Friday, January 29, 2010

Rainy Desert

Last night, yesterday, and the night before last were the rainiest we have ever spent in the house. And by rain, I don't mean a drizzle or a light shower, I mean full-on thunderstorms. The night before last was the worst, with two heavy downpours occurring in the wee hours of the morning. We had just finished raising the OSB sheathing that day, had rolled out half the asphalt felt, and had gone to bed feeling quite good about the accomplishment only to be awakened by the sound of water dripping inside via the gaps in the sheathing on the north side. We had worked on the roof until dark, but if only we had kept going another hour, we might have avoided the lake in our house! Oh well, c'est la vie.

Aside from our flooding problems (ironic for the desert, no?), we had another tragedy that evening. One of the ladders we had leaning against the building was blown over and landed on one of our solar panel arrays.  One of the three took most of the impact, and shattered the glass.


After the storm, it was a pretty warm, but rainy day.  There was no wind, however, so we wasted no time and got back to work on the roof.  We were treated to a beautiful rainbow and a stunning aerial display of artistry from the clouds moving over our heads.

IMG_0633.JPGIMG_0652.JPGFortunately it's a different ball game now; we have our metal roofing installed and just bought a ridge cap and 2x6s to finish it off.  That was the major accomplishment of the week, but we are also continuing on with our checklist and plan to install the door tonight, or at least block the eaves so we can keep more heat inside. For that, we're just going to use lengths of the 2x6 boards, which fit the holes almost perfectly thanks to our 2x6 rafters.


Monday, January 25, 2010


We finally were able to shed our sweatshirts today, with temps nearing 70 and plenty of sunshine. We finished sheathing half of our roof and added a few pound of screws to it, now that there is enough surface for the two of us to clamber up there and work both screw guns. She's certainly not going anywhere now! Just four more sheets of OSB on the other side and we'll be all covered up.


We were saddened to hear that the new TR manager has resigned already, after just about a month and a half (I should mention that this is technically hearsay, told to us by a friend, but that is how most of the news around here is disseminated).  We had been optimistic about the future of the ranch with a new, apolitical manager, but now it's anyone's guess what's in store for the Bad Rabbit.

Soon we will be headed north again, back to NY for a few weeks, but we have several goals we want to accomplish before then. Foremost is of course the roof.  We have the tar paper underlayment and the metal, but do we have enough nice days ahead? We'll find out. I also want to paint the exterior of the house as much as possible with our water-resistant primer, to avoid flaking in the strong sun.


Yesterday evening we were walking the outlying areas of our property and happened upon a very cool geographic feature -- a 25+ foot waterfall.  Of course, this being the Chihuahuan desert there was no water in it, but you could certainly tell that when it does flow, it must have tremendous force.  The layers of siltstone are separated by layers of bentonite clay, and as it eroded the striations created a stepping stone effect, so the waterfall is tiered.  We didn't have the camera with us at the time, but as soon as we can, we will go back and take photos.  Casey plans on taping a walking tour of our property to show all our friends, family, and readers some of the highlights of our 20 acres.

Until next time,
pax et amor


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Rainy Day


Today was cold and wet, and it rained inside our house this morning. Inside the tent, we were dry and relatively warm, but Casey jumped out around 5 am to cover things up as best he could.  Inn between showers we tried to go through our normal morning routine, making breakfast, etc. The rain stopped before midday and we took the opportunity to set up scaffolding.

We were really happy to find out last night that we could rent the scaffolding at the local True Value, so we quickly shuttled between the two home centers in Alpine, picking up our metal roofing material and the rented scaffolding just before the stores closed.  We are beginning to call ourselves the "last minute couple" since we started showing up to stores just before closing.

Our other goals for today were to haul more water in our newly finished transfer tank and to return our friend's generator, but the weather and the load on our truck impeded us.  Tomorrow will have to be a busier day than planned to make up for some lost time.
Luckily we were able to get Sprocket to the veterinarian on time yesterday and now we are happy to report that he has completed his inoculation procedure against rattlesnake venom.  Of course even though he is inoculated he would still need to be taken to the vet immediately if bitten, but the vaccine greatly improves a dog's chances of surviving.

Continuing my digression from construction details, we are very happy to announce that Casey's oldest sister in California delivered a healthy baby boy this morning. If you're reading this, congratulations proud parents!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Working Hard

The past few days have been a little overwhelming. We had to go to Study Butte on Monday, then Alpine on Tuesday. and then Wednesday we worked at the house all day.  Wednesday night we spent our first night at the house since we started building walls, and it was surprisingly comfortable despite the huge gaps in sheathing. Even in its unfinished state it was wonderful to spend some real living time in our house.

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Yesterday we had a very important visit from Danny of the Big Bend Telephone Company.  We finally had our power system inspected.  The requirements are 800 amp hours of battery and a 1500 Watt inverter for off-grid customers.  We had no trouble meeting this but we were admittedly setting up our system just the night before. We were also informed the because of our remote location we will be getting a satellite dish for phone and internet.  This doesn't bother us one bit, and it will fit right in next to our wind turbines.


Today was another wonderful, sunny day and we managed to work on our exterior roof supports (for our overhangs), finish our transfer tank, set our water storage tank, and load about 90 gallons of water.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Beginnings of a Roof

We had a clear and sunny day today. We were able to raise up the front and rear trusses and the majority of the rafters today. Today is the last day that Dad is going to be here, so we tried to get as much done as possible.  Sara poured the slab for our batteries with Portland cement and local gravel. Dad and I managed four sheets of OSB on the roof before calling it a day.Before we said our final goodbyes, we all visited our friends Phil and Regina to show Dad their amazing stone work.

towryhouse.jpgHere's a picture of the roof so far...
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Friday, January 15, 2010


foggy mtn.jpgToday and yesterday have been grey and dreary. Casey and his dad worked together on finishing the walls yesterday while I went into Study Butte to do laundry and other chores.  Casey and Bob worked very hard despite the cold, wet, and windy weather, and now all that is left to close up the house is the door and the roof.  


All last night the rains came and went, and sunrise was little more than a drizzly, pea-soup fog slightly illuminated from behind.  El Sol barely showed his face all day, in fact, and temps stayed in the 40-50 degree range.  Casey and Bob spent the day inside Arick's cabin building the parts for the two wall trusses while I found things to cook (and therefore heat the cabin). Sprocket tried to make the most of the day, but spent the better part of the morning sitting in front of Arick's sliding glass window, looking outside.  Days like today are why we have loofa toys and rawhide chews...

Saturday and Sunday are supposed to be beautiful, and I really hope the NOAA comes through for us on that forecast, because Bob is planning on leaving Monday morning. We'll miss all the help he has given us, and we hope to finish the rafters and roof sheathing before he departs since it really is a three person job.

We have our windows framed out, but not installed yet, and a big six foot gap for the sliding glass door.  The window spaces are sheathed with OSB, but the door really needs to be installed soon and we still haven't sorted out all the problems with it.  Adding to the dented tracks, the wheels are missing, and we Bob.jpgare generally disappointed with it.  We are hoping we will be able to exchange it for an undamaged one, but it needs to be done soon!

For water, we have been using mostly small containers and carting several gallons from either the Terlingua Ranch Lodge or the Study Butte Water corporation. While we do own a 305 gallon water storage tank, we don't have a transfer tank. In the past we have borrowed our neighbor's tank and trailer, but we are currently in the process of "making" our own transfer tank.  We purchased a 100 gallon hard plastic stock tank and one of our rainy day projects today was finishing the lid we have fashioned out of OSB and PVC pipe fittings. Once the lid is finished and secured to the tank, we will be able to haul water to our house!

We still haven't had Big Bend Telephone Company inspect our off-grid homestead for their power requirements, so we haven't gotten any closer to having the phone and internet installed.  We are really frustrated by both the requirements and our own procrastination on this task.  On Saturday we are planning to pour a small slab of concrete for the batteries under the house, and then we can start carting the batteries and solar panels up there.  We have most of our wind turbine ready to be assembled, but we are still waiting on some free blades and need to buy a pole to mount it, as well as some wire. We have the location picked out and will be using the treadmill motor from our hydroelectric project.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Building with help from family

Well we have had the fortune of Casey's father Bob coming to visit us from Fort Pierce FL. He is helping to assemble our house and what progress we have made, we now have all four walls!
We should have the the roof framed and sheathed by Sunday, our roof will have a 11 foot peak from the floor and a little more height from the ground. The house will have two foot overhangs all arrowed, this all equates to 300 square feet of roof space and that's good for water collection. Stay posted for more pictures and entries. january 067.jpgdecember 037.jpg

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Saturday, January 9, 2010


Well, Casey and I are headed back south again after spending two nights at the Antelope Lodge in Alpine.  The low last night and the night before was around 15F, and we thought it best to hole up somewhere with real heating (not to mention hot shower and indoor privy!).  So we have been on a micro vacation, you could say, and treated ourselves to pizza (ok, Pizza Hut, but close enough) and multiple showers.

Also while we were in Alpine we picked up most of the materials for our roof.  It's so exciting to be so close to that last major step in construction! A very nice lady from Minnesota was rooming next door to us and gave us a couple bags of sand she had been toting around since the North Star State. I guess they aren't as crucial down here in the Big Bend! A very generous gift and yet another friendly face found in Alpine.

Last time we were in Alpine was New Years Day to take Arick to the bus stop, and we bumped into another New Yorker in the grocery store parking lot.  Technically Arick bumped into him while keeping Sprocket company in the truck, and Elias noticed the NY plates on old smokey. The more we talked, the more coincidences just kept piling up! Elias is a teacher at the Bard High School Early College in New York City, and Arick and I both call Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson our alma mater! The brave young adventurer was taking photographs of trains and helping veterans get bus tickets, while sleeping in his rental car!  He had the car-sleep system pretty well organized, though, and was happy to show us the many layers he wore while dozing in his sleeping bag.  We chatted about the grammar mistakes on signs in town and the virtues of various Volvo models, and he even took some pictures to show his students.  I'm not sure who was more surprised and thrilled, Elias or us!  We have met so many interesting people in this region, native and non, that I'm beginning to really believe what people say about this area being a "power center." Are all these amazing folks convening here by coincidence, or is there something special about this place? I'm definitely leaning toward the latter conclusion.

That's all for now!  Sorry there aren't any pictures in this post, but we'll probably add some later.  Thanks for reading.

pax et amor,

Monday, January 4, 2010

Arctic Front!

Hello all! We hope everyone had a great holiday season -- we had lots of sun and fun in Texas, but now it seems that there is an arctic air mass sitting on us! At about 5 am today the wind went from a dead calm to wailing across the roof! Wind in the Chihuahuan desert is almost ubiquitous, but the below-freezing temps combined with 30-40 mph winds makes being outside unbearable! And believe me, we've spent plenty of winters in the Catskills to know what cold is, and it is SCARY how the wind down here can blast the warmth right out of your bones.

But enough about the cold, lets tell you about some of our recent adventures...

While in Study Butte getting showers and fuel, we came across this amazing little gem of a micro living space!
The owner, pictured here with her 2001 Mexican spec Volkswagen Beetle, is an artist named Windsong and she is in the process of building an adobe structure on her property. This amazing home-in-tow can be heated with just a candle!

Our own home is coming along well, despite many setbacks, and we have only a couple walls left to assemble.  We are a little annoyed that the sliding glass door we bought has some bad dents and NO INSTRUCTIONS! Well, the second part isn't so bad because Casey has installed SGDs before (and with a little help from moi, he was able to figure out the assembly) but an irritating waste of time, nonetheless.

Sorry to all the friends and family who have been asking for photos, but we are horribly disorganized right now, juggling data between two laptops, a netbook, and an external hard disk drive (on a side note, ARICK: remember to wipe your D drive!).

OK, that's all I can type for now, but thanks for reading and I hope everyone has a fantastic 2010!

Pax et Amor,