Saturday, December 26, 2009


I woke up this morning to 25 degrees, but I was wrapped warmly in my sleeping bag. There were some fragile ice crystals on my red wagon. Just to breathe on them erases them from existence. They quickly retreated with the emergence of the sun.

Just like last year, Santa came by to give me some candy. He told me that I was good enough. I don't think that he is as strict this far south.

Yesterday, my friend and local musician Jim Keaveny came by to lend me a hand with some shelves, furthering the spacial potential of this 120 square foot...cabin. I spent today organizing and adding a few more shelves.

It is nice to finally have complete protection from the wind and a door that I can open and close. This little shed, though not insulated, still manages to retain some of the heat from my little propane heater. It is probably due to the thermal mass created from all my belongings being crammed into a small space.

My one battery in my battery bank is almost dead. I can only use my computer when there is full sun, as my power is pretty much coming right off the panels, with the dead battery merely acting as a conduit. My one battery worked great for two years, but it is time to deposit a couple new batteries into the bank. My friend Ryan, the solar guy out here, tells me that the more batteries in the bank, the longer they all last, because they are all sharing the labor. Makes sense.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Radiant Floor

Awhile back I was considering installing a radiant floor, as friends have highly recommended their inexpensive heating capabilities during the winter. Rusty, my neighbor, renewed that idea when he suggested the same and took it a step forwards by offering to help me install it. Rusty has some experience after installing radiant heating beneath his poured adobe floor on his own house. He happened to have some pex pipe on hand. Pex is a great durable water pipe that is also inexpensive. It's flexibility makes it easy to shape. The pipe will move hot water underneath the floor, which will then conduct through the floor and into the interior space, providing free heating in the winter. A solar water heater on the outside of the dome will provide the heating mechanism. 

We only had half a day to start this process. Rusty was the foreman and my friend and songwriter Johann Wagner also leant a hand. Johann and I are currently on tour together, and so the poured adobe floor, which will cover the pex pipe and provide a plateau for bare feet, will have to wait.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Living in 120 Square Feet

I am moving up in the world. I decided to send back the shipping container I have been renting and buy a shed. It is the first thing I have put on a credit card in years, but the monthly payments will be less than what I have been paying to rent a shipping container, and in a couple of years, I will own it. In fact, 88% of my monthly payment will go towards ownership. With the shipping container rental, only 0% went towards ownership. So technically I am not debt free anymore, but my situation is better and my monthly expenses a bit less. 

When living in small spaces, it is important to think in cubic feet, rather than square feet. Believe it or not, inside this tiny shed I have an office, a kitchen, a sitting area, and a bedroom. Bunk beds, shelves, stackable containers, etc help to make the space more functional.

I was debating between purchasing a used shipping container or this shed. The shipping container is larger, more durable, and provides a 2nd life for used material, but the shed won because it is more suitable for living in temporarily and the angled roof also has potential for water catchment and solar panel installation.  I was also considering building one myself, but I have never built a shed and I needed something fast. Since I will be using the shed for water catchment, I was able to claim a tax exemption, saving me about $200. 

The dome will be twice as big, and when I am able to move into it, the shed will be used as a guesthouse and storage area. 

Friday, September 18, 2009

Kibbutz Lotan in the Arava Desert in Israel

I had the privilege to visit Kibbutz Lotan in the Arava Desert in Israel, an area that hasn't received any significant rainfall in ten years. On average, less than an inch falls per year. Ground water, and a world famous permaculture program makes Lotan an oasis in the desert. Their Bustan Neighborhood is a prototype neighborhood, consisting of a dozen (so far) off-grid strawbale/adobe domes. These were built by the students and teachers of the Green Apprenticeship program. I stayed in one of their domes for two days during their very hot season. Here are some photos.

This is dome # 5, the one I stayed in
The inside of dome # 5
The Bustan Neighborhood
Lush gardens in an unlikely environment
A Desert Oasis
Children's playground...there are over 100 children at Kibbutz LotanMud tiled wall made by children at Kibbutz Lotan
Solar Oven Demonstration
Bathroom wall
Bottle Window
Mike Kaplan explaining the natural cycles and how Humans have strayed
Hebrew Class with Avi

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


I skipped the summer in Terlingua this year and have been traveling instead. Highlights include the Kerrville Folk Festival and almost a month long visit to my former state of Oregon.  

Here are a couple of photo albums from Oregon:



The heat seems to be following me everywhere I go, even reaching an

 all time high in Portland of 108 degrees. I find that the heat is easier to take in the desert, because it is dryer and my body is not constantly trying to regulate between air conditioned buildings and an outside temperature that really isn't much higher than body temperature. Our bodies have an amazing ability to cool themselves off when given the chance. 

Next month I'll be visiting Israel for the first time. I have some cousins there who I have never met. I will also be visiting Kibbutz Lotan, a community living in strawbale adobe domes and practicing permaculture. 

I'll be back in Terlingua in October to play shows and work on the building.

Things have been going very well musically, which is one of the main reasons I left the 40 hour work week in the city and fled to the desert. Here is a picture from the Kerrville Folk Festival of the 3 Trevors (Myself, Trevor Smith, and Trevor Mills):

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Don's 1st cousin, Ludelle, and two of her daughters, made the trek down here from Abilene to visit Don this weekend. After trying to locate Don for quite some time, they stumbled upon this blog during an internet search and contacted me a few weeks ago. It had been about 20 years since they had seen each other last. I can tell that they were related to Don, because they all had that same genuine compassion for those around them. We gave them the abbreviated tour of Terlingua and the more in depth tour of Domeland. I think that they were all quite impressed with Don's achievements and the word is that they will be back again in a month. 

Here is Don explaining how his jig creates a template, which when assembled, provides the frame for the dome. The dome in the background is about 1000 square feet on the inside.   
Don talking geometry with Ludell's daughter, Janet. 

Monday, May 11, 2009

Brown Recluse Bite

"How are you doing this morning, Don?"

"Very Bad! We must go to Ojinaga to see a doctor about this spider bite. I think it was a brown recluse. My whole arm is swelling up!"

And so I picked up Don, and off to Mexico we went. Don doesn't have health insurance and so a $20 doctor's visit across the border is quite appealing. He has a certain doctor there that he likes. 

Don couldn't quite remember where the doctor's office was, or even what his name was, and so he wondered around the town showing people his arm and asking questions in broken Spanish. We finally found a woman who spoke perfect English who led us to a very modern building and in it we found Don's Doctor. The visit only took about 15 minutes, Don was prescribed some antibiotics, and then we ate lunch and went grocery shopping. I also took advantage and bought some cemento, which is half the price of cement in the USA. 

On the drive home, we listened to Michael Pollan's The Omnivores Dilemma on audiobooks. Since Don is hard of hearing, I panned the sound over to his side of the car and cranked it. Don was excited about Pollan's viewpoint on food production and kept nodding and agreeing with the points made. 

Thursday, May 7, 2009

110 in the shade

I never would have thought that 110 degrees would feel pleasant, but it does in the desert, as long as there is shade. Don and I stuccoed for most of the day at above 100 degrees. It sounds hot, but I'd take it over 85 degrees and humid. The nights are still cooling off into the 60s. 

One way to keep cool out here is to dip your shirt in a bucket of water, ring it out, and then put it back on. It is COLD, even when using warm water. This is due to evaporative cooling. This form fitting AC unit is good for about 30 minutes before it has to be recharged. A siesta is also a good way to avoid the hottest part of day, though I still have yet to adopt that pastime.

But the BEST way to cool off around here is at Agua Fria, a year round cold spring about 12 miles from my place. Don and I went there during the hottest part of the day today. Heaven!

Don's Cousin, Ludell, also in her 80s, tracked him down through this blog. She is coming down here next weekend to reunite with Don after about 20 years. 

Anyways, I am getting pretty good at stuccoing. 

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Brown Coat Continued

I have been back out here in Terlingua for all of March and April, mostly playing music around the area. Now that the season is coming to an end, I am finding some time to get back to the building. This last Thursday, we had a great team to work on and almost finish up the brown coat inside the dome. Don, Mundo, and myself developed a nice rhythm and got the hardest part done (the center of the dome, where the stucco can fall down on you as you apply it). Since we aren't using any power tools, all the stucco from beginning to end of this project is being mixed by hand, rather than a power mixer. We are also using our own aggregate in our stucco mixture, found locally for free, rather than a pre-mix such as quikrete. In order to prepare for a full workday such as today, all of the supplies must be gathered beforehand. The sand is gathered a couple of miles from my land, where it settles on the road from nearby natural deposits. The road becomes difficult to drive on when the wind piles the loose sand in heaps on the road. By gathering the sand, it also clears the road so that it is a bit easier to drive on. Since I don't have access to a conventional pickup truck, I use my volvo, Ruby, pretty much like a truck by putting  the seats down and then covering the back of the wagon with a heavy duty tarp. There is almost as much room in there as a pickup truck. The sand then has to be filtered very finely. I screen it with both lath and mosquito netting.  We also have to make sure that there is enough water on hand. Stucco gets very thirsty for the stuff. 

Don and Mundo are both expert stuccoers, with very different techniques. I learned a lot from watching them as I mixed stucco. I felt pretty comfortable with stuccoing the scratch coat since it doesn't have to be perfect and gets covered up. But for the brown coat, the part that get seen, I wanted more experienced hands to do the task. 

A long day makes for a good night's sleep, however, I learned later that my slumber was only a few feet away from a rattle snake, the first one I have seen on my land. 

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Bizarre Dream in Far West Texas

I had a very lucid and bizarre dream that about 25 extraordinary beings , mostly musicians, from far away places such as Austin, New York, and even as far as Denmark, showed up here in Far West Texas and enlisted me in their adventure. 
Find the rest of the story here. 

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Wired Up to the Sun

I don't have access to the grid out here, but I do have access to the Sun, which is a more secure source of electricity in the long run. 

My friend George helped me wire up the outlets in the dome over the last couple of days. I have never wired up a house before, so I wanted someone with experience to be in charge of this part. 

When Emile visited last year, we installed the
 outlet boxes (the easy part). 

We decided to run both Romex wire (standard housing wire for AC outlets) and DC wiring through the same conduit that wraps around the outside of the dome. That way, I have a choice whether or not to plug in AC powered appliances or equipment directly or less energy intensive 12 volt DC versions. Once the outside of the dome is stuccoed, the conduit won't be accessible anymore, so we felt it important to have the option for both AC and DC, as they both have positives and negatives. 

We spent much of today driving to find the pieces that we need. We went by George and his wife Anita's property to get a couple of connectors that we were missing. They are also getting started here as well, and have built a temporary structure and outdoor shower (pictured here with their dusty puppy, Lulu). 

I learned a lot about wiring by watching George. And I got to install a couple of outlets, as well as the DC powered light in the center of the dome. It seems pretty easy once you've done it a few times.  The dome's power will be on two circuits.  My current inverter doesn't quite have enough power to move the current evenly through the thick Romex wire, and so until I get a stronger inverter, I will use DC power. 

Up till now, I have been running power right from the battery bank, plugging everything directly into an inverter. George pointed out that my connections were messy on my battery bank and stressed that those should all be tight so that it won't short out the circuit or fry the battery or something. He showed me some easy ways to fix those connections. 

I've spent about $500 so far for solar panels, an inverter, conduit, connectors, etc and that seems to be enough for running the basics right now (computer, internet modem and wifi, lights, radio, and rechargeables. I am sure I will have to upgrade soon. 

Other than those expenses for infrastructure, my electric bill each month continues to be $0! 

Friday, March 27, 2009

Ocotillo Explosions, Dark Blue Bonnets, And Lions

We have been hard hit this year by an explosive spring flower demonstration. The Ocotillo blooms make it look like Van Gogh went mad with a paintbrush, dotting the landscape with reflective orange and red highlights, matching the color of the desert sunsets. And the Crazy Gaint Bluebonnets add a dark blue, almost purple hue to reflect the morning sky. 

In other news, a couple of days ago, a friend and I spotted a Mountain Lion pacing around in front of its cave, the 2nd lion I have seen out here so far.  

This is certainly the Texas that most people are unfamiliar with. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Domain Change

I am back in Terlingua for a couple of months. I'll be playing lots of shows  and working on the studio a bit. Last night I played at the Starlight Theater to a large and appreciative spring break crowd. I appreciated them right back. 

It has been raining for the last couple of hours (first rainfall in several months) and the smell of creosote is very potent. It smells similar to sage, which happens to be one of favorite smells. All the folks out here who are catching their own water are very satisfied right now. 

For those of you who have bookmarked, I am working on fixing the forwarding. I recently changed domain hosts and so there is a bit of a lag. I also purchased, which will probably become the default domain name for this blog. Feel free to bookmark it. I tried to purchase awhile back, but there is a cybersquatter who owns it and wants $10,000 for it. earthlanguage.NET comparatively was a bargain at only $12.99 .  

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Links to articles on TreeHugger

Here are some links to some articles I have written recently on

1) Warning! Riding a Bicycle Can Have the Following Side Effects: This one was picked up by a good handful of other online publications, and even translated into Portuguese.

2) Quitting Coffee is One of the Easiest Ways to Help The Planet and Yourself : This article's suggestion hit an unintentional nerve, resulting in about 40 mostly angry replies by caffeine addicted environmentalists such as myself. There was even a counter article written on . I still retain my opinion and also still drink coffee, but I am trying to quit.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

UPDATE - 2008 Summary

I am traveling and performing music around Texas. Here is a link to some December 2008 photos of the Big Bend area

I have also been posting some articles on and Here is a link to one that got alot of Diggs: