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Cactus in Bloom

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Who Gives a Hoot?

When our daughter and son-in-law were building their garage, they thought they'd like to incorporate a nesting area for an owl in the rafter area.  As it happened, we were here about that time and Bill built a platform and nesting box near the ceiling of the barn and cut an entrance from the outside...  I have photos somewhere in my files that show Bill up on a lift working on it.  But since I can't remember what date they are, I'll just show you the end result...

This is the back of the garage...  
The round hole that's to the upper right of the vent is the entrance to the nesting box.

Don't ask me how an owl would figure that out and decide this would make a happy home...
But...


Look what's taken up residence!
This little screech owl has been hanging out there for over a month.

Of course we're all hoping that he/she has a mate and will raise a family here.

But for now, we all check it out anytime we're outside...  seeing if he/she is soaking up some sunshine while taking a nap.  The bird isn't at all bothered by us - even the dogs don't faze it.

Maybe this story will have a few more chapters as spring and summer progress, but for now.....

That's All For Today!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Back in Glen Rose, TX

I know, I should download both cameras which I've taken photos with since we were down in the Valley....  but....  I just haven't done that yet.  Who knows what I'll come up with?  I sure don't.

We stayed about 15 miles south of San Antonio last night...  in an RV park no less!  What can I say...  no Walmart?  Nope... we had electricity and didn't even use our Verizon WiFi internet.

Bill checked out the weather up in Marble Falls...  BAD.....  icy rain...  yukky weather.  Sooooo.... being the practical folks we are, we stayed at that RV park until 11:00 this morning before we headed north.  We had only 230 miles to go until we landed at our daughter's place outside of Glen Rose, TX, but leaving at 11:00 this morning and arriving "home" at 4:00 pm was a long day for us.  Again...  the weather wasn't the best.... rain....  but no sleet, no ice or snow....  just plain miserable weather.

I think we did good waiting out the bad stuff.....   and, of course, we take at least an hour or so for lunch....  a nice break is good for both us and our rig.  We have to start the car and run it for a few minutes every 200 miles.  Don't ask me why...  I can't remember...  but Bill could tell you.  There's something about leaving it in "Accessories" and in neutral ......  Shoot....  I have a lot to learn (I know, after 14 years on the road I should be an old hand at this).....  bur Bill takes good care of all that stuff.  
Now...  before you light into me about not knowing...  let me assure y'all that as much as I love our life, it is NOT something I'd do on my own...  so don't worry about me burning up something to a crisp if I were on my own... it just ain't gonna happen.

Okay...  let's move on....  Got to our daughters ...  got set up.  Our daughter/son-in-law put in a site several years ago... electric/water....  it's there.  Even had dinner with them tonight...

Got our mail... got caught up on family news.....  

Tomorrow I'll probably download whatever photos I've taken recently...  sounds like Celeste has a get-to-gather planned with some friends..... so I'll help with preparing the meal (my favorite thing to do)......  and yes....  the weather is still crappy.... but... we'll do fine.

That's All For Today!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

On The Road Again....

We stayed one month in the Valley....  and, as usual, thought we'd do a lot more than we did, but as we expected, ran out of time and energy.  A lot had to do with the weather...  let's face it...  most of the time the weather was cold, wet and to put it bluntly...  pretty crappy.  

Yet we managed to check out some sites that we might consider as "retirement" sites.  (yeah, we really need to think about when we get old ;-)     This makes me giggle as all our kids are now in their 50's, so I guess we're not spring chickens)....  

We went to an RV show (not nearly as good as when we went with Chris and Juan a few years ago, and a gun show (no photos allowed, but some things were quite interesting)...  and (top of my list) a geocache event where an expert "puzzler", Gary Cadogan, gave a workshop on solving puzzle geocaches.  Yes, there really are "those" kind, and I'll tell you, it takes a clever mind to think of all the ways a person can set up one of these things.

And...  not only did we go to that workshop, but Gary realized we weren't there for the first workshop in December that covered some basics, so he invited us to come for a "one-on-one"  (or in our case...  "one-on-two") workshop just for us.  How nice is that!

We bought tamales twice at Manjar's bakery/comida....  certainly could have indulged in more.  We ate out once....  I was hankerin' for chile rellenos.....  and unfortunately, the restaurant we went to was not a good choice.  Maybe my idea of the perfect chile relleno isn't in line with as they should be, but...  suffice it to say....  this is probably the only time in my life that I didn't take the leftover food home with me for a meal the next day.  Just wasn't my idea of a good meal.

We saw the birds we hoped to see...  ones that are only in this part of the USA....  didn't see any new "life" birds, but saw a few that I'm always cheered to see again.

We missed catching up with Chris and Juan (again)....  maybe next time...

I finished knitting a pair of socks and started another pair....

Bill repaired my lawn chair...  hey... I should take a photo of it... he did good.  Only thing, he put put plexi-glass to replace the tray and if I have too much wine I might think there's no "shelf" there and get confused.....

We never once wore our badges and wandered into the RV "resort"s social areas....  we did check out the "trade" library...  I think I dropped off a  couple of books but couldn't find anything to take.

We spent close to $100 on propane (darn!  it was cold!) and today paid $50 for our month of electric.  
One real fun thing for me...  the H.E.B. stores.  I know, I know....  who in their right mind LOVES going to the grocery?  Well, I do....  the "little" one (not a "PLUS") just up the road from our RV park was the very first HEB I ever went to (in 2002) and I fell in love with it.  Not just all the wonderful produce and pastries, but the atmosphere.  You have to remember NOT to be in a hurry here...  if 2 families...  say 5 or 7 members per family....  meet in an aisle, you might as well turn your cart around and head the other direction if you're in a hurry.  Just a couple days ago, Bill & I were behind a group (family?) of 11 people....  3 carts!....  and I wanted SO badly to ask them what was going on...  a funeral?  a wedding?  what?  BUT...  why would anyone need 11 bags of powdered sugar?  Or a whole basket of corn on the cob?  

I just realized that I'm going on and on....  started out telling y'all we're on our way north...

We're now just south of San Antonio...  it's gonna get cold tonight so we decided to cough up the $40 and stay in an RV park instead of Wal-marts (want that electric hookup)....  it's been another crappy day....

Bill put a new windshield wiper on the rig (only the driver's side needed one.... go figure).....  and as much as Gary taught us and I know there's a puzzle cache nearby...  I guess I'll ignore that and just swill down some more wine and call it quits for the night.

No photos....  heck, I'm not even sure when I took the last one....  but....  we're be back in Glen Rose by tomorrow night (maybe)....  and I'll get caught up again.

That's All For Today!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Year From Hell....

Okay...  I've grumped and complained about the weather down here in the valley....  and to be honest, I hate it.  I'ts just not my thing...  anything below 80 degrees F. is too damned cold for me.  But...  let me tell you a little story...  my year from hell.

It was 1996.  I was about 1 year away from "retirement".  I knew I wasn't going to be be eligible for social security or my (very much paid into) pension for several years.  But...  if I could last 20 years at that job (which I loved, but hated the administration), I could leave with good benefits and have my vacation and sick hours paid off.

So... partly because I knew I'd be leaving, but most important, because I really needed some repair work, I was going to have my knee scoped and cleaned up while I still had benefits.  Come May, I went in for my pre-op to have that work done.  Much to my surprise, (okay...  I'd had pneumonia a couple of times so a normal chest x-ray wouldn't be adequate) the Ct-scan for the routine TB test was done a bit high...  darned if it didn't show good lungs, but it showed I had a growth on my thyroid.  
....
My orthopedic surgeon said...  no knee surgery until we find out about that thyroid problem.  So... off to a ENT doctor (wish I'd gone to a different one, but that's history...  no going back)....  and after some tests... including a needle biopsy, (which was inclusive)...  he determined I needed a parathyroid procedure.  After which, (again inclusive) he thought I should go to Columbus to the James Cancer Center.  (Should have been my first choice....  again... retrospective)....The doctors there weren't happy that the test results weren't available and gave me a choice....  come back every 6 months for check-ups or have a complete thyroid removal and get it over with.  Which I chose.  Second surgery of the year.

So...  back to surgery....  got that taken care of.  Got back home and recovered....  hoping to have my knee taken care of soon.

Okay... back to the orthopedic doctor...  on schedule.  Darned if I didn't have gawd-awful stomach pains in November...  thought I was going to die!  Ended up with an emergency appendectomy the week before Thanksgiving.  

I love to cook....  in fact, had a huge family get-together planned for a big Thanksgiving dinner.  Yeah...  it did happen...  but I spent most of my time on the couch, directing everyone where to put stuff, how to use the kitchen range (I used a wood-burning cookstove at that time) and we made it through.

A few weeks later, before the end of the year, I finally had my knee scoped and "somewhat" repaired.  I say this because all these years later, I am still on thyroid meds, my appendectomy scar is barely there, but in truth, my knee still gives me fits....  I think it needs more help.

I did quit my job...  January 17, 1997...  exactly 20 years after my starting date (a person had to work 20 years in order to be eligible to paid off benefits)....  but since I wasn't even close to being 62 at that time, I could never have quit without being able to use Bill's retirement benefit plan.

So...  today...  Bill and my 33rd anniversary (I still love him more than ever), and a couple of days short of being retired 17 years, I can remember the year from hell....  not so much fondly, but...  with memories that I still shake my head in wonder.

I will just add.....   life sure got good after that!

That's All For Today!



C

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Life is Kinda Slow....

That's not all bad...  except the weather down here in the Valley (Rio Grande Valley...  Alamo, TX) is crappy.  The only other words I'd use to describe it aren't really very lady-like...  so suffice it to say...  this rain, cold and 40-50 degree weather isn't exactly my kind of stuff.

Don't even try to remind me that I lived in Ohio for nearly 60 winters...  wore snowsuits and boots, scarves and mittens...  as a kid.  Learned to drive in ice and snow....  (okay... I had a couple of fender benders but nothing serious)....  but have spent the past few years in warmer (much warmer) temps so am just going to gripe a bit.

It's been really wet here...  we don't have a rain gauge, but the streets were full of water last weekend.  We're at the Alamo Rose RV resort and Bill got to calling it Lake Alamo...  yes, it was that water-logged!

Made me think of the state of Washington...  and slugs...    So today, when we were entertaining ourselves by hitting some of the gourmet groceries (what's a woman to do when she is bored with the weather?)...  I found these....

Seemed kind of fitting for my grumpy attitude lately...


Actually, I love snails....  
I'm a bit embarrassed to write that I paid $12.50 for these....
Hey, the can is huge...  I'm thinking I'll have a hundred of these little suckers to munch down on...
Dream on...  got them home and see that there are a dozen!
What!  A Dozen!   Oh...  they also put the snail shells in the can.  That explains it.

Not tonight...  but soon...  I'll open this can...  clean the shells (maybe) and we'll have the dozen snails as an appetizer.  I even have some unsalted butter I keep in the freezer for such delicacies.   
Meanwhile, I'll drag out another sweater...  keep my raincoat close at hand....  and grump a little more about the weather.

That's All For Today!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Alfred Hitchcock Lives.....

Do you remember going to the movie "The Birds" in 1963?  I do, and it scared the crap out of me....  I mean...  with quotes like this....

Mother in Diner:  (to Melanie)  Why are they doing this?  Why are they doing this?  They said when you got here the whole thing started.  Who are you?  What are you?  Where did you come from?  I think you're the cause of all of this.  I think you're evil.  EVIL!

Why wouldn't it?  (And some of those scenes were so scary!).
Today, early this morning, I felt like I was back in that theater....

 Hundreds...  no thousands....  of these birds flew over... 

 Wave after wave after wave of them...

 I couldn't see them well enough to be positive, but I'd guess they were red-winged blackbirds...  or at least some species of blackbird.    Why were they heading north?  Where did they come from?  Where were they going?  I don't know any of those answers...  

They flew in long streams....  probably 10 - 15 minutes steady.  Gradually the long strands got less dense....  and finally they were gone.
Where?  I don't know.

I can tell you that as they flew over and I was trying to get some photos of them I kept my mouth shut.

They did make me wonder what it must have been like when the passenger pigeon was still around.  I've read that the sky would darken as they blacked out the sun.  Well, the sky didn't blacken, but there were more birds than I've ever seen overhead before.

That's All For Today!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A Morning at Salineno

We've had cold, rainy weather down here in the Valley...   40's at night and lucky to get into the low 50's during the day.  Rain isn't exactly rain...  more a drizzle that is cold, wet and gloomy.  But today, which might be the best day of the week, showed some blue in the sky and promise of sunshine.

We decided to head the 70 or so miles west to Salineno.....  a parcel of land with wonderful birds that are only seen in the very southern part of Texas, and the USA.  We've been here several times in the past so had the foresight to stop along the way and buy a couple bags of oranges and a pail of peanut butter to take along.  

There is no entry fee, but donations are appreciated and that could be either monetary or "goods".  There are 2 couples, each living in their motorhomes, volunteering at this site this winter.  They alternate 2 days on/2 days off.....  not only keeping the bird feeders filled and as interpretive hosts to the hundreds of "guests" (like ourselves), but also have a list of other projects (brush clearing, general maintenance etc) to do in their "spare" time.

Today we met Judy and Larry Geiger.  This is their first gig as US Fish and Wildlife volunteers, but they have spent many years at Goose Island, several other Texas State Parks, and doing bird surveys at Aransas NWR.  It didn't take us long to know that they are excellent birders.

I don't know why I didn't take a photo or two of their arrangement of chairs that make sure each of their visitors are comfortable....  maybe we'll make it back there before we leave the Valley.

But...  we knew we were sure to see several species of birds...

I'll readily admit that the Green Jay is one of my favorites...
What's not to love about this bird?
I love color...  I love the vibrancy and contrast...  
I didn't get a shot of the tail as it's flying, but even that is a gorgeous fan of color.  And...  only seen in this part of the USA!

The Kiskadees are another bird seen only in this part of the States....
In 2002, when Bill & I first came to the Valley, Steve, one of the "brown shirts (staff)" told us to listen for one of those "squeaky" toys that dogs play with.  Sure 'nuff.....  we quickly became familiar with the Kiskadees.

Another bird I love, but is also quite familiar to us...
The Common Yellowthroat
Not a good shot of him....  but I can almost hear the "Witchedy, Witchedy" that I'm so used to...  everywhere from Maine to...... ?   Well...  at least Texas!

And a bird I've seen in the past but not so familiar with... 
The Golden-crowned Warbler
If you're expecting to see his golden crown, trust me...  you won't.  
Truth is, if I were out birding by myself, I probably wouldn't have IDed him...   but we had several experts all around us, so he is what he is.

And, to my surprise....
This gorgeous Northern Cardinal
I know these guys are here, but it's always such a pleasure to see them again.
As I've written before, this ole Buckeye Girl loves seeing familiar Ohio things, and the cardinal is Ohio's State bird.

Now...  the good stuff..... 
 Audubon's Oriole
Apparently only 3 (males) are around this site this winter.  But their yellow bodies sure stand out!  

And...  what everyone who comes here wants to see...
The Altamira Oriole
Another bird that's only in this very tip of the USA
Look close, though....  check out the black area below his eye...  extending into this throat area....

Now...  here's the...
Hooded Oriole
Actually he's about 2" smaller than the Altamira, but the colors are quite similar.
But look at the black area below his eye....  
I knew you'd see the difference.

We saw several other species of birds while there...  the Ladder-back woodpecker, the Golden-fronted woodpecker, and the Black-crested Titmouse to name a few.....  but after 3 hours or so of sitting there I started to get chilled clear through.  

We said our goodbyes to Judy and Larry....  and headed down the driveway...  a short walk to the Rio Grande River.....
It always gives me a funny feeling to realize that Mexico is just across the river....
A whole 'nuther country!  A different language, different customs....  and now it takes a passport to even step ashore.  Oh well....

I'll enjoy the birds that are here...  and know that they can fly back and forth as they wish.....

We'll be in the Valley only a couple more weeks so I don't know if we'll get back up this way or not...  but I'm always so happy when we do.

That's All For Today!