Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Coming Into the 21st Century

I have an admission.
A confession.

When we get new electronic things and I have to learn them and I don't get it and the 'old one' works just fine, I cry.
Lovely run-on sentence, I know.

I mean it, I cry.
I once got into a ginormous fight with Eric when he got a new remote for the television upstairs.
The old one worked just fine!!!
Doesn't matter that it was held to together with tape and a ponytail holder.

When he wasn't home, I would take the batteries out of the new remote and put them in the old remote.
The new remote wasn't as straight forward in its operation as the old one.

One day the old remote disappeared.
I cried!

Now mind you, I'm not a weepy sort of girl.
I just don't like feeling stupid, especially when a machine is involved.
Geez, I can drive an old diesel tractor and run chainsaw with no tears whatsoever.

When we got a new computer, an Apple computer, I cried.
Huge, crocodile tears.
I wanted a new computer, the old PC was so full of viruses that we were all in danger of dying from Ebola or something.

Apple (at the time) was immune to viruses because there were so few of them.
Hackers and Virus makers couldn't be bothered with creating viruses to make life miserable for Apple owners.

Apple and PCs are different.
When you have a PC, it comes with a manual on how to do everything.
With an Apple, you have to go the the mall and visit with an "Apple Genius" (aka: techno geek) and take classes.
I. Hate. The. Mall!!!

Meltdowns ensued.
Big ones.

Like the television remote, I learned how to use my Apple.
I didn't even go to the Mall.
I just fiddled around until I got it.
I'm certain that I'm not using it to its full potential, but I don't care.

That brings us to my newest nemesis.
I will begin by letting you know that I asked for this.
It was time to have a phone that can be helpful to me while I'm not at home.

Last Fall, I was at Carson's place, alone, for part of the visit.
While I truly loved my time there, I wondered--"If I get bit by a rattlesnake, I won't know where to tell them to send a helicopter."
She really, truly lives 7 miles south of nowhere.
She doesn't even live on a street. 
No stop signs, no corner stores.
Cattle guards and arroyos (creeks) are land markers.
I would have needed my GPS coordinates to get help, but my current phone would have been no help at all.
Samsung Galaxy S4
In white.
Because that's how it makes the most sense to pick a phone, right?
Next month, I'll be headed to pick Jenna up from college (HOORAY!!! )---alone.
This time of year, as we've seen in the news, severe storms can be a problem.
If I had a cool, new phone from the 21st century, I could track storms and stay safe.

There will be no tears with this new gadget.
Not to say that it hasn't already made me feel stupid.
Eric is out of town and I can't get it "set up".
That's why I married a computer geek.
That and the fact that he was (is) terribly handsome and had a job and was (is) as patient the day is long, and lets me cry over the mean, mean new gadgets he brings into the house.
Run-on sentences----now that, I can do.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Certain Times of the Year, I Miss Him

My father has been gone for 23 years.
Nearly half my life.

I've written about him before.
Thankfully, the memories that remain are all good ones.
I read a blog post this morning by Bev at Bee Haven Acres about Morel mushrooms on her place.

My nephew, John, in Missouri is posting pictures on Facebook of his Morel hunts as well.

It makes me miss my dad.
This picture makes me teary-eyed.

Everything about my dad is in this picture.

His L.L. Bean hunting boots.  

Every year, in late August, they'd get oiled and put in the oven on the lowest setting possible, to waterproof them for the coming hunting season.

His Brittany Spaniel.
That's the only hunting dog we'd own.  This dog was Lady.  
Man, she was a great dog! 
She'd hold a point on a covey of quail 'til the cows came home.
She'd retrieve them once they'd been downed--always with a soft mouth.
She gave kisses, too.

His Weber grill.
Oh, the magic he could work with charcoal and meat!

His Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. 
 What a dorky little bottle. 
 Mostly the beer came to our house in cans.  
"CARLA, BRING ME A BEER!"  was a common statement at my house when he was downstairs working in the garage. 
 I hated that.  
Why was he so blasted lazy that he couldn't come get his own danged beer?
I do the same thing now, but not with beer.
"Quinn, can you please go upstairs and bring me the iPad?"
I'll bet he hates it too, and wonders why I'm so danged lazy.

His chamois cloth shirt from L.L. Bean.
Christmas present from me, probably.
He didn't get ties and button down shirts for birthdays and Christmas.
Hunting and work clothes were what fit the bill.

Painters pants.
Probably some paint on those, but probably some blood stains from various wildlife--hunting and fishing, too.

Lastly, the Morel mushrooms.
Spring was for fishing and mushroom hunting.
Fall was for bird hunting.

At the time, I wasn't so keen to haul out of bed at O'Dark-Thirty to get where we were going.
It was freezing cold or it was hot and sticky.  Seldom was the weather perfect.
There were ticks.  
Lord, were there ticks!
Imagine feeling like you'd hit the jackpot because you got to use the bathroom at a gas station instead of behind a bush.

I was so very, very lucky to have been included in these journeys each year.

I can very nearly smell the mushrooms cooking now.
Lightly dusted in flour, salt and pepper, and then fried in butter.
So crispy and nutty and amazing.

Worth every tick.
Worth every tick.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Well, I Didn't Want Spring Weather Anyway!

I'm straight up going to complain about the weather today (again!), so consider yourself forewarned.
Sister Crankypants is in the house!

I'll admit, we have had a wee bit of lovely springtime temperatures.
We have had a couple inches of rain since January (but only a couple).
Enough to green things up (which is nice).

Just so you know, the chance of "AM storms" you see above---didn't happen.  
It was a 70% chance when I went to bed last night, for cryin' out loud!

The one thing they never miss on is the temperature.
You can be sure it will reach 94* or beyond today.
It will reach 94* tomorrow as well.

We also get the addition of a "Red Flag Warning" today.  
It should really be called "Wildfire Warning" because that's what it really means.

High temps, high winds (gusting to 45mph) and low, low humidity (10%).

If you're in Austin and you flick a cigarette butt out the window into the brush, I'm taking your license plate number.
I'll give it to the police, should your butt start a fire.
I'm not kiddin'.
Also, if you leave a pet or a baby in your car to 'run into the store for just a couple things', 
I'm breaking your car window.
Not kidding there either.

If you live someplace where the weather doesn't make you cranky on a regular basis, please share your location. 
I'm packing my bags.  
It's too darn early for it to be so darn hot.

Respectfully submitted,
Sister Crankypants

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Water, Water, Everywhere....

....Nor Any Drop to Drink.

I've always heard that last line from the Rime of the Ancient Mariner as,
" Not a Drop to Drink."

These are mammatus clouds.
Mammary clouds.

Three guesses as to why they are named that.

Never mind.  
One guess should do it.

Last week another cold front blew in.
It brought these clouds with it. 

However, these clouds did NOT bring water as they should have.
The drought continues.

Water, water everywhere,
Nor Any Drop to Drink.

Can you tell it makes me a wee bit grouchy?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

What is as Big as a Gummi Bear?

My Grandbaby, that's what!
Preston and Katie are expecting their first child on Thanksgiving day.

Katie told me today that all the widgets that help track how far along she is and how big the baby is tell her that, 
"Your baby is as big as a kidney bean".

photo credit: Jenna Cox

Eeeww, we both agreed that kidney beans are icky and comparing the size of a wee baby to a kidney bean didn't sit well with us.
Then I remembered that my niece, Sarah told me that she referred to her babies at this stage in the game as Gummi Bears.


Jenna sent me this picture this week as well.

It's kismet.

My grandbaby is as big as a Gummi Bear.

There, now I feel much better. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Herding Cats

In this case, it's herding 'cat'.
My friend Carson has an orange cat.
He is just like Hobbes in every way except having his picture taken.
Hobbes, not so much.
When I'm outside, my terribly aloof cat becomes a love bug.
Purr, purr, purr.
Rub, rub, rub.
Meow, meow, meow.
He turns it all on.
His love and admiration for me outdoors does not make for a good photographic subject.
 This is the best one of the bunch.
Hobbes: "I'm gonna sit right up against you, I'll keep you warm"

Me: "Hobbes, look at me.  I just want a picture of your face."

Hobbes: "Ooo, what's that in the weeds?"

He looked at me and looked down just as the camera clicked.

Hobbes: "I see something"
Hobbes: "It smells like a rabbit right here.  Do you smell it?"
Me: "No, now will you please just look over at me?"
Hobbes: "Seriously, I smell something.  Come sniff and see if you think it was a rabbit."
Me: "No thanks"

Hobbes: "You still cold?  I'll sit right here for a minute and warm you up."
Me: "I think it's you that's cold."
Hobbes: "Well, that hurts my feelings.  I was trying to be nice."
Hobbes: "I shun you."  "However, I'll sit right here and do it."

I finally gave up and just laid down in the grass.

Me: "Hobbes, PLEASE just look this way one time."

Hobbes: "Hang on, I think I see something."
Me: "Nevermind.  I'm going inside.  I'm cold."

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It's Official--At Least on Paper

This morning, I used this
to pay for this

so these could come home.

The fence will be delivered on the 22nd.
My wonderful fence guy will start sometime after that.
Right now, he's installing 800 feet of fence in what is nearly all rock.
My job will take 2-3 weeks.
Which turns out to be fine because Finn and Oliver won't be coming home until the end of the month; and then they'll be going to my neighbor's barn.
They'll need at least two weeks of constant positive attention in an enclosed area.
They're used to seeing humans, but not being handled by them.
If I let them out in her pasture, I'd never catch them again.
My neighbor's barn has enormous stalls and a small turnout area attached to each stall.
I plan on taking a chair and book and a bag of carrots to begin our 'getting to know each other stage'.
All horses, donkeys, mules are curious by nature.
Me sitting, ignoring them, will be irresistible.
Their reward for coming to investigate me will be a carrot coin.
Next will come halters and brushes and more carrot coins.
I'm hoping the end of May will be when they come to my property for good.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Hi, I'm Carla and I Collect Dead Things

Yes, I'm one of those people.
I am just as fascinated by dead animals as I am of live ones.
I am equally as fascinated by the garbagemen in nature.

Large carrion eaters--coyotes, raccoons, opossum, skunks and vultures
 Medium carrion eaters--mice and rats
 Tiny carrion eaters--all manner of insects, both adult and larval stages.
 Microscopic carrion eaters--bacteria
All those things make it possible for humans to not be walking around in sea of dead things.
Just imagine the stink if these creatures didn't do their jobs.

The bones you see in the first picture are of the only deer I ever let myself get on a first name basis with.  We called her Momma (very original, I know).  She was hit and killed by a car last summer and died on my property.  I have Momma's skull, spine and scapulas (shoulder blades).  I don't know why I felt compelled to collect them. Maybe I belonged to some tribe in a past life that collects bones of creatures that meant something to them?  
On a more practical side, I certainly didn't want to run over them with the lawn tractor.

The skull you see is of a house sparrow.  It killed itself on one of my windows.
As soon as Hobbes the cat hears that familiar 'thud', he runs to find out if the bird is dead. 
Free food!
He ate all but the head and I discovered the skull a couple days later.  It was covered in tiny garbagemen--ants.  
Within two days, it was completely clean.  

Two days!
Cool, right!?

Being the weirdo that I am, I brought it in the house to take pictures.  
Being the forensic junky that I am, I deduced that the bird must have broken its neck because the skull wasn't broken at all.

I flipped it over to get a picture of the bottom of it, and out came a couple little ants.
Cool, right!?

Momma's skull is tucked in a cubby hole in my chicken coop.
The bird skull is sitting in my office window, next to a female Rhinoceros Beetle--dead, of course.

My name is Carla, and I collect dead things. 
Can we still be friends? 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Day Trip and a Large Purchase

My friend, Deb and I went on a road trip to LaGrange, TX.
I brought my checkbook.

 The drive was stunning.
It is finally greening up and the wildflowers are out in all their glory.

I live on the edge of a geological feature called the Edwards Plateau.
Dripping Springs is unofficially "The Gateway to the Hill Country".
What that means is---rocky outcroppings.  
When you dig a hole, you hit a rock.  You usually have to move the hole.  You may have to move the hole again.  In fact, you may have to rent a jackhammer if you really must have the hole in one particular place.
It means you have 6 inches of topsoil--if you're lucky.
It means Live Oak trees, Mesquite, and all manner of plants that will poke you.
It means that weather systems seem to mysteriously break apart, just as they approach the Plateau.
I'm not kidding.

The Edwards Plateau ends, right along I-35 in Austin.
East of I-35, the landscape begins to roll.
It is green.
They have a healthy layer of topsoil.
It rains.
I'm not kidding.

LaGrange, Texas is 77 miles nearly due East from Dripping Springs.
It might as well be in another state.
It is SO green.
It is miles and miles of amazing, rolling pastureland.
It looks nothing like Dripping Springs.
Heck, there's even water in people's stock ponds!

However, the trip wasn't just made to look at flowers and ponds,
it was made to look at donkeys.
Little donkeys.

I fully intended to get my donkeys from a rescue organization, but the only one with miniature donkeys right now says that they are not ready for adoption and don't know when they will be.

Instead, I took my checkbook to LaGrange and bought donkeys from a family that raises donkeys for their own pleasure.

These two boys are currently Jacks.  
When they come home, they will be Geldings.
That's horsey speak for "they're getting fixed".

For a short bit, they will live at my next door neighbor's house, until our fence can be put up.
It will enable me to get to know them better, in a more controlled environment.
She has a barn with stalls and runs attached.
They still need to be halter trained and learn to pick up their feet for cleaning and hoof trimming.
I plan on spending time just sitting with them.
Not asking anything of them.  

I have been assured by my donkey owning friends, Carson, Justina and Danni, that these little boys will be in my pocket in no time.
That's horsey speak for "following me around, nipping at pockets hoping for a treat".

Until then, I need help with names.  
I simply cannot seem to come up with anything that seems right.

In the past, when I've had this problem with pets, I let them 'tell me their names'.
I know, I know, sounds like hooey.
However, it seems to work.  Suddenly a name will present itself when I'm with them.

If you have any name ideas, please share!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

They're Not Babies Anymore

 The chicks will be 6 weeks old tomorrow---give or take a day or two on either side.

They are no longer tiny, peeping fluff balls.

I'd weigh them, but they never sit still.

(l-r) Jane, Eleanor, Harriot
  This was their first time outdoors.
It's in a quiet, relatively safe place out under my deck.

 'Relatively' being the operative word.

Hobbes: Oooo, 7 tiny snacks!
Me: Uh, I don't think so.  Go catch a rat if you feel like eating out.
Hobbes: But these are so close and look easy to catch.

(l-r) Harriot, Eleanor, Marie, Ruth, Jane
 In true chicken fashion, one of the chicks, Jane (reddish brown, lower right) sounded the alarm.
All heads up, necks outstretched, all chicken voices off.
Everyone looked around to figure out where the danger might be.
Jane then silently gave the "all clear" and it was off to the races again.

Hobbes: Are you sure I can't have just one?
Me: Yes, I'm sure.
Hobbes: But you have so many!
Me: I'm still sure.

 I have a bit of a worry that Jane is really Jack.
She has been large and in charge since the second day they all arrived.

The other chicks would retreat to a corner when I'd change their water or food,
 Jane/Jack would challenge me, head up and alert.
I'll cross that bridge if I come to it.
I really don't need a rooster.

Can. Not. Stand. Still.
 Once Hobbes found something better to do than stalk my babies, they went back to scurrying about, digging for microscopic bugs and eating green weeds.

Jane or Jack?

 They should be laying eggs in about 14 weeks.  According to this little widget, that'll be the second week in July.
Unless you're a Jack instead of a Jane.  
Then there'll be no eggs, just crowing and protecting the flock and being a nuisance.

Sweet, sweet Amelia.
I see a lap sitter in my future.
 I have yet to figure out what breed little Amelia and her sister, Marie are; and I'm pretty darn good at figuring stuff like that out.  If you know what she is, please share.  

As for Hobbes, he wandered off. 
I'll have to keep an eye on the babies when they're outdoors for a couple more months.

Then one of them will just have to peck him on the nose and he'll give them a wide berth after that.

Hobbes:  I didn't want chicken for dinner anyway.  It's boring.  It tastes like chicken.

Friday, April 4, 2014

We Conquered the Rock!

Enchanted Rock that is.
Now that I've been able to tell you about Eric's job change, I can also tell you that he had 2 weeks between finishing at one job and beginning the other.

We took advantage of this mini retirement and did a few things together.
We took 3 day trips and this was one of them.

If you double click on this picture, the tiny specks you see on the rock are people.  Yes, it's that big!
This photo doesn't really do justice to how odd (and beautiful) this formation is.
Two, side-by-side pink granite domes rise 425 feet above the surrounding countryside.
This sort of "bubbling up" dome is called a batholith.
Magma bubbled to the surface about 1 billion years ago (yes, billion) and hardened.
This formation is the second largest of its kind in North America.
Second only to Stone Mountain in Georgia.

I'm here to tell you that 425 feet up is a long way.  
Eric is in much better shape than me and was patient as I took several breaks to catch my breath.
Maybe that's why they call the views from up high, "breathtaking"?

The grade might look challenging, but the rock is very much like the roughest sandpaper you can think of.  
Great for gripping with a rubber-soled hiking boot.

We've hiked it before, and each time I think, 
"Boy, if someone took a fall, they'd tumble all the way to the bottom."
It's a pretty steep grade and there's nothing to grab hold of, should you trip.
Still, thousands of people climb to the top and back down again, every year.

While neither of us have studied much geology, we have both always been fascinated by what rock does-pushing and pulling and layers on top of layers that barely resemble one another.  What was happening on the planet when this dome was formed?

Like all hikes that take you upward, the gift upon making it to the top is the view.
I've searched the internet to find out the name of this beautiful jumble of rocks to the north, but I can't find it.  
I'm certain it has a name.

It's funny to think that Eric is standing, using his cell phone, in a place that another human might have stood 11,000 years ago.  
Probably not using a cell phone, though.

The arid landscape gives up a bit of color in the springtime when we get a bit of rain.  
It had rained the day before we went.  Lucky for us.  
I've never seen this species of barrel cactus in bloom before.

If you double click this picture, you'll see a funny formation at about "4 o'clock"--it looks like a table on a tall pedestal.  Again, don't know what it's called, but will keep searching.

The next several pictures demonstrate that this dome is made up of what geologist called Exfoliation layers. The magma rose and cooled and then another layer bubbled up over the top of the cooled layer---over and over again. 
With the change of weather and possible earthquakes over billions of year, those layers of 'exfoliated' or flaked off.  In a really big way!
  All around the base of the dome, there is a boulder field. 

Not all the boulders are this large, but we wondered if any of these fascinating layers have flaked off in recent history.
Another internet search.
What did I ever do before Google?

This shot makes it clearer as to what I'm talking about.
The rock is really like a big onion.

Beyond the obvious (hiking, exercise, amateur geologists) this trip was an opportunity for us to reconnect and not have anything hanging over our heads.  A chance to remember that no matter what, we were still a team.
Simple things like holding hands or helping me down from one large boulder to another, talking about trivial things meant so much. Dreaming about what this new job means for him, seeing him laugh and smile---they all were huge for me. 

It was a perfect day.  A lovely day.
Thanks honey.