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  • keith allen


It's time for a quick update though by the wix statistics, I believe I am the only one visiting my site. I should be more upset about that fact than I am but I suppose that as time and money permit, I'll source a professional web developer to get hits and ranking up. Like a lot of things on this path, it will have to wait.

There has however been slow, steady progress.

My wife and I (mostly her, ok, all her) bought an old metal building, 60x40' on 35 acres of salt brush, cactus, chimesa, sage and a one or two western junipers around Olney Springs, Colorado - population 496. I couldn't afford anything remotely industrial on the front range of Colorado so it was a last resort kind of thing but way better than renting because at least we'll have an investment if the solar robot goes belly up. (Yikes, do I jinx myself by uttering that!) Even given its remoteness, there was multiple parties interested but we agreed to $5k over the asking and got it.

It was built in the 70s. It is rodent infested with woefully inadequate light and insulation and this time of year the cold receives no push-back from entering the building. In the summer the heat switches places with the cold. There is no heat nor hot water but there is cold water and a bathroom and both require a water line heater this time of year. I bring the Sportsmobile down for four or five days at a time since it's 100 miles each way and the Ford V10 E-350 chugs gasoline even when I drive 10 below the limit. I sleep in the Sportsmobile under a mountain of blankets. On many occasions the bed side water bottle has frozen solid. I cook by camping stove. We purchased in the fall and I immediately set about fixing the place up knowing the winter would arrive in a hurry. It was an auto repair shop and had been vacant for 20-30 years. There was a mountain of parts from 70s and 80s era automobiles - plugs, filters, trim, glass, distributor caps, points, plug wires and the like. I put them on Craigslist but had no takers so ended up giving to a shop I sometimes frequent. Spilled hydraulic fluid on the floor from a broken jack had become peanut butter thick sludge over the decades that took days to remove. Dirt, filth and mice feces in such don't wanna know. There was an old Swisher I fixed up and it's now running; I'll need that to cut the tumble weeds next summer. There was an old snooker table in one corner that I sold for $600. Several drums of metal junk netted me $80. The priority was organizing and then patching the roof, fiberglass windows and the holes in the metal siding where thieves, now probably 40 or 50 years aged, had attempted to break in back in the day. The water line was disconnected - I reconnected. A large roll-up door was installed but the opening was half the size so I had to cut loose the 200 pound steel beam and raise 7' and clear the way for the door. I removed the mice poison and went to traps. I re-insulated parts of the ceiling, doors and walls but I'm still far from being done with that. There was an annoying outside street light that was on 24/7. I disconnected but the ranch as I now call it is still illuminated by the Crowley County Correctional facility a 1/4 mile away. (I wonder if they really need all those lights?) I left an old dead honey locust standing near the north entrance because mocking birds and western meadow larks seem taken with the carcass. One side of the building frame was rusted clean from the slab so I rejoined with tap-cons and a little welding. I have one neighbor that I can see and she works in the laundry department at the correctional facility during the day. The other neighbor whom I cannot see is Dave the rancher; he drops by for a beer every now and then. We keep it light since there are things about me that would probably annoy him and vise versa.

But it is a beautiful and tranquil place.

This time of year the snow geese fly up and down the Arkansas river valley in the mornings and afternoons. They fly in a much more unorganized fashion than Canadian geese of which I'm acquainted. Their passing always makes me pause and look up and I marvel at the wonderful spectacle and am thankful that it has not succumbed from the damage we've inflicted on the planet.

You know of the aforementioned birds and aside from the few magpies and crows and the occasional owl in the summertime, they are the only birds around. Looking north to the bluffs across the railroad tracks, you would expect to see buffalo and in earlier times they were common.

Coyotes can be heard on most nights when they've been successful on their hunts. Deer tracks occasionally cross the clay-mud flats but I've yet to see one. Big jack rabbits are plentiful.

Evenings and mornings at the ranch are best because of the photons get a few more miles of atmosphere to go through and because of it, shifting the colors hither and yon to the great delight of eyes. The Sangre de Cristoes in the distance loom large and I think of how excited the settlers when their eyes first fixed upon the mountains to the west.

At times I believe that Olney Springs is exactly what I and this endeavor needed.

The building (back to the building) has a winch hoist and a tall door to the south and a medium height door to the north. I would have the preferred the building taller but perfection is the enemy of progress. It has a large air compressor that works and an office which I'm going to tear out in the summer because the office walls are the impenetrable fortress of the mice. All this is to say that purchasing the building was a productive move in all regards. I purposely have not installed internet access: I believe its absence is directly responsible for my increased productivity and creativity. Certainly there are times I want it but the ability to focus is greatly strengthened by not having it. There is a True Value hardware store in Fowler some 4-5 miles away. I haven't tried the pizza joint yet but may treat myself when I reach some future milestone.

The end result of this acquisition is the near completion of a production version of a medium sized solar robot. It will be around 7-8kw, have a small to medium size battery bank and have a Level 2 EV car charger. Getting to this point was the result of checking off items from a rather large list. From the prototype final analysis (made just before covid - Feb 2020), I put together a list of 300 large changes I deemed were needed to make the robot ready for commercialization. Truth be told, those 300 changes turned into 30,000 because many high level design changes resulted in tens or hundreds of smaller low level changes. Despite the multiplication of changes, the unit is nearing completion both in the hardware and software realm. I am now fleshing out the robot with solar panels and equipment. I expect to be done in the spring whereupon I'll take the unit on a road show to as many places as physically possible (once I secure an appropriate vehicle and forklift).

Stay tuned and I promise to update more regularly.

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