Saturday, April 22, 2017

Happy Earth Day to one and all. This is the view from our front window this morning. The sun is just coming up, starting to strike our solar array to power the batteries that keep us humming. The coffee is perking on the stove and there's a soft tick.... tick..... tick..... from the wood stove as it warms the house on a chilly morning here in the San Juan mountains of southern Colorado. I've been out to let the chickens into the pound yard so they can scratch around doing their chicken thing. The cottonwoods are starting to bud and it looks like several of the fruit trees we planted last year are going to have made it through the winter. At my feet on the coffee table are several starter plants Crys got to make hanging baskets for out in the yard and the bright orange poppies look pretty cheerful. The coffee's warm, the creek is starting to sub up, and the birds are chirping. Guess I'll build that second chicken coop today, and maybe heat up the wood fired sauna for this evening. Here's hoping your day is as good as ours.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Mt Vesuvius in a Barrel Sauna

Sometimes...... I amaze even myself. Today a friend of ours is coming out to hang out. (Being in the middle of no where this is a rather rare occurrence). So we're getting the place ready for hanging out. Got some beers on ice, got the sauna going, put a fire in the fire pit down by the creek, untangled the hammocks. The usual for a gathering.

The amazing part? I decided to use the hose to fill the hot water tank that hangs on the front of the wood fired sauna heater. Now we saunaed yesterday..... and there were still coals in the wood chute when I got up at 4:30 AM so I just put in some wood to keep it going at a soft, warm glow. It was about 9 AM when I decided to fill the tank. ..... there I am filling away with the hose....... a burbling sound starts up..... I keep filling, it's cold water coming to temp against a pretty hot stove after all.... it'll make some noise.

I keep filling...... it's starting to sound angry now...... then, all of a sudden the entire filling envelope starts to sound like the angriest set of pipes in history. It's knocking, burbling, belching...... I back up.

A second and a half later the entire width of the filling envelope (about 18" wide and an inch across) ERUPTS in a shower of rust flakes, steam, hot orange water and this incredible sound!

I was standing far enough back. Thank goodness I had the hose to wash out from having shit my pants when it went off.

Safety tip? Take your time filling the water jacket. It gets angry.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

We're back home. :D Went up to Denver on Friday for my Local 111 IBEW Executive Board meeting, followed by the 2017 Policy Committee meeting for the same good bunch. My business manager suggested we look professional. Here's a hint for everyone, I do NOT look either comfortable or better dressed up. One really never should wear either shoes you can't run away in, or clothing you can be choked to death with.
BUT, they would accept my showing up in a kilt if I had a button down shirt. I went to SportKilts and bought their formal kilt package, found a good shirt and a diamond point bow tie to go with, got all the accessories and went that way.
It was fun. Friday's meeting went well (always difficult because Xcel Energy wants 72 take aways in their opening letter for negotiations and it causes us to feel ...... less than valued. But I've decided my job is to help folks feel less attacked and more happy despite the assholes we're dealing with). Friday night was a reception where we got to meet, gather and chat. We personally followed that with a trip to the Station 26 Tap Room a block or two away. I recommend it, that was a lot of fun.
Saturday morning, I had to learn to tie a bow tie. That's uTube :D. I did get it done. Seems folks liked my outfit, and I had fun wearing it. The meeting was from folks from units from all over Colorado and one from Wyoming. As usual, it's supportive to find that the challenges are the same just about everywhere. I met nice, new folks. They all care about working hard, and being treated in a humane way with decent compensation while you help a company and its shareholders make millions. Seems fair to us. Saturday night Crys and I walked a mile or so to Casey's Irish Pub and had a great dinner, I even found a sports store on the walk back and got a nice new wooden bat. (much more quiet than a gun, and as long as you carry a glove with it, it's a nice thing to have in the trunk of your car).
Sunday we got up early and drove home after breakfast at McCoys on Federal and I-70. We love that place. And now we're home and setting in. Marian S. took good care of our kitties and we've now lit a good fire to warm up the house. I got to spend the weekend with folks I admire, respect, and in some cases just flat out LOVE. We will find ourselves telling stories and sharing the joys and sorrows of the folks we've worked and fought with. Crys remarked that it's pretty fun to watch us. She says it's kind of amazing in her words, "no one there is acting tough, because every one of you simply IS tough". I think that says it well.
In a year or so we may all be leaning on each other if we have to go on strike for decent treatment. I like knowing that if I have to battle (?) I have the best battle companions I've ever met. And the best partner in the world to go through it with.
It's good to be home. I don't really socialize well. I manage it, and with this bunch that accept me (not that easy to do) it's much simpler, I even find myself enjoying it from time to time. I do love the quiet though.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Spring snows

This morning we woke up to an inch or so of delightful snow. It was chilly in the house, and the wind was blowing, gently.

Thanks to our climbers from Los Alamos, NM, we had some beers for the sauna. (Sauna day had to move from Friday to Saturday due to work and the Friday night concert in Buena Vista). We had a nice time chatting with them. They were camped in Pentitente Canyon last night. I'm betting it was a chilly morning in camp. They're here again today, and I see that they have a pop up camper so it might have had the heater kick on last night. We told 'em they're welcome to set up here if they wish.

The sauna was good, started out at 140 degrees F. and went down as we enjoyed sitting in the wet, lovely heat. We've really enjoyed that thing, it's a nice addition to the mix of stuff to do around here. It's also helping me work through the slab wood we bought several years ago and never really used for the wood stove. It's kinda cool having a ready bunk of well sized wood for the fire box. I just have to chainsaw it to length a little bit. And who doesn't love getting to use the chainsaw?

Last weekend we set up for our summer visitors. It's nice to have that all set.

We'll probably get moving around before too long, but there's no rush. It's chilly and windy out. Ain't nobody got time for that.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Last night we went here. It's The Loft Theater in Buena Vista, Colorado. Their web page is here:
We went to see a musician we follow (Crys introduced me to his music), Trace Bundy. His website is here:
It was a fabulous show. We met a couple new musicians. Jonah Werner, who's website is:
and liked him as well. I think they're both worth a visit. Also playing were Tim and Laurie Thompson. They don't seem to have a webpage. :D They played Irish tunes and some other great stuff, the vocals were great and Tims giant electric Mandolin is worth a listen.

It was kind of a long day for me, starting at 2:30 AM with work in Alamosa and Ft. Garland fixing powerlines in the wind and snow and ending at home at about 2 AM the next day when we got back from Buena Vista.

We had the best time, starting out at Eddyline Brewery in Buena Vista. Their website is here:
We had naughty dinner complete with spicy tater tots and a delicious, giant plate of nachos. They had a bourbon barrel stout on tap that was delightful. (I had 2). Then we walked over to the Loft, which only took about 10 minutes. On the way we passed the in-town tasting room for one of my two favorite Colorado whiskeys: Deerhammer. Their website is here:
and we'll trip up there one day just to take the tour and do a bit of tasting.
After the show, town was really quiet and we walked back to our car with the dark and the stars and drove the 100 miles home. There's not much that we can get to quickly, and I always need to remember that a trip out of town can be this fun.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Planning for summer

Blended families make for an interesting prospect as concerns summer travel.

We're trying to work out travel, kids (not ours), brothers, sisters, weddings, education weeks, and a host of other stuff.

Champagne problems.

We're figuring on a week to go buy my mom's car and rolling picking up our niece Autum into that with a road trip back here for her summer vacation. Then there's the week I have to take to go to a solar class in Paonia, CO. That'll be fun, but it's another thing to schedule. And there's my nephews (my mini me)'s wedding in the Fall. We'll have to fly back for that, and that's another week off because mom and pop wanna drive back here with us to spend some time. That's another week. That pretty much eats up my vacation for the year. All good stuff, but also......

champagne problems.

I'm sure it'll all be fun. Here goes.......

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Windy season

It's the windy season at work and at home.

So that means I didn't get to my solar class work until this weekend, after working all day Saturday and several hours early this (Sunday) morning. At least I'm caught up now, and with any luck at all the coming week won't be so crazy. At least I don't have to go to Denver this week, that kind of takes all day and eliminates the possibility of doing anything else.

The climbers are out here today and they left us a couple of beers on the back deck. Those folks are awesome. The fun thing about the beers are they're a token of appreciation, and they seem to try pretty hard to find things we haven't sampled yet.

Due to the winds today, we're chilling inside. Yesterday Crystal surprised me by keeping the sauna going throughout the day and we had a nice warm time visiting in there just after the sun set last night. I had started it up early in the morning while I was adding distilled water to the batteries, then I got called to work until sunset. That sure was nice to come home to. We've enjoyed the addition of the sauna a great deal.

The fun part of my battery based solar class from SEI is going through the math and magic of the load analysis for a given property. I'm using ours (of course) because I really did just guess when we set the thing up. That's probably why we rebuilt it 6 years later to twice the inverter size and 3 times the array size. I wanted to do a load analysis first, the problem was we had no idea what we'd buy so there wasn't much way to accurately predict things.

Speaking of our off grid solar system........ I'm currently trying to come up with the cash for the Magnum Energy wireless monitoring system. That comes with software tie in so that you can monitor and adjust your system from anywhere.

I think that'll be pretty cool when I get old. Turning on the generator without having to get up? Priceless. :D

Sunday, March 5, 2017

'Tis the season for the winds to blow

We were going to start putting the sheeting up on the greenhouse. The wind came up. It does that here in the spring. Somehow it's just not the best idea in the world to get out in a high wind with 4' X 12' sheet goods. They tend to lift you off the ground and then beat you all the way back down to the dirt. Then you have to hold on to the damned thing while you're bleeding so it doesn't fly away.

Sure it's good for videos, but tends to deplete the bandage supply.

So we have the barrel sauna fired up, we're internetting in bed with kitties and a warm fire in the house, and we'll do our P90X stretch today. If it's not too blowy out there, I'll get out and settle the frame to the knee wall on the greenhouse and screw it down. That and perhaps I'll move the scaffolding into place and tie it off for when we do get a good day to haul out the sheet goods. That and we'll do a bit of dreaming about where to start using that shiny new yellow rototiller.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Getting ready for spring

So yesterday I was bopping through Tractor Supply. Someone had bought this lovely tiller, used it for their job and returned it. The Tractor Supply folks went through it, tuned it etc. and put it out on the floor at $150 off. We'll bust that thing out come spring and get some delicious stuff growing in the yard. It should also make it much easier to dig trenches and such, as the first 8" or so is the hardest digging. It's gonna be pretty fun seeing this new thingy make the earth easier for us to work with. And it's time to start working on that dome greenhouse as soon as the wind quits blowing.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Spring cleaning with a vengeance!

This weekend Crys was talking about how she thinks she'd like to rearrange the house a bit. Somehow over the winter things kinda creeped in on us. So, since the poor woman is married to a crazy man, we dived in head first today and redid the whole front of the place. We did use our head as much as possible and pulled out the tape measure first. That helped out a bit. We still managed to move a few things around two or three times. The pic is what we did with the old purple chair. That chair is over 20 years old, it came from my old house on Stallo St. in Monte Vista. There were lots of memories in that chair, and the only way to purge the whole collection is what you see up there. There's something cathartic about setting something with all that sitting "investment" on fire.

So now the front half of the house is now a lot more open. We like it. The TV room is set up for 2 or 3 folks but we can easily add 2 or 3 more chairs for a nice conversation circle.

So come on over.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Winter came back to visit this weekend.

Thursday night the wind howled, the cold came rushing back, and snow settled on everything in sight.

It continued into Friday. And on Friday evening, in a howling wind, with the driving snow as a backdrop, we settled into our barrel sauna for the evening. Each time we stepped outside to cool down a bit we trod upon freshly fallen snow. Clouds of steam billowed about us, the heat seeping from our bodies and the cold feeding greedily upon it .

When we retired for the evening, it was warm, cold, wet, fiery and happy. Today has been a good day as well. Still chilly all day, the cold has settled in for a few days. It was a whopping 6 degrees this morning. We did our hour and a half of yoga, had a friend come out to visit for a while, and now we're chilling with the finale of Game of Thrones. (Which we call Game of Patron's).

Life is good. Hope yours is too.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

It's a chilly late winter/ early spring

Today it was chilly and the wind came up and it started snowing.

It's spring in the valley. That usually means the wind blows until the snow melts off Mount Blanca. So last night the wind blew like a muddah, howling in the neighbors wind generators and our clothesline poles. It makes lots of cool noises and sometimes wakes us up.

Then at 4 AM it started snowing. It really only snowed an inch or so. Then it cleared out, and we swept the panels and the sun came out and the world turned all sparkly and beautiful.

This weekend maybe we'll have some folks over and hang out, drink a couple beers and chill out.

Life is good.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Getting ready for my Mini-Me's wedding

OK, I look nothing like the hot model guy......

But my Mini-Me (Brian) is getting married this October and Crys and I are going to go back and enjoy the festivities. We're doing some fun prep and using this as a bit of an excuse to do some nice things for ourselves. We're now into week 3 of P90X. We finished up P90 and started right into X. I've managed to lose and keep off about 22 pounds and Crys is doing amazing things to her form. It's pretty awesome to watch.

So this morning I bit the bullet and ordered the above package in the Wallace tartan. It's certainly a bit more than I spend on myself for things. This frees Crys up to do some fancy dress shopping. :D Like I said, it's pretty fun.

To help scare the mice outta your house, I'll post a pic when I get the full outfit.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

I take walks and sometimes there's a pic.

Today I took the first walk of the day up "D" mountain in Del Norte. On the topo maps they call it Lookout Mountain, sometimes I wonder how many Lookout Mountains there are in Colorado (and elsewhere). It's the one they put a giant star on at Christmas time. I was surprised at the top of the hike by a nice woman with very not nice dogs. One of them most definitely wanted to eat me whole. She remarked that he was a "funny" dog. I guess that's true, if funny means badly behaved because his mom is a dork that either can't train him or can't manage to carry a leash in a public park.

But I digress ....... it was a lovely walk, and a nice view from the top, a little windy, a bit chilly, and everything felt alive with the promise of Spring.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The calm......

It's warm and just a little bit breezy outside this morning, last I checked it was in the 40's which is oddly warm for February. There are clouds surrounding home, but we're sitting in a lovely spot of sunshine. When I checked my SnowCast app, it says that by late tomorrow we'll get about 5" of new snow. That's so good, the mud was starting to dry up and it's just no fun if you can't slip and slide all the way to where ever it is you want to go.

We'll internet a bit this morning (doesn't take as long now that I've quit interacting with FaceBook), and then I have finish up work to do on my solar class (#1). Sometime today I hope to get out and re-seal the gaps around the sauna stove a bit better and change out the sauna stove rocks. Our new rocks and the new meters (temp and humidity) got here this week. That's about the last of the stuff we'll do to it other than fire it up and use it :D.

Thursday night we fired up the sauna and drank and played in it. That was fun. Yesterday was one of my Denver trip days for the union hall. It included a trip to the doc at 9:30 AM on the south end of the metro area, then the meeting at 1:30 PM. I got up at 3 AM to do my workout and drive up, man last night I was beat!

And on to the day.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Mud season, during the cold, grey, month of suck.

We're about at the end of a warm trend. Those happen here in the San Luis Valley from time to time throughout the winter. That cold white blanket of snow starts to melt off during an oddly warm week, while the ground beneath is too frozen solid to take in the moisture. The white turns into brown, slick, thick, gushy brown. You can't really call it dirt because during the sunny part of the day it acts more like a brown viscous river of cold lava, and when the sun goes down it turns to ice. It sticks to everything, there is simply no keeping it out of the house no matter how hard you try. You keep a pair of mud boots by the door to wear any time you step outside. You start out walking at 5' 10" tall and by the time you get where you're going you're 6' 2". Oh and your feet now weigh about 8,000 pounds. Don't try to scrape it off, it'll just stick to everything and when you try to fling it off it loops and smacks you in the chops.

The cold will be back tomorrow, and a little bit more snow over the next few days.

Good thing, otherwise we might run outta mud fuel.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

And the sauna project is finished!

Today was the last day of work on the sauna, except for wiping off the mud from moving it (I did that after this pic) it's all set with the exception of the new rock for the stove. That's on the way because I tried wire brushing the rust off the old rock to no avail. Today I built the trailer park sauna bench you see on the left. The frame was what our fancy wood splitter got shipped in . Crys said it was too good to throw out so I put it by the creek to make a table out of in the summertime. Last night, while I was sleeping, this assembly idea came into my head, so after one lesson on my solar power class from SEI and my workout..... I hauled all the crap over and started building. It only took five 8' 2X4's. Or as we like to call them: tubas. 64' filled the top, another 19" made the under boards to hold everything in place and I had about a foot of scrap each that will go in the burner for the sauna. Then a little belt sanding with 60 grit and a random orbit sanding with 120 and it was done.
That was when I noticed I needed about 2600 steps to hit my 10K so I wandered up the road a piece. As I walked down the lane I noticed the mud looked unsightly on the barrel, so I got a bucket and washed it off. And it's DONE! :D. Just as I was finishing I got called to work (85 miles away). I just got home, did chores, ran a bath and I'm in it with beer and a peanut butter sammich on dark rye. (Yes, mom, I have water too). Start to finish the sauna project took a week. I call that a success. Wonder what I'll get into tomorrow?

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The sauna is all but complete on the rebuild.

I worked on the sauna today. :D I do like working on stuff. This is a pic of the approximately 5 pounds of rust-flake I pulled out or the tray that sits atop the wood burner. After that I shop vacuumed the whole stove and, since I had it out, got rid of all the dust and spider webs that hid in the corners. I also added in a weather proof switch on the outside of the sauna to tun on the inside light. A funny aside, the guy I bought it from had never used the light. I wired it up and it worked. It had a 50 watt halogen bulb in it, that ain't gonna fly when you're on solar. I changed it to a 3 watt LED and it's just as bright. Go figure. So now all I have to do is replace the stove rock. The existing rock is really really fouled with rust, and I don't want my sweet Crys to have any crap going in her lungs, so, on Amazon I got 60 new pounds of rock with prime shipping. :D It's all coming together. I might not be able to effect a macro change in the U.S. but I can make things at home bearable until they get better. I love our life.

The Sauna, and the hilarity

Did a little more sauna work last night, will do a bit more today. I think I'm getting it figured out all right. Toward the end of a pretty long night I figured out the water/heat ratio for that thing. Of course there were the usual hilarious hiccups along the way. First I had to install the dampener in the first chunk of stove pipe. This was a little tricky. See, the dampeners are made for narrow walled pipes. The pipe on the sauna is a piece of Selkirk insulated pipe, so it can be 2" from combustibles and everything is fine. Interior diameter of the pipe is 6", exterior diameter of the pipe is 8". The usual rods that come with dampeners aren't long enough on the 6" piece. So I'm hunting around Big-R and I discover they have both 6" and 8" dampeners. I bought one of each, took the rod out of the 8" and put it in the 6". Of course then when I walked out to the work truck 7 of the 10 studs on the left rear duals are snapped off (probably from the deep snow last Thursday that I got stuck in). The mechanics sent the hook and brought me another truck. Then I'm home putting the dampener in. Pinched the living crap outta my thumb when it finally drove home through the hole I drilled for it. Ouchy. Got it all back together and noticed that I had no idea which way the rotation on the lever lined up with the actual dampener. Had to pull it all back apart to figure that out.
Loaded the firebox on the sauna and started it up. Put a new plug on the light inside so it was safer. (I also got a weather proof switch to add on later. Perhaps today. Then I did my other chores: firewood for the house; lighting the wood stove; bringing in the mail; closing up the chickens for the night; closing up the house. After all that I hauled some more wood over to burn in the sauna and loaded the water into the stove top tub and the water jacket. This is when I learned that: a) I have to clean out the rock tub today and b) the two receptacles are separate. Point taken for later. It's getting cold and dark by now. So I worked on stuff in the house for a while to let the sauna heat up, stocking the fire box from time to time.
I also started drinking some of the beers I got to celebrate, once again, not dying in a flaming wreck because I managed to avoid having the wheels fall off the trouble truck.
Flash forward a few hours, I've put chairs on the little deck I built to keep us out of the mud on the sauna, and I'm into at least 3 of those delicious micro brews. I got a bit hot in the sauna, so I went outside to sit in the chairs on my fancy new deck. Whoops! I missed putting one of the chair legs ON the deck, so over I go backwards, feet windmilling in the air trying to run UP and now fall onto my ass in the sticker bushes. I managed partly. Then my legs are all scratched up, my feet have thorns in 'em and I just barely managed to not drop my balls directly into the gooseberry bush. Thank goodness for small favors.
I limp into the house, and pull out all the thorns I can after I wipe the blood off the sauna. Grrrrr. BUT, I have more beers left, the sauna is still hot and the rending doesn't hurt so much now. I go back out. By this time the heat has finally boiled off all the liquid in the stove top tub. I throw a little water onto the rocks, the temp climbs, the steam hits, it's lovely. Lesson # 3 learned for the night.
Today I'll clean out the rock tub on top, clean out the firebox, perhaps put up the weather proof switch for the light. And I'll try to not fall into the damned bushes again.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Sunshine at long last!

Today the sun is shining. It's been kind of a rough week, and we haven't seem much of our friend the sun for the last couple/three weeks. That's odd for us.

But today the sun is shining, we're both home, Michael Franti is playing throughout the house and all is right with the world. We've got a lovely couple feet of snow on the ground, little projects to work on throughout the weekend and each other to make happy.

Can't really do any better than that.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The snow keeps coming, a little bit at a time.

We're starting to get hopeful for a creek to run this spring/summer. :D It started snowing some in December, and we get an inch or two every few days. On the south facing slopes it's melting off but in most of the rest of the valley it's staying on the flats and north sides.

The plus side of the shoveling and sweeping and fire building is that we're building up a really nice, thick pile of moisture on the ground. Come spring when it all starts to melt off in a delightful squishy mud bog of wetness, we hope it engenders the creek to run. We got surprised by a partial flow last summer and with that raise in the apparent sub-level water we're really really hopeful that we'll get to listen to water splashing through the place. We've owned the property since 1997 and that creek ran every year for about the next 15 or 16 years only to dry up due to drought (and farmers over pumping the aquifers) for most of the time we've actually lived out here.

I love the sound of that water working it's way through the place. It burbles and chatters and brings lots of birds and other wild life.

Fingers crossed.