Saturday, December 31, 2011

Another Great Year

It has been another eventful year for us, with lots of projects in progress and completed.  Our favorite project was getting married, but solar and home improvements close behind.

We have expanded our homestead with a new shop/garage building, a storage shed, our bathroom, and the second version of our chicken coop/run. 

We look forward to even more interesting projects in 2012, including a live video monitor of our animals, and starting a miniature dairy with Nigerian dwarf goats.

Happy New Year, everyone. 

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Solitario Solar

We recently completed a couple of solar racks using the Version 1.3 of our design, which works great. The new design uses grease-able pillow block bearings at the pivot points. 




So this past Friday and Saturday, Arick and I set up two more PV arrays in the Solitario.  They look even better with panels on them!  Shouldn't be very long now until all six are up and pumping current.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Four wheel drives

We were finally able to spend some time on the Geo Tracker. We cut off the damaged parts and stripped the interior. Then we installed the roll bar, which we bought in a junkyard in El Paso. After several hours of cutting and trimming, we were able to test fit, adjust, and weld it in place.

The project turned out great, plus it stiffened up the whole vehicle.  Next, on to fabricating a front windshield glass frame for the auto safety glass we bought in El Paso.

We recently acquired a 1985 Toyota 4Runner (a 4WD early SUV) that needs its engine rebuilt -- but that's the kind of thing I enjoy. 

It's a unique one, as it seems to have every possible option, including an altimeter and second fuel tank. Sometime in January I will pull the engine (the famous Toyota 2.2RE), and post updates on the progress. 

The DJ Fell Asleep ...

I'd like to apologize to anyone who has been having trouble with the blog lately (including my dear husband)!  Due to some technical difficulties (me trying to do an easy fix for one problem, which turned into a different and bigger problem in an unforeseen [but really, I should have foreseen it] way), the backend of the blog software developed a path error.  If any one on the web was experiencing problems with the frontend, it was undoubtedly caused by this path error, also.

But the good news is that the immediate crisis has been resolved.  I really appreciate everyone's input on the websites, and I plan on doing some bigger upgrades very soon!

In summary:  My bad, sorry.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Cold as Ice

We are experiencing a pretty bad cold snap right now, a little earlier than anticipated.  The weather has been almost totally unreliable for forecasts extending beyond five minutes from now.  But where once they said 'slight chance of rain' and 'snow north of I-20', now NOAA predicts freezing rain, and ice where clouds touch ground.  

But alas, it's snowing!  

Just flurries, but certainly no ice storms, or freeing rain/drizzle, or sleet.  The flurries seem to be mainly occuring inside the clouds.  That is, the heavy clouds that have been lingering overhead for the past couple of days now are sinking closer to the ground (as they tend to do at night) and as we drove up over the tops of hills and into the clouds, we would find ourselves inside a swirling tantrum of flakes.  Then, descending down the other side, they would dissipate. 

But as the clouds continue to sink lower and encapsulate our homestead, I am hopeful we may have a dusting of snow tomorrow morning.  Casey's mom Kathie departs for Florida tomorrow, and while she may not have gotten to experience a bed-wetting thunderstorm, perhaps she may hit the road with the surreal images of a snowy desert fresh in her mind's eye.

In other news, my beautiful sister recently underwent spinal surgery to relieve strain on a strangled nerve within a herniated disc.  Despite the initial postoperative agony, she seems to be recovering very well, and is actually in less pain than before the surgery.  I am dedicating this post to her and hope that our wel-wishes help her along the path to recovery.  We love you, Sis!

I hope all of our readers are enjoying a healthy and happy holiday season as well, and please keep warm and safe, everyone!

Saturday, November 26, 2011


We had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day with friends and family, and we hope you all had a great day too! 

As progress on our new shop moves closer to completion, our plans for future All Energies projects are already growing.

We are currently using my parents' small adobe for our metal fabrication and electronics workshop, but the added space of the new shop will be more than welcome, and I especially look forward to restarting experimentation and development of gasification.  

I am planing on acquiring a larger displacement engine in the 1 to 1.5 liter displacement range. I think small automobile engine such as the Geo Metro or Honda Civic would work well. This could power an AC alternator head and an air compressor pump.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Aggregate Studies

Polished off the second segment of garage floor today.  
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So rewarding.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

First shop floor pour

This weekend we (Sara, Arick, Dan, Jessica, and myself) poured one third of the concrete floor for the shop: an area of ten feet by 23.5 feet, with an average thickness of about four and a half inches. I will post lots of photographs tomorrow. It took 50 loads with our little mixer to lay down three and one quarter cubic yards of homemade concrete.

Friday, November 11, 2011


We've been behind in our updates, but I will try to just write at least something a few times a week. For the past three weeks Kathie has been visiting the area, staying in her home, the Cafe Colando, down the road while we all work on the renovations. We are also continuing to research and design solar tracking systems, and there is a lot to the technology. We're making a supply run to Alpine today.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Big Cat Scat

Mountain lions are also called mountain cats, catamounts, cougars, panthers, and painters.

Monday, October 24, 2011

El Paso

Kathie is flying in to El Paso this Tuesday and various people in our group needed items that were not available locally, so we decided to turn it into a dual-purpose trip. 

Arick and I headed to El Paso today, ready to search for some hard-to-find items: windshield, roll bar, welding gas tanks, and most of a kitchen, to name a few. So far so good; we got the Tracker a roll bar and made a trip to Harbor Freight. We'll see what tomorrow has to bring.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Simultaneous Sunset and Moonrise


The parallel problem

When it comes to living of the grid batteries a key part of the experience. We find many cases where they are the incorrect size, type and interconnections (wiring).

The problem we see all to often are massively paralleled battery banks, these setups are ether not working properly or soon to be. Here is an example of what happens: lets say we have a bank of 10 six volt batteries on a 12 volt system. First off that allot of battery cables and potentially bad connections, that off the bat eats into system efficiency. The main problem is keeping the bank balanced  even brand new bateries vary one from one to anther

Lets say I need 5KW of storage for a 24 volt system. First we need to convert to Ah (amp hours) 
5000 watts/ 24 volt= 208.3Ah using the 50% rule for discharging batteries I would need 2X208.3Ah=416.6Ah. So I need a lead acid battery that is 416.6Ah at 24 volts, unfortunately this size is not readily available and this is the case most of the time, so we need to build a bank of batteries. 

So we will search with 416 or greater Ah's in a 6 volt battery, Trojan makes a 420 Ah 6 volt the L16p-ac. Then we will wire four of these in series for 24 volts

Parallel Inverters


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Coop Upgrades

Ain't nuthin gonna dig under that door again!

IMG_0455.JPGYou gotta love McCoy's "as-is" discount materials!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Ferrous Concrete Countertops

Concrete counter-tops are a great alternative to slab, tile, or composite counter-tops.  They are relatively cheap and can be easily customized for any kitchen.

A few years ago, Casey's brother-in-law poured his own counter-tops in a monolithic pour, and the results are breathtaking.  For our own counters, we decided to try something we haven't seen anyone else attempt: ferrous concrete counter-tops.  

The term 'ferrous concrete' or 'ferro-concrete' literally means concrete with iron in it.  Actually, almost all concrete pours have some metal incorporated to add strength, but in our niche, 'ferro-concrete' usually refers to a specific building technique.  This method relies heavily on slip-forms and a very high metal-to-concrete ratio to build thin, freestanding structures, and also is utilized by many to encapsulate wooden structures within a stucco shell.  The stucco shell is basically what we are using to create our counters, but we are using three layers of increasingly fine material and hope to have a very smooth finished surface.

We began by building very strong and well supported counters out of lumber and plywood, and then stretched stucco lath across the top and over the edges.

Once the lath was firmly secured with screws, the first coat (aka the 'scratch' coat) was troweled on.

The first layer is worked deep into the lath, smoothed out, and then scored. We then let the concrete dry slowly, dampening it as necessary with a spray bottle.  The more slowly concrete cures the stronger it is and less likely to crack.

After the first layer had a couple days to cure, we added the second layer, which was mixed with an acrylic fortifier to help it adhere to the first layer and make the whole counter more impervious to water.  

The second layer is where we worked out the humps and valleys, built up a lip along the edge, and created a straight and smooth base for the finish coat.

All in all, it is very messy and time consuming, but extremely rewarding and cost-effective.  Stay tuned for pics of the finished counters.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Buildings Up

Well Sara's been away on a business trip and I had been alone finishing the shop foundation and the building was due a day earlier. Jessica and Dan of shady 80 came over and helped get the remainder of blocks set. Thanks! Jessica and Dan. We were able to fill all the block cores of the long walls with concrete, which is the mounting point for the building.
Shop foundation
Are sand gravil mix, mixed with 15% Portland cement. 
Shop foundation
Concrete mixer
Filling blocks with concrete

Completed Foundation
Both Dad and I ordered buildings which are 24'x30 feet 16.4 feet tall. TNT carports started at 7 am Wensday 21 st. on my dads building and quickly had it framed out.

Dads building frame

Dads building
Dads completed Barn
Dads barn
Our Shop! Or AllEnergies research and development center: 

AllEnergies Research and Development Center

Friday, September 9, 2011

Our Shop

The first course of concrete blocks for the foundation.

The beginning of the first block wall

First coarse of first wall completed
A store-bought swamp cooler.  She works great!