Happy New Year everyone! I hope everyone has a chance to enjoy the beautiful full moon tonight. Weather forecasts are predicting warmer temperatures for the next few days, so we are looking forward to getting lots more done on the house. New Years Eve day was a beautiful sunny one, but winds whipped all day at 20-30 miles per hour, making work a constant battle. Sorry for the the lack of new pictures and video, but we are trying hard to stay on top of everything on our plate right now. We have to work everyday just to stay warm, fed, and keep up with chores, construction, water, solar installs, battery banks, et cetera.
Here's a great picture of the full moon rising over the West Corazón.
And as a bonus, a great picture of our new mailbox! We are so excited about getting mail :)
Well, we've had some good times and some bad times this holiday season. Aside, thanks to everyone who sent birthday wishes and holiday greetings! There was no "white Christmas" here, but it was in the high 20s at night. Beautiful days are returning and we are still working on walls. One new hurdle we've realized is the wind. It never seems to stop blowing on our property, which means wind power will probably be fantastic, but it makes working on our platform hard (especially on cold days). The computer problems are persisting, but we will share more photos as soon as possible. We have also set up mail delivery, though no letters have arrived yet. We got two flat tires on Xmas eve, but luckily we made contact with the tire company this morning so the replacements should arrive soon. We're hanging in there! Thanks for following us everyone!
Well, we have had a very interesting and productive time since our last post -- mostly.The big tragedy is that our laptop computer (the only computer we brought) is having motherboard issues. The keyboard has bit the dust and we will have to ship it back to the company to fix or replace it. Without a computer we are struggling to get stuff done! We can't edit or post video blogs, look up building information, or even get in touch with family and friends reliably! Fortunately we have been allowed to borrow our friend Arick's netbbook to check email occasionally.
In other news, we met a great guy in Study Butte who is building an algae-based power station. We can't stress enough how interesting the people out here are! Tim is a geophysicist with some great ideas for alternative energy, and we look forward to working with him in the future. Rocks rock!
We woke up to 26 degrees at 8 am with 15 to 20 mph winds. Tomorrow is supposed to be a break in the arctic front, thankfully. A good friend of ours happens to be the alternative energy supply guy in these parts, and he has a connection for broken solar panels. Many of these panels are repairable and there will be some quite interesting stuff, pictures and info on the site soon to come. As usual, we will have no trouble keeping busy even huddled inside the tent, because we have much internet research and work to do. The design of our small home has been altered a bit, and we will now have vaulted ceiling with a contemporary attached roof. To combat the hot roof oven effect on the inside, we will be using a reflective barrier. Hopefully we will have a stable internet connection at some point so we can upload some more blog videos.
It's been chilly at night lately, hovering around freezing for several evenings in a row. Yesterday we drove into the Big Town and saw that snow had fallen just a bit north of us. I had to ask Casey as we were driving "Is that snow on Elephant Mtn?" and by the time we had reached the cedar trees we could see ice on the branches.
The next few days here are supposed to be -- uncomfortable. For those of you who have never been to the desert in winter, the best part about it is usually the sun, but if the sun doesn't come out a few days in a row, nothing really warms up and the wind will bite right through you if you are under dressed.
The NOAA is predicting a chance of snow Thursday night ... we'll see what happens!
For the past couple of days we have been completing the platform/foundation of our house. As we ended our work today, we couldn't help but notice the windy-wet-cold weather that will be upon us for the next few days. We may not be able to work in the stormy weather, but we'll have plenty to do, and spend the time getting some telephone errands done. High on our list is registering for mail delivery, which we were going to do in person in the Big Town but we could easily do it over the phone.
It was a little chilly this morning, but it has warmed up to a beautiful day. Unfortunately we weren't able to utilize today for building, since we had an appointment in the Big Town to get the windshield in our truck replaced. Going that far north is a long trip, so we try to make it a really effective day for shopping. Since the vast majority of stores are so far away, we must plan out exactly what we will buy, where, and when, well before leaving the Ranch. Even things that are available in Study Butte are usually much cheaper in the Big Town, and it will be our only trip north for a week, so we are trying to make it a highly successful trip! For the most part we have all the major things we need to continue building, but there are always odds and ends that we need, and food is always appreciated. We picked up a 100 gallon stock tank to turn into a transfer tank by building a sealed lid, which should work well as an inexpensive alternative for a pickup truck transfer tank.
Well we've been working very hard the past few days. We've had our fair share of disasters and successes though. On Tuesday we discovered our water had siphoned out of our tank so we had to run to Study Butte and bring back as much water as we could carry. Unfortunately, though, we don't own a transfer tank yet, so we had to fill up our two 7 gallon drinking containers, two 5 gallon water cooler tanks, and four 2 gallon cat litter bottles. Just enough to tide us over until we can move the tank onto our property and fill it back up to 250 gallons. Despite the water disaster, we were able to set all six of our 4x4 posts in concrete. Today we should begin hanging floor joists and we also want to paint the underside of the tongue & groove OSB flooring with oil based paint, in hopes that it will block water penetrating into the wood from condensation under the building, etc.
Our dog Sprocket is convinced that he owns about 20 square miles instead of 20 acres, and he likes to go exploring in the evening. Many other dogs around here are free range and quite friendly. We worry more about him finding a snake or running into coyotes, but I would like to put in an electric fence when we have enough money to spare so he won't wander off too far.
With Thanksgiving coming up, we will have celebrated our second major holiday in the desert, the first being Fourth of July. Soon we hope to have an address and mail/package delivery, but of course everything is a process and takes a bit of time. Pictures soon to come! Thanks for following us :)
For the past two days we have been clearing our house site. This entails clearing cacti, greasewood, brush, and many rubble rocks. The common safety technique around here is to keep the area around your home within about 20 feet clear, for fire safety and to eliminate rattlesnake hiding places (this is very important because the nearest hospital is 80 miles away). Within the next few days, we will set the posts for our home and start framing.
Yesterday we finally received our much anticipated delivery from McCoy's! The driver came much earlier than we had expected, but we were able to meet him at the highway and lead him into our property. He was not the slightest bit intimidated by the rough roads and our narrow driveway.
So now we have a huge pile of wood, cement, and insulation at the beginning of our driveway. Hopefully soon it will come together into our small starter home. First though, we need to finish clearing the house site. The house will sit on stilts about five feet off the ground on the low side of the hill, and three feet up on the high side. This will make it easier for us to make the house level even though we are building on the side of a hill. Stilts seemed like the best option since we didn't want to do an adobe pour just yet, but we didn't want a structure just sitting on the ground without a slab.
We spent a day walking around with the GPS determining our property lines. This processes was a lot of fun and important for our next steps. We started clearing the driveway and we our just about to our house, which is our next clearing step. As for videos with our new Canon HF-10 we have yet to make the video editing software work that came with it, so if anyone has any free AVCHD editing software to suggest we will appreciate it.
We just arrived on the ranch Wednesday evening! Sorry we haven't posted lately, but we were packing like crazy the days before we left and then traveling wiped us out pretty badly, so we never posted from the road like we had planned.
But everything is just as beautiful as we remembered. Yesterday morning we walked our 20 acre property and found some beautiful features. We know there is water either underground or fairly frequently in the creekbed, because there are some large plants growing around there -- even a couple cedar trees. Lots of wildlife too, judging by the tracks and scat everywhere.
After we got back from the hike we stopped at the Grub Shack for breakfast and received two important items in the mail -- the FloJet on-demand water pump and the Garmin 60c handheld GPS device. Today we plan on going back to the property and marking the perimeter somehow. I have to install the software on the computer first, and learn a little better how to use it, but it is very promising and exciting.
Today we also need to go into town, whether that's Study Butte or Alpine hasn't been decided yet, but we need to get food! You can only live on Gatorade and crackers for so long! Our neighbors welcomed us back with a great dinner last night (though our dog's misbehavior cut the festivities a little short) but I am really looking forward to cooking our meals myself.
We'll keep you guys posted on our progress. Thanks for following us!
We are currently taking a few days off from packing and preparation to spend time with family and friends. Sara, her sister, and I are enjoying a Halloween-themed get-together in Sleepy Hollow, New York.
We also completely serviced are small truck for its long journey to make room for our building supplies. We changed the transmission fluid and modified our cap to accommodate more stuff. We scored some great windows from a local discount home supply store (two 30x60" verticals, one 58x37" horizontal, and another shaped like Nevada, all for just $150!) and a 12" sliding compound miter saw. These items are TALL and take up a lot of room, so we bumped our cap up a few inches higher by putting 2x4 boards under it. Also since some supplies (like windows) are hard to come by on the ranch, we are planning which items we will buy out there and which will bring with us.
What do you think, gang? Should we get a sliding glass door or a traditional door with windows? We can get a slider in TX for not a lot of money, but we're not sure how well it will seal out creepy crawlies, etc (Cone-nose bug is not our friend!). The bonus window-ness would be awesome though. A traditional-style wood or metal door would probably have to be trucked out to TX from NY to get the best price, but it would probably seal better.
Well since we are building our micro home in remote west Texas, we need to plan and purchase everything possible beforehand. Today we bought a 12" sliding compound miter saw, which will help us with the countless number of cuts of wood we are going to need to make. We have also acquired a couple of modern hand saws so we can make small cuts without having to start the generator. We are still in need of an impact driver for the many screws needed to build a little home. Just few more odds and ends and we should have all the tools for the task.
It was a busy week for the All Energies team. We spent a great deal of time improving the syngas powered electric generator before it goes up for sale on eBay. One major improvement we will mention is it should now be capable of over 50 amps of 12 volt charging power, which is great for those deep cycle batteries.
We have been putting a lot of research into micro houses, which could be easily built on our new property and lived in until our high thermal mass structure is built. The whole process will be well documented in videos and photos.
Also, after many failed upload attempts, our latest hydro videos are online at You Tube. The response so far has been amazingly strong, with already three comments on one of them -- after just the first day! We're really glad to see that people are interested in this, and hopefully our information is helpful.
We finally picked out a new camera -- a camcorder actually. We can soon say goodbye to wind noise! Now, if only we could keep the dog from barking....
It's a Canon, and should drastically improve our video quality. Plus the higher frames per second will show things like the wind turbine movement better.
When we get back out to Texas, we are going to tape a lot more of the day-to-day work (and play!) We are hoping to get it soon enough that we can use it for the hydro videos, but if not we'll publish them with the old camera.
We are getting just a little behind schedule thanks to the cold and rainy weather!