Please, please, PLEASE get in touch with us and let us know if we're inspiring or annoying you, if you have questions or comments, or just to say hi! We may even stop in and see you at some point!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Grand Canyon

What can I possibly say about one of the most amazing places on the planet other than it was, well, one of the most amazing places on the planet I've ever seen.  I remember going there as a kid, and I remember looking off the rim into the great chasm beneath me and not being able to wrap my head around it.  As a grown up, not much has changed.  It's still bigger than my head has the capacity to rationalize.  Enjoy the slide show, as this blog is late.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Earthship Idea

Lately, we've been getting really excited about the idea of an adobe earthship.  The terrain where the homestead sits makes it just about perfect to keep the place cool in the summers and warm in the winter.  We figure if we face the big windows toward the south, we'll be in great shape.  Plus it gives me a great opportunity to build a pseudo replica of Luke Skywalker's homestead from the original Star Wars movie...

After watching some videos online, I'm excited and discouraged to see that most of the labor is relatively EASY labor (i.e. not mentally impossible), yet it is LABOR.  Hours and hours of hammering dirt into tires is in our future.  Just hammering dirt.  Rammed earth tires for the walls, we'll mud over them, paint them, and bam, we're pooping in tall cotton.  The tires are great for walls.  They'll keep the heat inside when it's cold, and they'll keep it cool inside when it's hot in the summer.  We'll hopefully be able to reclaim and reuse a bunch of water, up to four uses, which will help a lot in a place that gets about 10 inches of rain every year.
The idea is simple, but I suck at explaining things and I'm lazy, so I attached a diagram and some examples.  More to come.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Base Camp

For the house design, we have decided to use adobe pretty exclusively.  A Yurt has been requested, and I'm pretty okay with that.  I'm also planning on building out storage containers for different "missions" and purposes, i.e. a medical module, a library module, a module for sleeping, etc.  I don't know exactly how it all will come together.  There's also talk of recreating Bent's Old Fort and building an adobe Holt (a term for the Roman Legion-Camp-shaped fortresses in the lands of Jim Butcher's brain).  Either way, our work is cut out for us, and there's lots of it to do.

The first phase will be to make sure we have adequate camping quarters.  Using what we have to establish what we'll have to build first, that seems to make the most sense.  Currently, we have a very large tent, a teardrop trailer, and, of course, the BW itself.  The camper can hold two and a small half, the tent, up to 8, and the van can sleep three or four comfortably before it becomes cramped.  The challenge now is to turn these independent parts into a system that we can use as a base camp for construction AND for expeditions into the more interesting parts of the world.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The (New) BattleWagon in the Flesh

The newest BattleWagon is the oldest BattleWagon.  She doesn't have a name.  My daughter calls her "The Big Blue Van" and my father simply calls her "Big Blue".  She's a workhorse, to be sure.  The nitty gritty of it is, she's a 1988 Chevy 1-ton van, Bonaventure model.  It's got a 350 cubic-inch V8, with throttle-body fuel injection, matched to a 3-speed automatic transmission.  I like to call her the Millennium Falcon, because, like her namesake, I feel like "she may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts".

This was the vehicle I learned to drive in, over a quarter century ago.  Since then, this van has traveled to Arizona numerous times, Washington state, Minnesota, and West Virginia.  She's shuttled soccer teams over high mountain passes, and families across stark deserts.  She's pulled trailers, other cars, and given the occasional ride to a stranger.  The heat always blows warm, and the old-school "smoking windows" up front keep it cool on the highway in the summer.  The 1-ton status gives it a little extra strength in its frame and a little extra height in its stance.

Built in Canada and sold to a church group near Pueblo, she wound up in my dad's hands after a trip to Phoenix in her predecessor, a slightly older Beauville van, turned out to be less-than-fun on account of not having rear air conditioning.  I don't know if that's the official story, but I like telling it that way.

Unfortunately, I have a ways to go to get this old van in the kind of shape we require.  The list, at this point, includes, but isn't limited to brakes, weatherstripping, gaskets, motor mounts, windshield washer motor, rear heat and AC, and tons of cosmetic touches inside and out.

Still as it is, it's really nice to have the ability to take 12 people somewhere (haven't done it yet, got up to 7 once), and to take all of the seats out and haul a cord of wood, 4x8 sheets of plywood, couches, or anything else I get called about.  That, and we've camped out in this van a few times as a family, and it's a great space for that.

The end goal, which may never be accomplished, is to turn this thing into a poor man's SportsMobile.  I don't know about throwing a pop top on there, but this van is the base camp for all of the expeditions.  Just need to get moving, and we are.  One mile at a time.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Bishop's Castle

This past summer, we took some time to go check out one of the craziest, most revered places in local lore, the castle hand built by Mr. Jim Bishop.  This guy is the real deal.  He has no teeth.  (Seriously, I saw him snacking on oysters out of a can with a toothpick (may not have been oysters), and I was overwhelmed with awe.
But I digress, he's spent the better part of his life collecting rocks out of the forest to build this amazing, wondrous castle.  We parked just off Co Hwy 165 and walked up to where all the other cars were parked.  The castle can't really be seen from miles off as one would expect, hidden in a pocket of foothills and pine trees.  However, when you get close, the highest point towers over the trees.
There's more to write, but we've had the fortune to go on more adventures lately, and it's been prohibitive of the time necessary to write.  Stay tuned!

Friday, October 6, 2017

A Re-Introduction of Sorts

The realities of life creep up on us all.  No matter how much or how little we believe we are prepared for everything, or anything, the craziness comes out of the blue and leaves us bewildered... drops us in the beautiful San Luis Valley.  What Wikipedia tells us about this wonderous place is that it's "an extensive high-altitude depositional basin ... covering approximately 8,000 square miles ... and sitting at an average elevation of 7,664 feet above sea level."  It's a beautiful place.  As I understand, it's about the size of the state of Connecticut.  There are a National Park and Preserve's amount of Sand Dunes
From a trip down last winter/spring...
in the Valley, covering about 19,000 acres.  There's a UFO watchtower and an alligator farm.   There's a smattering of hot springs pools, tourist trains, and a museum dedicated to the world's greatest heavyweight boxer, Jack Dempsey.  There are educational opportunities, and plenty of things to do.

A little background, we purchased the property here in the San Luis Valley toward the beginning of 2017.  It's been a roller-coaster of journey since then, so we really haven't had an opportunity to invest any time in it.  We've camped down there once or twice, but that's really it.

If you put your feet on the dash while the
defroster is running, you're set!
Right now, we're renting a house in nearby Salida.  Salida is a nice town.  It's where I grew up.  It used to be a REALLY nice town, but then all of the money came in.  That Green Gold was one heck of a draw, apparently.  Salida's still nice, but it's too expensive for anyone who doesn't have a trust fund, parents, three jobs, or the security of being near the end of their mortgage.  Four bedrooms here will run you almost $2k.  There has even been talk about charging $500 monthly to rent a parking space to live in.  It's not the same gentrification that's happening in places like Denver, Bozeman, Salt Lake City, but it's very similar.  Everyone has to have a slice of the Colorado pie... but I'm getting off track.

Me, the ORIGINAL BattleWagon, and Red,
checking out conditions on the ground.
The property we have for the homestead site is almost 40 acres.  The plot is almost square, and very flat.  No well.  No electricity.  No infrastructure at all, except for the access road that borders the south and east sides.  There are some tumbleweeds on it, and we've already seen antelope hiding out down there.  That leads me to assume that there are rabbits, gophers, foxes, and coyotes, too.  That's fun!  No mountain lions down there on the flats, I'd guess, but maybe a bear occasionally?

Our plan is to grow it organically.  Anyone who wants to help or just wants a quiet place to land for a few days/weeks/months/years is welcome to drop in.  It's my current understanding that the water table is relatively shallow, so the first order of business, the well, shouldn't be too difficult to figure out.  Beyond that, the formula I anticipate to be the biggest occupier of the time will be the assembly and usage of adobe bricks.  If you're familiar with Bent's Old Fort out by La Junta, Colorado, you may get an idea of what I'm looking to recreate, albiet on a smaller scale.  Fans of Jim Butcher will recognize the term "-Holt":  This will be SchleicherHolt.

Wouldn't be who I am without my loyal
steed by my side.
Many, many things to do between now and then, however.  It's currently October, which means there probably won't be anything happening down there until next spring when it warms up a bit.  Still, plenty of time to dream and prepare in the interim.  Stay tuned for the journey!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Boom Goes The Dynamite!

We are super busy this fall, humble and fortunate for the opportunities this community has given us. So many people are in need of our services, and we're honored to help!
You know, when you need a diversion from staring at a computer monitor for hours and hours, this view out the front door is pretty damn good.
Lego Iron Man checks out the shop. In the foreground, an old channel six coffee mug (I'd say Bob Ross is indirectly responsible for me doing signs) with a prototype Sign Works decal. The coffee stain is part of a durability test...
The locals will know what this means, and how old this sign is. Thanks to Ken Brandon at BrandonWard Graphics/Box of Bubbles for this and several other classic Salida-area signs!
REALLY looking forward to getting the neon souped up on this bad boy...