Saturday, March 31, 2012

Foggy Morning...

Gracie alerted me to her urgent need to get outside at 3:00 this morning.  I am thankful that she prefers to do her upchucking out in the grass rather than on our bedroom carpet.  When I semi-sleep-walked out onto the patio to take a seat on a chair covered in cool dew, I noticed that the fog had rolled in and the view of the back yard was good for about 50 or 60 feet out. When Gracie heard something off in the distance and ran off to go investigate, it didn't take her long to realize that she couldn't see very far either, and she quickly opted to retreat to the comfort of the house.
 This morning, when we got up for real, I had the benefit of actually being dressed so I grabbed the camera and took a few shots of the fog from various spots in the yard.  Visibility was much better.  
I just love the sounds of morning out here, the birds and other little animals waking up.  The fog just adds to the experience.  It isn't like this is some scenic view that people would document in National Geographic, or that it would be the perfect location for a scene in a movie, but it is our view and it just feels good.  
 I checked the deer camera this morning, for the first time all week.  I see we have a new little deer joining the group.  Welcome.
 Here there are actually seven deer in the picture, though you can only pick out six.  The seventh one is actually down below the camera nibbling on corn.  
Speaking of corn.  We have a bunch of small corn stalks growing where corn seed we have thrown out has been stomped into the dirt resulting in the miracle of crops!  Apparently, someone does not wish to wait until they produce little deer-size corn on the cob.
We have had a good amount of rain lately.  I always wonder what the deer do in the rain.  Do they have a club house or someplace they go to seek shelter?  Apparently not.
And this is what happens when the crack of lightning scares the crap out of a deer!  Good times.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Different View...

If you wear glasses you will have a pretty good idea of what I am talking about here.  The adjusting to a new prescription is just freaky.

My eyesight has always been pretty good.  It wasn't until computers became a regular part of my work, the combination of those old green screen monitors and low light that had some sort of weird impact on my eyes.  I wore glasses for almost ten years before having the opportunity to get eye surgery.  The doctors told me that by the time I was forty, I would probably need reading glasses (and I did) but my distance vision was good.

Not too long ago, maybe a few years ago, I got myself a very slight prescription for glasses to use while driving.  It isn't that I can't see to drive without, I can and do often, but I just wanted really, really extra good vision especially for driving in the early morning and at night. 

I recently went to have my eyes checked and the doctor told me I was pretty anal about my vision.  But then she laughed and said she was too, so she understood.  What surprised me was that she told me I have astigmatism and that I probably should wear glasses full time - bifocals even.  Instead, I opted to get a pair of glasses to use for driving as I had previously, and get the prescription reading glasses to replace my $2.00 HEB cheaters.  That may have been a mistake.  A weird thing happened when I actually got the new prescription.  It was as if the whole world was suddenly in HD.  

The change in prescription not only made things much more crisp and clear, but my perception of height and distance has somehow been altered.  I literally feel like I am walking taller than I was before.  Sitting in the driver seat, the truck feels as though it is higher off the ground than it was before.  Aside from that, driving seems the same, just a crisper, cleared view.  But if I wear the glasses while walking, it is a serious adjustment.

What I have found though is that if I wear the glasses watching my now double-HD TV, if I look down at the remote or look at my phone, the glasses need to come off.  I now understand why the optometrist suggested I go with bifocals.  So I think I need to give that a shot. 
 Or I could go with some Tri-Focals. 

The Grill Pad...

We had a bunch of left over flagstone from our front garden project, so we decided to put it to use by expanding the area I keep my grills.
I had talked about building a small deck in this area but it never was a priority, but now that we had some extra rock laying about, it seemed like the perfect afternoon project.  The real issue with this area is the hardened cliche left over from when we had our garage/shop built.  You can see how there was little to no grass in the area.  We had to break up the soil just so we could begin to work with it.
From there, we put down a tarp that we had gotten our $12 worth out of, to use as a weed barrier.  We took dirt and the decomposed granite we had on hand to use as a base and to level things off.
As I hauled flagstone from our storage yard (a small fenced area behind the shop that houses all of my used lumber and other materials) and shoveled dirt, Eva placed the rock and leveled things to form the small patio.
And about three hours later, we were pretty much ready to take a break and grill some vittles.   I have to say that Eva did the majority of the work on this project.  It is starting to be a trend.  Perhaps I should incorporate and her do little side jobs during the week while I'm at work!
I didn't offer to pay her for the new grill area, but shortly after the work was completed, the fajitas were ready to go.  Not a bad project for a Sunday afternoon.  

Friday, March 23, 2012

In Through The Out Door...

Just for the record, as I get closer to mid-life I find that I am really not as concerned about what other people do as long as they don't do it to me or my family.  I mean, do what it takes to pursue happiness and as long as you don't kill people or commit a bunch of horrendous crimes, have at it. Having spent years in the military, you'd think I would take a pretty rigid stance on rule following and such, but the truth is, I don't seem to care for many of the norms society has to offer these days.  

An example.  If you smoke pot, as long as you aren't doing so moments before driving the school bus or performing a surgical procedure, I simply don't care.  I have opposed the war on drugs for years, not because I am a drug user myself, but because I think it is a financial burden that the taxpayers and businesses do not need.  I do believe that your employer has a right to ask you to pee in a bottle if he doesn't want to risk having a bunch of potheads operating heavy machinery, but that should be his call as an employer and your call when you choose to work for him or her.  And by the way, I have had to participate in employer sponsored pee tests twice in as many months, and I do it hating the invasion of privacy, but fully understanding and expecting it as a condition of my employment.  I just wish they had a pee test for stupidity and incompetence.

I can think of many rules that our society imposes upon us, things that aren't laws per se, but little restrictions that limit our own freedom of action on a daily basis.  When you walk into a store, very often you will find that someone has designated one door as an entrance and another door as an exit.  Why?  Sure, when it is crowded with people coming in and people going out, designated entrances and exits help with the flow, but what about when the store is just opening and nobody is leaving?  Are we really hurting anyone if a few of us sneak in through the out door?  I think not.  I wouldn't consider that an act of civil disobedience or anything, but I might offer you a wink and a nod in solidarity if you choose to buck the system and enter through the exit (assuming nobody is harmed in the process).

Okay, so where am I going with this?  No, I'm not taking a month of work off so I can go Occupy someplace.  Instead, I just want to make a simple plea to those of you who insist on driving the wrong direction down the various aisles of the parking lot.  Stop being an asshole.

I did not design the stripes painted on the parking lot at HEB and nobody even asked me my opinion.  But unlike random speed limits on highways that change between 75 and 55 for no apparent reason, there is technically value added to having all of the traffic in a narrow parking lot aisle going in a single direction that happens to flow with the angle of the individual parking spots.  You see, you don't have to have a policeman directing traffic for most people to figure out that the parking spots are aligned in a way that allows a driver in a parked car wanting to leave to simply back out and exit the aisle while a driver waiting to park can pull directly into the vacant slot with no real interruption in the flow of traffic.

But some of you free spirits feel the need to ignore the direction of the lines and the flow of traffic and simply exercise your free will right up the aisle in the wrong direction, thus placing your VW Bug directly in the grill of my F-150.  It isn't my intent to intimidate you by refusing to make room for you to get by me, but rather to exercise my free will and the right of way by having a bigger vehicle.  Unlike you, I am not yapping on my cell phone and giving me a dirty look.  Instead, I am waiting for you to put your little car in reverse and backing it up until I choose a parking slot that I feel comfortable with thereby clearing the way for you to continue in the wrong direction until the next guy in a truck decides to teach you the same little lesson in parking lot decorum.

  


Thursday, March 22, 2012

My Daily Deer...

This says more about me than it does you, I assure you, but it makes me laugh when I see things like this.
I imagine the one deer saying to the other, "You stink!"
And because I can flip back and forth between the pictures, I see this little deer winking at me.

Easily entertained, I am.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tornado Free...

You may have seen the news about the entertaining weather system that made its way up I-35 with tornadoes touching down in Devine (5 miles to the southwest of us) and Natalia (across the highway from us) before moving further east into San Antonio.  We did lose power, but aside from the incredible light show in the sky, we really didn't have anything else going on.  I'll post more when I can, but thanks for the e-mails and such.  In short, we survived this time!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Twins...

Remember the lady with the Puppets for Christ shirt at HEB?  She had some fancy pants, for sure.
I think we found her soul mate.  They'd make a nice couple.

Full disclosure:  This is me in 15 or 20 years; hopefully not sooner.

Eating In (Out)...

I'm not gonna lie.  We probably eat out way too much, which probably contributes to my excessive girth and constant downing of suppository-sized Metformin tablets to keep my Diabetes in check.  You need look no further than the archives of this blog or the predecessor to know that Eva and I can't pass up on a chance to try a new burger place, some good barbecue or a place that offers up some southern fried catfish.  
 But today was different.  We took advantage of the incredible weather and spent the day working on yard related projects.  And after some surgical mowing to avoid offending any Bluebonnets, we had breakfast on the back patio where I admired my back yard.  As I mowed, Eva had whipped up some pancakes, bacon and eggs - over easy.  A little juice and a view was all I needed.

We did leave our house briefly, since Office Depot and Lowe's were on our to-do list, but once back at the house, we spent several hours hitting projects in the yard.  I busted out the power washer and made more of a mess than it was worth to clean the mowers and the grills.  Eva planted a bunch of new bushes and we did some leveling work on our front patio.  
 By dinner time, there was really no reason to go looking for a better place to eat when we had a clean grill, seasoned steaks and some veggies at the ready.  Add a few cool drinks and our favorite view, and you have to wonder why we leave this place at all.  

Okay, let's not go crazy.  Tomorrow, I'll need my breakfast taco fix.  But it is nice to enjoy what we have.
 

More Bluebonnets...

On the way home from work yesterday afternoon, I stopped at the community mailbox to check for my Publisher's Clearing House sweepstakes winnings (no such luck) and the wonderful smell of the wildflowers grabbed my attention as soon as I opened the truck door.  I don't don't suffer from allergies, but the impact is almost overwhelming, in a good way.
 I don't know what these purple things are called, but they really look great.  That's a great looking property but of course, I'd never buy a lot with the public mailbox in my front yard.
Closer to our house, about a mile down the street from the mailbox, I took these pictures of some other wild flowers that, once again, I don't know the name of.  You'd think I could look on the Google for some help, but the names are not important at this point.   Of course, there are some Bluebonnets, the most important of the wildflowers, in a small patch in the middle.
And speaking of Bluebonnets, these are from our front yard which really makes us happy.  I have the lawn directly in front of the house and I keep that mowed, but on the outer areas, we have have just let the wildflowers do their thing.  The few neighbors we have in our area have pretty much done the same, forgoing the duties of lawn care in favor of this yearly gift of nature (and Ladybird Johnson).  And since most of the properties are vacant, driving through the sub-division is really a thing of beauty.
 In the back, the yard is sprinkled with Bluebonnets and other wildflowers, not as concentrated as some of the other lots on our street.  But it still looks nice. 
Eva is preparing herself for a Texas Bluebonnet style St. Patrick's Day. 

If you can't get out here to see the wildflowers for your self, hopefully the pictures help a little.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

My Daily Deer...

We have actually been thinking that maybe our deer sightings were done now that spring like weather is here.  But a quick scan of the deer cam conveniently located within view of our office window reveals this group of fresh faces (and backsides).
Five deer stopping by for an early morning snack.  Y'all come back, now. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Patio Project...

So here are a few translations I should make for you.  First off, if my wife says Slate, what she really means is Flagstone.  If she uses the term Caliche, she is actually referring to Decomposed Granite.  These are important notes in helping to understand some of the confusion surrounding our most recent project.

One of the features that the builder put into our front yard was this empty space between the front walkway and the porch.  It was filled with colored mulch that matched the brick and I thought it looked fine.  Of course, we added assorted little accoutrements to spice it up, including a huge cement heart created by Eva's grandfather for his bride.  We've hauled that thing from Balboa Street on San Antonio's West side to our first house, second house and now this place.  It is heavy, and I hope to never move it again.
 
This is an older picture taken before we put grass in the front yard.  The problem with this little area, besides being filled with random gnomes, bird feeders and rocks of various sizes and shapes, was that it was growing some weird sort of mushroom and mold, and more importantly, Eva had a different vision for it.

Several weeks ago, we went by the home of our good friends Briana & Peg to see the wonderful landscaping work they had been working on and how they had transformed their front yard into a beautifully xeriscaped garden with a rock riverbed, clumps of well-thought out plants that would work year round, and a wonderful flagstone walkway and patio that allows them to sit on rockers and enjoy the view.  Immediately, Eva was ready to begin demolition of our front mulch-filled area in preparation of a new "slate" patio.   

This same idea has been brought up in the past, but I have always been able to send it to the back burner in favor of other less back-breaking projects.  But seeing the result of B&P's beautifying project forced the patio project back to the front of the, I guess stove if that is the analogy we are going with. 
 Before I knew it, Eva had cleared all the odds & ends from the area and was dispatching excess mulch into other areas of the yard where presumably, mold and weird mushrooms will flourish for years to come.  The cement heart would have to stay, of course, but I would end up moving it for her, just so she could prove to herself that I was still agile and fit enough to handle it.  Hello Celebrex.
We started of trying to level the area while maintaining a slight downward slope for water run-off.  If you have seen any of the home & garden shows on DIY or HGTV, you might see people laying a foundation of play sand or some sort of pea-gravel.  I opted for going with the decomposed granite that we have used on other projects.  It would certainly be easier to move heavy flagstone pieces in sand, but I wanted the base to be really solid once it was all in place.

Going to get the flagstone turned out to be a much bigger ordeal.  This is where it is important to use the Internet and believe what you learn.  In short, I used a calculator from one of the web pages I found that allows you to enter the area you are looking to cover, and it will give you an indication by weight of how much flagstone you need to purchase.

There was another issue.  Our standard place for purchasing any kind of materials of a rock nature is the Lytle Oil Exchange - the place I get my oil changed on my truck.  Yes, you can get your vehicle serviced and buy a yard of mulch all in a single trip.

When we went to look at the flagstone, they only had full pallets for sell and regardless of what the Internet was reporting, Eva concluded that we only needed a half pallet.  We subsequently spent several hours driving around looking for a place that would sell less than a full pallet.  
 That led us to our old materials place, Fertile Gardens in NW San Antonio.  
 They had some half pallets that fit the measurements one of us was comfortable with, but they did not have a forklift at the moment, so we loaded the truck ourselves.  In fairness, they gave us a great discount for the inconvenience.
 When we got home and got started sorting out the flagstone, it was immediately obvious that the Internet does not lie, and we would need more rock.  We tried to stretch things a bit by increasing the space between pieces of flagstone, but I felt it was unsafe and looked goofy.  My reaction was to suggest we hire a professional to come in and do the job right.  

On Monday, Eva went back to Lytle Oil Exchange and talked to Emma who runs the place.  She asked about getting some slate and caliche delivered to the house.  When they deconflicted that the slate in question was the flagstone, she ordered a pallet.  The caliche, I would have to pick up on my way home from work.  A comedy of errors ensued.

The way it works is, you go inside and tell the people what you want, pay for it, get the receipt and then drive your vehicle to the appropriate pile of material.  Then after some time, a guy in a Bobcat comes out and loads your truck.  I didn't have a receipt because Eva had already paid.  But, she told me to just go in and say my name and they would know what I was supposed to get.

I walked in, gave my name then proceeded out to my truck, drove to the pile of decomposed granite and waited.  When the guy showed up on the Bobcat to fill my truck, he looked really confused and started calling into the office to ask some questions.  He asked me for my receipt but I told him that Emma had it inside.  No problem.  As he was just about to dump a bucket full of decomposed granite into the bed of my truck, Emma is running at a full sprint from the office trying to get the guy on the Bobcat to stop.

I got his attention and he backed off long enough for Emma to make her way with the receipt.  Turns out my wife had ordered and paid for caliche.  No a problem at all I said, I'll just go in and pay the difference in cost.

So I walk back into the office with Emma, we joked about how Eva may have said slate and caliche but she meant flagstone and decomposed granite.  I paid the difference and went back out to have the truck loaded.  The driver put in half a yard of decomposed granite then started to drive away and I got his attention and told him I needed a full yard.

It wasn't until I got home that night that evening that Eva revealed that she had only ordered a half-yard.  Oops!  Of course, the next morning when the flagstone was delivered, Eva paid the difference and we were squared with the materials place.  
While I spent Tuesday at work, putting in a full day for The Man, Eva rounded up her sister Liz, and the two of them went to town for five hours straight, laying and leveling the flagstone into a nice little patio. 
Gracie even got involved.
 When I rolled into the driveway that evening, the girls had finished up and were kicking back, enjoying a refreshing beverage and admiring the work.  There was still some minor clean-up to be done, but for the most part, they had knocked out this job in fine fashion, and without me having to really break my back!
This is the finished product and I must say, it looks mighty fine, especially since I did very little of the work myself. 
Oh, and one final translation for conversations with Eva.  Eva told Emma that she wanted to purchase the Big Peanut to put in the front yard.  What we had delivered with the flagstone was a big fossil.

The garden gnomes will be finding new homes in the back yard, but they do approve of the transformation, nonetheless.