Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ups and Downs

Hello dear readers!

I got a wonderful care package from my grandmother yesterday -- she must be psychic, I think.  The box was crammed with white t-shirts (a commodity out here!) Neosporin and anti-itch cream (the mosquitoes are finally tapering off), along with lots of other goodies.  I am so lucky to have such sweet and caring relatives!

Also we are very happy to have our first official customers! We hope that this is just a sign of wonderful things to come. 

We also got another mono-crystalline solar panel, and our batteries are much happier. We will be testing out a set of composite carbon fiber blades on our wind turbine, and hope to see a power output improvement.  In just a couple of days we will be headed out to meet Dave and family, some fans of the blog, who have a very interesting fiberglass turbine prop some eight feet in diameter.  Expect our wind farm to grow very soon!

This past Saturday we had some neighbors over to pick up some chickens we sold them, though I'm sorry I forgot to bring out the camera.  Tanyah and Tom brought along their three kids to join in the fun of catching and caging the fluff-nuggets (as I call them; their original nickname was the "chicken nuggets," but they have outgrown that moniker). It was a hot day, but it was fun to see the kids so excited over their new hens.

This upcoming Sunday there will be an Independence Day parade in Study Butte, and we are looking forward to joining the procession.  We will need to give the truck a bath and spend the next couple of days working on our "float," but we are looking forward to a fun project.  For any readers who want to attend, the parade starts at 6pm at the Study Butte Mall, and terminates at Kathy's Kosmic Kowgirl Kafe, on FM170.  At the Kafe, the Terlingua Fire and Emergency Medical Services (TFEMS) volunteers will be selling food and drinks.

Now for the bad news.  Casey's Toshiba Satellite L305 is broken AGAIN.  The touch-pad isn't working, and there seems to be a hard drive failure also. As the main computer, it has all of our pictures on it and my web design software (and latest updates, though they can be recovered from the server).  Just like the first time, the Customer Service from Toshiba is a painfully frustrating waste of time.  This computer has turned out to be a total lemon, and we are stuck with it and it's problems.  I reiterate from a previous post: DON'T BUY A TOSHIBA!

Also, unfortunately, our printer kicked the proverbial bucket last week.  We have been giving hand-written estimates to our clients, which doesn't look very professional, but we don't have any other options at this point. We don't have the spare cash to fix or replace anything, so we'll keep trying to work out a solution.

There's always a silver lining, though, and we had to laugh when we saw the following label on the hard disk drive:
Rattle noise is normal? Really? They must have had to explain themselves a lot before they put that on the sticker. Now when people ask why it sounds like it's trying to achieve escape velocity, they can just point to the sticker.

What a company...

Friday, June 25, 2010

1oz Prevention > 1lb Cure

Lesson of the Day: Coffee and sewing do not mix well. Jittery hands + sewing needle = pricked fingers.

Stupid Mistake of the Day: ALWAYS shake out your clothes (and shoes) before donning.  Especially if they just came in off the clothesline (extra especially if they fell off the clothesline and had been laying in the grass).
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Scorpion in my pants.  Yep, in my pants.  Stung my leg, but at least no worse than a bee sting. As you can see, he/she paid dearly for trying to live in my jeans.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Ranch Drama? SNAFU, of course...

Well, life in the desert is never boring. Although, sometimes I get the impression that people are wont to make their own live-action soap operas out of thin air.  I had applied for a job at the Ranch as a their bookkeeper, but apparently only CPAs qualify (I'd be interested to find out how many of the past bookkeepers had a certificate, but we all know how that would turn out).  Right now the Treasurer's wife is doing the bookkeeping (she is a certified public accountant, and a very savvy lady to boot) on a volunteer basis, and they probably won't hire a replacement until she can't or won't do it any longer. C'est la vie. Eso es la vida.

Our friends Phil and Regina are also in trouble for trying to help their neighbors get water.  Imagine that, trying to buy water in the desert -- how silly! They paid for their troubles, but The Powers That Be are still setting their sights.  No good deed goes unpunished...

On Saturday we did a field check for our neighbor and are writing her up an estimate.  She already has plenty of solar panels, but some unscrupulous (I assume) person told her that they were all broken.  Solar panel don't just stop working all of a sudden unless there is serious, visible damage!  The panels were all FINE, and put out plenty of power.  We will draw up a plan for mounting and wiring them for her, and we hope that she will be pleased with our work.  We certainly will work very hard to get her set up with all the power she needs in a neat and efficient way!

We had some more rain on Friday, and it threatened last night, but the thunderhead skirted us to the west.  I'll have to check John Wells' blog to see if he got any rain off that storm.  It did give us a beautiful photo op, and I'll post the pics of the distant rain at sunset soon! I forgot to bring my camera with me today. 

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

3rd Thursday = Potluck

We got our fair share of rain this week: 1.35" Monday night and 2.25"
Tuesday evening. Tuesday we happened to be in Study Butte running errands when
on our way home it started to rain hard so we waited it out at Phil and
Regina's. When the rain stopped we attempted to drive home, but we happened
to be driving the car, and all the roads had washed out pretty badly. I attempted to drive home (not taking Sara's advice to wait until morning), went through some deep water and did some bumper and oil pan damage. After making it through several washouts we came to the East Corazones Draw, which had several feet of fast moving water. We helped some people with 4x4 trucks cross, and then we turned around and spent the night at our friends' house. We got a ride up to our place Wednesday morning and almost everything was OK.

Today I did some work at the ranch and came home to help get ready for the monthly potluck dinner. The potluck was fun; we got to see our friends and meet some new people. I talked to Dean about gasification and he knew quite a bit about the history, including the WWII-era coal-powered Volkswagens.

So that's it for today, thanks for reading.   

Sunday, June 13, 2010



Today we had our friends Phil and Regina; Rusty and his daughter Bailey stop by to see our place. Good south Brewster county visiting, talking about solar panels, good wind turbine locations, and wire sizes. We also walked to the top of our mountain (which we need to do more often) and got to see a good birds-eye view of the homestead.

Some very interesting AllEnergies fans have gotten in touch with us, including a family of blacksmiths who make some durable yurts. Their website is www.mountainwindyurts.com and we are going meet up with them in a few weeks to exchange some ideas. They have a wind turbine propeller eight feet in diameter and they are offering us the fiberglass wind turbine prop, which will give us the opportunity to make an awesome new turbine. We're aiming for a permanent magnet, 3 phase generator with a 30 foot tower and a diversion load.

Tomorrow we'll be busy down at the Ranch lodge, but we'll update again soon.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sunny and electrifying

IMG_3332.JPGThe permanent stairs to the house were completed five days ago, and what an improvement that made over our rickety, too-low, temporary stairs. I got the utility section of the house closer to ship-shape by adding a door, wiring in the new DC fuse box, and adding a piece of flex hose on our water pump (much quieter now).

The gasifier is finally receiving some attention and I am replacing the reduction zone with a much larger stainless steel one. When the gasifier gets reassembled we are going to test the local greasewood and see how that works. We are also planning to do some local alternative energy demonstrations and have the mobile gasifier included. So if anyone following the blog can give a recommendation on places in Study Butte or Alpine, please speak up.

Among the updates to the website we added a "Services We Offer" page. The page describes our local services and also talks about our over-the-phone and via email consulting and design. I know there are a lot of people our there who are capable of doing something but just need a little extra guidance. 

I'm over my self-imposed time limit on internet usage, so that's all for now.  We'll try to get another update posted soon, because we have much more to tell y'all!  Thanks for reading.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Welcome to June

IMG_0105.JPGGood morning, everyone! We have been busy with more than just the homestead lately. We are volunteering our help to the Ranch, which has been fun and educational.  The office is staffed with very nice people now.  Andrea and Dianna are two of the sweetest people I've ever met, and Frank, the new Ranch manager, is working hard to get the place back on track. The POATRI treasurer Marbert has been busting his hump, volunteering in the office and showing Frank the ropes. We are happy to have the facilities open again, and we hope that the upswing of improvements will continue!
IMG_3268.JPGThe chickens are getting fat, and soon we'll start free ranging them. This will also make it a lot easier to work on the coop, which needs work before the hens can start laying and also to have them well-protected when winter weather returns. Right now it is just a four post structure wrapped in chicken wire that is buried a foot into the ground.  Unfortunately, the portland cement we used in the adobe that anchors the posts must have been bad, because everything we used it in just crumbles away.  I will eventually dig out the corners and re-concrete the posts, and probably use that opportunity to start pouring adobe footings for the walls.  Eventually the coop will have three, probably slip-formed, adobe walls with chicken wire and rebar for support
RustyWe also got to visit our buddy Rusty up on Jack Eden Mesa, and after the tour of his adobe and other projects, we got to meet his daughters Bailey and Ayrton, and Bailey's friend Ryan. Rusty and his family did a beautiful job on their adobe hideaway, and you can check out his photos here: Rusty's Blog.  We are hoping the group will come by our place if they get a chance, and we'll be sure to take lots of pictures to remember one of our first groups of visitors! Today Casey and I are in dire need of a trip to Alpine, and while we hate to leave our house, we must get food for ourselves and the animals.  No one wants to visit a house of skeletons, anyway!