Sunday, May 20, 2007

It's time to wrap up things for now and head to the Kerrville Folk Festival in Central Texas. We'll continue where we left off with the dome in the Fall, when friends from Oregon will be lending a hand. There is less than a month's work left before the dome is a home. I'll continue to write here, as I still have alot of photos and notes to sort through.

Red Rover, Red Rover

Thanks to Abe and Josie of Vela Creations for passing along this red rover...or should I say, solar rover. It'll be powered by the sun and will also double as a battery bank for the dome by using six 8 volt batteries. We boosted the charging power of the solar panels by connecting them together as a chain, much like a battery chain. With this rather minimal solar array, it will take about a day to fully charge the rover and have a range of about 10 miles. This is a good distance for gathering building materials such as adobe, rocks, and sand, and hauling them to the building site. It will also get me to neighbors, the grocery/hardware store at the freeway, and the postal boxes. A future project may be to install a more powerful solar array on the roof for real time driving power. A wind turbine would be ideal for recharging overnight.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Stormy Monday

A powerful storm definitely makes one appreciate the idea of permanent shelter. Last night, an electric storm with strong wind gusts and frequent cloud to ground lightning, slipped into Terlingua Ranch after looming in the distant mountains for awhile. Storms are common in July and August, but more rare in May, which is typically a dry month. I took shelter in my car, which I am told is one of the safest places to be in a lightning storm. I have recently learned that the dome structure, once complete, will be an incredibly safe haven for storms. The web of steel bars acts as a force field, absorbing the electric current from a strike. A dome also redirects strong winds around it rather than at it. Round houses, like aerodynamic cars, have much higher wind resistance than flat or square houses. Traditional square houses can sometime lose the battle when the wolf huffs and puffs. Earthquakes ? Round houses win there, too. Over time, a dome becomes structurally stronger and stronger because it compacts upon itself in all directions.

Overall, this has been a rather wet year for this region. Vegetation is very green and many desert flowers are in bloom .

Friday, May 11, 2007

I've Got Power ! And the best kind...

With three 15 watt solar panels, one 12 volt deep cycle battery, and a small inverter, I was able to power my satellite radio ( two channels of NPR all day ) for hours, charge my laptop, phone and camera, and still have enough power stored in the battery to run the radio and a flourescent light after dark for hours. The total cost for this setup was just over $300. After a few years, I will have to change the battery, but that's it. The system is easily expandable to accomodate future energy needs.

This unit was recommended by Abe and Josie ( of Vela Creations ) as a good basic starter unit. It can be found at Harbor Freight hardware.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Preparing the Foundation : Levelling

The last couple of days, we made some headway. We prepared the foundation by levelling the flat bars which now form a perimeter around the base of the dome. We used a levelling tube. This needs two person to hold the point of reference in place and the other to mark each stake around the circumference of the dome. Then it's time to adjust the flatbars and pin them to the marked stakes using a vise grip. The next step will be to pour the foundation. this will take a few days and I am not sure yet whether or not we will fit it into this visit.

Adobe Bricks

Yesterday, Don taught me how to make adobe bricks. Adobe is all over this area. Don says that we're all VERY lucky because adobe is all over the planet.
the first step is to sift the adobe to separate the adobe dirt from the surrounding rock and other debris. We used a simple home made filter made from lath and 1/4 inch rebar.

This step leaves us with fine gold adobe sand.

The formula that we used for making for making adobe brick is :

8 parts adobe
1 part cement
add water until desired texture

The rest is the same as for the gravel bricks ( see earlier post ). There is something about working with adobe that seems very intuitive. Don seems to think that it's genetic memory.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Starlight Theatre

Tonight, I'm playing a show at the Starlight Theatre in Terlingua. It's two for one burger night ( yes, they have veggie burgers too ). This is the night that folks come in from surrounded towns to "catch up". The Starlight Theatre also hosts plays, movies, and other experiments in entertainment.

Saturday, May 5, 2007


Arnica grows all over this desert region, and for most of the year.

According to the Wikipedia, "Arnica usually refers to Arnica montana, a mountain plant used for relief of bruises, stiffness, and muscle soreness in herbal medicine. Arnica is widely used as a salve for bruises and sprains, and sometimes as a tincture, for the same anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving purposes. In homeopathy it has a wider use. It is available in natural/health food stores, most commonly in gel form, to be applied to the affected area approximately three times daily."

One way to make Arnica ointment, is by brewing the Arnica flower with Marigold flowers over a month period. We may make a batch at some point. If so, I will post the exact recipe.

Making Bricks

We will be using bricks to level the foundation of the dome. All of the material ( except concrete ) was found within 50 feet of where we made the mixture. We used :

* 10 parts sand/gravel
* 2.5 parts concrete
* water until desired texture

We then used an Egyptian sized brick mold ( 9" long, 3" high, 4.5" wide ) for the pour.
It takes about 24 hours for the bricks to dry. Over time, it gets stronger and stronger.

We will also be making some adobe bricks. Adobe is also abundant in these parts.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Full Moon in the Desert

The full moon in the desert doesn't just allow the whole moon to be seen. It allows the whole scene to be seen. In the city, dwarfed by city lights, the full moon doesn't have much of a function.

The coyotes were howling all night last night and a neighbor's wolf and a mountain lion fought to their death. The wolf won.

We made one last trip to Mexico yesterday. We stocked up on building supplies, Mexican Vanilla, Avocados, and Queso.

A couple days ago, I visited Marfa, TX...home of the Chinati Foundation, a contemporary art museum founded by New York artist, Donald Judd.

Last night, I played a short set at La Kiva. It was my first live performance in a couple of months. The crowd and the other musicians were very receptive and welcoming.

"If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man."

~ Albert Einstein