Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fried Asparagus Tacos

December has been a very busy month for gigs in the area. The weekly shows this month up in the Chisos mountains have gone very well and have also been well attended by international and domestic travelers. It also means that I was able to save some money this month, which I'll need since January is going to be real slow. One can learn from the vegetation out here how to be resourceful. In times when there are showers, we must open out pockets. And in droughts, we must hunker down and ration what we've caught.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Nuclear Catchment

solar reflection and digestion
Yesterday, I tagged along with my friends to a neighbor who is selling solar panels. Good quality solar panels, not the junky (though usable)  Harbor Freight panels that I currently have two sets of. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to purchase a high quality panel at almost wholesale prices. And when I installed it today, I almost doubled my energy. I can now harvest 170 watts of solar power every hour, enough to run multiple computers, lights, radio, power tools, and even a refrigerator. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Moving Poo and Surprise Visitors

Mark and Shannon
I was ready this morning for friends Mark and Shannon to come by to gather goat manure from Don's Domeland for the Community garden in Terlingua. What I wasn't expecting was an early arrival and surprise visit from...

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Peaks of Being a Musician

One of my favorite songwriters, Johann Wagner (Austin, TX), joined me for a couple of shows in the Big Bend area. We were slightly rusty as a duo, since it had been about a year since we toured together, but it didn't take long to find our stride.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


My little shed is more like a little cabin now that it is fully insulated, thanks to my friend and local musician/carpenter for hire, Jim Keaveny. Thanks also to a full house at the Starlight Theater on Monday night and a generous audience which helped me to afford this last installment of the winterization process. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Touring locally in December

Some gig opportunities have finally panned out around my region and just in the nick of time, financially speaking that is.  While music venues in large cities or saturated music scenes book many months in advance, out here it is the opposite. The venues, (restaurants, hotels, bars) book their music only when they know for certain that they will have high occupancy, and it is not uncommon to be booked for a gig the day of the show. It's like being on call and re-applying for my job every day.

The logistics behind each gig is a full time job if I count the promotional aspect of it (designing and printing flyers), and being my own roadie, sound guy, and merch person. I also have to write and practice the songs when there is time left over. I'm not complaining. I'm just letting you know why I'm not finished with my building yet. And if I wasn't doing all of the work to sustain my own creative endeavors, I'd be putting in all that work into someone else's.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Terlingua House Concert with Jack Wilson

Jack Wilson
There have been many conversations recently about setting up a house concert in Terlingua, and we finally did. Thanks to the Hunnicut family (Greg and Stephanie) for hosting us in a fantastic desert setting. I would say that the first house concert was a success.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Plums from Dishwater

I woke up yesterday morning and found that my kale starts have been eaten! It was either a rabbit, or the quail that have been showing up around here every morning. I was bummed. I waited a day too long before deciding it was time to protect them with a barrier of some sort. 

I drove to Alpine as planned, to get more insulation for the shed, as winter is approaching. My neighbors Ben and Vanessa were generous to give me their leftover insulation from their own project, and it covered over half of my 120 sq. foot ceiling. That got the ball rolling. 

While in Alpine, I decided to stop at a plant nursery that has always interested me. They had some fruit trees for sale, which also interested me. Plums, nectarines, cherries, apples, and pears. I bought a healthy looking plum tree for $25 and this made me feel much better about losing my kale this morning.   

It also makes me feel better to have an organism that will take my used dishwater and give me juicy plums. I feel that most trees, especially ones that produce food, are a form of water catchment and storage rather than water wasters.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


A small team from Marathon Texas came by a couple of weeks ago to borrow Don's dome frames for a new structure at the Marathon hostel. Whereas I had to transport the dome frame piece by piece on top of my volvo, the Marathon crew demonstrated the portability of the dome frame by coming prepared with a trailer so that they could get all of the frames in one go to Marathon, about 90 miles away. They are using Don's design for a gazebo type structure that will be finished in papercrete. You can track their progress here.

The beauty of Don's design is that the same frame can be used over and over and over again and finished out in many different ways.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Vidrios de Ojinaga

ride to Ojinaga with Don, James Jackson, and Bubba
I needed some windows cut, asked around, and the consensus was that the best and least expensive window cutters were right across the border in Ojinaga. And so yesterday we went.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

City Folk

the trail ends here

Whenever I get visitors out here, it is a great excuse to visit the National Park and other area sights and also put my visitors to work. Earlier in the week, my friend Chad from Austin made a return trip to scout out land in the area. He also helped for a day on the dome. Stuccoing is more fun with a friend. On the other days, I have MPR to keep me company as well as podcasts and Pandora.

Then on the weekend, my sister showed up with 3 friends. We went for a hike in the Chisos, and they didn't do too badly for city girls who were recovering from two nights in Marfa. I made sure that they were well hydrated. We had a grand old time.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Big Bend Bugs

Today, I decided to install a bug screen on my front door. There are some unique (and large) bugs in the Big Bend area, but I don't like them crawling up my leg or jumping in my face.
A curious tarantuala examines my front porch 

A resident alien

Friday, October 22, 2010

Boquillas Singer

There is a promising rumor that the border at Boquillas will once again open be open to Americans and Mexicans who wish to explore each others' cultures. Until then, this man's voice reverberates back and forth between both countries, as he stands on the edge of the Rio Grande, singing at the top of his lungs, ignoring the perceived borders.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


It was a fun but exhausting weekend. I decided to run the 10K portion of the Marathon 2 Marathon, a Boston qualifying event in Far West Texas. I drove up the night before, where there was a pre race dinner at the Gage Hotel. I asked the new entertainment coordinator if they were interested in having live music there this Fall Season being that I had some good gigs there earlier this Summer. We figured that right then and there would be a perfect occasion, so I set up there in the courtyard and played to a mostly fit crowd of spaghetti eaters.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Work Continues

Earth Language sunrise on 10-15-10
Don had the sniffles this week and so he stayed home to rest. Whenever he is under the weather, he diagnoses himself with distemper.

This past week, I have been working by myself, stuccoing the outside of the dome. It is like icing a cake compared to stuccoing the interior. Gravity has decided to be my friend. It is more than satisfying to see the rusty metal bars and wire erased from sight with each brush stroke. I have been staring at it for so long.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Chinati 10-10-10

I drove up to Marfa to perform music at the historical Paisano hotel during the Chinati open house festival, Marfa's biggest weekend. I performed three sets on a beautiful Saturday evening to a packed courtyard of friendly art enthusiasts. They were kind to me. It is satisfying to play for a crowd interested in hearing original works rather than the familiar standards because that is what I do.

After the show, I was energized but tired at the same time. My neighbors in Terlingua let me stay at "Trailer Marfa", their Marfa getaway home. I was planning to take a short nap, but slept through the night, missed some potential drunken interactions, and woke up the next morning to meet up for breakfast with a couple of friends, which ended up morphing into lunch instead.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Yep, more stucco. We'll be stuck doing this for a little while longer as we round out the edges inside the dome. Don is quite the perfectionist when it comes to the details. It is labor intensive, but also meditative, and doesn't cost anything, so I don't mind. This building material should last 100 years at least. Once we get to the outside stucco portion, it will be easy because we will have gravity on our side. But on the inside, we are used to having stucco fall on our face and in our eyes.

the gift of heat and hygiene

 The UPS truck drove up to my dome yesterday with two unexpected packages, an indoor propane heater and a new solar shower bag. Some sneaky person sent me these couple of items off of my Amazon wishlist. I will get to the bottom of this and find out exactly who it was. In the meantime, thank you for these two luxuries. It might save my life this winter. THANK YOU!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Work Trade

Now that I am back from tour, the weather is good, and I have some time, it is back to building. Yesterday, I helped Mr. Don Bryant with an adobe project at his place. It is good to see the old guy excited about working with earth materials instead of cement and metal for a change. With adobe, one doesn't have to worry about getting cement powder in the pores of your skin or in your lungs, as well as not needing to clean off your tools at the end of the day. We acknowledged how much faster the work goes with two people instead of one. Depending on the chemistry, it is usually more than twice as fast, which is why it is helpful to form work trades as much as possible.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Exploring the Big Bend

Having a friend visit is always a good reason to go exploring Big Bend. This last Summer, I traveled through a half dozen National parks, including Yellowstone, The Grand Canyon, and Glacier National Park, and I must say that Big Bend holds its own when compared to these more well known parks. Big Bend is the least visited National Park in the country, but has the highest percentage of return visitors. Those who make it all the way here, come back for more. The last few days, I did a lot of hiking, including 14 miles in the Chisos within 24 hours. The 14 miles included my first venture up Emory Peak, the highest summit in the Big Bend. Here are some photos:

a glimpse into the window

Monday, September 27, 2010

Starlight Theater Closes / River Trip

On the Starlight Theatre's last night ever, I ran into Billy, my river guide friend and he asked me to join him on a river trip the next day for the maiden voyage of his new boat through the Santa Elena Canyon. In the few years that I have been here, I had not done the full 21 mile downstream trip through the Canyon, I am almost embarrassed to say. Since I had to wake up before 7 am, I wasn't able to stay at the Starlight after midnight for the 50 cents any drink in the house deal and If I did, I don't think that I would have made the river trip.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Back on Ruby Road

I'm back in the Big Bend after an epic summer tour up to the NW and back over the span of over two months on the road. It was a fantastic journey but I'm glad to be back in the post monsoon green pastures of the Big Bend, here on Ruby Road.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Where Water Falls from the Sky

I came back home from the Kerrville Folk Festival to a full tank of pure rain water. I didn't have to haul 8 pound per gallon canisters from the water plant at 10 cents a gallon. Nor did I have to pay any municipality to pipe it to me. IT LITERALLY JUST FELL FROM THE SKY!

Now, if oil fell from the sky, which could very well happen here during the hurricane season, you'd catch it right?

Just sayin'.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Desert in Bloom

A Bee In A Bonnet (Click to Enlarge)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Terlingua Chihuahua Races

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Ruby Road Sign, Snow in Terlingua

My nearest neighbors, Ben and Vanessa delighted me when they brought their hand made Ruby Road sign to Terlingua and installed it at our intersection. They are the only other residents, part time or not, on Ruby Road. I named the street after my grandmother, and coincidentally, Ruby is also the name of Vanessa's car, as well as my red Volvo.
Ben and Vanessa, who live most of the time in Fredericksburg, have a great house in progress very close to my place. I got lucky.

Friends from Austin, The Lonesome Heroes, came by Earth Language for dinner on their way out of town after rockin the Starlight Theater. We talked about the status of the music industry, outdated concepts, and new opportunities in the modern musical landscape.

And then it snowed....

This is the most snow I have seen out here. I had a temporary igloo.
I went by Don's place, and he had one too.
Ruby was covered....
The snow melted by afternoon, as I was headed to Mexico to visit my friends Abe and Josie, which will be the subject of the next post.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My Afternoon Run Measured with an iPhone

It sure is nice to have a gravel exercise track right outside my door, where I don't have to worry about traffic, noise, or pollution. Here is the 3 mile run/walk routine I did this afternoon after the sun came out after a rainy winter day:
(Click the picture to enlarge)
Instead of 4 times around for a mile, as is dizzyingly typical for an exercise track, this one is once around for 3 miles,. I used an iPhone App called Runkeeper which monitors my location, speed, etc and then uploads it and gives statistics. This run seemed mostly flat, but it is nice to be able to look back and see the slight changes in elevation and other interesting data. After being near sea level for the last couple of weeks, the sudden altitude out here had me out of breath pretty quickly.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Water, Sun, Food, Bicycles, Friends

I've been back out in Terlingua for a few weeks and am excited to have accomplished all of the things I wanted to get done this time around. With help from friends and 'experts', I was able to optimize my solar system, organize my new temporary living space, and most importantly, set up water catchment.

Now that I have a shed with an angled roof, it opened up an opportunity to install my solar panels on my roof as as well as set up water catchment.

It turns out that Ryan, the solar guy is equally proficient with water catchment as he is with solar electricity. He says that plumbing and and wiring are more or less the same thing.

Ryan's partner in crime, Diego...

I got the catchment set up just in time. There is a 60% chance of rain in the next few days. I just need to leave out some cement bags to seal the deal.

My one almost dead battery has made a bit of a comeback. I can run my interior light all night if I want and since I have converted my modem, router, and laptop computer to DC, I can run everything without the energy drain of an inverter. During these winter days, if it is sunny, I can use and charge my computer between the hours of about 10 am and 3 pm. Once I have a full charge, my computer can work unplugged for about 3 hours.

Since my iPhone hardly draws any power, I use that for streaming radio and podcasts and reading the New York Times. I have even watched movies on it. I have one switch inside the shed that turns the whole network on and off.

The nights here have been COLD. One morning, I woke up to 18 degrees INSIDE the shed. I was very warm, however, wrapped in a down sleeping bag, two other down comforters, and a ski suit. I am looking into some sort of non toxic DIY insulation solution for the shed. I am also looking into getting a small propane heater suitable for indoor use. It doesn't get any colder out here than this past week, so I feel that it was a good test and quite manageable.

Other highlights from this most recent visit included...

My first visit to the brand new Terlingua Farmer's Market...

Eating fresh Terlingua Greens from the Farmer's Market...

Riding mountain bicycles through the desert under full moonlight with my Denton friend Remington Pohlmeyer...

And hanging out with my new neighbors Jim and Anna, also musicians who are building a house out here.

I got the privilege of helping them raise a wall...