Saturday, October 27, 2012


Since we've got so many flowers blooming right now, we thought it would be a good investment to buy a plant identification guide from the BBNP bookstore (instead of spending hours on the Lady Bird Johnson website and getting mixed results).  Of course, the real books are several hundred pages long and cost over $20, so we cheaped-out and got the laminated pamphlet version.  

We already own the "Snakes of the Trans-Pecos" pamphlet and we love it, so this little "Plants of the Chihuahuan Desert" field guide seemed like a good alternative to the more expensive, full length book.

It's really amazing how many plants we assumed were just scrubby brush that are now showing some beautiful flowers.  There are also so many flowers that we've enjoyed for years now, that we hadn't previously been able to identify.  Here are some new IDs we've been able to make, thanks to our new field guide (plus a little help from

  1. Black dalea (Dalea frutescens)
  2. Skeleton-leaf goldeneye (Viguiera stenoloba)
  3. Trailing windmills (Allionia incarnata)
  4. Bristly nama (Nama hispidum)
  5. Mock vervain (Glandularia bipinnatifida)
  6. Desert evening primrose (Oenothera primiveris)
But there are still a number of flowers and plants that are a complete mystery.  Since we had such good luck with Botaniker helping us ID the Lindheimer's Senna, we thought we might post the mystery plants too, and hope that someone out there savvier than us can ID them.

Here are the mystery plants:

This dark plant is a total mystery, especially since there weren't any open blooms to help. The purple/gray color is so unusual, and we haven't seen any more since these photos were taken.

This thistley, prickly plant is very common, but is not in our booklet.  We'd love to know more about it, since it is all over.

Yellow is the most common color for flowers out here, but even the ones that look the same are often different species.  At first we thought this flower was skeleton-leaf goldeneye, but on closer inspection it doesn't match at all.

This creeping succulent is beautiful even when it's not flowering, but the tiny pink/purple flowers make the plant seem even more delicate and lovely.

This strange flower is one we have never seen before or since. What in the heck is it?

The dark vine pictured above had several tiny, rose-like blooms along its length, but only the one pictured was open and ready for a close-up.

But here's the real star of this blog entry (I know, I know ... too many flower photos): Pectis angustifolia.  More commonly known in these parts as 'limoncillo,' this wild herb has an amazingly strong lemony fragrance and it is often dried to be used for tea or flavoring. 

Not a horse.
The first time someone told us about limoncillo, we thought he had said 'lemonsilla,' and when we Googled it, we found lots of pictures of horses, but no flowers. Another case where helped point us in the correct direction!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Solar Sisters

Happy to report that the new SunStation survived the journey to Pink's Peak, and is electrifying the lives of Erica and her twin Erin.

The river guide sibs from the volunteer state were super excited and proudly called it "the sexiest thing that's ever been in the yard." Sorry fellas, you just can't compete with 425 watts of solar!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Late Bloomer

Foreground: Torrey yucca. Background: Whitehouse Mtn.

Mail Surprise

We recently got a wonderful surprise in our mailbox. A note from our new friend Stacy, who came to visit with Dr. Deb a couple weeks ago.  

With the note was the best gift ever, some Leucaena seeds for our garden.  Leucaena, or Leadtree, is indigenous to our area (though we seem to have mostly acacias, which are also in the mimosa family) and an excellent source of nutrients. It is also a nitrogen-fixing plant, so it enriches the soil for other plants.

We can't wait to add this super-plant to our small container garden. Thanks Stacy!

Sunday, October 21, 2012


We had a VIP come to visit this week. Sara's mother Debra flew into El Paso on Tuesday and flew out on Saturday. Wednesday morning the desert welcomed Debra with a stunning orange sunrise.

Since we only had a couple of full days to show her around, we tried to pack in as much as we could. First stop had to be the Big Bend National Park. The national park was beautiful and almost every plant was blooming, thanks to recent and copious rain. But a lot of the roads we wanted to travel were closed due to washouts.

Despite that setback, we managed to see a number of great spots,including the Chisos basin, the Ross Maxwell scenic drive, Castolon, the Rio, and Santa Elena canyon. Debby got to take a photo of her first wild tarantula and discovered that she loves ocotillo plants, despite having trouble remembering the name.

The next day we gave her the two-dollar tour of Terlingua ghost-town, took a stroll through the graveyard, and tried to find something worth buying at the Terlingua Trading Company. Unfortunately, we were treated very rudely by the man behind the counter and did not buy anything.

Just a few miles down the road, we had a completely opposite experience at the Lajitas resort. The posh resort, which basically is its own town, sits right on the Rio Grande and boasts many amenities and luxuries for its guests. After checking out the wares at Christina's World, we were strolling down the boardwalk when an employee came out to greet us. We thought that he was going to ask us to take the dogs away, but instead he enthusiastically greeted the dogs first and suggested we take them over to the amphitheater where they could play off-leash.

He gave us a mini-tour of the resort while guiding us to the amphitheater  and told us we were welcome to eat at the restaurant with the dogs if we didn't mind sitting outside. With a veranda like this, who could mind?

But we had already planned to eat at the Starlight Theater, so when we were done exploring the resort we all piled back into the truck and had a very nice meal accompanied by live music.

All in all, I think we did OK as far as giving the whirlwind-tour. Let us know if we missed any of your favorites -- we'll add them to the list for next time.

Rough Roads

This is why you don't stop short on ranch roads.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Plant ID

Clockwise from top left:
Datura, a/k/a Jimson weed;
Desert marigold;
Drummond clematis, a/k/a 'old man's beard';
Yellow trumpetflower?

I'm not sure about the last one, so if you think I'm wrong and know the correct ID, please tell us in the comments :-)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Diggy, diggy

In & Out arrived right on time, dropping off the mini-excavator yesterday morning, and we wasted no time putting the digger to work.

The only downside to all this hard work is that we have to take attention away from finishing up the second SunStation, which is due to be delivered in a few days.

After spending all day digging and scraping and leveling, et cetera, a storm moved in early in the evening.  

What seemed like just a small and isolated rainstorm ended up dropping a half inch of rain as it moved in and out of the area, and then back again? It was very confusing, listening to the storm, because a strong burst would hit, then taper off and end.  Then half an hour later, the rains came back.  And the lightning never went away.  There was a fantastic light show for hours, long into the night.

But even though there was plenty of rainfall around the mountain, our neighbor Dan got hardly any precipitation at his home which is nestled into the Northwest side of the West Coraz√≥n Peak. The weather here can behave in ways you wouldn't imagine.  

There seems like there is a chance of more rain in the forecast, which would make this the wettest October we've ever had if it comes to fruition. No doubt that will make hunting season even more active this year.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Solar sign

It's always great to see renewable energy making inroads toward becoming the norm. When we were in New Jersey visiting family, it was exciting to see that PV arrays and solar hot water panels had cropped up all over the state. 

Just the other day in Alpine, we drove past the new library and were very glad to see that their beautiful new sign is illuminated by solar power.  In fact, the Terlingua Ranch Lodge had made plans with us to do the same thing, but they backed out at the last minute.  

On a new installation like the Library's, solar is an easy choice because the installation costs of grid power are so high.  By comparison, the initial investment to install a small solar system is minuscule.

Perhaps an entirely solar-powered library is in the not-too-distant future, but for now we are really happy just to have the sign.

Rename, Republish

A few corrections are in order...

First off, let us correctly identify our last project as the Portable Pedal Powered Pumper. The PPPP is at home in East Texas with Dr. Deb, where we hope she is enjoying the alliterative device (please excuse the grammar-nerd joke).

And secondly, it recently came to our attention that Blogger was missing over 100 entries that were imported from the old blog, but apparently never published. 

This has been sort-of fixed, meaning that all of the old entries are now visible on Blogger, but there will be formatting errors until we have the time to go through each entry and fix the formatting. But at least now the blog record is complete, and readers can go all the way back to our first ever blog post in 2009.
Looking youthful back in July 2010
It's hard to believe we've been at this for three years, already! I hope y'all have enjoyed reading as much as we have enjoyed writing.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Metal delivery

We received a delivery of metal today from Hatco Steel out of Alpine.

These pipes and purlins will soon become the framework for the new porch on our Home/Office.  

We still need to acquire decking and roofing materials.

The planned expansion should add lots of living space as well as more rainwater catchment.

In a couple of days, some heavy machinery will arrive from In & Out Rental in Alpine.

We'll use it to dig on the properties, as much as possible.  We only have the machine for a short period of time, with a long list of things we would like to do with it.

Big plans, big machines, and big materials.  It's all part of living in the big Lone Star State.

Sun power

A beautiful sunrise is a reminder that virtually all energy on the planet comes from the star at the center of our solar system.  Even coal and oil are just sources of ancient sunlight, trapped by plants, compressed underground, and concentrated over millions of years.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Staying warm

Brrr. The winds kicked up something awful yesterday evening, and it sounded like the end of the world most of the night.  We woke up to temps in the 40s, and cold fog sitting heavy on the mountains.

After coffee and morning chores, we loaded up Deb's bicycle-powered water pump for delivery.  She seemed pleased with the end result.  We look forward to hearing how it performs.

While at TFL we also got to see Stacy's rocket stove, which is like a mini-gasifier. By using a metal chimney and a small inlet orifice, you can create lots of concentrated heat for cooking, with just a few twigs.  It makes cooking with wood so much more efficient.  To learn more about wood gasification, follow the link to our website.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

la bomba bicicleta

Had a great visit with Dr. Deb and her friend Stacy, who drove out to Terlingua from East Texas.  They are staying at le Chateau TFL, and came by to have us fabricate a bicycle water pump. Got to give them a tour of the homestead, too.  It turns out that Deb's a whiz at ferro-cement, and had lots of questions about the Presidio Gallena.

We recently got this nifty little band saw for cutting metal, and now we don't know how we got on without one for so long.  It makes the whole process more precise and less dramatic (we had been using a chop saw with an abrasive disk).


The mercury is supposed to drop tonight and into the next couple days with a big cold front that's moving in, but today was just perfect.