Kai Staats: writing

From the Road

Home/From the Road/

A summer harvest

A spring harvest

The Cascabel Community Garden never ceases to amaze me with its prolific production of fresh produce, even as the summer temperatures set new high records. Our local community members apply their experience, skills, and labor year-round, with roughly three growing seasons and associated harvests. Today, following my morning run, I stopped by the garden to select onions, garlic, tomatoes, and the last pickings of leafy greens. The tallest of the tomatoes were started in my house in January, way ahead of the official season. When I moved to the Biosphere 2 to work on SAM the weekly watering was not ample to keep them from wilting on my window sill. Transported to the community garden greenhouse, they were well cared for and now stand over six feet tall, with juicy, sweet tomatoes on every vine.

If I could never again eat a store-bought tomato, I’d be a very satisfied person.

By |2021-07-21T17:07:37-04:00July 12th, 2021|At Home in the Southwest|Comments Off on A summer harvest

Space Radio with Dr. Paul Sutter

Astrophysicist Dr. Paul Sutter interviews SAM Director Kai Staats from within the Biosphere 2!

“This week on Space Radio I had the opportunity to catch up with my good friend Kai Staats. Kai joined us from the grounds of the University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2 as we talked about his newest project, Space Analog for the Moon and Mars. Among other topics, we discussed the removal of perchlorates from the Martian soil and how Methane could potentially be used.” — Dr. Sutter

By |2021-06-12T21:38:59-04:00June 10th, 2021|Ramblings of a Researcher|Comments Off on Space Radio with Dr. Paul Sutter

Snowfall in Cascabel, a photo essay

Woodpeckers in snow, by Kai Staats

There is something magical about snow in the desert. It’s unexpected, often rare. Last night we went to sleep to the sound of rain on the steel roof. Sometimes soft, like sleet. Sometimes hard as the water hardened to hail. This morning the sound was clearly unique, that of a dusting across the windows and corrugated metal sheets, the sound that only snow can make.

We set out by foot, to the end of my land, down into the San Pedro basin, and up the far west side. The goal was to overlook the entire valley from that higher vantage point, but the snow didn’t let up and the visibility remained low. We walked back down into the San Pedro, past the three ranches on the far side, and then south up Page Canyon. Three miles in the flakes grew larger, wet, and sticky. Every few minutes we were shaking off the build-up on our hats, gloves, jackets and eyebrows.

I’ll never outgrow the desire to romp in the snow as puppies do in their first winter. The smell, the sound, the crisp taste of the air. And today, that rare desert phenomenon came to Cascabel. Thank you Colleen for sharing the magic with me.

Woodpeckers in snow, by Kai Staats Snow in the San Pedro, by Kai Staats

Snow in the San Pedro, by Kai Staats Snow in the San Pedro, by Kai Staats

Saguaro in Snow, by Kai Staats The Abominable Snowwoman Colleen by Kai Staats

By |2021-02-02T12:35:35-04:00January 26th, 2021|At Home in the Southwest|Comments Off on Snowfall in Cascabel, a photo essay

The construction of SAM begins!

SAM at B2 with Trent Tresch and Kai Staats

After two and a half years in research and development, networking and team building, chasing dollars and fund raising, this is the day we can officially say, “SAM IS BEING BUILT!”

SAM is a hi-fidelity, hermetically sealed analog and research center composed of a crew quarters, airlock and hub, and greenhouse with temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide level controls. When complete, SAM will include a half-acre Mars yard for pressure suit, tool use, and rover tests. Located at the world renowned Biosphere 2 outside of Oracle, Arizona SAM is built around the original Test Module, a 480 cubic meter sealed greenhouse with automated, gravity-fed pressure regulation system designed and built by Taber MacCallum, William Dempster, and fellow Biospherians in 1987.

This week I have moved from my residence in Cascabel, Arizona to the Biosphere 2 where I fully anticipate long, back-to-back days of physical labor and further development of this exciting program. It is likely that my own blog entries will be few and far between for the coming year, but I will be posting regular updates about our progress at samb2.space/blog/.

I hope to see you there!

SAM at B2, lung repair with Trent Tresch SAM at B2, lung repair with Trent Tresch

SAM at B2, lung repair with Trent Tresch SAM at B2 with Trent Tresch and Kai Staats

By |2021-06-13T19:58:50-04:00January 20th, 2021|Ramblings of a Researcher|Comments Off on The construction of SAM begins!

Nothing quite like a wood burning stove

Wood burning stove

David Omick installing a wood burning stove, photo by Kai Staats A year ago today my neighbor and good friend David and I completed installation of a wood burning stove in my Arizona wilderness home. My electric bill dropped by more than 50% overnight, and my deep satisfaction with a fully renewable energy source remains unquantified by percentage or monetary value.

With 17 acres of mesquite forest, a maul, and a weekly workout, the main floor of my house is heated with the radiant heat of a single stove. As expressed in The axe and the fire, the manual preparation of wood for heating a home is gratifying in ways difficult to describe. Yes, it’s hard work. Yes, it takes time. And it is intentional, meditative, and a good workout that makes one truly appreciate warmth felt.

David Omick installing a wood burning stove, photo by Kai Staats David Omick installing a wood burning stove, photo by Kai Staats

By |2021-07-26T19:58:35-04:00January 18th, 2021|At Home in the Southwest|Comments Off on Nothing quite like a wood burning stove

Breaking restraint

There is a deep pain in seeing human lives restrained, and a
tremendous joy when those restraints are broken through education,
interaction, and the pursuit of dreams.

By |2020-11-14T11:50:12-04:00November 14th, 2020|The Written|Comments Off on Breaking restraint

Apples and Cheese

Mostly, I place the slide of cheese on top of the apple slice.

The soft cheese presses against the roof of my mouth while my tongue enjoys the cool, sweet flavor below.

Sometimes, I flip it over and the savory flavor is met first, the sweet crunch a moment later.

Just one slice of cheese and one slice of apple, but a completely different experience.

Then there is peanut butter, hummus, and melted baker’s chocolate, but that is another post for another time.

By |2020-10-31T17:24:55-04:00October 31st, 2020|At Home in the Southwest|Comments Off on Apples and Cheese

If a finch could fly faster

Would the finch donning a strap-on propeller evade the claws of the hawk or eagle?

Would the tuna sporting a motorized fin and AI controlled rudder escape the stomach of a dolphin?

Would the earthworm find more fertile soil if it was able to employ ground-penetrating radar?

Does dominion over the natural world grant us a sense of superiority and control?

The hawk would be forced to shift its diet to those prey yet within its reach, as all species have had to do over time. But if the trend spread quickly, and all birds under the watchful eye of hawks, eagles, and owls were to escape most encounters relatively unharmed due to hi-tech gear acquired on low interest rate loans, the ecosystem would collapse for the uncontrolled proliferation of those that consume insects and seeds and the inevitable demise of their food source too. Only the vulture would benefit, in the short term, until a new balance was found.

Coyotes with Kevlar body armor would stand fearless against the rancher. Mountain lions with pepper spray and tasers would no longer take refuge in trees against hunting dogs. And the lowly rat would dominate the human house if its teeth were reinforced with diamond-carbide coatings, enabling concrete block, drywall panels, and wire mesh a mere time consuming annoyance.

Yet, with each improvement, with each upgrade, the rapid altering of a balance defined by millions of years declares no winner, only those who lose. When will we be OK with what we have, finding joy in the speed of our own two legs, the strength of our own two arms, and focus instead on the development of our heart and minds?

By |2020-11-10T21:59:11-04:00August 10th, 2020|Critical Thinker, Humans & Technology|Comments Off on If a finch could fly faster

Walking in the ripples of the rain, a photo essay

San Pedro running, Galiuros standing, by Kai Staats

In the desert, the rain seldom arrives in a subtle manner, quietly or over the course of hours. Rather, it obliterates the sun within minutes, a bold, dark mass that hides something sinister. At the leading edge of the billowing clouds is a swirling mass of cool, moisture ladened air. A simultaneous sense of excitement and dread is carried by a deceptive, playful greeting. Soon, that same wind is breaking branches and tossing loose sheets of metal into neighboring pastures. Bold strokes of light rise from points unseen, echoed by melodramatic rumbles that awake toads for a twelve hours mating ritual.

Just before sunset, blue skies chase black past the horizon and the rivers run as though they were never without water, only a memory of dry sand a few hours earlier.

Walking in muddy waters, by Kai Staats Hand in hand with the San Pedro, by Kai Staats

The mighty, muddy San Pedro at Cascabel, by Kai Staats Ripples of the San Pedro, by Kai Staats

Deer at the confluence of the San Pedro and Paige rivers, by Kai Staats Paige, San Pedro confluence, by Kai Staats

By |2020-07-28T02:07:14-04:00July 28th, 2020|At Home in the Southwest|Comments Off on Walking in the ripples of the rain, a photo essay

This is how it begins …

We look the other way, not wanting to get involved.
We voice our opinion, but only to those who agree and listen.
We grow accustomed to the new norm, forgetting how things were.
We ignore the signs that history is repeating, believing we are different than before.

 Erosion of the cor    ners of the foundation,
  cracks that grow    from within.
   Bricks removed,   one by one,
  and the mortar re   turns to sand.

This is how we collapse.
This is how we crumble.
This is how the dictator
turns democracy into rubble.

By |2020-07-28T17:57:41-04:00July 19th, 2020|The Written|Comments Off on This is how it begins …