Monday, May 11, 2015

Johnny's Texas Adventure

Three days after I returned from Traumhof, Johnny left for Texas. His nephews wanted him to come visit... and work on their projects, of course. That's what Fink men do on "vacations". Nephew Jeff flew in from Illinois to join his cousins, Johnny's nephews Stu and Charles. Johnny also got to see niece Cassandra (the sister of Stu and Charles) and her husband, also those three kids' mom, Marge, and her partner. Charles' wife flew in for a few days and Stu's girlfriend dropped by.  Have all that straight? Good, on with the photos.

First project seems to have been to fix the car. Stuart digs a part out while Jeff holds up the hood. Johnny took photos.

Stuart makes biodiesel for some of his vehicles, tractors, etc.. This is the biodiesel manufacturing area. Stuart gets the fats and oils from here and there to make the fuel.

Both Charles and Stuart make just about everything themselves. Here is part of Stuart's' workshop with lathes and milling machines and more.

The first couple of days for Johnny were spent pulling dead trees and branches out of the creek... and through poison ivy.

Junkman Jeff is great with a tractor. He helped with tractor projects at our farm last year.

Charles spent most of this day in hip waders in the murky creek sawing trees into movable hunks

Charles' house with solar electric panels and solar water heater panels. He is entirely off grid and produces his own electricity.

Jeff and Stuart in front of Stuart's house, which is adjacent to Charles' acreage.

A fireman's pole allows quick descent from the second floor of Charles' house. That is Cassandra coming down the pole. Johnny shinnied up and down several times. I guess he's not over the hill yet.  (Only Cassandra's husband Scott and Johnny could go both up and down. The others could only come down, Johnny told me. He was surprised and happy that he could still shinny up a pole.)

This was Johnny's bed under an elegant mosquito net.

Here Cass and Marge and their men have fun bouncing up and down on Johnny's bed, which was a big air mattress on top of another mattress. It's not just our grandkids who like to bounce on beds.

Charles' water cistern with the lid raised...

Charles' water cistern with the lid raised.

Charles' composting toilet with toilet paper neatly folded and placed in the hole to accept bodily offerings. I remember the days when we and all our friends were going to be off grid and have composting toilets. A few did. But none still do. Charles (and, I understand, some of his neighbors) have taken up the baton we children of the 60s have mostly handed off.

After pushing the lever on the left and spraying with the black sprayer on the right, all disappears down the hole.

Here Jeff relaxes with big feet that Charles made for some costume party while a cheetah stalks behind him.

There was all kinds of wildlife in Texas, (although no cheetahs). Johnny took photos of a turtle...

... two snakes (one head is in upper left, other head lower right

and ants, both fire ants and other little red ants

Johnny also saw a Roadrunner but did not get a photo. He did get a photo of a Tufted Titmouse that was feeding nestlings in a nest in the fork of this tree. But the bird is a little hard to see. It's in the upper right corner.

 Zoomed up, it's a bit odd, but sort of recognizable as a bird...

There were odd things in the house, too. The garbage can was in a closet. When you opened the door, you saw this:

Charles made this sculpture some time ago. Like his dad Bruce and his mom Marge and his siblings, he is an artist.

 Here are Charles and wife Heidi with their dog Rowan on a bridge on their property. They actually live in Connecticut but Charles comes out to Texas for one to three months a year to work on his Texas property.

Neighbors of Charles have built several dome concrete houses. They start with a foundation and a big balloon.

For this one they glued lightweight concrete blocks on the outside, then, after deflating the balloon, sprayed the interior and exterior with concrete.

This is what the inside wall looks like.

In another style of building going up, Stuart and a neighbor started with a shipping crate that had been a tornado shelter, then added rooms above and beyond. (What the finished product will look like, I have no idea.) The domes were also built to be tornado proof, as was Charlie's bedroom above the cistern. I guess they have lots of tornadoes there. The day Johnny left, there were tornadoes nearby according to news at the airport.

On his last day there, Johnny stayed at Cassandra's, who lives close to the airport. She has a more conventional lifestyle... and residence.

Breakfast time...
Some of the clan went to a museum before Cassandra took Jeff and Johnny to the airport. Here they pose in front of an old car...

Heidi, Jeff, Charles, Johnny, Marge (Cassandra took the photo)

As they left the museum, they saw a school group playing on the Leap Frog Park in front. Each frog  emerged out of the ground a little farther than the one behind it, as though they were emerging from a pond. There is also a shallow wading stream around the outside for kids to play in.

Johnny arrived home 8 days after leaving, having had a wonderful time. Everyone, he said, was very nice and welcoming and "more normal than I expected". They are a great group of folks but I'm not sure "normal" is applicable. But then, I have never considered being "normal" a plus.

Johnny arrived back on our farm just in time for two weeks of marathon birding. How normal is that?

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