James Evans of Marathon http://www.jameshevans.com/Welcome%20.html This is the shot that ran in the current issue of Texas Monthly.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

another day

Got goin' at 8AM before the heat and filled 3 re bar sections of the west wall. Took one bag of redi-mix for each void. Dragged in six 20' lengths of re bar and cut it up with a hacksaw to splice into the other entrances. Quit at 11 for a shower then hit the GrubShack for a fried chicken liver lunch. Managed to get all the cut pieces welded on in the late afternoon.

Photo of the day is Ryan's road dragging rig. This is how we maintain our own roads out here - a big heavy chunk of steel slowly towed smooths things out and fills the ruts.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

It's alive!

Thanks for all the comments and emails about stress - seems we are all on the same page. Not much to report today other than the fact that the generator and the welder seem to be a good match. Thanks to today's success, work can progress as planned and the Field Lab is at stress level GREEN today.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


I had a conversation today with a friend about stress. I have thought a lot about stress over the years and have been working very hard to eliminate it from my life. I decided long ago that I really didn't care for it. Here is the Field Lab Stress Mantra:


1. An event that occurs in your life that is totally beyond your control and beyond all anticipation.

2. An event that occurs in your life that is totally beyond your control but certainly should have been anticipated.

3. An event that occurs in your life that is totally within your control.

4. And all the little, repugnant things that your mind has picked up on through the years and filed away as stuff that really bothers you.

First thing to think about is that stress should be the exception and not the rule. Too much of the population has come to accept that stress is a way of life. It just doesn't have to be that way. The primal driving force of all living beings is to avoid pain and seek pleasure. Yet humans have learned to believe that stress is just part of popular culture and must be associated with a modern life. Seeking pain will not make you happy no matter what you gain from it.

You have to be very honest with yourself to realise that 2 and 3 are entirely your own fault and could/should have been avoided. (Remember: Stress is the exception. not the rule) You brought it on yourself now just deal with it and see that it never happens again. Bringing on your own anguish is slow suicide. 4 has been embedded in your psyche and once you can see it for what it is - just work on letting it go as it is all in the past and serves no useful purpose in your life. Once you master these steps - you will have the ability to think ahead and have the mindset to be prepared to deal with number 1.

You will be surprised how easy it is to trick your brain into a positive direction if you really try...

I look forward to questions and comments on this topic as I hope to win a McArthur Grant, produce an infomercial, and eventually sell my program on a stress free life through the internet and on QVC...or not...

Monday, June 22, 2009


Spent the morning catching up on emails. Quite a few have been rolling in and I like to answer all of them. Lots of great messages in support of the Field Lab project. Thanks! Great 10 day forecast ahead.

Hooked up with Ryan to take a trip up to Tony and Gini's place around noon. They had some electrical issues with their RV and I suggested Ryan to them. The kid had all the right answers and tricked out the system without hesitation. He even did a little service on the generator engine. For all south county residents....he really knows his stuff and can fix'r'rig just about anything...and in a timely fashion - not on Terlingua time.
We spent about 4 hours up there which included an excellent grilled steak meal. Nice day for me as I was able to help 3 people just by association. On the way home we stopped by Chuck's to pick up my generator. To the readers of Texas Monthly: I find that at this point in the development of the Field Lab - I finally need a generator - for my welder. Seems one must be a little less green in order to become more green. Kind of like - you gotta spend money to make money.

Ended the day by staging 60 cinder blocks. Took about an hour of late day to shuttle them into ready position. I came across 6 scorpions as I was stacking them into the bed of my truck. Sorry to disrupt their life in the pallet stacked cinder block high rise condo.


Saturday, June 20, 2009


Somehow I managed to sleep through a couple hours of pounding rain sometime around midnight. Total accumulation was 1.18". When I got up this morning I noticed that it looked like water had been running down my driveway. Checked the rain gauge then knew to go look at the dam.....full again (including a silt island) with more than enough flow to clean out the area where the lower dam will go. Didn't catch a drop of the raging creek but did get about 130 gallons off my roof. The whole experience discovering the overnight weather reminded me of waking up to a morning blizzard that led to a snow day from school.

Managed to use up one pallet of block to get started on my dry stacking. It sure goes quickly but the blocks get a little heavier each time I pick one up. Did 5 courses on the west and south entrances and part of the east entrance. Nice sunny hot day most of the day which I didn't mind as it helped dry out the road. Only about 1 mile of my road is passable from the Field Lab before I found some swampy spots and wash outs. Another day and a half of blazing sun ( and no more rain ) and the road to the GrubShack will be good to go. The flooded road is Chuck's favorite section to drive through.

Friday, June 19, 2009

no place to go but plenty to do...

Had some nice looking light on the old shower stall this morning that I just had to snap. Got about a half inch of rain over the last 24 hours. Just enough to give my desert a nice soak without a lot of runoff. Humid and cloudy for half of the day - then some patches of sun and h0t...but only made it up to 91 today.

Called Chuck this morning to meet the delivery of my generator. It was still drizzln here in the morning and didnt want to chew up my road. Swamped in and happy about it. Perfect excuse to get something done here. Just before I clocked in, I did a phone interview about the Field Lab with an Austrian writer. The piece will be published in the July issue of the Austrian economics and science magazine - Economy. That done - I got to mixin and layin. Finished up setting the first course on all 4 entrances by 5:30PM. Leveled, plumbed, and ready to go - now I get to stack blocks just like I used to as a little kid...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

over the learning curve

Started the day at 4AM for a change...not really by choice. I just woke up and couldn't go back to sleep. Nice to have your body tell you, " Hey man!...you've had more than enough sleep lately." My first real job back in my NYC days was at a catalog photo studio. One time I had a schedule of 8 still life re-shoots to look forward to the next day. I dreamt about them all night and woke up at 4AM freaked out about the stress of the coming workday. I much prefer waking up early because I've had enough sleep...that's one of the bonuses to this lifestyle.

Well as long as I was up, I did 3 hours of coffee and internet....my own little desert internet cafe. Thanks to Benita's inspiration yesterday - I mortared in parts of the west door and the south door. I fought a bit with the first couple of blocks but got the hang of it quickly. Satisfied with finally getting started on this phase - I quit when it started gettin hot at 10:30. Took a MUCH needed shower that felt absolutely wonderful ( my beard was a mess ).

Had a great couple of guys out to tour the Field Lab this afternoon. Ed and Tom. We did the rounds then sat'n'chatted in the shade of the front porch. They left around 1PM just when the sky started getting dark SW of me. We have a couple of 40% rain chances coming up over the next 48 hours. I shot in to the GrubShack to grab a couple of bags of ice just in case I get shut in by rain over the weekend. I kind of hated just stopping by and heading right home because I love to just hang out there. Stayed close to the phone much too long waiting to hear from a delivery driver. He finally checked in - I have a generator coming tomorrow morning. I have avoided buying one until now because I need it to power my welder out here. I don't reckon I will ever need to charge my systems with it as they are set up well to function using just the sun and the wind.

Got set up to set more block then it started to drizzle - packed up and battened down. As we are due for a cooler/cloudy day tomorrow - hope to finish the first course for all four entrances tomorrow. Just getting ready to upload my weather data for today to the NWS. High 100 Low 71 Temp at 8PM 72 Rain accumulation .07".

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Benita vs The Bird Nest

Benita came in this morning with an adornment - taunting me in front of some of my block, still as yet to be set in mortar. Waited till she started eating her morning snack before slipping the offending appendage off her right horn. I like to think it was driving her crazy and she was happy to have it removed. Seems she perfectly skewered a bird nest. OK Benita...I reckon if you can nail a bird nest that precisely - I can certainly get some block set....tomorrow?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Day off due to heat

Capped off last night with a very fine lightning show just NW of me. Got a sprinkle from 9:30 - 10:30PM. Checked the rain gauge this morning and it had .03" of rain and 5 dead bees. Kept a low profile and took a cue from Benita by today staying out of the heat. I reckon I'm just gonna have to get up early and get to work before it gets hot if I want to get anything done out here this summer. I thought I had given up having to roll out of bed early every morning to go to work.

My advance copy of Texas Monthly - July arrived in the mail today. Three good reasons to pick up this rag at the newsstand... 1. Great cover story about Ted Nugent with photos by my old friend Dan Winters. 2. Nice blurb about the Field Lab with the photo by my new friend James Evans... 3. And a piece rating the best and worst legislators - that's gotta hurt a little...

Pieced together this video of the storm last night - edited down from a 3 minute shot. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLcrfR2_LYs

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunday Matinee

News later on tonight. In the meantime...enjoy the show.

We're back... with news of the day: Here is a still photo of my new Field Lab friend, Jacques. He was in again this morning with the same group and got his fair friendly share of attention. Did laundry down in Study Butte and had an early lunch at the Big Bend Motor Inn Cafe while waiting for my wash to worsh. As luck would have it, Chef Ronaldo was on the clock to cook my meal. He really didn't cook much as I ordered the Smoked Turkey Sandwich with curly fries....but I have to say that even the way Ronaldo folds the smoked turkey makes it taste exquisite. (Chef Ronaldo is only available for your dining pleasure at The Big Bend Motor Inn Cafe on Saturdays and Sundays, 6:30AM till 2:30PM) The nicest guy in Texas and the best cook south of the GrubShack. Back home I managed to get out in the heat for about an hour to service the go kart. Spent the afternoon out of the heat ( 110 in the shade today ) catching up with my Niles relatives back east.

Heating up a can of Ranch Style Beans against the west side of my building to compliment the cold cheese & spam on crackers that is on the menu tonight. I can't help but wonder how Chef Ronaldo would prepare this meal...

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Got some bug bites overnight...was dreaming about the conenose beetle when I woke up and couldn't go back to sleep... at 5 AM! Went outside to pee and heard the clomp...clomp...clomp of Benita coming in for an early breakfast. Decided to just stay up and start an early morning. Was so close to setting a first course of blocks with the rising sun when I started getting hungry. Skipped starting real work in lieu of a GrubShack breakfast. Came home stuffed then laid down to catch my breath - woke up an hour later and the temp had zoomed to 101.

A hot mid day and chance of thunderstorms tonight prompted me to head down to Study Butte for some refrigerant. Home at the Field Lab by 2PM and plugged in the soldering iron. Took about and hour and a half to lay all the parts out then fix them on the circuit board. Haven't lost my touch. Dug up some parts to wire it up and put it to some testing on the Pepino pump. Good news is it works just right. Now I just have to tweak the potentiometers to dial in the best on and off times to circulate the right amount of water to give me the lowest temperature out of the unit. A couple of thunderstorm zoomed right north of me with just a few drops on my dry lot.
Made a new friend late tonight... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcQRrb7pbzg

Friday, June 12, 2009

Free water pump

Not so busy day but... Went to visit a buddy who has a place way south of me. He gifted me with an ass kicking gas powered water pump and a bunch of hoses to enhance the abilities of the Field Lab to collect storm runoff - perhaps just in time as we have two days of 30% chance of rain coming up this weekend. Got my timer kit in the mail and itchin to fire up the ol' soldering iron.