Working Remotely at the Cabin

With more international travel on my horizon, I was happy to get away for a few days to work remotely at the cabin — and to just plain work hard at the cabin. The windshield time on the road to Big Bend and the solitude at the cabin have done me a lot of good.

I set aside time to work on writing and editing two upcoming publications for our men’s ministry and our missions ministry. I am excited about our new Men of Character devotional guide that will go to press soon. This is a follow-up piece to our Men of Courage guide that is available in seven languages and has now been used by thousands of men around the globe.

I also got tons of work done on our 2023 missions ministry piece that will be printed and mailed to homes of our members at the end of November. Really exciting stuff as we work with our partners to cover every home and every nation in prayer in 2023.

I also completed some fun projects at the cabin — always enjoy that!

I made more Texas-themed chairs for sitting around our fire ring on dark and starry Big Bend nights. These sturdy chairs are fun and easy to make and very comfy. I enjoy experimenting with variations on the Lone Star and Texas flag colors. There is something so relaxing about sitting in these chairs and talking around the campfire.

I took some time drive in to Terlingua Ghost Town to have lunch with my neighbor Chris Smith. Chris lives a couple of miles from us and kindly keeps an eye on things when I am away. My favorite meal at the High Sierra is their bacon cheeseburger — one of the top burgers in Brewster County. Definitely worth checking out the High Sierra if you are ever in this remote neck of the woods.

I also added another Blink security camera at the cabin for a total of six cameras. I can now remotely enjoy views all around my cabin from anywhere in the world. I have to confess that I check in daily to watch the sun rise over Nine Point Mesa and then set behind the silhouetted mountains to the west of the cabin.

As we do on every visit to the cabin, we enjoyed food and fellowship with several friends here. It is always fun to reconnect with our Big Bend friends and to get caught up on local happenings. We all sat around the campfire until late.

I was happy to find that because of the monsoon rains, all of our water catchment tanks are full — giving us a total of 2,075 gallons of water. And, the desert has never looked so green and vibrant. The little ocotillo plants that I put in the ground more than a year ago finally came to life. These plants flank our gate and are small now, but I can’t wait to see them grow. They are going to look magnificent.

One final project I had to start on was digging a 45-foot long swale and berm in a low spot on our north tract. This will help us to capture more rain water as part of our permaculture plan. Later on we will add selected seeds of native plants along the berm. And then I will connect this swale with our other 150-foot long swale and extend it an additional 25-feet to the East.

It’s hard to believe that Cheryl and I are now in our fourth year of our off-grid adventure. And what an amazing journey it has become. We have learned so much. And we know that there is still more to learn as we enjoy this place and continue to find refreshment under the magnificent Big Bend sky.

A Solo Trip to the Cabin

Since my last trip to the cabin I have logged ten international flights that have taken me to Israel, Turkey, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Somaliland. I absolutely love being out among the nations, but I don’t mind telling you that spending so much time in airports can make me long for windshield time in my Tundra.

This past week I borrowed a trailer from my friend James to haul cedar posts and rain barrels to the cabin and hit the open road. Ten hours later I pulled up to my gate and breathed in the welcoming view of Nine Point Mesa and Black Hill to the East.

Knowing I only had a few days at the cabin, I planned my time well so that I could complete my projects while enjoying the views that make my heart happy. And, of course, I always look forward to reconnecting with good neighbors and friends who live here year round.

My first project was to utilize all of the scrap wood in our container to build some comfortable Texas-themed chairs for the fire ring adjacent to our shade structure. These chairs are fun to build, comfortable, and look great. I built three of them on the first day and a fourth on Sunday afternoon. They came in handy on Saturday evening when all of the neighbors came over for a hot dogs and s’mores cookout.

My second project was to add rain catchment to our new shade structure. I opted to use five rain barrels. I positioned them behind the half wall of the structure so that they would not obstruct our view to the north.

Once I leveled and lined up the barrels I added bulkhead fittings and linked them all together. These barrels will give us an additional 275 gallons of storage, bringing our total catchment capacity to 2075 gallons.

My final project was to set cedar posts on the new five-acre tract that we purchased last year. I managed to get in twenty-two of the fifty posts in the ground. As with our other fence, I am installing a cedar post every fifty feet and t-posts every ten feet. Once I have all of the posts in place I will stretch field fencing topped with a strand of barbed wire.

I did get to enjoy good fellowship with my neighbors. I joined several of them for pizza at Long Draw Pizza in Terlingua. The owners, Andy and Mallory, are gracious hosts and make the best pizza in Brewster County and beyond. On Saturday, everyone came over to the cabin for a cookout. And on Sunday after church I enjoyed a delicious steak lunch with my friends Mark and Michelle. We are blessed with good friends and neighbors here.

An added bonus was a magnificent rain storm on Sunday afternoon. Being in the middle of one of these storms with strong winds accented by thunder and lightening is an amazing experience. After my first desert storm years ago I had a better understanding of John Denver’s lyric, “You fill up my senses like a storm in the desert.”

The storm added lots of water to the new rain barrels and filled the 150-foot swale that I completed last year. We will add more swales in strategic locations to capture and keep more water on the property as part of our permaculture plan. The cherry on top was a beautiful rainbow stretching from Nine Point Mesa to Red Bluff.

And now, it’s time to make the long drive back to the suburbs and back to the office on Tuesday. I will return refreshed after having my senses filled by the beauty of the Chihuahuan Desert and the magnificent night skies in this wide part of Texas. I am really glad to have made this solo trip to cabin.

A Picnic Table in the Desert

I am convinced that food tastes better at the cabin.

Long before Cheryl and I pack the truck to make the long trek to our little off-grid cabin, we make lists. I make careful lists of projects and the supplies we will need to complete them. In the weeks prior to our trip I purchase those items and stockpile them in the garage.

One of the very best things about our time at the cabin is meal time. Cheryl plans all of our meals because I know absolutely nothing about cooking. She makes lists of the groceries we will buy in Katy and the remaining items that we will pick up in Alpine, just an hour from our cabin.

Our closest neighbors live a quarter mile south of us. We have enjoyed getting to know this family and make it a point to do a hot dog and hamburger cookout with them, complete with s’mores, every time we are at the cabin.

This little tradition prompted us to think about a picnic table. So, we bought a picnic table kit and paint — the official colors of the Texas flag. What I envisioned was a tabletop painted with blue and red with a white lone star smack dab in the middle.

We started by laying out all of the pieces and hardware. Then we painted all of the parts plus the underside of the tabletop and seats before assembling them. This step made things a lot easier - certainly much better than later crawling under the table with a paint brush.

Once assembled, we measured and marked the middle of the table and seats. We painted one side blue and the other red. The weather was perfect for painting. We had a little cloud cover and plenty of heat to quickly dry the paint.

Once the tabletop was dry, I marked out the lone star and outlined it with painters tape. The white star was the perfect finishing touch. Our table has Texas painted all over it. We really like it and can’t wait to invite the neighbors over later this week to officially inaugurate it with food and fellowship with friends.

One of the best things about being off-grid and outdoors is a good meal prepared on a campfire or camp stove and then sharing that meal with others. Our hope is that friends who stop by to visit, camp, and boondock will all enjoy delicious food and good fellowship around this table.