Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Scorched Earth Policy

We escaped Houston before hurricane Ike struck, thinking we would be smart to get away from all that rain. Little did we know that Ike would sneak up on us in Wimberley. Not the rain, which actually would have been nice. Instead, Ike's strong winds whipped up a burn pile that had been extinguished (or so I thought) the day before, scorching an acre or so of the back side of our property. That's me in the first photo, putting out the last of the flames we were horrified to see after coming back from a trip to Austin.

The second photo is from the top deck, taken the morning after. You can see that the fire stopped where luckily I had recently spread some topsoil near the house. The topsoil, and a little luck, stopped the flames before they could get to the house. Somehow the fire also magically sopped at the edged of the surrounding woods. We lost a couple of trees, but nothing disastrous.

The expression "better lucky than good" certainly seems to apply to this little adventure. In the future I'll endeavor to use more good and not rely on the lucky bit.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Let There be Light, v3

The first few generations of low voltage solar landscape lights were junk. Truly worthless, so weak an yellowish that no lights at all were usually a better solution. But, the last few years have brought some real progress, with better solar cells, batteries, and especially the new LED replacements for the old bulbs, which burn much whiter and longer. My friend Mark gave me some of these new ones recently, and they've been proudly lighting up the walkways at the Wimberley house for several months now. This picture does them little justice, but you can see that the light is a very pure white.

Solar lighting has even crept into the street number illumination field. Now, I have to admit that when my Dad first gave me this my first thought about this particular innovation was "gee, I never realized I needed that". But, after installing it I was amazed to see how well it worked. Pretty geeky, huh?

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Booked up

The final part of our living room construction is underway; a stained birch bookcase that runs the entire length of a wall next to the fireplace. Since we have no library in the house, the idea is to create that cozy, "snuggle in and read a book" feeling on one side of the living room. It doesn't look too snugly now, with only the first section of bare wood installed. But when the whole wall of bookshelves is built and stained, books are in place, a soft & deep sofa is setting next to it, and a toasty fire is going this winter... magic will happen.

And that insulation you can see behind the bookcase area? That's not an exterior wall, but the wall separating the living room from the laundry and powder rooms. The insulation is to keep the magic from being interrupted by loud or entertaining noises from either one of those areas.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Triple Play

What creature does more damage to bird feeders, and to the wallets of bird feeder owners, than any other? (Hint: it has eyes that glow green when you shine a light on them.)

I had thought the answer to this question was squirrels, because I often saw them hanging around the feeders. But eventually I noticed that the real damage was occurring at night, when the squirrels were tucked safely in bed. I started catching raccoons in the act in the middle of the night by shining a flashlight out of the bedroom window at a feeder. I know, I know, I need to get a life. Instead I got a trap. This photo is of the third raccoon it caught in four nights, a pretty good success rate. The remaining problem seems to be mama raccoon, who has witnessed her young-uns trapped and may be too cautious to go for the bait herself. Perhaps I should tempt her with some more exotic bait, maybe a nice string of raccoon pearls or her very own i-phone.