Saturday, January 28, 2012

My Daily Deer...

This guy is such a camera hog!
 Oh c'mon, don't be shy.
I just imagine he lifts his head and says, Howdy!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Random Photo Report: 300

I have an ongoing project of scanning in the hard copy photographs that fill boxes of photo albums throughout the house. As I was going through yet another shoebox full of pictures taken over the years, tossed in no particular order, I stumbled upon a picture of my Dad's Chrysler. 
My father is and has always been a Chrysler man.  It would take a spreadsheet to adequately list the models and corresponding years associated with the fleet of Chrysler products our family has driven and known.  And my father could, with encyclopedic accuracy, provide you with the specifications necessary to change your oil or swap your head gasket.  He doesn't turn a wrench as often these days, but he loves his 300.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My Daily Deer...

We've probably seen this guy before, but through the infrared lens.  
Today, he spent about an hour munching on fruit and deer corn.  I appreciate his business.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

My Daily Deer...

These little deer like the new position of the camera.  It is sort of like one of those old camera booths, just without the curtain.
This gal is itchy.  We have noticed she has some really jacked up hair on the back.  I can't tell if it is an injury or some sort of fleas.  I'd offer to go out and hose her down, but I think Gracie might get jealous.

Landscaping...

We are no doubt gluttons for punishment.
In a single day, we built 90 feet of forms, mixed 18 bags of Quickcrete, unloaded 2 yards of river rock, moved the Texas tub around several times, and ate some nachos.
As with most of our projects, we really only have an idea of what we want, get a rough estimate of the size so we can speculate on the materials needed and once started, we just play it by ear. And that keeps it interesting.  It all starts with an empty space that needs something.  For this project, we have some trees towards the front of the yard on the side that still has no grass.  As you can see from the pictures, we threw some random objects into the yard (a bird bath and a tub) just to do something.  Of course, this just makes more obstacles when you want to mow the sand and weeds, so we needed to do something about it.
As we are huge fans (obsessed might be more descriptive) of little cement curbs, We decided to close in the area.  Eva had this vision of a higher curb on the backside of the project so the rocks on the inside could form a sort of slope down.  I'm not sure if that will be the affect we get, but I used 2X6's along the back and 2X4's in the front.
The design was fairly simple requiring a minimal number of cuts.  Based on an outline of the footprint of the trees, it actually looks like a flying wing or some sort of wide V shape.  That wire inside the forms is some old fencing we cut to use as cheap re-bar.  Nothing but the finest construction out here.
 The materials place where we get rock is just a few minutes away in Lytle.  It is also the same place I get the oil changed, by the way.  Nice folks.  They close at 2PM on Saturdays, so instead of starting right away with the cement work, we decided to get the rock. We put a 4mil black plastic down to keep weeds from growing through and then shoveled 2 yards of river rock inside the framed area.  Every muscle is feeling it!
If we were smart, we would have called it a day, but we wanted to get the cement mixed and put into the forms before dark.  Eva and I have developed a system now that we have produced hundreds of feet of curb over the last year.  I mix the cement a bag at a time and shovel it into the forms, then she uses the trowel to make it look good.
 
Repeat the process for the next 17 bags, and you are done.  At least until the next day when the forms can be removed. We started the project at 9AM and with the exception of breaks to go purchase the rock and a few more bags of Quickrete, we worked non-stop until almost 6PM. That's how we roll.

Of course, later today we will remove the forms then start the process of  filling the area with assorted plants and decorative clay pots and such.  Overall, this was a good project and I think it will look nice when complete.  And, it just made the weed eater action in that area a lot easier.

Friday, January 20, 2012

It Better Rain Tonight, And Hard...

I cut out of work early* this afternoon so I could stop by Home Depot** on the way home and still have some sunlight to unload the truck.  We have decided to do a little more landscaping while the weather is nice and I needed some 2X4's, 2X6's and of course, more Quickrete to form some curbs around some trees.  We love cement curbs at our house.

Anyway, I get home, eat a brisket sandwich from The Rib House that Eva had picked up earlier in the day, and commenced to unload the truck.  We put the boards on the ground to give us an idea where we would be building the curbs and then decided that I needed a few more boards.  I also realized that I needed several more bags of Quickrete, so I decided to make a trip into Lytle to hit True Value rather than drive back into San Antonio.  I unloaded ten 80 pound bags of concrete, then made the short trip to Lytle.

I got to True Value at 5:59, a minute before they close, and they welcomed me in to make my purchases without so much as a sarcastic rolling of the eyes.  I love the fact that the young employees are so friendly and helpful.  I paid for my stuff then drove my truck around to the loading area, and the young man who loaded up my truck (something that will never happen at the Home Depot on SW Military Drive), casually mentioned that I should put a tarp over the bed of my truck since it was going to rain.  I said I was just going a few miles up the road and I would unload it right away.  But then it hit me that he said rain.  I asked for clarification.  Did you say it was going to rain tonight?    Oh, yes, sir! he offered.  It is really going to come down tonight.

I gave the kid a tip which he refused adamantly but finally took when I dropped the wadded up bills in his hand and turned to my truck, then quickly drove back to to the house.  As soon as I got out here, I put on my gloves and loaded the ten 80 pound bags of Quickcrete back into the truck, then loaded all the lumber I had unloaded an hour earlier.  Then I put a tarp over the bed of the truck and pulled into the covered driveway.

Eva looked out the door and asked me why I was doing all this and I told her how the nice young man at True Value told me it was going to rain all night long. 

And just then, Bill Taylor from KENS-TV gave his weather forecast.  No rain until Tuesday.  There is no way that kid at True Value knew that I would be re-loading a truck full of lumber and cement based upon his rain advice, but if this was just the small town version of rolling the eyes sarcastically, I'm going back down there tomorrow and getting my tip back.

*Early for me generally means I only put in an 8 or 9 hour day.
**I think we prefer Lowe's over Home Depot, but I still shop both to keep the competition going. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

New Lights...

It has been a while since we worked on any kind of project around the house.  Planting bushes, installing additional sprinkler systems and such probably doesn't count.  Yesterday, I added some lights to the front of our garage (which technically is a shed since we have never had any intention of parking vehicles inside of it).  We do have some exterior lighting on the house, but because of the angles involved, I never felt like I had good lighting suitable for when we grill in the evening.
So this is what it looked like without lights.  I was really concerned about making sure that everything was installed in a symmetric manner, and thankfully, the guys who framed out the garage were smart enough, and good enough to provide correct spacing of the studs outside the garage door frame.
 I'm a huge fan of measure twice, cut once, but in this case, I really measured multiple times hoping that I wouldn't jack it all up.  The big issue was cutting the hole through the Hardi-plank siding.  For those not familiar with the product, it is a cement-like product, so you don't just whip out a jig saw and start gutting.
 I'm embarrassing myself  by showing these pictures because I hate when stuff looks like crap, but the good news is, the plates of the fixtures cover it all.  The reason it looks so jagged is that I went through four or five really cheap Masonite blades on my saws-all, and to get the holes started, I had to drill several holes into the Hardi. Long story short, the holes were the hardest part of the project. And hopefully I didn't breath in a bunch of toxic dust into my lungs.
 With the holes cut and the electrical boxes in place, it was time for some wiring.  Since I did all the original electrical work on the garage, I knew that I have enough open breaker space to easily add in more lighting.  I opted to connect into a separate circuit rarely used for anything else. I added a single gang box so I could run a switch to the the location of the overhead interior lighting switch, and to provide power to the two new exterior fixtures.  That's why you can see black and white wires connected together - they are going to the switch.
 From there, I removed the single gang box on my overhead lighting and replaced it with a two gang box and wired up the switches.  I have all my receptacles set to where eventually I can sheet rock the walls and they will be flush.
 
Finally, the installation of the fixtures outside.  Eva had originally wanted the design that has the star (like Texas) on them, but Lowe's was out.  Rather than drive all over creation looking for them, we opted for the second choice, and I like them.  And of course, the most important thing is, you don't see how jacked-up the holes behind the lights are.
You simply would not believe the difference this small amount of lighting makes for this patio where we do our grilling.  I can't tell you how many times steak or fajitas cooked a little too much because I was standing there with a flash light trying to guess.  And just to test it out, I grilled some awesome ribs on the gas grill.  Yum!

A Little Fire Hydrant...

The other day, Eva and I took a short drive over to the South Texas Market in Devine. We only go there once every few months and it only takes about an hour to walk through all the booths and shops, but you never know what you will find.
 This little fire hydrant bank caught my eye.  The guy selling it had it and one of those prank rattlesnake eggs envelopes on his table, and that was the extent of his business.  
 
It is 10" tall, not very heavy and is made out of thin metal like a coffee can. It looks like it has been banged up a bit.  I found the same one here, apparently sold on E-Bay at some point.  So the fact that I paid $8 for it probably makes me a chump, but I like it.  A little spray paint and we'll be good to go.  Now all we need is a tiny little dog to pee on it.

My Daily Deer...

Yesterday afternoon we moved the deer cam about a hundred feet from where it was so we could get a better view from our office window when they come to eat during the day.  I happened to be standing outside last night when this good sized buck came through looking for some vittles.
Unfortunately, he walked right past the camera, the deer corn and apples we tossed out and headed to the old feeding spot.
Mr. Coyote (or maybe he is a large fox) did the same thing.  They'll learn.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sunday Morning Report: Friends, Lulu's, Trees...

I mentioned last month that a buddy from my youth was coming in town with his wife to see a basic training graduation for their son.  We were able to get together a few times and share some old stories and such.
This is a picture of what we looked like back then.  I suspect I was a Senior in high school and he was a Junior at the time.  It seems odd to me now, but honestly, it was not uncommon for us to walk around without shoes or shirts.  Perhaps this is why you see all those signs in stores demanding shoes and shirts for service.  Scott is the skinny one on the left, I'm beginning my career as a pudgy guy on the right.
Of course, it was entirely too cold Saturday morning for us to strip down to shorts for a retake 30 years later.  But as you can see, Scott is still the skinny one on the left, and I have maximized my career as a pudgy guy on the right.  We are posing in front of Lulu's on Main.
Speaking of Lulu's... We had never dined there for breakfast before, so this was a chance to check it out.  I'll just cut to the chase and tell you that it was no Jim's.  Service was slow at best, and then when I went to pay the ticket, I paid with cash and our waitress could not seem to find anyone with change for a twenty.  I seriously thought it was one of those things where the waitress goes into the back and waits to see if you will get fed up and leave her with a an $11 tip on a $29 ticket.  For really good service and really good food, I just might consider it, but I was determined to wait her out, and finally, she returned with change close to ten minutes later.  I still gave her a $6.50 tip, but in a way, I think I am encouraging crappy service.
Importantly, the grits were horrible.  I mean, not good at all.  
 The Hungry Breakfast (or something like that) was okay.  We were all pleased with the hash-browns which we asked to be cooked "well done", and were served perfectly.   The bacon was okay and the toast was fine.  In the end, it was just breakfast and we enjoyed the company of our friends in spite of the less than stellar service.  I'm certainly not trying to come across as a whiner.
Almost a year ago, one of our friends suggested that it might be an interesting look to shine floodlights up into the trees in our yard.  We have several different areas where I have run electricity and up until now used rope lights to make it look fancy and also, provide some lighting when we are out there.
I purchased some cheap plug in light outlets so we could see if we would like the look.  In spite of my crappy photography skills, I think you can see that it does look cool, especially considering how pitch black it is out here.  I think we will experiment a little with moving the lights around just to see how to get the best look.  These picture don't do justice, but standing out in the back and seeing the three different sections all lighted up is pretty awesome.

Today, we will be installing new lighting fixtures on the front of our garage.  This will allow me to have some direct lighting near where I grill, since it seems like we always end up cooking out after the sun has set.  I did install one of those little LED grill lights on the handle of the grill, and surprisingly, it works fantastically, as long as it doesn't melt.

Perhaps we will also swing by a store and see if we can find a Thigh-master for my tree trunk style legs.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Random Photo Report: Balance...

I have an ongoing project of scanning in the hard copy photographs that fill boxes of photo albums throughout the house. As I was going through yet another shoebox full of pictures taken over the years, tossed in no particular order, I stumbled upon a picture of my one-legged nephew Diego taken years ago.  
Thankfully he has been able to overcome this minor affliction and can even drive when required.