Solar Power for Dos Arbolitos

Pursuing our off-grid adventure in the Big Bend Valley section of Terlingua Ranch continues to be a journey of learning and discovery. When we started this journey we knew that we would need water catchment and solar power for our cabin. Our property is located far from grid power and in an area where it is too costly to drill a water well.

We had our water catchment tank installed last month. Our tank is fed by seamless gutters. Using a water catchment calculator, I estimated that 1-inch of rain on our 420 square foot roof will capture as many as 260 gallons of water. We had a desert storm that blew through our area last month, dumping lots of rain and pea-size hail. Our tank went from empty to nearly the 300-gallon mark.

This past month we finally had our solar panels installed by the folks at Green Desert Living. We purchased six 310 watt solar panels, an inverter / charge controller, and eight 100 amp storage batteries. Our solar system will enable us to run a small window unit air conditioner during the day, our dorm fridge day and night, our LED lights, fans, and provide juice for my power tools. We also have the option of charging our batteries with our generator.

We had the solar panels installed behind our cabin on the north side of our property. Our panels face due south and are angled to capture optimum sunlight during daylight hours. The night after our panels were installed we had a pretty fierce desert storm complete with hail. Thankfully our solar panels survived both the wind and the hail. Happy about that!

In preparation for our solar installation, I framed out a closest specifically for our solar system. I lined the walls with plywood rather than drywall to make it easier to affix our inverter / charge controller and other items to the wall. Having these items in the closet will make it handy for me to monitor our inverter during the day.

Having power in our cabin is a huge step toward enjoying our little place. And getting free power directly from the sun is pretty cool. Our investment will enable us to enjoy years of free power. And on those occasions when we have cloudy skies, I can still top off our batteries by using our generator. Either way, we now have power at Dos Arbolitos.

Later on I will add a small solar system to provide power to our container. I have already purchased what I need to provide lights and to power a fan in our container. These two things alone will be a big help in making our container workshop more comfortable. And, the thought of doing this on free power makes it all the sweeter.

We are enjoying our off-grid adventure. I am thankful for the folks who have shared about their off grid adventures on their respective YouTube channels. We continue to learn a lot from their successes and mistakes. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

Every improvement that we make on our place gets us a step closer to the day we can just show up and enjoy ourselves without having to address a long list of projects. We are now several steps closer to that day. Thanks for following our journey. More to come!

Our First Year at Dos Arbolitos

As the year draws to a close, it’s hard to believe that our journey to develop our little off-grid property in the Big Bend Valley section of Terlingua Ranch started only ten months ago. We still can’t believe that we own a few acres situated right smack in the middle of some of the most amazing views in Texas.
The really cool thing is that all of the views of the distant mesas and mountains, of the magnificent sunrises and indescribable sunsets, and of the starry, starry nights are all free of charge. Every time we visit our little place we still shake our heads in awe as we breathe in the wonder of it all.
One of the first things we did was to set a timeline of things we wanted to see happen before the first anniversary of our purchase. First on that list was to have our acreage officially surveyed and then to file that survey along with all requisite legal documents at the Brewster Country Courthouse and at the Tax Office. Done.
Once our survey was completed we arranged to have our turnaround (basically our driveway) done. Watching the yellow Caterpillar sculpt our turnaround out of the desert floor was so much fun. As the big blade scraped away the creosote, it was easy to start imagining what this place can look like. The best part of its all was finally having access onto our property which sits a little more than a foot higher than the road.
Cheryl and I opted to fence in our place, mainly to keep critters out when we camp. Enter an amazing group of friends who made two trips with me to get the job done. I loved every minute of the fencing. I certainly learned a lot about putting in posts that are straight and stretching wire and all of the others things that make for a fence that should outlast me by a hundred years.
The final project we wanted to complete before the end of the year was purchasing and having a cargo container shipped to Dos Arbolitos. Earlier this month we purchased a container from Far West Texas Container Sales in El Paso and had it delivered two days after Christmas. Having a place to store some tools and future building supplies is a big plus. Tom, with the container company, took good care of us and helped us each step of the way from purchase to arranging delivery.
Cheryl and I drove out to Dos Arbolitos in the wee morning hours of the day after Christmas. We had to get a site cleared before the container arrived. So, we drove all night and worked all day but got the job done. The following morning, we met Mando, the freight company driver, in the parking lot of McCoys Building Supplies in Alpine.


Mando was kind enough to let us load some railroad ties and lumber for shelving onto his truck. Once we arrived at Dos Arbolitos and showed Mando where we wanted the container, he helped us get the railroad ties in position and then he placed the container on the ties. He was spot on and positioned it perfectly.


Cheryl and I spent the rest of our time building shelves and a small workbench inside the container. The best part was getting to leave our work stuff in the container and not having to haul it back to our home in Katy. And we still have so much room to store lumber as we look ahead to starting work on our little cabin next year.
So, the past ten months have been a fun journey. We can’t wait for the day when we will actually have a little cabin with solar power and water catchment where we can sit and enjoy our bazillion dollar views. But, until then, we are enjoying every minute of the journey — of watching our dream unfold just a little bit at a time.

We still have so much work to do and are pretty happy about that. It’s fun for us to do this together and with the help of good friends who are willing to drive across the state to lend a hand. Everywhere we look we see the kindness of God — a kindness expressed in practical ways through the hands of those who have blessed us with their presence and their hard work at Dos Arbolitos.

Thanks for following our adventure. We can’t wait to see what the New Year will bring.

All Fenced In

By now, those of you who follow my blog are familiar with Dos Arbolitos. That’s the name my wife and I gave to our little tract of land in the Big Bend Valley section of Terlingua Ranch. It’s really too small to be called a ranch or even a ranchette for that matter. But to us, it’s our small slice of heaven on earth.
Purchased less than a year ago, we have made every ten-hour drive from our home in Katy to Dos Arbolitos count. This month my fencing friends and I made the trek to far west Texas with our supply laden trailer in tow to finish fencing Dos Arbolitos. We departed Katy at 2:00 AM and arrived at the front gate before noon.
We wasted no time because we only had a day and a half to get the job done. So, we set up camp and then each took ownership of specific tasks and got to work. My wife Cheryl and I had put in all but four of the remaining cedar posts on our trip to Dos Arbolitos in November.
Our first order of business was to put in the remaining cedar posts as well as almost a hundred t-posts. Pounding in t-posts and keeping them straight is a task in and of itself. But, we got it done. Between the cedar posts and t-posts, the fence will have good bones and should easily outlast my lifetime.

Once we finished pounding in the t-posts, we stretched several 330-foot rolls of welded wire fencing. As I noted in a previous post, our intent is not to keep anything in but rather to keep any pesky critters on the other side of the fence. We then topped the welded wire with a single strand of barbed wire.
Fortunately, the weather was amazing. With forty-degree nights and seventy-degree days, we worked long hours with no problems. One of the best things about this final fencing trek was sitting around the campfire in the evenings. The night sky in Big Bend is indescribably beautiful. We mostly sat quiet and watched the flames dance under the Milky Way.

With the fencing completed, I am now turning my attention to some type of storage unit for the tools we need to keep at the property. It will be exciting to watch this next phase unfold. At this time I don’t know if we will purchase a unit or build one from scratch. Still researching and looking at the most cost-effective options.
Our little sub-ranchette has already become a fun getaway destination. Cheryl and I are excited about watching this dream become reality. We are enjoying the journey. We know it will take time for all of this to happen but, in the meantime, we are having the time of our lives. We find ourselves talking a lot about the place and bouncing ideas off each other.

Thanks for following our adventure as our Dos Arbolitos story slowly unfolds. It will be fun to look back years from now and reflect on the journey. We want to make sure that we make lots of good memories that we will enjoy for a lifetime.

Bad Rabbit Cafe

The Big Bend region of Texas gives a whole new meaning to the word vast. Out in this part of Texas folks measure distance by the hour rather than by the mile. And there are plenty of hours between here and there when you are exploring the Big Bend.

Of course, food is always on my mind whenever I venture out on one of my Texas road trips. That’s because there are so many fantastic out-of-the-way places to eat in the Lone Star State. And discovering a new place to eat a burger is always on my to-do list when I am on the road.

Now, when it comes to the Big Bend, there are not a whole lot of places to eat — especially when you venture south of Alpine and head toward Terlingua. That’s why its important to plan ahead when road-tripping in Big Bend.
Among the best places to eat in this iconic cowboy country is the Bad Rabbit Cafe at the Terlingua Ranch Lodge. The lodge (or Terlingua Ranch headquarters) is located 16 miles east of Highway 118 about an hour south of Alpine. Just look for the big sign with the yellow Terlingua Ranch logo located at the intersection of Highway 118 and Terlingua Ranch Road.
The Bad Rabbit Cafe is housed in an original ranch structure made of stone and masonry. Very Texas-looking stuff! You’ll love the magnificent views on your drive to the cafe as well as the surrounding mountains and mesas once you arrive. The cafe generally opens at 7:00 AM every day and only closes early on Sundays.

I ordered my usual bacon cheeseburger with a side of hand-cut fries and a tall glass of iced tea. My wife Cheryl and I enjoyed the ambiance of the place while we waited for our meal. Decorated with boots and murals and all kinds of cool stuff, the dining area also serves as a venue for local bands on weekend nights.
My burger arrived quickly and piping hot. The generous portion of meat was especially delicious and all of the veggies were fresh. I also appreciate that the burger came with bacon cooked to crispy perfection. There is nothing that ruins a bacon cheeseburger faster than slices of wimpy bacon. The bread was also delicious.
One bite was all it took to convince me that we had made the right call to eat at the Bad Rabbit. It was definitely worth the drive off the main highway between Alpine and Terlingua. To make our experience even better, the staff was courteous. All in all, this was a really pleasant dining experience. Cheryl and I have already decided that we will visit the Bad Rabbit again for some good Texas grub!

Introducing Dos Arbolitos

When it comes to amazing vistas in Texas, the Trans-Pecos region is at the top of my list. The expansive spaces, distant silhouetted hills, distinctive desert flora, deep in the heart of Texas skies, and mesmerizing chiaroscuro splashed across the faces of desert mesas all work together to create iconic Texas views.
I first felt the call of the Chihuahuan Desert when I was a Boy Scout. My grandfather’s stories about Judge Roy Bean, the Law West of the Pecos, stirred my curiosity about this part of the Lone Star State. I made my first trip to visit the Jersey Lilly when I was a Boy Scout and I was hooked. I loved everything about the desert.
Throughout those years I came across numerous ads about Terlingua Ranch — a rugged 100,000 acres tucked between Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park. For little money, the ads touted, you could own a piece of Texas. These ads drew a lot of people to this remote region. Folks fell in love with what they found and the land started selling like hot cakes and continues to sell to this day.
Last month, through the kindness of a friend, my wife and I were blessed with a remarkable gift — our own little slice of Texas at Terlingua Ranch. I had dreamed about this as a Boy Scout but never imagined that one day I might own land in one of the most iconic regions in Texas. So, we begin a new adventure to develop a place to enjoy off-grid getaways.
We are now the legal owners of a piece of property in the Big Bend Valley with million dollar views in every direction. From our little place we can watch the sun rise over Nine Point Mesa to the East, enjoy the views of the Christmas Mountains to the South, and watch the sun set behind the distant mesas to the West. Amazing stuff any way you slice it.

The next step is to have our land surveyed, confirm our corners, and get our metes and bounds document. Through the kindness of another friend, all of this is in motion. We are taking this a step at a time, don’t want to incur any debt in the process, and are excited about watching things unfold.

As Cheryl and I talked about a name for our little slice of heaven in Texas, we immediately agreed on Dos Arbolitos, translated Two Saplings. This is actually the name of one of our favorite Spanish songs. Translated, the lyrics say, in part:

Two little trees have been born on my ranch,
Two little trees that look like twins,
And from my little house I see them alone,
Under the holy protection and the light of the heavens.

They are never separated one from the other
Because God wanted the two born that way,
And with their very branches they caress each other
As if they were bride and groom that loved each other.

We are beyond thankful for this unexpected blessing. Whenever I need to clear my head and my heart, I always seem to head West toward the Chihuahuan Desert. And when I do, I always come home refreshed after enjoying the views, watching the sun set, and sitting under the stars. There are no words to express what it means to call Texas home and to have been blessed with Dos Arbolitos.
I have added a new Dos Arbolitos category and will post updates as things continue to unfold. We know it is going to be a long process and we are committed to enjoying the journey. Thanks for following my adventures in the Lone Star State.