Saturday, April 18, 2015

PCR: Olla Update Photos

I have a notoriously black thumb, so I thought it was worthwhile to show a  photo progression. 

I am going to need a funnel to reach through the overcrowded plants! Woohoo!

And the next generation of ollas are in production...

May  you and your personal carbon reduction projects thrive! Thank you for reading!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Electric Transport Minipost: Bike and Car Links

Two helpful electric vehicle stories that appeared this week:

Mo-Tobi, I missed you this morning!

I rode the ebike on Monday. I rode the regular bike this morning. This morning I sure wished I had taken the ebike.
Treehugger gives us an ebike primer (with a short-term link to a free ebike ebook)

Green Car Reports gives us an Electric Car Price Guide
And the list starts with the Mitsubishi MiEV, Snagit!

May your EV dreams come true!

PS for Lubbockites: I noticed a used Chevy Volt on the Pollard used lot this week. Used EV cars are quite the rarity around here!

Lubbock Local Wildlife: Earth Day, Drought, Clapp Park

Earth Day is fast approaching. April 22. This will be Earth Day's 45th anniversary, so Earth Day and I are close to the same age. This year I have wanted to do something more significant to honor the day. The old brain casted about for the right thing, and then I ran across this article:

Earth Day Pond Cleanup

And Clapp Park came to mind. I love Clapp Park. I love that such a wild and often beautiful place is a two-minute bike ride from my house. (I love Mae Simmons and Aztl├ín Parks in the same way, but they require a lot more pedaling.) I decided to spend a few hours picking up trash at Clapp to mark and celebrate Earth Day. I am going for the old Think Globally, Act Locally idea this year.

Wednesday was a rough day - lots of rough news about people around us. Sasha and I found ourselves with a shared restlessness, so we decided to walk around Clapp on an Earth-Day scouting run. (Note to self: never go to Clapp without a real camera, the vaguely intelligent phone just does not do it justice.)

We saw lots of cool things and apparently smelled even more. We saw some nice raised-bed gardens inside the arboretum fence. We saw evidence that someone has been using tree branches to lay out protected areas for butterfly gardens and other small nature refuges. We also saw that someone had been working at clearing trash.

On a less positive front, we saw that the two ponds had dried up to almost nothing. We saw lots of trash. Lots of trash. The two remaining spots of water were teeming with overcrowded life - turtles, frogs, fish, and opportunistic birds.

With man-made trash and drought, the place has become a bittersweet place for me, but one worth working for. So, what are your plans for Earth Day?

May every day be Earth Day, and may you be one of those who keep it going.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Lubbock: Remember the Drought?

One of the best parts of being a bicycle commuter is getting a closer look at where you live.

One of the worst parts of being a bicycle commuter is getting a closer look at where you live.

Over the last few weeks I have seen a change in the town - people, businesses, churches, and schools have started watering their yards.

On a bike, that means 1) it's time to install some fenders, 2) you need to be careful to avoid all of the standing water, or 3) you are going to show up at work with a muddy butt. My watery nemesis these days is the southwest corner of 50th and Utica.

In a bigger sense, it means that we (Lubbock) are not scared of drought.
I have been following the plight of Californians in this time of drought. Things are getting desperate. A very informative article showed up on Mother Jones this week. As I was reading through it, I realized how many of the same issues they are facing are very present here. The only difference is that we were fortunate enough to get some significant rain in recent times. We were (ever-so-slightly) pulled out of our severe drought. The Californians haven't been so fortunate.

Mother Jones: 7 Key Facts about the Drought

The article highlights drought issues surrounding municipal water use, agricultural water use, and fracking water use. (Sound familiar?) It also includes a pretty terrifying graphic that captures US drought conditions 1 week ago.

Image from the Mother Jones article (with a few additions)

California (of course) shows extreme drought throughout the state. The Texas panhandle has the next-most severe drought area - in the counties just to the north and east of Lubbock.

It's early April. Today's forecast already has us in the 90's.

Lubbock citizens, please actively pursue water conservation.

May we work together for a common good.

Lubbock Local Wildlife: Get Ready for Spring (SPWRC)

One of our backyard elms has a hole. It's a great hole! A few years ago, starlings moved in and started raising little starlets. In springtime I spend a lot of time watching the comings and goings from our kitchen window. A few days ago, I saw two squirrels run quickly into the hole. So, I stood at the window and impatiently sipped my coffee. After a few minutes, a squirrel face peered out of the hole. She looked around, waited a bit, and then she ran out onto the tree trunk. A few minutes later, a smaller face appeared, looked around for a bit, and ran out. I know that people are supposed to see squirrels as mortal enemies, but I don't. It made me quite happy to see these two. Then another small face appeared, and another, and another. An adult and four youngsters eventually came out of that hole. It was a great start to my day.

Why do I tell you this? Because it's spring. Because the male grackles are fool-dancing for the ladies. Because the English sparrows are in the mood. Because the squirrels have been listening to their Barry White albums.

And the storks are on their way bringing lots and lots of babies!

So, what do you do if you find a baby bird or baby mammal and you want to help it out? You don't call me. I had a horrible track record with found babies until I learned the secret - get thee to the SPWRC! The South Plains Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is a group of local heroes who spend their time working to rehabilitate and release local wildlife in need of help. They are busy folks!  And they are a great resource for local people and for people all over. They have put together these two pages to help you know what to do if you find a displaced baby:


While you are on their site, be sure to read about their drop-off center in case you find local wildlife that is sick or injured. And, if you would like to support them in their mission, you can find volunteer opportunities, wishlists, and a few ways to donate money. You can even buy a Give a Hoot T-shirt. Please tell them the Mesquite Hugger sent you!

May you live in a place where people actively care for others.

Bonus video: Tank Girl gets all Cole Porter (Dedicated to Grizz!)

Monday, April 6, 2015

Monday Mini-Post: Solar-Powered Bicycle

Ok, I admit it, I am a double slacker today.

Photo from the TH post below
Slacker point 1: I have been gearing up for the National Bike Challenge, so I have been trying to ride the conventional bicycle as often as possible. But this morning was a little breezy and the forecast calls for sustained 25mph winds at the end of my work day. And I have a bad case of the Mondays. So I said no to the conventional bike and arm wrestled between the ebike and the non-e pickup. The ebike won. High winds and high temps are the reasons I wanted an ebike. It was a nice ride and I was breathing a little heavily when I arrived at work. I would have been breathing heavier had I ridden the regular bike.

Slacker point 2: I have been working on a solar-powered vehicle post.  While there are definitely limitations at this point in time, I find solar power to be the most logical and promising fuel for transportation, and I follow solar vehicle articles with a gleam in my eye. But I have been dragging my feet on the actual article.

So, here is a Lloyd Alter/Treehugger article about a solar-powered bike that is under development in Copenhagen. The video that accompanies it also gives you a nice little slice of life for bike commutuing in the world's most bike friendly city. The bike itself is a pretty conventional setup outside of the wheels that contain and transmit solar power. Enjoy!

It's a solar-powered electric bicycle. Now we're talking. Again.

May your vehicle fuel itself sustainably!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Tempted by a Suzuki (No actual motorcycle or pictures in this post)

Self, if you want to avoid temptation, avoid temptation. I have to remind myself often.

Is there a shop where you just like to browse, one you stop by when you have nothing better to do?

I stay out of motorcycle shops these days. But I hauled a friend's scooter to a local motorcycle shop last week so that he could have new tires installed. His back tire had reached a point where you could see the air inside. While we were there, I looked around a lot. It was strange to be back in that familiar foreign place.

To preface all of this, I need to tell you that I used to go to motorcycle stores a lot. Once a week was not rare. Whether I was buying parts or just browsing to see what had come in, it was a regular stop. I have been a consumer all my life. Bookstores. Bicycle shops. Hardware stores. Pet shops. The Thrifty Nickel. Craigslist. Ebay. Amazon. Swap meets. Antique stores. Garage sales. Ralph's Records. I am not a heavy spender, but I am a heavy browser. Twenty dollars here, ten dollars there...

At the motorcycle shop I found a Suzuki TU250X. $4300. And I wanted it. Which is funny. I have sworn off buying new, gas-powered vehicles. And I strongly resist the urge to buy used, gas-powered vehicles. But this motorcycle crept up on me. At first, I just thought to myself, That's a cool little bike. Then I went to the website and checked out the stats. I read the on-line reviews. I looked around for a used one. And I have had motorcycles on the brain since.

I have been working at giving stuff up. You can blame it on my bank account, Annie Leonard, and a coffee swiller named Joe. You can blame it on a lack of space and the idea that stuff seems to own me these days. Maybe it's all those tiny house videos.

So I'm dreaming about this stupid motorcycle, and the voice pops up. You know where you went wrong. You went in. And the voice was right. I went into the land of temptation and was tempted. It is something I have struggled with over the last few years. If you don't want more stuff, stop looking at more stuff.

But it's not enough (yet) to stop looking at stuff. For a while I felt a bit lost. I felt a need to fill that void. I have been working on that. Instead of spending money, I try to go for a bike ride, walk the dogs, work around the house, read, write, build. I try to do something. Plant a garden.

May we both stop browsing and build something better - a life!

Arlo Guthrie - The Motorcycle Song

Squeeze - Tempted

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Electric Moped: Somebody built our napkin-sketch dream bike!

I drink coffee with the Scooter Workshop Night guys on most days. Over coffee we have built many dream vehicles. Mind you, we don't actually build much, but we do plan lots of builds on napkins and envelopes and tabletops. One of my favorite dream builds has been the unholy marriage of a two-stroke European moped with an electric motorcycle powertrain. And I have gotten close to the dream. I did build a Velosolex with a hubmotor for a good friend. (Hi, JG!) And I did purchase the running gear out of an early Zero motorcycle. (I am terrible at minimalism.) And that running gear has dustily resided in a box since it came into my possession. (The current plan is to install that motor in one of the ElectroPigeons. But there's a lot of tuition and taxes to pay first. So, I will keep designing on napkins.)

Not this Magnum,

nor this Magnum,

this Magnum!

Back to the moped plan. My favorite mopeds are the top-tank models, the ones that look like undergrown motorcycles rather than overgrown bicycles. One of the coolest and most adaptable is the Puch Magnum. I have kept an eye open for a cheap Magnum for years. But I never actually found one nearby.

Yesterday on Autoblog Green, the Bolt Motorbike showed up. And I recognized it from my coffee napkin sketches. Some intelligent and ambitious mopedders (Mopedders seldom get called either of those words.) must have made the same sketch. Lighter than a motorcycle, sturdier than a bike, and powerful enough to climb San Francisco hills with ease - the Bolt is a very cool bike, and it appear to have a Puch Magnum frame.

Check out that ultra-cool bolt logo!
Lots of nifty features and a pretty impressive range - 30-50 mile depending on your power setting of choice. I am surprised to see such a low-voltage battery pack, but it looks like the Bolt crew invested their money in amp-hours rather than volts - a good way to increase range. The price is not far away from what it would take for you to build one if you had the time, the tools, the skills, and the ambition.
It is definitlely a cool machine, and at $5000 for a turn-key American-built electric moped, you could do a lot worse. (I am now picturing my Mesquite Hugger journalistic dream - the opportunity to have a head-to-head-to-head comparison: Fido vs. Boxx vs.Bolt. I would be in blogger heaven!
May your napkin sketches become reality and make the world a better place!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A VW Microbus Hybrid, an Electric Slug-Bug, and a King Midget

Now that is what I call a "green" Bug!

Yes, I am a fan of older VWs. I have owned several and have wanted to own several others. I also like how easily VWs lend themselves to electric conversion. That leads us to the electric beetle. Yesterday I found myself with a copy of the most recent Costco Connection magazine in my hand and was intrigued by a classic car article. I flipped over to the article and was very happy to see a vintage Beetle that had not only been converted to electric, but had been converted to an impressive electric! Most electric VW conversions use golf cart batteries and have fairly unimpressive speed and/or range. This bad Beetle has a whole lot(!) of tiny 18650 batteries and is impressive in both speed and range. It delivers numbers more impressive than most new electric vehicles. The Costco article says 85 mph and a possible 200 mile range. I found a few other articles about the same car that list it as a more realistic sounding 85mph/100 miles. Either way, Nissan's Leaf and BMW's I3 have reason to be range-envious. Of course, they offer crazy extravagances like air conditioners and air bags that you never see in a vintage VW. Snagit, this thing is cool!

Here is an article/video in case you want to learn more: Green overdrive cruises the streets in an electrified $18,000 VW Bug

Another VW story that has been making the rounds this week is the re-discovery that VW engineers actually worked on a design for a hybrid VW bus in the late 1970s. In case you are into that sort of thing, here's the story from Jalopnik, which appears to be the story's initial re-surface place. Be sure to check out the great diagrams:
VW Could Have Made a Hybrid Beetle [Microbus] Over 30 Years Ago

For those of you who ponder alternate versions of history, it's nice to imagine a world where we truly pursued electric cars and solar panels after the big energy crisis in the 1970s. Hmmm... Hybrid microbuses....

This next vehicle is only tangentially related, but a King Midget was also featured in the Costco article. I love microcars but probably would not have included this one; however, there is a guy here in Lubbock who crusies around in a King Midget that looks identical to this one. Each time one of us sees it, my friends and I snap a pic and send it around to each other. It is as close as we get to a Nessie or Sasquatch sighting around here.

May your green vehicle inspire random acts of violence wherever you go. Pow! Slug-bug green - no hit backs!

The previous Mesquite Hugger Electric VW Posts:

10/21/2013 Electric Beetle Article - ElectroFahrvernugen
11/5/2013 Another Electric Beetle (VW)
1/30/2014 3 VW Microbuses: Old, New, and Electric
 2/6/2014 Vintage Electric Cars Small & Smaller OR Why I Should Be Banned from Ebay
3/3/2014 Gentlemen (and Ladies). Start Your Tivos! (VW and Citicar)
 3/4/2014 Getting Shocked by the Bug (VW)
3/31/2014 Break Out the Tie-Dye and 8-Tracks (VW)
 4/9/2014 It's been a while since MH posted an Electric VW...