Sunday, July 22, 2012


Here in nebulous part of  Texas where I live, it's back to being hot hot hot again. Up in the 100's today, with high high high humidity and nolo in the wind department. It's down in the 80's now, with a slight breeze blowing that is actually on the cooler side.  This past week, we had several inchs of rain, and although it needs to keep-a-coming for the rest of the foreseeable future, we're happy with the rain we've been getting this year compared to the drought last year.

I always liked the song HEAT WAVE , first done (afaik) by Martha and the Vandellas in a swinging style with "that" snare drum that I can hear in my head anytime I think of their version. Some years later, Linda Ronstadt did an excellent rockin' version as well. Even the Phil Collins version is tolerable, although I guess after more than forty years I'm used to a female belting it out. Because this song HAS to be belted out to rock.

Of course, on Ronstadt's version, you've got the super talented...the late, great  multi-instrumentalist Andrew Gold, and an "A" list of stars in their own right, some notorious and highly talented Hollywood session men and members of various top bands and their touring groups, like  Personnel: Linda Ronstadt (vocals); Emmylou Harris (vocals, guitar); Andrew Gold (acoustic & electric guitars, musette, piano, organ, drums, percussion, background vocals); Peter Asher (acoustic guitar, musette, percussion, background vocals); J.D. Souther (acoustic guitar, background vocals); Eddie Black, Danny Kortchmar (electric guitars); Lowell George (slide guitar); Dan Dugmore (steel guitar); Herb Pedersen (banjo, background vocals); David Lindley (fiddle); David Grisman (mandolin); Jim Connor (harmonica); Glen D. Hardin (piano); Kenny Edwards (bass, background vocals); Nigel Olsson, David Kemper, Russell Kunkel (drums); Maria Muldaur, Don Francisco, Pat Henderson (background vocals).
I don't know which of the above-personnel from that album that Heat Wave appears on played on the song with Linda, but it hardly matters with the class of folks on that disc. I'm a big fan of more than one of the above artists, guys like David Lindley, the late Lowell George, David Grisman, Nigel Osson,  Russ Kunkel, Maria Muldaur, J.D. Souther and Danny Kortchmar. I'm sure the other musicians are of similar caliber to the ones I'm familiar with, but the ones I've named are ones that I've often tracked down obscure releases of over the years.

For example, Kunkle played a time for Jimmy Buffett, and Believe produced or co-produced some of JB's work. Muldaur's first album containing the hit "Midnight at the Oasis" was played by a another laundry list of fine session, touring and band members.  David Lindley and El Rayo X has always been great, and he's great to see as an acoustic act as well.  Who doesn't know the drumming of Nigel Olssen from Elton John's glory days? Last but not least, the session work of Kortchmar, the many bands of Souther, the jazz stylings of Grisman and the amazing catalog of work with Little Feat with the late Lowell George crooning.

So I was outside early this morning painting a HUGE new shelving unit and by 8 a.m. it was sweat and swelter, as my friend and former roommate California Bob used to say about Houston, before he fled Houston forever for the West and later East Coasts and cooler climes.

The humidity made the paint take forever to dry, despite the wood virtually sucking up nearly 2 gallons of paint and taking three HEAVY  coats to get the kind of good shiny coverage I wanted, including using a heavy coverage primer as the first coat.

Then came assembling some large IKEA bookcases, which got much easier after the first one. We have a lot of books. Four bookcases later, with one to go in the morning and another vertical DVD case for the wall, it'll be time to paint the trip and cabinetry after recent housewide remodeling. Painting the trim throughout the house after repainting the kitchen, laundry room, hallways, and entry, we've still got bedrooms to go,new ceiling fans to install and a plethora of other projects for the office and baths as well. And some cabinetry on the back patio.

The tough stuff is done, and since it's indoors at least we have the AC going, but that doesn't mean you're not sweating profusely because you're working hard, like my home AC unit's are working hard.

I have one HUGE AC or HVAC or whatever it is unit for the house. Athough 85% of the year it is more than adequate, when the heat waves hit it can struggle as we have a lot of windows and live in a historic house. Insulation is good but not great.  

Last summer, I took a friend's advice and since we were the benefactor of a pretty huge window unit AC from the Maid of Honor at our wedding who had just replaced it with a more powerful unit, we added it to the bedroom in the back of the house. It can't be seen from the street because of fencing and it really helps keep the house cool. It gives us one super cool room to hide in at the heat of the day and helps cool the rest of the house meaning the house stays cooler and the main AC doesn't have to work as hard or as much or as often as it does when going solo.

So the end result is that our electricity bills went down about $100 a month with the window unit added and some judicious use of floor fans to get hot air from the living room and hallway to the AC returns. I'm thinking of adding some of the higher tech window units to several parts of the home, as although it is vented via the attic for modern AC and that's what we have, there are a couple of rooms that just are hot rooms in the summer.

These higher tech units apparently go outside under the window and are very low profile not sticking out like a window unit at all. Either a hose or the top of the unit pokes in through a window opened 6" or 8" or so providing AC. Mrs. El Fisho saw a "in-room" unit for about $300, that is, an AC that resides completely inside the home, and that might be getting got tomorrow for our newly remodeled living room.

The key I think is that the window unit and these other units run on 110 instead of 220, thus the energy usage is less because of the lesser voltage draw. All I know is, I like a temperate house in a heat wave. We've put in new, more energy efficient ceiling fans that crank out and move some serious air, so we've really increased the comfort factor in our home the past year of working on it.

I know the same kind of heat wave is gripping large parts of the country like it did us here in Texas last year. My sympathies to those coping with heat waves and/or droughts and/or wildfires. We had all three last year. It's tragic. God Speed a return to healthy and safe living and condolences for those who passed on in the Colorado fires.

If I had my way, I'd be like the fellow who has the cool house in California called Rimrock Ranch and have a steel roof built over my house to shade it. He's in the desert, and yet his home stays about 70 year round with little or no assistance from an AC unit in the daytime heat. I'm not sure what kind of heating he uses, but has a sub-roof under a huge heavy duty metal roof covering that shades the entire house.

They do this in West Texas on trailers, and perhaps on houses, to keep the unrelenting sun and winds at bay. I'm sure they have a name for it but I don't know what it is. It would be a tremendous platform for not only a huge rainwater water collection system but also solar cells and a solar water heating system.

We had a solar hot water heating system for a long while at our last home, and it worked well. Our neighbor has a two tiered rain collection system. One tank collects water that is first filtered fairly well, then run through a purification system for storage in  sterile tank in the home. The other larger amount of runoff collected goes in a huge outside tank where it automatically waters the urban farmer garden yard of my neighbor and keeps her place fairly green and lush without having to use a water well.

I've got one large shaded area in my backyard next to the shed/workshop  that just won't grow grass. For many years, we've tried carpet san augustine, seeds, plugs and all kinds of other grasses guaranteed to grow in the mostly shade in this area and the only one remotely successful has been some spotty growth of bermuda grass. So I'd like to dig it up all that, put down a liner, fill it in with some nice crushed pink granite gravel for trim and sidewalks and some big white Texas limestone as a flooring, put up a simple roofed, screened shelter replete with ventilation for a good BBQ pit, smoker, a woodburning stove for the colder times   and whatever else I might want to have out there. A nice table and comfortable chairs with a couple of HUGE old school ceiling fans would make a nice outdoor lounging spot. While building the shelter, a nice table with a big umbrella would get the job done.

Finally, the other idea I've been entertaining is another one I saw in the LA TIMES (where I spotted the Rimrock Ranch feature a few years ago). An above ground swimming pool made from a large metal cattle tank. About 4 foot deep, maybe 5 foot. You have a conventional pool pump and all that, but instead of paying $30k to have some guy dig a hole in your yard and drop a preformed pool in said hole, you spend much less for an arguably cool pool.


  1. Good rain, great music and I learned a thing or two besides! Where do you get the energy for all the projects?

    There were a few days last summer I thought about trying to repair and fill an old stoick tank we had here. It would have been enough to hold my hubby and I with a grandkid or two added in! This summer is humid, but not as hot. Gardens going well, but projects on hold until cooler weather.

  2. My wife finds the energy for me, Helene. HA!

    I've just added your blog to my roll. I had never seen it before but saw it on Zach's site.

    Hope you're getting as much rain as we are. You're about 80-100 miles east of us. We all need what we can get.

  3. Tha rain has been sporadic. I have found energy for MY husband to drag hoses and water gardens.Dr. says he needs more exercise.

    My blog was laying fallow while we dealt with some health problems my hubby has. I'm back and writing again. Thanks for adding it to your roll!