Friday, August 30, 2013

a-wiggling and a-hissing

My favorite Texas snake - the hognose

Fall is fast approaching, and I am yearning to go for a hike or two in the local canyons. Since we don't believe much in mountains around here, we have to seek out their opposites if we want to find interesting hikes. One thing about fall hiking around here, it is one of the best times to see the local wildlife - especially the reptiles. They take advantage of warm sunlight and the radiant heat of the rocks, and hiking trails often offer some of the best sunning opportunites.

I have often heard that the only good snake is a dead snake, and I often hear snake stories that end with a rake, a rock, or a shotgun. We like to kill the things we don't understand. There are only four indigenous poisonous snakes in this area, and I have only encountered two of those around here: the rattlesnake and the water moccasin. Thanks to the Aggies, here is a website to help you know more about the poisonous ones:

And here is some good general info about Texas snakes:

And here's a little Tom T. Hall music for you snake and/or root beer lovers out there:

Have a great day, and all of you 18-28 year old males, be sure to read that first website closely and be careful out there!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

How far do you live from _______ ?

I live smack-dab in the middle of this map. If you start at my house and draw a circle with a 3-mile radius, you will circle two grocery stores, two hardware stores, four public schools, three entirely too tempting donut shops, three very good local coffee houses, two places that collect recycling, one good bicycle shop, two gyms, three pet stores, a locksmith, four great local Mexican food places, a Radio Shack, two local gourmet restaurants, three drugstores, a post office, a health food store, two martial arts establishments, four places to refill your purified water containers, a community outreach center...

And the list goes on and on.

Why do I mention all of this? Because I need to lose weight (#$%^&#  donut shops!), I need to save money, I want to support local businesses, and I want to do less damage to the planet I share with all of you.

And all of these places are within walking or bike-riding distances.

What's in your circle?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Backyard Fauna - Gecko!

(Depending on your screen, this little guy is probably appearing larger than life!)
You got it: big eyes, big toes, bumpy and translucent skin, and the stripy tail! This little guy was in our backyard last night. We have had very few lizards this year and it made my day. He was less than 2" long and very quick. When I do see lizards, they are normally fence swifts [which I now know as Texas Spiny lizards] or five-lined skinks, so geckos are especially cool to see. (According to my little bit of googling, this is a Mediterranean gecko.)
May your day be filled with small and wonderful surprises!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Colorado Green Stuff 3 - Solar Panels

Dagnabbit! Should have taken more pictures. Sometimes you get caught up in the living rather than the camera.

We saw solar panels everywhere, especially in the more sparsely popluated areas. Sometimes it's just easier to install solar panels than trying to run electric lines to remote areas. But we also saw a great deal of solar in areas that had easy access to the local power grid. On the way to CaƱon City, we saw an auto repair shop that had a very impressive solar array even though the power lines ran right across their property. The nicest surprise came as we were leaving Royal Gorge Rafting and Zipline Tours - there was a huge solar array supplying all of the electricity for the restaurant and all of the buildings in on their property. I really like doing business with places that are making an effort to preserve our natural resources. (A shout out for Dave Klein <Cline?> who was a great river guide as well.)

(Not a photo of us, but pretty darn close!)
May your day be filled with adventure and joy!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Colorado (Somewhat) Green Stuff 2 - Own an Inch of Colorado

We saw these semi trailers parked along I-25. If you go to the website, you will find a group that is working to keep a very large area of Colorado ranchland from being used as US Army artillery range and war games practice area. One of their approaches utilizes the selling of 1 inch square tracts of land to raise money to continue their fight and to develop a landowner association.

In their own words:

For your $10 you'll receive a frame-able, legal deed and you'll be supporting the Pinon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition, ( PCEOC ) in their effort to prevent the Army from taking 6.9 million acres of magnificent prairie and canyon lands away from generational ranchers in order to turn the southeastern corner of Colorado into a huge, live-fire range.

So please, become a property owner, stop the federalization of Colorado's lands and militarization of Colorado's economy. By purchasing an inch of land you'll be standing with American citizens who are fighting to protect their homes and their lands from seizure by the military. You'll be helping to prevent the creation of more than 17,000 refugees and you'll become part of the most unique land-owners association in America: The Pinon Canyon Square Inch Land

You will also find links for possible ecological impacts and damages that this that this expansion could cause.

Dear Reader, what are your thoughts on this group's approach to having their voices heard?

Back from Vacation - and Colorado Green Stuff

We're back - had a wonderful time - wish I had taken more pics for all of you to see.

I will post a series of things that had the Mesquite Hugger in me very excited.

First, we saw a real, live, grain bin house in Hudson, Colorado!!!

In the world of upcycling, few things are cooler than a grain bin turned into a house. My wife and I have often "designed" our dream home using 4 smaller grain bins and a varying number of shipping containers to form something like a medieval castle with a courtyard in the middle.

If you have never heard of a grain bin house, check out this link from Mother Earth News:

May you have a great day and dream of round, upcycled housing!

Friday, August 16, 2013

While We're on the Instructables Kick - How to Eat a Prickly Pear!

I've pulled a lot of their thorns from myself and others, but I have not yet eaten one. Maybe while I am out collecting mesquite beans to roast in my pickup...

Augustructables Reminder and Some Inspiration

We are now halfway through August, so I wanted to throw out a reminder for those who work better under pressure. In case you are still looking for a little inspiration, here are some past Instructables contest and the one in structable that hooked me into the madness.

Duct tape and cardboard

Green design

A contest created by a member named "Horny Toad"

Gorilla Glue and cardboard

The instructable that hooked me on electric vehicles

I hope that your weekend is filled with inspiration and the joy of creation!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Mesquite Beans!

Any recipe that involves a pickup sitting in the hot sun catches my eye. Roll up your windows and roast yourself some beans!

Enjoy and let us know what you make!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Hang time! (Or, Who Needs Fluffy Softness?)

In my bid to conserve resources, I have gone back to something I remember from my childhood. I put up a clothesline in the backyard. At the big orange box store I was able to find the hardware needed for less than $10.

And there is one thing I have learned from this experience - it's not for everybody. I never knew (or did not remember) that drying clothes outside makes them crunchy. When I dry my jeans, they can almost stand up on their own. It's like a hard-core starching. When I dry towels, it feels like they are going to break when I fold them. Even my underwear starts to feel like the dried leather chamois I used for drying my high school car. (Dang those French phonetics - it should be "shammy"!)

My wife does not like it, and I do not blame her a bit. Who wants to dry off with a scuff pad? Who wants wearing pants to be a form of resitance training? Who wants their nether regions to be swaddled in sandpaper?

Apparently, I do.

As I walk stiff-legged down the street, I bask in the green-ness of my choice. One less 60-90 minute drying session at 220 volts. Less energy consumed from Lubbock's less-than green utility provider. And, I get some good out of the triple-digit heat and lack of humidity that defines life on the South Plains. As I exfoliate with a bath towel, I luxuriate in the knowledge that my dryer is both solar and wind powered, but we did not have to refinance the house to pay for it or fight the city council/zoning commission/local utility board for the right to put up a grid-tied solar system or install a wind generator. (Both are illegal in Lubbock at this point.)

And all these crunchy clothes make me feel a little more manly than a pasty and round middle-aged guy would normally feel. Surely John Wayne had a mesquite tree instead of a dryer...

May you have a wonderful day and chafe-free clothing!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Professing versus Practicing

One of the biggest challenges I face is when I evaluate my own beliefs versus my own actions. Whoever you are (or want yourself to be) do something today that reinforces that self image.

Put "who I am" in contrast with "what I do"; if they don't match, change the "what I do" category. 

Have a great weekend and act as you want the world to be.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Joy Comes in the Morning

For those of us who are morning people, West Texas holds many rewards. Last night was a light show with a little rain, so the world smelled great as I walked to the local coffee. I had a chance to read and write while sitting by an east-facing window.

I hope your day started as joyfully as mine.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Electric Bicycle

The latest electric bike is (mostly) complete. It's an old Huffy with a used Heinzman geared hubmotor from a Lee Iaccoca EVGlobal bike and a 36 volt 30 amp controller.

Most of that means very little, so here's a list of benefits:
At our current electric rates (that the whole town is in an uproar over) it costs 1/5 of a penny to charge.
A full charge on the current lead batteries should get me to work with a little juice to spare while running 17mph
I won't show up to work all sweaty.
I will actually enjoy my commute.
If it runs out of juice, it still pedals like a normal bicycle.
Less air pollution, traffic, and frustration than driving a car.
So far, I have less money invested in it than I do in the last three fill-ups of the family pickup.

I took it on a 4 mile shake-down run on Saturday, and it performed great, so I will start commuting with it this week. Have a great week, and please watch out for the idiot on a black bike!


8-6-13 Made it to work this morning without incident, but the skinny little seat has to go!