Saturday, May 23, 2009

Windmills: The sentries of San Diego County

These 21st century sentries stand guard in the mountains above San Diego greeting travelers from the East. Our culture demands energy--driving the economy, and delivering the comforts of contemporary living. Clean energy from wind, solar, and other non-traditional sources is an important alternative to carbon generating coal-powered electricity plants. Coal power is currently the number one source of electricity in the U.S.

Reducing my carbon footprint

My restored 1973 Airstream--home for over two years now. Living in a space with less than 200 square feet requires far less energy to heat and cool. The tiny space requires less cleaning materials and demands the accumulation of less stuff. The Airstream also took less materials to build than a traditional home. Re-using an older trailer cut down on the demand for new materials. My Dodge diesel truck gets about the same mileage as my previous car, a Subaru, and I drive about the same number of miles as I did when living a more traditional life--though my goal is to drive even less.

Ascent into the mountains on Interstate 8

California arrival

Friday, May 08, 2009

Working harder than I've ever worked before . . .

The tractor-trailer arrived at about 6:30 AM at our Sonoran Desert ranch—loaded with 22+ tons of Kansas hay. Each bale weighed an average of 75 pounds, over 600 bales in all. The goal was to start early, before the heat set in. We began.

At a rate of 35 to 50 bales at a time, we loaded a pickup truck, backed the truck into the stable area, unloaded and restacked. One bale at a time the work proceeded.

By about 9 AM the pace slowed markedly as the heat set in. We pressed on. I’d climb up on the giant flatbed filled with hay, toss bales down to the crew in the back of the pickup. They’d pack and stack. We’d back the truck 350 feet to the covered hay area (a roof on poles blocks the sun and the rare rains). Our pile grew to be about ten or twelve layers high. The photo ops were epic, Jerry Jackson in his cowboy boots perched on top of the towering stack—behind him a Sonoran blue sky and the Phoenix mountains, covered in cacti and rock.

We began to stumble and fall in the holes between the bales as we worked to lift the buggers in to their pile.

We drank copious amounts of fluids—I had at least five to seven liters of water and didn’t take a single bathroom break. And on we went.

By 10:30 or so, the heat and the work were really taking a toll. I took on the work with a determined intensity, and though it didn’t look like it, I enjoyed it.

By the end our pace was comically slow. The temperature hit a hundred—six hours of non-stop hard labor pushed us to our limits.

I am the Monica Seles of physical labor, grunting and swearing as I lifted yet another bale.

The youngest member of the team, a 24 year old, hit the wall a good hour before the end.

It was down to me and two fifty-somethings who were work horses.

Straining, sweating, and panting we plowed on to the end.

I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever worked this hard.

No matter how much I drank I sweated and breathed out huge quantities of fluids. I am still dehydrated almost 24 hours later. I was spent, but my spirit was strengthened from the efforts.

The hay is unloaded—enough to last until about September, when it will be even hotter in Phoenix. This was the biggest load ever received at this particular ranch. I am betting the September load won't be as big.