Saturday, October 29, 2011

Gopher...

We have an office in our house that allows Eva and I to sit and surf the net (do we still say that these days?) simultaneously while hearing the TV randomly increase in volume from the living room.  This is sort of a weekend ritual.  Me checking up on the blogs I follow, her checking up on Facebook friends and plowing imaginary fields on a cyber farm somewhere in the ether.

Not everything is equal in our office.  I have the larger 23 inch computer screen facing one wall (which I'm very comfortable with) and she has the smaller laptop screen, but she faces the window which provides a great view of the lot next to ours, complete with morning deer and a strict accounting of the occasional cars that pass by our house.  The surfing is occasionally interrupted by laughter - a funny comment by a Facebook friend which must be shared or a picture of some poor idiot doing something stupid caught and preserved forever on the Internet.

This morning, just as I got up to go refill my coffee, the sound of the blaring TV was interrupted by a loud, steady and firm, "GET YOUR FREAKIN' GUN!".  Of course my first reaction, having seen one too many episodes of Bordertown: Laredo, was that some members of the cartel were on our property and it was time to bust out The Judge!  In fact, it turned out that she was witnessing a gopher defile our sand before her very eyes. 
Sure as shit, the little gopher was popping up his head and if I'm not mistaken, he was looking at me.  Deciding the handgun might be slightly overkill, I grabbed the Crossman air rifle and immediately began pumping.  My goal was, one shot, one kill, of course. 

Note to self: I need to spray some WD-40 on the back door hinges.  I think this may have given Mr. Gopher a clue that I was on the way.  Never the less, I arrived at the hole surrounded by a large mound and he no longer was popping his head out as freely as he was before.  For just a moment, I aimed at the top of the hole and was prepared to wait it out.  I mean, it wasn't two weeks ago that our neighbor up the street sat out in a lawn chair with a pellet gun and beer waiting for the perfect shot, so why couldn't I stand patiently for a minute or two?

Okay, I'm just not that patient.  I slowly moved into place and could see that there was a tiny flicker of sand coming from within the hole.  I shoved the barrel down and fired.  For good measure, I pumped the gun several more times and fired again.  No movement at all.  But I think this gopher is smart enough to avoid the efforts of  an impatient homeowner with new grass, so just to be sure, I decided to bring out the big guns.  No; not The Judge.
This is the device I purchased during the summer from True Value.  You connect it to the tailpipe of your car, then run a hose into the gopher hole.  I've always thought that if I were a gopher, I'd prefer this method of death over a BB to the snout.
Once inserted about a foot into the hole, I packed a little sand around the hose to seal things up, then turned on the truck. Of course, as I let the magic gas do its work, I patrolled the general area, Crossman at the ready, looking for any signs that Mr. Gopher was looking for an exit strategy. 
Lest you think I am a savage small animal killer, I will tell you that I have tried other options.  These little devils simply laugh at the poison pellets I drop down the hole.  My wife has been chewing mouthfuls of bubble gum, then spitting huge wads into the holes in an effort to cause the little guys to have a tummy ache.  And finally, we have installed these sonar devices that are supposed to keep the gophers from coming within 95 feet of them.
They emit this beeping sound about every 30 seconds.  The goofy thing is, you can actually hear it if you are within 15 feet of it, and of course, this makes dogs curious and want to dig it up to play with it!  Oh, and do they work?  Well, let's just say that yes, they have been somewhat effective, but we did have one pissed off gopher pop-up from its hole less than 6 inches from the thing.  So, I have succumb to BB's and tailpipe emissions to do the dirty work.

I'll let you know if I was successful or not.

Friday, October 28, 2011

HEB Plus in Lytle Opens...

I know, I know.  Is this about as Andy Griffith as it gets?  Next I'll be proclaiming excitement over the arrival of the new phone books and the publishing of our phone number complete with name and address!   But you just don't know how so very much we have been waiting for this day!

I can appreciate that in the eyes of many, HEB Plus is like the Super Walmart with only half the slave labor.  I also understand the whole thing about big stores moving into smaller towns and putting the trusty family store out of business.  But don't kid yourselves, we drove to San Antonio to shop at HEB Plus (and Walmart) anyway, so I don't feel like I'm doing anything but saving some gas.
So, we actually just went in to see the place but ended up spending over $100 on stuff for other people.  But it was fun and we got to see the place.  This is the view of the Pharmacy side.  The other entrance has the Texas Backyard garden center.
The first thing I noticed (aside from the huge crowd) was that all the cashier lanes were open.  Bonus!
Another point of interest is that they splurged on a full scale refrigerated section of beer.  The now closed regular HEB in Lytle had a disappointing offering of three or four choices of beer.  Since I'm not the prolific Milwaukee's Best Light drinker I once was, I'd like to shake things up once in a while with, I don't know, something besides Budweiser.  As a guy once said, I don't drink beer often, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.
When you aren't there just for the free samples and clean restrooms, you'll find that the HEB Plus in Lytle is set up fairly similarly to the rest of the HEB Pluses around San Antonio and elsewhere.  The aisles are wide, the place is bright and they have only made a few modifications to the floor layout that you would recognize at the Potranco and 1604 HEB Plus. 
The two main exceptions are the location of the garden center and the moving of the diner section.  You can grab some hot vittles and watch a baseball game near the produce section and then do your regular grocery shopping if you want.

There you have it.  I know, this hardly equates to Beavis and Butt-head returning to TV, but for us, it certainly will save us some time doing our Sunday shopping. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A 5-day Weekend Report: I'll Need Work to Rest...

Is it Wednesday already?  These weekends seem to fly by so fast, don't they?  Of course, I did take several days off from work so I could spend time with my daughter, but having a short work week (Thursday and Friday) will just add to the good time.

The festivities got started last Friday afternoon when my son made the trip down from OK City.  After work, I picked up Roxanne and her beau, Tyler, from the airport and we were on our way to an exciting weekend of car buying, eating, eating, jacuzzi time, and in case I didn't mention it, eating.
Saturday was the all important shopping for a vehicle day for my daughter.  She had been looking online and we had narrowed the selection down to a handful of Honda Pilot's.  I'll spare you all the details, but we ended up at Gillman Honda in Schertz and she got a good deal on a good vehicle. 
I hate car buying. There is a lot of waiting around and wasted time.  While we were waiting, we decided to go get lunch.  This is what a pound of catfish at Clear Springs looks like.  Needless to say, I didn't eat anything else for the rest of the day.
 Saturday night we had visitors including Mya the Bee's parents, niece Erica and her husband Michael.  Here is a great picture of Tyler, Roxanne, David, Erica and Michael. 
And the most important one of the bunch, Mya the Bee
On Sunday, my son had to make his way back to Oklahoma, but the rest of us headed downtown so we could show Tyler a few of the places he may have missed during basic training.  You've seen all the pictures before so I'll spare the Alamo, Tower and Riverwalk pictures.  I did think this was a fashionable look for the kids though.
And of course, one must eat when visiting San Antonio, so we took advantage of the hospitable folks at Lulu's on Main.  Is that a happy couple or are they just really hungry?  I'm thinking a lot of both!
There is good reason to be happy.  During the last year, these kids have spent a lot of time apart from family and friends.  Of course, our family has a great deal of appreciation for everyone who serves their country, especially when it means deploying 5,000 miles from the safety of home. This year, Tyler spent his time at a FOB in Afghanistan while Roxanne was thankfully in a safer place in Kyrgyzstan.  Regardless, we kept a yellow ribbon up waiting fro them to return.
On Sunday, it was time to take the ribbon down.  Every family should be so lucky.
On Monday, Tyler and I spent the afternoon playing 18 holes of golf out at Gateway Hills.  It has been years since I have played and it was so very nice to get out and enjoy such a beautiful October day on a great course.  That's me following a brilliant shot directly into some nearby woods where we can only assume there is a small animal using my Titleist for a pillow in his den.  Golf is one way to get exercise and humiliation simultaneously.  For a guy like me, it defeats the need to jog while wearing spandex.
We did have a moment of real excitement when Tyler tried to kill me.  This is an actual photo taken by me from the perceived safety of behind a golf cart.  What you can't tell from this frame is that a split second later, the ball in the picture hit the golf cart (yes, the golf cart I was standing behind) at full force.  Thankfully, my cat-like reflexes and a well placed 5-iron prevented the ball from actually striking me.  More importantly, I did not tinkle in my shorts as a lesser man might.

And it was on the cart ride to the fairway that Tyler, after repeatedly apologizing for trying to take my life, asked for my daughter's hand in marriage.  

On Tuesday, we took a long needed trip to Garner State Park.  This is the first time we made the trip from Natalia, and we actually drove down to Devine, picked up Highway 173 and drove straight into Hondo.  What a great drive, and it seemed like we saved some time, too.  
 On Hiway 127 from Sabinal to Concan, I took these pictures at about 78 mph.  I just love the views. 
 In my middle-aged crankiness, I simply hate the crowds at Garner found around Memorial Day and the summer months.  A Tuesday in October offers the spectacular views of of the river and the trees, and so very much peace a quiet.  Of course there are other people, but very few. 
This is the closest thing we have to a mountain here.  Many people call this No-Face mountain, but the official name is Old Baldy.  The part above the treeline is nearly flat rock giving it a bald appearance.  This has always been a destination for the kids to climb.  I'm sure I could still climb it myself, but after a day of golf, my knees preferred the relaxing feel of a comfortable lawn chair.  Of course, Roxanne and Tyler are still young and active enough for a good hike.  So while Eva and I enjoyed the quiet of the Frio River passing slowly by, the kids took a trip to the top of Old Baldy.
And one of them returned with a new rock!  You can imagine everyone was famished following all the excitement, and we stuffed ourselves with generous portions of barbequed chicken, sausage, burgers, potato salad and s'mores for dessert.  

Wednesday morning was the day we said goodbye to our temporary dog Panda.  Technically, she continues to be a dog, but she was only temporarily staying with us.  I think she could sense that it was time for her to get back in the car and make the long trip to New Jersey.  She rolled around in the new grass with extra zeal, and she and Gracie even played a little bit rougher the previous night.  Dogs know.
This morning, she actually seemed a little sad, but that might have been because we told her several times she had been voted off the island.
But once she was in the car, she was happy and ready to go.  And just like that, they were off.

*Aside from their feelings, no animals were harmed during this blog entry.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

There Goes the DQ...

My son was in town this weekend for a visit and had a hankerin' for a Blizzard from Dairy Queen.  I had to go gas-up my truck at the HEB, so I thought we could slip into the drive-thru and grab him one.
When we got there, we found that the DQ was closed!  What the?
Yesterday, we drove by and found the entire place was rubble.  The DQ is moving to a new location, I think over by the new hotel being built off I-35 northbound in Lytle

Hurry! We need a Blizzard!

Friday, October 21, 2011

My Own Private Yurt...

My daughter brought me a very fine piece of culture from Kyrgyzstan in the form of a small ceramic yurt.  If you believe Wikipedia, a yurt is like a little tent house.  Apparently, many Kyrgyz live in them.
So, you have to be asking yourself, why are two Kyrgy men peeking into the yurt?
Because they are perverts, that's why!

Of course, aside from having Roxanne home safe and sound, I could not have asked for a better souvenir.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Jethro Bowl...

I was driving home this afternoon and happened upon an interesting object of interest.
Doesn't this look like something Jethro Bodine would haul around on the back of the Beverly Hillbillies family truck?
 Every once in a while I have a hankerin' for a small bowl of ice cream as a little treat while watching TV.  This ought to do. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

New Header...

So I have been subscribing to this daily e-mail from a company called Woot.  They send out an e-mail every morning highlighting a few good deals they are trying to sell, but in the first few months I've been receiving the e-mails, nothing really has caught my fancy.  Then, just the other day, I saw they were pushing the soon to be (if not already) discontinued Cisco Flip camera.  With shipping and such, I think the total cost was around $45.00, so I bought one.  Fear not, I will not be providing you with well produced video pod casts examining every detail in full high definition of the latest cheeseburger to find its way to my belly.
But, this little random purchase did provide my wife with some excitement this morning.  The conditions were perfect with a slight morning fog rolling through Forest Woods at breakfast time for a bunch of (I think that is the proper nomenclature for at least 8) deer enjoying a light snack.  She grabbed the Flip camera and proceeded outside to commence filming the beautiful sight.
 Of course, this is where you would expect me to insert the footage of the deer Eva captured in living color, but alas, either the zoom is just not that great, or she will have to work on her walking closer to the subject technique.   But, her excitement about the deer on the Flip did remind me about the deer-cam I have set up, so I walked out and grabbed the SD card and selected a few good shots. 

And of course, I decided to change up the header on the blog page. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Safe and Sound...

Our daughter Roxanne made it home to New Jersey without incident this morning, from her deployment to Manas in Kyrgyzstan.   This was quite a positive way for her to wind down her stint in the Air Force and Eva and I could not be prouder of her.
 Our thanks to everyone for the kind words, prayers and care packages she received during her stay.  

*No local nationals were injured during the posing with the huge gun.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

More Grass, More Rain, More Than This...

Okay, the More Than This part, I just had to throw in because I simply love that song.  I could have written, More, More, More but I'm just not feeling an Andrea True Connection moment.  And since I've lost most of you with these references, I'll just move right along.


------<<<>>>------

I'm attempting to recover from a near week long illness of sorts.  I think most of the symptoms would be identifiable with the common cold; congestion, lots of phlegm, occasional fever, and the urge to be planted on a recliner in front of the TV, occasionally waking up to fast forward the DVR through the commercials that for some inexplicable reason make the volume increase automatically.  Just a little side note here, but if the FCC was really in place for the interests of the American public, they would worry less about wardrobe malfunctions and more about letting the owner of the TV control the volume, not those greedy businesses who only want the people watching the shows they sponsor to actually hear the commercials they are paying for.  The nerve.

And just another side note about TV.  Am I the only person in the world who thinks that Ashton Kutcher is just not doing it for me as a replacement for Charlie Sheen on Two and a Half Men?  Clearly, I have too much time on my hands.  I could be outside right now Occupying San Antonio, and here I worry about the quality of a half hour comedy.

------<<<>>>------

If you have stayed reading this long, you are probably ready to hear about the grass.

At about 5:30 Saturday morning, we woke up to lots of thunder and heaver rain.  I was pretty happy about that because it meant that the sand would be wet when the delivery of 10 pallets of grass came in at 7:30. The forecast said we had a good chance of rain later in the day, but the morning was expected to be fairly uneventful.

There was only a slight sprinkle as I stood in the driveway and watched the Moretti truck stop at the end of our street.  At first, I thought maybe he wasn't sure of our street, but as I looked a little closer, I could see that he had stopped to let two deer move along.  The larger deer easily jumped a fence and raced off into the property across from our house.  The second smaller deer jumped repeatedly into the fence, unable to get the height needed to make it safely over the barbed wire that runs across the top.  It wasn't long ago that my neighbor had to cut one of the smaller deer out of the fence when it got hung up in the wire.  I was hoping we would not have to do the same.  Eventually, the little deer gave up on ramming itself into the fence and decided to run past the truck and make its way up to a gate that it could easily slip through.  And, let me get my grass.
And about the time the pallets were coming off the truck, it started pouring down really hard. And then stopped.  Our plan was to finish the front part of the yard out to the fence so when we look out the front windows, we see lawn instead of sand.  We also wanted to get at least to the edge of the house so it will at least look like we have a plan.  Sodding the entire front yard is just not an option, not as long as I'm part of the labor force!  Last week, putting down 6 pallets of grass with the help of a neighbor seemed reasonable.  This week, even with the help of our neighbor again (how is that for having great neighbors?) 10 pallets was exhausting.  
I did a thing with the deer cam, mounting it on the fence as the grass was being delivered.  It is actually quite cool to watch the entire process of all the pieces of grass going down.  In about 680 frames, you can see the delivery of pallets, the laying of the sod, and finally a beautiful front yard.  It was about half way through when Eva asked if that camera on the fence was taking pictures of us each time we bent over to put down grass.  So, needless to say I can't really turn it into a video like I had planned.  And you can also see why my back is killing me this morning.  Do those shorts make my butt look big?
I think we finally wrapped up around 1:30 or so and the three of us looked like we had been in a huge mud fight. There was still some additional trimming of sod and cleaning up to do, but I decided that I needed a shower more than anything else.
Later, I went down the street to borrow a roller attachment from another neighbor (how is that for having great neighbors?) and I took the time to flatten down the grass a bit.  Our yard is certainly not putting green smooth, but it beats the sand trap we had going into it. And no, do not let your eyes deceive you.  Nobody around here is watering grass during stage 2 water restrictions.  It's raining, dammit!

------<<<>>>------

We drug ourselves out of bed this morning, in serious physical pain I might add, and enjoyed the steady rain coming down.  Of course, at some point, I had to lure the dogs outside and insist they conduct business, wet or not.   And no, in spite of what my wife might tell you, I do not routinely walk outside with an umbrella so Gracie can perform in flash flood conditions.  

There really was no reason at all for us to leave the house today, but I suddenly had a hankerin' for a breakfast taco from La Palmera.  This is definitely my favorite taco place in these parts but every now and then, even good places do something crazy.   I ordered my standard fare of Carne Guisada with cheese, chorizo & egg and country sausage & egg.  My order was perfect.  Eva on the other hand ordered a barbacoa taco with avocado and a bean & cheese taco.  For some reason, her barbacoa taco came out without the avocado and her bean & cheese came without the cheese.  We had to laugh.  Seriously, there are two key ingredients in a bean & cheese taco.  One of those ingredients is beans.  The other is, uh... let me think about this...  Of course, my rule is never return anything to the kitchen.  Even at a five-star restaurant, it is a rule that cooks spit in your food if you return it.  My wife was brave though and the waitress happily brought her little containers with avocado and cheese.  No spit at all.

------<<<>>>------

While we are here anyway, can I mention a few TV shows now that another season has started?

American Horror Story on FX.  Kinda weird, but I'm in for a few more episodes anyway.  Eva, not so much.  My only problem is, the husband on the show sounds like the voice of the guy who plays the cartoon character Sterling Archer.  I know it isn't the same guy, but I can't get it out of my mind.  By the way, we love Archer, also on FX.

Dexter on Showtime:  Edward James Olmos joins the cast this season.  If you are not a regular Dexter fan or don't want the expense of cable TV, go to NetFlix or one of those rental places and rent the first five seasons.  At least then you can understand why so many people enjoy watching a killer.  Just like when John Lithgow joined the cast in season 4, no doubt we will all be eager for Dexter to kill EJO by the end of this season.

Son's of Anarchy on FX:  I'm not going to lie.  I'm having a tough time getting into SOA this season.  It has become like a little soap opera.  I don't mind following a story, I just think they are spending less money on production, and I think it shows.  We'll see.

Hawaii Five-O on CBS:  This is one show that I did not care for.  In fact, I stopped watching it all together.  But Eva convinced me to watch repeats of the final two episodes last season and now I'm back on it.  Especially now that John Locke has joined the cast.  Well see if I can suspend reality long enough to get through the entire season.

Enough about my DVR addictions.  Got any shows we need to add to our playlist?  I'd be happy if you left a comment or sent an e-mail to tell me about it.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Grass!

Our Saturday morning started off with coffee on the front porch waiting for the rumble of a tractor trailer to interrupt the singing of birds, barking of dogs, and the general sounds we enjoy.  It was still dark at 7 when the guy from Moretti Trucking, a business just across I-35 from us rolled up our street with the freight we have waited close to a year for; grass!
 I believe that October is my favorite month of the year in this part of Texas.  The mornings and evenings are generally cool enough to sit outside and enjoy without need for a jacket, yet during the day the sun still provides a summery feel, only reaching into the 90's.  I could enjoy this year round.  We wanted to take advantage of the comfortable morning temps and get the grass on the ground before it got sticky, so we were off.
We decided to start with 6 pallets, 3 for the front of the house and 3 for the rear.  This would offer at least some semblance of a lawn, and help keep the sand dunes from rushing into the house every time the door is opened.  We went with a Bermuda called 419 Tif that is grown nearby and works well in the sandy loam of our area.  Golf course grass is what it is.

I needed to mow down any of the existing weeds and common grass before we put the sod down, but as luck would have it, since I have not had to mow the sand in quite some time, the battery on the mower was dead.  I whipped out the weed whacker and sure enough, I was having some issues with the string dispenser. 
Just a slight aside, if you don't mind.  I love my Echo weed whacker.  It is heavy duty and the engine starts without issue.  It came with this U-load style head that, in a perfect world makes loading the line easy.  In reality, with all the sand that gets into it, trying to install new line is a major pain and extremely frustrating. 

So, I decided to try one of these heads that has little easy to install plastic blades.  They snap in and out with ease.  I was really excited to try it out after removing the old head and installing this new style. See how fancy those yellow plastic blades look?
Yea.  Those lasted all of about 8 seconds against a clump of tall stickers on the edge of the driveway.  Unbelievable.  I guess I'll see if they make a blade that fits the head that has a little more strength.
So anyway, on with the laying of the grass.  According to our salesman/truck driver/delivery guy, there was no need to put down a weed barrier or add topsoil.  This grass is supposed to take root directly into the sand.  I can tell you, it was much easier and lighter to work with than the St Augustine we put in in our last house. 
We did get some help towards the end from one of our neighbors who stopped by to drop off some plants (thanks, Phyllis), but really six pallets was not too much for us to knock out with a morning of work.  And the result was great!  The grass guy told us that we'd be calling him for more once we saw what a difference it made, and sure enough, by noon, Eva was on the phone lining up 6 more pallets for next weekend. 
And of course, Gracie and Panda offered their full endorsement of having a place to roll around without worrying about stickers. 
And I like it too!