Tip for the day — Tame those pesky caliche dust bunnies!

As I’m sitting here looking out the window tonight, we have a cold front descending upon us and the winds are kicking up and gusting from 40-45 mph. It takes a lot to shake the Silver Bullet and she is certainly shaking tonight!

As I see dust devils forming and swirling all around us, I thought of how I solved a particular situation regarding my lids for leftover containers.

Last week, Bob was getting a container out to put some leftovers into and noticed the lids (which sit in an open basket on the roll-away butcher block stand) had a film of caliche dust on them. He asked me if they were safe to use or if he should wash them all. Actually, he asked it I should wash them all but… never mind.

I told him that most of them had been washed recently, but they seemed to be a magnet for this incessant dust. I don’t have room in the cabinets to put them and no drawer space available for them either. Sooooooo…

I had a brain storm (Bob says they are brain clouds but we won’t go there right now).

We have an expanded queen Sleep Number bed and we love it. But that size is not common at all so it’s impossible to find sheets to fit it in the store. Besides, I love the way Sleep Number makes their bedding accessories and the quality of their sheets. I also love the way they pack their sheets… in a heavy-weight, zippered plastic bag.

Before I continue, the reason I needed to order a second set of sheets if because it’s almost impossible to keep one lonely set clean when someone is usually sleeping on them. With our shifts on this job, the bed is never empty for vert long. And even with our own washer/dryer, it’s hard to have enough time to get the sheets done up before the next sleep shift.

So I finally ordered a second set of sheets from Sleep Number.

I don’t know about you, but I never want to throw away those neat bags with zippers on them, but I never know what to do with them either… until now!

Dust-free lids... just a matter of recycling 😀

As I pulled the sheets out of their zippered bag, an idea hit me. Wash & dry all the lids in the basket (including my measuring cups) and give them a dust-free home inside this bag. It sits well in the same spot on the roll-around table so they are handy. Best thing is they are always clean. Even the lids to my biggest containers fit with ease. And all I had to do was recycle the bag the sheets came in. A FREE solution. Can’t beat that!

Hope this tip is of use to you. I welcome you to share any tips you may have that would be useful to others. Just leave a comment to this post and all the people who follow the Blue Heron blog can benefit from your experiences.

Till next time,


One more thing… as you know, we are working a twin gate here on the ranch. A couple of weeks ago we got new neighbors. Jerry & Charlene are delightful people! They are originally from Amarillo and have been full-timers for about 5-years now. We’ve chatted over the fence many times since they arrived. When Bob went to town today, I decided to go visit. We have slowed way down and it’s nice to have the time to go next door and visit with our neighbors.


Ranting and thankfulness…

Now that things have slowed down around here and the caliche dust has settled a bit (a good portion of it in our coach), I’ve had time to reflect on the last nine weeks here at the ranch.

We learned a valuable lesson on this, our first gate guarding job. If you are going to work two fracing wells, get paid extra or turn the job down. You know, our gate guarding company pays people extra when they have two drilling wells, but not for the fracing… at least not here in south Texas it seems. I’ve heard, from a reliable source, that on the Barnett Shale they did pay more for multiple fracing wells. Don’t know why it’s different down here? No reason in my opinion. Just sayin…

With two fracing wells we were logging in over 125 trucks in & out every day (up until last week). Going to the bathroom was a risky proposition… and yes, sometimes we did get caught. The couple next door to us (on a twin gate) had a new drilling rig… a single one. They had 1/5th the traffic we had and they worked for a company that pays more to begin with. That was a bummer for us!

Okay, my rant is over. Now that I have that off my chest (so to speak), I’d like to share that we have met some truly great people. I have several “gate guarding” friends whom I’ve never met but we have a good cyber/phone/blog relationship.

People around these parts are very friendly and helpful. Since we cook and eat natural and healthy foods, no processed food in my kitchen, I do a lot of mail-order for my ingredients. It’s hard to find the items I want in regular stores in larger cities. In Cotulla or Carrizo Springs, Texas, just as well forget about it 😀

The problem I encountered at first was where to have my mail order items sent to. Most businesses use UPS or FedEx. They won’t ship to a P.O. Box or General Delivery. At first I had everything come to my daughter and she would repack it and ship it on to me via USPS Priority Mail. That got to be expensive because I was paying shipping costs two times.

Then I received a great tip from one of our gate guarding colleagues. The Ace Hardware store in Cotulla will receive UPS & FedEx deliveries as long as your telephone number is listed somewhere on the package. This is great customer service. It uses the Hare Krishna principle—if I give you something, you will feel compelled to return the kindness and do something for me.

It works!

Every time we go to pick up packages at Ace, we always manage to need something and it does not matter what it is, they seem to have it. Now to look at the store on the inside, you would never guess they have such a variety or are so well stocked. For example, Bob lost a screw out of his glasses. He used dental floss (he’s such an inventor) to hold it all together, but it wasn’t  a long-term solution.

So last week as I went to town, he asked me to see if they had an eye-glass repair kit at Ace. I truly doubted they would have such a thing… I was wrong…  they did. I was shocked! And they are always extremely friendly there. They certainly know how to keep you coming back.

When I went to the post office to pick up our mail, I needed to open the hood of the car so I could shut it better. It seems that somehow, probably the rough caliche roads, the latch shifted and all the way to Cotulla, on I-35, my hood was vibrating up and down. I kept the speed down… it made me nervous (actually it freaked me out).

I was struggling to find the little lever to push on so I could get the hood unlatched. Suddenly, this little old man came up to me and asked if I needed some help? (Wasn’t at all obvious—right!) To which I replied, “I sure could use some help.” He found the lever in two seconds and had the hood all squared away in short order.

Next stop, Super S for a few supplies. While there I met another gate guard. We talked for a while before we checked out and headed back to our respective posts.

I find it interesting to talk to the other people who are out here doing what we do. I know for us, economy is a big reason why we are here. From what I hear from others, that’s the biggest reason most of us are out here. Duh! Not exactly a resort atmosphere in the south Texas outback! With that said, this job does grow on you.

After almost nine weeks on this 3-day job (don’t know where that came from… the day we were asked by our FS if we’d take this position, he said we would only be there for three days) we have gotten to know several company men, truckers, signal guys, roustabouts, and most of them are just hard-working, salt of the earth people.  They have families and they work very long hours. Just like we do. Also, our GGS guy, David, takes wonderful care of us. He cares a lot about his people and it shows!

There is one interesting observation I’d like to share with you. Being between Cotulla and Encinal has an advantage. It hardly ever rains here. For nine weeks we’ve watched the radar and all the rain seems to either form over us and drop all of the rain in San Antonio and points east, or rain comes up from Mexico (thank goodness I have not seen anything else come up from Mexico), splits when it gets here, then comes back together after it gets past us.

For the weather and the people, I’m thankful. It’s a lot easier to get around in the caliche  when it is dry instead of sloshing in the goo when it is wet!

Till next time,


Why are we here?

No, this is not going to be a post about the philosophy of our devine purpose here on earth. Not even close.

Sunrise in the drilling fields. If I was writing about devine things, this would be a great picture for that!

Beautiful sunset over the ranch...

Instead, I’ve decided to offer a few tips or insights about being a gate guard and what that means… what is expected of us… what we must do to succeed… and what we must NOT do so we can avoid the kiss of death–getting fired.

Before I get into this, I want to update you about what is happening on our gate(s). #1 is finished with the frac stage. Once they got it going, it rolled right along without a hitch. Coil Tubing is cleaning out the hole as I write this. They are a great bunch of fellows!

Yesterday in the wee hours of the morning, the fracing rigs all left the well head and lined up to exit the ranch. There were frac trucks lined up as far as the eye could see!

Frac trucks as far as the eye can see... heading out of the ranch.

We have new neighbors. Our old neighbors were not asked to follow their drilling rig after all. Instead, they were dismissed. I’m not surprised. They never did embrace working two shifts, and the woman did most of the work. She didn’t get around well and she would try to catch up on her sleep at night, either in her truck or in a chair in her rig.

Most nights people would run back and forth over her bell cord (it worked because I could hear it ring over here), honk, and often end up opening the gate before she even opened up her door… if she made it out at all. The company who hired them lost that contract as well. Not too surprising…

The new neighbors moved in right after the previous team left. They are here for the fracing of the well, only one well on their site. So far, they seem to be “johnny-on-the-spot” in tending their gate. I can’t wait to meet them.

Which brings me to my point of this post… Why are we here?

I know this is our first assignment so I’m not a “seasoned” expert, but I do have a good work ethic and know how to perform a job as I’m expected to do and paid to do.

As I’ve said before, we are on a hunting ranch so the gate must remain closed at all times, except for when we are letting people in and out. I know we are expected to answer the gate in a very timely manner. In our case we keep a pretty good vigil looking out our windows because we have a 100+ foot walk from our door to the gate (one way). Fortunately we both move around well so getting out the door and to the gate is not hard for us to do quickly.

I keep two things in mind in this job. First, time is money for these guys. They have a lot of work to do and sitting at the gate waiting for the guard to wake up is very frustrating, I’m sure. Second, and this is extremely important, always answer the gate like the company man (CM) or the Rancher is at the gate.

That second point is so important because you never know who is at your gate until you get out there. And the two people who can get you canned and very quickly are the CM or the Rancher. If you think they don’t know how you are doing, think again. As I said, drilling workers are hard workers and they have no patience for their gate guard keeping them waiting while they “catch up on sleep.” Many times these guys work long hours and the work they do can turn hazardous in an instant. Cut them some slack…

On a lighter note (and stepping down from my soapbox), meet our newest pet… well, visitor anyway! A roadrunner who is not afraid of people. He circles around our area several times a day.

A very friendly Texas Roadrunner! I wonder how he avoids Wylie Coyote?

Update:  With our two wells all fraced and getting ready for production, things are slowing down a bit. It is nice to be able to catch our breath.

Our wells will have a flare on each site. #2 has one already. It amazes me how big this flare can be. I can hear it roaring all the way up to our rig. I can only imagine how loud it is closer to it. Bob was joking with the CM about using his hot dog fork and having a weiner roast. The CM said he better hope the wind does not shift!

Now that's a big candle!

That’s all for now…

Till next time,


There’s an app for that…

Watch out world… Lily is trying to make her escape! I used to dub my son James, Dennis the Menace. And for good reason, we could not take our eyes off of him for a second or he’d be up to something mischievous.

My daughter, Bobbi, is now raising a female version of “Dennis.” Her name is Lily. She is constantly thinking of what she can do next… she never stops!

Quick... Mommie is not looking so let me pull up this chair and see if I figure out how to get this door open and make my escape! Got it, but the chair is in the way...

Last week, they went to a Chinese restaurant to eat. The place was not crowded so when Lily finished eating, Mommie let her take her sippie cup and sit in the booth behind them. When Mom went to check on Lily, she was standing on top of the table with a bottle of soy sauce in one hand and pepper shaker in the other. She was having FUN!

Since Bob and I both have iPhones, one of our favorite sayings is, “There’s an app for that…” Well, when I got up for my shift today he was grinning from ear to ear. He was mighty proud of the app he found, especially since the crew had just used a term he did not know about.

So he went to the Apps icon and searched for Schlumberger. What he found was an app for their oilfield glossary. It is cool. And, it is FREE 😀

So now when you hear a term when you are at the gate, pull out your smart phone and look it up. There really is an app for that!

Till next time,