Saturday, July 31, 2010

Our Own Face Space!

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Monday, July 26, 2010



Well, we finally got some hands-on
experience with large concrete pours, and at the hands of masonry
masters P+R. 1st Biggest Lesson:
prepare everything in advance, even the little rut under the concrete
mixer so the wheelbarrow can fit easier. 2nd
Biggest Lesson
: get more gravel/sand than you think you will use,
then go get some more.

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The magic ratio? One shovel Portland
per five shovels aggregate (no magic really, just a veteran's experience). Mixer
maxes out at ~25 shovel-loads, so that means 20 of aggregate and five
of cement. Three giant coffee containers of water at first, then
season to taste. Too wet makes the concrete weak, but too dry makes
it weak also. Is your gravel full of sand or dirt? Sand is better, so
pour a shovel-load from arm height and watch for a dust cloud. The
smaller the dust cloud, the less dirt.


Also spent a large chunk of time
working on our solar gig. Welding is always fun, though hard on your
skin and clothing. The rack turned out very nice, though sometimes it
felt like every weld was a battle (against wind, or inexperience
[mine, not Casey's], or indecision). Personally, my biggest dilemma
was how high to mount it! Our client is not over-large in stature,
but she does have horses, and horses will rub against anything if
they feel like it. We opted to make it easier for the client to use,
instead of so high that the horses wouldn't bump it. Perhaps the
equines will leave it alone, anyway.


This friendly little snake was found in
the barn, and I couldn't resist the chance to hold him/her. Anyone
know what kind it is? Some kind of garter snake, to be sure, but
there are so many kinds!

We got a little bit of rain off
Saturday's storm, which means a few extra gallons in the tank thanks
to our new gutters. No real flooding, thankfully.

Sprocket got his first real swimming
lesson this weekend, too. He can swim just fine, and he even has
webbed toes, but he was still scared and wheezy after one go around
the pool. Once he let me buoy him up, he chilled out and treaded
water. It was fun for all of us, though the skinniest among us found
the water too cold and got out after just a minute! We thought the
cooler temperatures were wonderful! One thousand times better than
in NY, where the water flows from mountain springs year-long, and at
a constant 45 degrees Fahrenheit!

Swimming truly is medicinal, and
perhaps more-so in the desert. We all felt invigorated, and the
water-wary pooch lost his persistent aches and spent the rest of the
day running laps around the rest of us.

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Early in the week, we got to show our
neighbor around the homestead. We love to show off our place, mostly
because the views are amazing! At least once a day, the raw beauty of
this place takes my breath away.

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The past week has left us a little
tired and a little sunburned, but overall very satisfied with our
accomplishments, small and large.

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Making your own power

After starting this off the grid project about a year ago, we have learned quite a bit about the actual workings of a good system. Nearly everything you buy is going to be overrated; solar panels and wind generators are rated at peak watts, which when used in conjunction with batteries at ~13 volts is unattainable. We have just gotten accustomed to looking through the performance data and deducing a more accurate rating from that.

img_3651.jpgYesterday we picked up two 105 lbs, 12 volt AGM 165 AH batteries from Ron for a solar job we have.  Personally, we would love to use these type of batteries in our system when ever possible. Making good 12 volt connections can be difficult, and we have found that many fuse holders have high resistance. Automotive style DC outlets are good for about 2 amps -- if you're not careful it's easy to waste power.  

img_3648.jpgWe are making good progress on our house; the bathroom addition is almost all dug out (over 24 wheelbarrow loads so far) and now we are gathering gravel to make concrete. We already bought about half the Portland cement -- seven 94 lbs bags. As for the inside, we just got a dozen space blankets to use as reflective heat and vapor barrier.  We'll use these in addition to fiberglass insulation. These extra steps should make for a cool house in the summer and a warm house in the winter.
img_3622.jpgSix "strongly worded letters" that we sent to Toshiba Co. explaining our ordeal.

The most beautiful sunrise we have ever seen in either of our lives.   If any other may surpass it, it will probably be another Terlingua sunrise.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Yesterday evening we meet up with a fan of our site Dave in Fort Stockton. Dave is also an alternative energy enthusiast. He has done a lot with wind and solar power, and has even built a vertical axis wind turbine. Dave gave us a set of wind turbine blades that are 8' feet in diameter -- these will make a very good wind turbine, we just need to decide on a generator and controller.

We also stopped at the Fort Stockton chamber of commerce and saw a pretty good sized solar array and three Skystream wind turbines, two of them were humming away. An interesting addition in an oil town. 

Wind & solar, Fort Stockton?
We have also completed or first on-site automotive repair with a happy customer, we just need a few more tools and we should be able to tackle just about any no-start.


We finally got a gutter on our roof for rain water catchment-- for one reason or another, that project kept getting postponed. We shouldn't miss a drop of rainwater with the very deep commercial gutter, which uses a PVC pipe connected to our 305 gallon tank. Now we need to get the house sided, whether that ends up being metal or stucco.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Rain: Not necessarily your friend

Quite an eventful past few days. It's been rainy/cloudy for several days, so our batteries have been working hard. The roads have been washing out all over, and even the paved section of the Ranch Road has washed away at the West Corazon draw.

Embarrassingly, I got stuck Saturday on Lake Ament road, but GM Frank was nice enough to come pull us out. Only to get stuck again at White Mill Ranch road the next day, with our parade trailer in tow. Lucky for us, the very next vehicle was a Toyota truck and they happened to have a tow strap. We thought our chance to be in the parade was over, but we were saved by fellow ranchies.
img_3564.jpgimg_3565.jpgWe got to the Study Butte Mall in time to line up, and the parade went off without a hitch. There was quite a turn out this year and we had a lot of enthusiastic fans of our parade float. After the parade everyone went to Kathy's Kosmic Kowgirl Kafe for some food and time to socialize. We ran into our neighbor Terry and got to show him our gasifier. Our trip to Fort Stockton has been postponed til tomorrow or Wednesday.
Until next time