Click any photo to enlarge

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Where I'm at

Well, physically, I'm in Alpine. Mentally, I'm at the oasis. But here's where I'm at in the tank.

I can't pump anymore water out of the tank and I'm not about to bail it out, so I'll work around it until it evaporates. That'll happen way before I get the walls and much more of the floor done, not to worry.

I was disappointed that I missed a day of work yesterday. The weather forecasters don't even come close to getting it right for my area. The "Marfa plateau" is always the coldest place in our area, so I always use their forecast lows to predict mine. Their forecast low for last night was 40° so I left a drip under the cottonwood tree instead of draining the line like I normally do when it's supposed to freeze. Well, it got down to 27° at the oasis last night. The drip was a column of ice, but after it thawed out nothing was broken. So it didn't warm up this morning to where I could do all the work I had planned. Did get my requisite gallon applied before coming to town, though.

I saw a butterfly that looked different and I would have liked to hang around and try to photograph and ID it, but I squandered all my time working in the tank and had to get to town. I'm still glowing from the lifer Great Purple Hairstreak (Feb 25), so it'll probably be just as well to spread the fun out, if that makes sense.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A change of weather

If you like the weather here, don't get attached to it, because it'll change. Today was horrible. A high of 44.° As you can see in this photo CMO was up in the clouds with little visibility for most of the day.

So I went with a friend to Lajitas and Far Flung Outdoor Center to look for hummingbirds. However, the only hummer we saw all day was right back at the oasis where we started from. (It was a Rufous.)

I felt guilty for not getting work done in the tank, and can't do patching or coating unless the temperature is above 50,° so when we got back, I spent an hour or so sweeping and hauling dirt out of the tank. Eased my guilt. Especially, since I have to go to Alpine tomorrow.

In spite of the weather the cottonwood is starting to bloom. Spring is definitely in the air. 

Footnote: Keep in mind that photos add 10 lbs and besides that I was wearing thick long-johns inside my flannel-lined jeans. Just saying......

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

So much to blog about today

Yesterday and today the weather was perfect, so I pushed myself to the max. I don't know how much more perfect weather I can stand. Left the iphone at the house and too worn out to go get it for photos, but tomorrow I'll post some for those of you who aren't sick of seeing the inside of that tank. Mostly today I did my requisite one gallon of Drylok plus put the first coat of patching on those gaping holes. I did a lot of cleaning and shoveling the dirt. All the water I can pump out is out, so will have to wait for it to evaporate. I figure I'm a bit ahead of schedule and might finish in 3 more weeks at the rate I'm going. My estimate is that I'm close to half through. I don't plan on putting two coats on places in the floor where I know it doesn't leak. Just the cracks can leak on the floor. The concrete is real thick. One coat will be enough, so it'll go fast.

There's an injured (or sick) Ringtail in the courtyard and I don't know what, if anything, I can, or should, do about it.

Saved the best for last. I got a lifer butterfly today at the oasis. A Great Purple Hairstreak! It's host plant is mistletoe. Of course I needed Brian to ID it for me. I swear I looked through Kaufman's butterfly guide twice and couldn't find it. But it's in there. So exciting!

And I accidentally photographed a Black Swallowtail in flight. It's so cool to see the butterflies in their crisp new spring plumage.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Back to work

It was a gorgeous day today, so naturally, I pushed myself more than usual. The tank's "owies" are getting much needed first-aid.

My sister came and held the ladder while I coated half of the upper part that I can't reach without a ladder. Wednesday she's going to come back, and we'll do the other half. Then the rest I can reach. So that's a relief. I just couldn't chance a fall. I would have gotten all scraped up, at best. Been there done that. Had enough. 

She lives in Iowa most of the year so we don't see one another very often. We were visiting, and I wasn't paying a lot of attention. When I took my gloves off to get a drink, I forgot to put them back on. Next thing I knew, my hands were all coated with Drylok. I thought no biggee, I'd just wash it off, but I cannot get it off with anything. My hands look gross. I hope the stuff sticks to the walls that good. 

Cleaning the bad areas for patching with Quikwall surface bonding cement, I did come across some wet caliche among the bedrock. But no water got through either the caliche or the rock. It had to have seeped (or run) between the tank walls and the caliche/rock, and found a good route out. I'm determined that won't happen again. And I looked closer at the flaked off concrete and it did have fiber in it, just for the record. But the whole tank was never coated with Drylok before.

I was kind of disgusted that my sister took such an unflattering picture of me, until I realized she was holding the ladder, and didn't have a better angle option. I'll remedy that Wednesday. Meanwhile, it's good for a laugh. (I like to think I can laugh at myself, anyway.)

I've figured out something that might help save the tank from future damage. When it rains, water runs past the western side of the tank to the main arroyo. (The tank is built into a smaller tributary.) So I'm going to divert the water away from the west side, where all the water damage is, and has been in the past, and it might help. I'll build a sort of curb out of rocks and cement to divert it. Shouldn't take more than a couple of days, but not until the tank is waterproofed.

I have some exciting (to me) ideas for fixing a couple of bad places on the road coming in, too, but that'll be after the tank projects.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

I'm a little encouraged

I uncovered some major leaks in the tank this morning and it looks bad, but when I took a pick and tried to level off the underlying rock, it would not budge a bit. That means no way is the tank going to shift or collapse or anything dire. I just need to patch it good.

The rock I tried to smooth off is in the very center of the photo (whitish patch). In other words, that rock is not caliche, and is not softening. That's good. The best I could tell, there was no fiber in the concrete that flaked off after 20 years. So I'm going to put a thick reinforced patch over those areas, then several coats of Drylok. I just picked up $600 worth of the latter in town today. Then gonna get some Quikwall for the patches. Here is the problem area. It's fixable.

Basically, the whole west wall near the floor has a ridge of underlying rock that was stuccoed over without mesh. As far as I can tell, the floor has never leaked and the Drylok should take care of any pinholes in the walls where there's mesh. So if I can just beat the rains, I should be good to go. One year my tanks all filled up in January so one has to always consider it could possibly rain before I finish. Therefore, I'm going to do that "fault line" next.

Here's that first hole after I cleaned it out a bit.

I didn't manage to apply more than one gallon of coating this morning, Using a ladder is slow-going. Maybe one of these days someone will drop by and take a selfie for me. I'm not able to do it right by myself.

Note the hole on the left side of the photo. The fault goes all the way from there to the gray patched area to the right of the ladder. This is the kind of project a person postpones until their tank leaks 3 or 4 thousand gallons a day. I fantasize about putting colored coating on any areas that show above the high waterline, which will have to wait until next year when the line will  become evident. Then it'll all match.

No time for birds and butterflies today. I saw lots, but nothing different.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Two weeks ago today

Well, in the past two weeks I've put 18 gallons of coating in the tank. I figure I'm about one-fourth done, so 6 more weeks to go. I have to do the whole thing or I won't know if leakage is because I didn't do it all, or something else. I'll try. It's a killer. Just worked on the floor (gray) today. I hope that stuff works. Everything I read says it has to be mixed exactly per instructions, which is impossible. Just have to use my own judgement. Most people are worried it won't cure before it rains. No one understands with zero humidity, there's no way to get a gallon applied before it dries too thick to brush if you don't add water. Oh, and it says not to mix it by hand or you won't get a good mix. The Drylok I ordered is in so I'm not going to use anymore of the gray Thoroseal. I hope to coat that with Drylok when the whole tank is done, just to be on the safe side. It's in an area that isn't prone to leak, though, I think.

And on a somewhat more positive note, if the cracks in the tank haven't gotten huge or caved in before now, with weight of water and pressure, I don't see why they would now. Something underground is preventing that from happening. My oasis is on an alluvial fan deposit and that arroyo that we put this tank in was unusual in that it had caliche in it. Totally unexpected. Maybe a fault or something. But there must be something underground that keeps the floor of the tank from collapsing, so I have to be optimistic that it's somehow wedged in there. Everywhere else there's rhyolite underground. The surrounding mountains are solid rhyolite. The arroyo that feeds this tank has a solid rhyolite floor.

I think I'll be lucky if I don't spend over $2000 on coating the tank. Good that I don't have to pay labor costs. Yet. It's either coat the tank or let it go. Losing 3 to 5 thousand gallons of water a day isn't acceptable, especially during a drought.

If there's a good part to this, it's that the bottom doesn't have as much dirt to haul out as it usually does. Every little bit helps. I jokingly tell myself that the silt got sucked out the leaks. (I think I'm joking anyway.)

I was so exhausted yesterday that I went to bed at 9:30. Always a mistake. I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't get back to sleep. So I slept late this morning. It worked out OK though because the weather never got too hot to work in the tank.  I want to go to bed even earlier tonight, but don't dare.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

My last rodeo

Dr Phil is fond of saying, "This isn't my first rodeo." I'm thinking coating the tank is my last rodeo. Even though I didn't fall off the horse today, I sure didn't want to get back on it. Had to really force myself into that tank, then decided I was too tired (this afternoon), so took the can of coating and thinner back out. Hauled dirt a while, then made myself  retrieve the stuff and go back in and do one last can of coating for the day. You can't see the first gallon I did because it's gray. So much for esthetics. They were out of the white. I put the gray on the floor just in front of where the white ends.

I'm not worried that the tank won't be sealed when I'm through. What concerns me is that there's been so much leakage through the years that there are big hollows under the tank. When the weight of cold water rushes in and fills the possibly warm tank in a few minutes, cracks might develop and a previously sealed tank can instantly fail. That's what happened last year. I had it sealed, but cracks developed, perhaps with freezing temperatures at night, followed by hot days. So, if this doesn't work, then I'll live with it the way it is. I found a really bad leak today but forgot to take a picture of it. If you look at yesterday's photo, it's at the base of where the shovel is leaning, running toward the camera, sort of. I patched it today, but don't have a lot of confidence that the weight of water pressure won't cause shifting below the tank. Nothing I can do about that, except put a new patch on every year.

On the above today's photo, if you enlarge it, the big crack is just below where I quit coating on the far left. I patched it with gray Thoroseal mixed with concrete adhesive. I'll eventually give it a couple coats of Drylok too. The floor of the tank is very thick, and has lots of steel in it. The walls are thinner and have mesh in. BUT where there were boulders we couldn't get out, I stuccoed over them with no mesh. They were bedrock. I never thought they would become a problem, but that bedrock is caliche and does dissolve with enough water over a long time, apparently. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A late start today

Lovely day today, and even though I didn't get to the oasis until afternoon when I would have liked to take a nap, I forced myself to spread one can of coating. And guess, what? I didn't have my hand in front of the lens this time (it wasn't easy).

I used the roller up high today, and not liking it. Definitely will need a second coat. It's so hard to fill the cracks and holes up high with a roller, but gotta do it. Beats the alternative, which is fall off the ladder and break a bone. I've never had a broken bone and don't want to start now.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

More of the same

This morning the moon was a little higher at the same time of day, so I did marginally better on the photo.

Had to come to town for a few days. My body thanks me. Brain, not so much. Darn, when will I learn to keep my fingers away from the lens on my iphone. This is getting tiresome.

My thought was for you to see so much of the tank that you'd get as sick of seeing it as I am. Then I realized I'm not sick of seeing it. I see it as a tank one-eighth sealed, not as a tank seven-eighths leaky. I hope that stuff actually works. It's not really designed for tanks and I don't really apply it exactly as instructed.* It just seems like it should work though. Water can't get through it, and it bonds to the concrete. Time will tell.

 I'm enthused about my latest plan. I bought a small 4" roller and a long extendable handle. I think I can roll that stuff on the cracks that I can't reach and save using a ladder. Much faster and safer.


* For example, get a load of this from the manufacturer's website (gotta laugh at that):

Can I use ThoroSeal ® or Super ThoroSeal ® to seal my pond or cistern?
                              Yes! Apply the coating, then wait 5 days to allow time for a complete cure. Scrub the pond or cistern with salt water a couple of times, and rinse thoroughly before filling with water.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Another day of hard work

I headed toward the tank this morning just as the full moon was starting to disappear behind a mountain. It was daylight, but in order to get detail on the moon I had to put the camera settings way down, which is why the background looks black. A real photographer, who knew what he was doing, could have taken a more accurate photo (white moon, blue sky).

I'm trying to do more than one gallon of coating a day, since as I get toward the deep end the wall will be taller, and the floor will be wider. Plus I should probably put at least one coat on the top two feet too. If water seeps through and behind the wall, that won't be good. The lower portion is the easiest to do and that's the part that has the most hydrostatic pressure, so that will get priority. I'm sure next year there'll be places that need patching, but nothing like the project this year.

The last two 80° days were already stifling in the tank. And soon it'll be much hotter. But I can only do what I can do. Cleaning the area, readying it for coating, wears me out before I even get started. But I'm finding that if I take a midday siesta I can do a second gallon later in the day. So that's good.

Thinking I have to coat the whole tank is too overwhelming for me. I just do what I'm able, telling myself whatever I get done will help. I'm not putting a second coat on everything, just the bad areas, so what appears done here is basically done, unless I find a pin hole somewhere, then I'll slather more on that spot. Esthetically, I sure hate that I put coloring on that first part I coated. If I actually finish the whole tank, I plan to cover that area white to match everywhere else, but I dare not make that priority right now.

It'll be interesting to see how much it leaks after it fills up. I know me, I'll be terrified to go out and check it the day after a rain. I always am, and for good reason. That's why I'm so determined to seal it. One thing that might slow me down is getting enough coating material. I bought all they have in Alpine, so they'll have to order me more, and I don't know how long that'll take.

The butterfly de jour was this Painted Lady. It preferred the mud at the bottom to the white wall.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Day of hard work

I got an early start and worked until I could go no more. If you enlarge this photo you can see where that old patching material is (center right), which I'm positive is one source of last year's leak.

Here are close-ups of the same area.

I patched the holes and tried out the Thoroseal powder. I think the coating materials all work (or not) equally well.

I used the Thoroseal on the floor area that I'm sure doesn't leak. And don't get too excited about my progress today. It's just the first coat on the white part. I may not finish the whole tank, but whatever I get done will stop a lot of leaks.

Work will get harder as I have to reach so far up the wall. I guess I'll have to tie an extension ladder to bushes on top to keep the ladder from sliding down. That's only on the steep west and south walls though. The above view is looking north. I just take it one day at a time and try not to think about the torture ahead. 

On a brighter note, an AZ Powdered-Skipper seemed to enjoy the new tank coating, so I had to take a quick break to capture that. I love* that I'm starting to see butterflies again.

*Since it's Valentine's Day I had to use the word "love" at least once. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Not a good deal after all

The cheaper Drylok arrived yesterday on schedule. Turns out they were quarts, not gallons, so I sent them back. If you look closely at the bottom of the illustration in my previous post you can read, "one quart." Duh!
I remember so carefully reading to be sure it said one gallon. Somehow, read the wrong can, I guess. So I ended up buying a bunch of expensive ones in Alpine. But I found something cheaper there that I'm going to try. It's a powder you mix with water and supposedly does the same thing. No need buying it already mixed with water if it's not necessary.

While I was doing my "one gallon a day" stint today I found a small hole in the tank that might be the source of some of that leakage.

I don't get Townsend's Solitaires here very often so it's always a treat to get one. This photo was taken from far away looking directly toward the late afternoon sun.

And who would settle for ordinary afterglow when you can have a full moon with it! As the afterglow deepened the moon brightened. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Heck of a deal!

I found the Drylok on for about $7 less per gallon than it sells for in Alpine, plus free shipping.

So I ordered a bunch and gonna order more.

And watching the Olympics, and what the competitors go through for their passion, I'm not going to complain when I'm down in the tank sweating, and in pain. One contestant in the skateboarding (or something, I'm not much into sports) even had lidocaine injected into her injured knee in order to participate. I'm motivated. Gonna do it (the tank, not skateboarding)!

Actually, it's not the heat and pain that slows me down, it's the failure of my joints to move at my command. So far I haven't taken anything for it, but I might have to. It worries me some because I pushed my thumbs doing rock work when I first built the oasis (1996) and they haven't worked right since. By the time I finished the rock work I couldn't even hold a glass of water. I wasn't concerned. I figured a few days of rest and they'd be good as new. Not so. One thumb still pains me all the time. The other one quit hurting a couple of years ago, but doesn't work right. So it gives me pause.

As for the heat, I just work in the cool of the morning. It doesn't get hot before about 11 AM, by which time I'll be pooped anyway. Sometimes I can nap in the afternoon and go out to work in the late afternoon, but the problem is, I still have other chores to do too. Like water trees, fill feeders, prune, pull weeds, there's always tons to do. Watering in the spring takes at least one day per week. Ideally, I water 6 hours, twice a week, but being frugal with water, I try to reduce that to way less. Also must have time to photograph birds, butterflies, and dragonflies. Must!

I'm not too worried though because I can go slow, and if I don't finish by the time rains start, which may not even happen at all (perish the thought), or may not happen before July, whatever I have done will save a bunch of water. At most, it's a 40 day job. Even if I had 40 consecutive days to do it, my shoulder wouldn't let me, so I don't resent having to spend  3 days a week in town. We don't band hummers much in the spring so that won't be an issue either. I'll try to take a few selfies of me working in the tank as I go along.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Still getting the feel of coating the tank

Before having to come to Alpine today I determined to wear myself out working on the tank. It looks like two coats will be needed to be sure no pinholes are left. I accidentally put too much color in today's gallon. Pink elephant now. Oh, well, the new has worn off on that idea. I may just put it on white from now on. I hate that I lost two work days due to cold weather.

Now I can't go back until Thursday. And I was already sweating working in the tank today. Maybe we'll go straight from winter to summer this year. It wouldn't be the first time. The peach tree is budding out but nothing else is. I was afraid to water the apricot tree for fear it would bud out.

I need to get the tank cleaned out but I hate to double pump the water so haven't. I just pump it when I'm watering trees, but next time I go down there, I'm going to have to pump it into the other tank or I won't get finished with the coating before rainy season.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Winter banished from the oasis

Determined not to waste another day indoors, I dutifully went to work when it warmed up to around 50°. Unfortunately, it didn't take long to totally wear myself out. Somehow, I'll plug away and get that tank cleaned and coated. I put on the first gallon of Drylok coating today to see (1) if I would like the stuff and (2) if I could determine how much of it will be needed.

I like the stuff, and more so if it actually works. I figure between 25-40 gallons should do it. It costs $25 a gallon, so I'm estimating around $600, but not more than $1000. And wouldn't it be wonderful to have that tank full of water and not leaking? In case you're wondering, the directions on the Drylok said you could add concrete stain to the stuff, so I added a little color to keep it more interesting. Once the tank fills with water it will color itself anyway. That coloring has been taking up space on my shelves for over 20 years. Feels good to use some of it now and then. When I mix it into gray cement it makes the cement reddish brown, but it only pinkens the white coating.

I still have some water in the tank and lots of dirt. Sweeping it up and carrying the latter in buckets out of the tank is hard work too. But I'll be lucky to be able to afford the Drylok coating. Money to hire help is not an option. I don't mind the hard work, it's just my joints that don't cooperate. At this time, I don't plan on coating the top 2 feet. It doesn't leak any faster when the tank is full than when it's 2 feet down, so I don't think there's enough surface pressure up there to make a difference. I am sealing any cracks I find up high though. 

I can surely do at least one gallon every day that I'm at the oasis. So if I'm here 4 days a week, that means it shouldn't take me more than 2 months to finish, which is plenty of time before rainy season. Sometimes we get big rains in May, and with this weird weather lately, I need to be ready. But whatever percent I get coated is that much percent less leakage. It would be nice if I could find a hole causing the leakage and patch it soundly, but I'm convinced there isn't one. It's just millions of pin-holes.

Once I get the tank sealed, I plan to focus on getting the road improved.

I did a little work on one of the table benches. I plan to level and concrete the legs in place next trip to the oasis. I need something from town before I start that project though. Decided to just do two benches with 3 legs each instead of 3 benches with 2 legs each. That area doesn't get many people at one time.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Oh, no, a-Nother Norther!

This winter is never going to end. We're probably entering a new ice age. It's supposed to get down to near 10° tonight. Nevertheless, yellow and purple flowers are blooming everywhere.

I think the purple ones are Verbena. Too cold to go outside and photograph them. Maybe tomorrow.

I was determined not to waste precious time spent at the oasis, so I went searching for the perfect rock for a bench I'm making for a concrete table someone gave me.

I found what I thought was the perfect one in a canyon quite a ways from the house. I tied a rope to it and spent hours hauling it up out of the canyon and to the oasis, only to discover it was an inch too small for the concrete legs that came with the table. (The original concrete seats/benches were broken.) So I finally found a bigger rock near the house that would work. I made a ramp to get it into the pickup to take to the oasis. After a couple of hours I finally got it to the top of the ramp and when I went to swing it around into the pickup, it pushed the ramp aside and fell to the ground. I braced the ramp so that couldn't happen again and after another hour of freezing cold and biting wind, I got it into the pickup. It's still there. I've decided I need to concrete the legs into the ground before I put the rock on top of it. Not sure yet how I'll get the rock onto the legs. Will probably need help. Too miserable to take photos of that too. Ultimately, I plan to have 3 concrete seats at the table.

There was a beautiful sunrise as I drove from Alpine to the oasis early this morning.

About six weeks ago Kelly Bryan and I banded hummingbirds at Far Flung Outdoor Center in Study Butte. Quite a few observers were enjoying the session. Among them was one of the employees there, a river rafting guide named, Tony Flint. 

Tony on left

Now Flint has been arrested, and charged with the murder of the owner of nearby La Kiva. Very disturbing event. I didn't personally know either man, but I remember watching Gil Felts building his earth-sheltered La Kiva at the same time I was building my earth-sheltered house. He went about his project totally different than I went about mine.He was an artist and it was his artistic creation. Made of massive rhyolite boulders.

Then Gil died in 1990 and his teen-aged nephew, Glenn, took ownership of the place and had run it ever since. It's sort of a bar/club/restaurant where local musicians and others gather. Both men were well-liked in the community. A sad thing to have happened, for sure. The whole community is mourning.

UPDATE: Apparently both men were drunk and arguing when they left the bar after closing. Had one not died, neither would likely have remembered the next day that they had a fight. Drugs and alcohol are such a scourge in our country. So sad for both families.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed

I doubt many of you are old enough to remember when "bright-eyed and bushy-tailed" was a common expression. Sigh! Anyway, it seemed fitting at the critter cam last night. So many bushy-taileds to sort out. This first one is a Ringtail (Bassariscus astutus).

Followed by the ubiquitous Gray Fox.

For anyone not familiar with Ringtails, here's a photo I found of one on the internet.