Friday, May 29, 2015

Your Friday Morning Grackle

I know it. I am wierd. I love grackles. I don't think I'd want one for a drinking buddy, but I do love to watch their antics.

In general, grackles are too successful for us to love them. If we only saw a few each spring, we would adore these raucous and beautiful creatures, but success and familiarity do indeed tend to breed contempt.

But they are (for me) accessible local wildlife, and being able to watch them brings me amusement, joy, and wonder.

May you find your own grackle today!

As always, thank you for taking time to read this!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Better (than my) Rain Barrel

Last year, Keith, Swartzy, and I had a rain barrel party in the driveway. And it went well. We took some free plastic barrels (Thank you, Grizz!), added some hardware, did a little cutting and drilling, and came up with some pretty effective rain barrels. And I have been amazed at how much rain we collect each time it rains. Actually, it fills up so quickly that most of the water has to be diverted. The 55-gallon barrel fills up long before the rain stops.

I hope to build three more rain barrels soon in order to take advantage of every drop I can.

 Photo from the CAGW post
A few days ago I ran across a Crafting a Green World post about a slightly different rain barrel approach that has a number of distinct advantages over the ones we made last year. The featured barrel uses less hardware and that hardware is easier to install. It has better provisions for filtration and mosquito avoidance, and it should be easier to service and clean out. I also like the idea of a cinder-block base. It is, however, lacking any type overflow. All in all, it looks like an improvement over mine, so I thought I'd share it with you, dear reader.

Check Out My [CAGW] Rain Barrel

May not a drop be wasted at your home!

Vintage + Electric Conversion = Droolworthy e-Truck

I like old stuff.

I like environmentally friendly stuff.

I like recycled stuff.

So I really like to see when somebody takes an old gas-powered thing and turns it into a revitalized electric thing. VW's, Corvairs, Minis, minibikes, scooters, motorcycles, lawnmowers - all of these have inspired Mesquite Hugger posts. I have even converted a minibike and a scooter, and I have two more scooters that I hope to convert some time in the next decade. The idea of vintage cool combined with modern efficiency - just wow!

And I really like to see old trucks being converted. They are plentiful, light, easy to access, reasonable to restore, and snagit, they are cool.

Photo from the build blog

A 1935 Chevrolet truck showed up on EVAlbum today, and it fits the bill on all counts. It even looks bone stock - until you look under the hood. It has a lithium-iron-phosphate battery pack and maintains a great deal of the original running gear, including the original transmission. Here is the build blog so that you can learn more about it.

My 1935 Chevy Pickup Restoration and EV Conversion Project

May you be inspired to go green and to do so in retro style!

If you like this post, here are a few similar posts:

Stealthified Vintage Ram!

It's been a while since MH posted an Electric VW...

Some of MH's favorite scooter - moped - minibike e-conversions

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Solar Kickstarter Coffee-Napkin Minipost: UNplug your fridge off-grid!

(Still shot from the great video)

As you may have figured out, Grizz and I talk a lot, but we do very little. We meet most days for coffee, and on the really good days, we design and scheme. We solve all the world's problems on some days, but most days we look at getting a little bit off-grid. A common discussion for us is the thought of small-scale solar - taking one appliance at a time off grid. Our first victim is always the refrigerator.

UNplug Treehugger article

So, today when I saw a Derek Markham Kick Your Fridge Off-Grid article on Treehugger, I got pretty excited. Then I watched the Kickstarter video and became downright tickled. I hope you enjoy it as well.

UNplug Kickstarter page

May you not break your toe when kicking the fridge (off-grid)!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Electric Bike Minipost: Kickstarter for yet another Copenhagen Wheel Competitor

Another one!

Okay, they are getting hard to keep up with. The Centinel Wheel is $899 on the Kickstarter campaign, but it does not inspire much confidence when the poster bike has the front forks mounted backwards. (To be fair, in the video the fork keeps reversing. It's very disconcerting.) It does have two electric motors, 360W, and a 24 volt battery. They plan to ship in April. ;-)

You can learn more in this Gizmag article:

Centinel Wheel makes bikes into e-bikes

May we all end up with the powered wheel we deserve, or something like that.

Personal Carbon Reduction: Vermicomposting & Find Your Own Worms

Making mistakes. I include this in my list of special skills. Last year we tried vermicomposting (composting with worms) at our house. It did not go so well. I started with two 5-gallon buckets and $25 worth of mail-order red wigglers - the worms known for being the best vermicomposters out there. You probably don't need the gory details. It was an incredibly hot, dry, busy summer.  Worms don't like hot, dry, and busy summers.

This year, I am planning to try again. Since I am too cheap to drop another $25 on worms, I am planning to catch my own by following the advice on this page:

Attracting Compost Worms in Your Backyard

My composter is already built, but if you want to join in on the fun, here are instructions for building your own 3-bucket or 3-tub version for yourself:

How to Make an Inexpensive Worm Bin from (3) Plastic Buckets

And while we are on the subject of personal carbon reduction and worms, check out this Grist article that combines the two:

What do we need to fight climate change? More worms.

May you and those slimy little guys form a garden-feeding, earth-saving pile of compost and worm tea!

Lubbock on a Bike Minipost: We Made the List!!! (107)

I have a hard time saying that Lubbock is a terrible place to ride because I really enjoy riding here, but I cannot say that I feel terribly welcome on the streets. (That may be true of anyone on any Lubbock street - we cyclists just take near-death encounters very personally.)

Today on Grist I saw an article touting a list of bike-friendly cities. I read the article and clicked on the list specifically to see how Texas fared - not Lubbock, since I did not expect to see it on the list. But there we were at 107. Wow! It must be the fairly nice weather and the lack of hills. Anyway, it was a shocker for me.

The Grist Article

The Actual Redfin List

Another shocker for me was Texas' top bike-friendly city - way to go, plain old Plano! You are rocking it at 67! Biking anywhere near the Metroplex freaks me out a bit, so I salute your bravery!

From a Texas ego standpoint, it was a little rough to see our Kansas, Louisiana, and New Mexico neighbors higher on the list, but I wouldn't mind biking in Albuquerque either. And we were ahead of Oklahoma, which must be worth something.

May your city be friendly to you on your bike, and may you return the favor!

PS. Have any of you spent time in Boise City, Idaho? What's it like? It's on the list and I am curious about it. Idaho looks great in pics!

[Loyal MH readers, I promise I will publish something non-bike-related soon.]

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Shopping Cart Cargo Bike Follow-up (Instructables!!!!!)

  Some lucky Austinite got a bargain at $60!

Mesquite Hugger readers tend to be excited whenever we post about various ways to haul things on or in bicycles. I have to admit that one of the harder parts of riding a bike daily is figuring out how to transport stuff. A little while back we posted an article that highlighted a shopping cart bike for sale on the Austin Craigslist that garnered a lot of attention and a bit of inspirational drooling. And why not? When was the last time you pushed a cart around a store? They are amazingly useful for hauling stuff, but they are not really built for distance, speed, or real-world surfaces. Bicycles are normally not built to haul much stuff, but they are well adapted for speed, distance, and rough surface travel. And every mad scientist/maker/tinkerer/wierd-person-with-a-welder-and-a-junky-yard knows that when you hybridize two good things you come up with one truly great monstrosity! If you don't believe me, sit down and watch a movie marathon on the ScFi channel some time.

This town (Lubbock, TX) is severely lacking in mad-scientist hangouts - especially since Rusty moved across town - so I have been hanging out on Instructables a lot more. And Instructables is a great place to be further inspired by other mad-scientist types. There are even a few shopping-cart bikes over there:

Cart Bike by zieak
This one has been on Instructables for a long time, but the tiny wheels always scared me away.

This one is pretty sweet. The builder cites being inspired by the other two that are featured here.

I have a feeling that this one was the original inspiration for everything else on the page. If you like going off on tangents, do some searching on the author/builder Matte Resist. I hope to read more of his writing soon.

(I threw this in just because this post gave me the tangential excuse to feature another cool Instructable)

May your peanut butter get together with your chocolate and make a great cargobike peanut butter cup!

PS. Some local guy posted an olla Instructable recently. Check it out if you are really bored.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Lubbock on a Bike: Happy Ride to Work Day 2015! (Getting over Leaf envy)

On the days I ride the bike to work, I often cross paths with a Nissan Leaf on Utica Avenue. Electric cars are pretty rare around here, so they still catch my attention. And I have no problem admitting that I am a little green with envy when I see someone cruising Lubbock streets in a BEV (battery-electric vehicle).

 The old red 'goose this morning

But this morning I looked at that guy silently cruising along, and I had no desire to trade places with him. This morning was a rough ride. The wind blew north. I rode south. It rained last night and there were lots of puddles. And every bit of it felt good. I have been riding enough lately that the tired feeling is not overwhelming. Riding to work on a bike is not a task. Riding to work on a bike is an accomplishment. I did not mindlessly drive in comfortably numb, distracted, and stress-filled boredom. I achieved a goal.

And my ride today was massively greener that Leaf guy's ride. The bike I am commuting on now is one that has been with me since before I had a cell phone or an internet connection. The ride did not require electricity. The wear and tear on the bike and the road was minimal. And there's a good chance that I am in better health now than I was when I left the house this morning. Very little (in comparison to the Nissan) went into building and transporting the bike to me. The bike does not cost money to register, insure, and operate like the car does.

Poor, neglected Leaf
Yes, I'd still love to have a Leaf (or one of many other BEV's available), but I would like to think that even if I did own one, it would spend lots of days in the garage while the bicycle was out enjoying the world.

May you get off your butt already and join the National Bike Challenge! (Toni and Spencer, you two are my heroes this month!)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Lubbock (Not) on a Bike: Happy Ride to Work Day 2015, Snagit! (Updated)

[UPDATED 5-14-15]

[Okay, I admit it again - I was wrong, and my editor did not catch my mistake. Ride to Work Day is the palindromatic 5-15-15. That means I (and you) still have a chance to ride to work. And snagit, let's get on our bikes and ride!]

I admit it. I am a fair-weather biker. I watch the weather closely on days that I plan to ride. And Iry to ride as often as possible. And I really wanted to ride today to show support for a great movement. But today is some seriously lousy riding weather.

 This is the view from my little truck (Lucy) this morning.
Since I won't be riding (much) today, I decided to do a little writing. I want to encourage you to ride (on nicer days).
Your world is better each day that you choose a bike over a car because
  • your heart is healthier
  • your brain is healthier
  • your lungs are healthier
  • your legs are sexier
  • there is less traffic
  • fewer greenhouse gases are being released into the atmosphere
  • the air is cleaner
  • you are less likely to kill cats, dogs, birds, bees, butterflies, children, pedestrians, and others
  • you are statistically less likely to die on a bike than in a car
  • the petroleum industry has less control over you
  • you always get preferential parking
  • your car is wearing out more slowly
  • there is less noise pollution (even if you sing while riding)
  • the Mesquite Hugger loves you (platonically speaking)
  • you know you made a better choice for you and others.
May you spread joy and health with your choices!

In case you want someone else's take on Bike to Work [Week], check out this Eben Weiss article in Time:

BikeSnob: The Problem with Bike to Work Week

And some other links to encourage your cycling self:

Friday, May 8, 2015

Lubbock on a Bike: May Dates (National Bike Month 2015)

The National Bike Challenge began eight days ago. There's still plenty of time for anyone to join. Please do! As of today, there are eight riders from Lubbock who have logged miles in the challenge. And there is room for lots more! Remember, the challenge runs through September 30. Here is a chance for the Lubbock niche issue to show that we do indeed ride here.

(Lubbock-area cyclists, if you join the challenge, please consider joining the LUNA-tic Bikers Challenge Team. We'd love to have you!)

Next week (May 11-15) is Bike to Work Week and Bike to Work Day (Wednesday, May 15). Learn more here:

So Lubbockites, Texans, Americans, you have the weekend to get those tires aired up and the chains oiled. Here's your chance to get healthy, save money, and increase your joy. How about it?

One more bike date to remember is May 20: Ride of Silence. I have not seen any news about it for Lubbock this year, but I will keep my eyes open.

May you find health and joy while your feet are pushing pedals.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Lubbock on a Bike: National Bike Challenge starts today! ¡Yo soy un LUNA-tic!

The National Bike Challenge begins today, and I am excited! From May 1 to September 30, I will strive to ride a bike as much as possible. I will strive to lose weight, build muscle, lower blood pressure, save money, create less air pollution, create less noise pollution and generally line the world (and humanity) better.

Please join me, so you can strive for and reach some similar goals.

The National Bike Challenge

May we pedal our way to better!

PS - If you are in the Lubbock area, consider joining Team LUNA-tic. More info at