Sunday, January 31, 2010

2010 - Day Thirty One...

The last day of January already. Where has the month gone? Well, it went, and there is nothing we can do about it. No do-overs, nothing left but today and all the tomorrows. I am about to leave the house and head to Galveston, where I will get myself and ALL MY BAGGAGE on a big cruise ship for the next week. This cruise will give me (and about 100 other REALTORS from the Austin area) continuing education credits for license renewal, and a chance to get to know each other better, while seeing how much liquor we can consume. I speak from experience of having witnessed this phenomenon on the last MCE Cruise I was on about three years ago. These things are a lot of fun, and I am looking forward to it. AND, tomorrow begins the Theme Blog Month, twenty-eight days of blog entries that (at least in some part) will have a theme. I cannot tell you what the theme is yet, but this photo should give you a little hint of a clue, a little teaser. It should be fun!

Okay, it is 3:20 and I have finally arrived at my cabin. My luggage, however, is nowhere to be seen. I did see a few of my fellow travellers while in the myriad of lines to board the ship…Jill, Pearce, Bob, Martha…I expected to see more, but it is a big ship, and lots of people.

I went and had some lunch, and, although I am being kind of crabby right now, I expect to be over it soon, and start having fun just any minute. Lunch was (basically) massive quantities of food with little or no taste. I tried the lasagna, a salad, a piece of bread and skim milk. I avoided the dessert stations. I have had food available for almost an hour, and I have avoided the dessert stations STILL. I do not expect that to last very long. I would really like to get through this cruise without having gained too much weight. I am not sure if that is possible or not, but I will try my best.

My cabin is okay, a king size bed, kind of a Halloween orange color palette, and stains on the couch (day bed) that I am not wanting to determine the origin of. Nice balcony on the port side, but the view side (at this minute) is on the other side. Once I got to the room, I tried to call Jody, but the line was busy. It remained busy, so I had no choice but to call a neighbor to tell him one of the phones must be off the hook or something. He called me back in a few minutes…it seems the cat had JUST NOTICED the telephone in the bedroom, and found it to be quite fascinating. I think a little tussle must have ensued, and the telephone lost. But all is better now, and that was my last contact with Jody for (probably) a couple days. It just depends onwhen/where I will have cell phone contact.

The ship safety message is on a continuous loop on the television right now, and I am about safetied out! I know many of the signals now by heart. ALL ABOARD THAT’S GOING ASHORE. That was the announcfement that was just made. Of course, it was not audible in my cabin so I had to open the door to hear it. That was a good thing, though, since I determined that two of my three bags were at the door. Hopefully the other one will appear shortly. The bag with all the instruction manuals are here, and the bag with my hanging clothing is here, but the bag with my four stashed bottles of wine are not here. I wonder if they have been confiscated? We shall see…
We are about to have to go to the safety section, so I am going down to the fourth floor. Back in a little while. Okay that did not take long, and I am back. I stood with Jana and her family, and listened about how to put on my life jacket. Hopefully, we will not need to use them this trip.

Okay, that is about it for this post. I need to do some snooping around the ship, and figure out where things are.

Deeds, Changes, Actions, Kindnesses, Whirled Peas, FUN!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

2010 - Day Thirty...

A nice chilly start to the morning. When I woke up this morning, I found we had another quarter inch of rain in the gauge since I emptied it yesterday. Like a dolt, I went to empty the gauge, only to discover it was frozen. DUH! Anyway, I did my morning chores (reading meters, etc.) and came in and read the newspaper. That usually does not take that long. Jody got up sometime after 7, and a while later we decided I would make one of my famous egg-loafs. Hail and Hearty for a cool morning. The dog is growing more and more impatient for us to share our plates with him, and twitches like a nervous cat with every move we make before we set our plates down for him. He is certainly a solid citizen now, compared to when we got him from the shelter over a year ago. He is a wonderful dog, and I still wonder about his secret past.

Today will be a day of my choosing. As busy (or NOT) as I want it to be. I stayed in bed kind of late this morning, even though I did not really rest that comfortably. I am somewhat disappointed in my knee surgery of about a month ago. I expected much better results that I have experienced. I am not certain, but the pain in my knee seems to have taken on a 'chronic' aspect, and it seems more pronounced (or maybe it is just because I have fewer distractions) in the late afternoons and evenings. Whatever, it makes it more difficult to rest comfortably, and whenever I toss and/or turn while sleeping, I am very conscious of it, and cannot find a comfortable position. CRAPOLA. And the worst part of it is, NONE of it was covered by my already exorbitantly expensive insurance policy. Yeah, take that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas. I could have an even more expensive policy if I opted for a deductible lower than $5,000. There is a faction in our country that says we have the best health care in the world, and I believe that, but it is CRAZY when an individual pays $6,000 per year for health care, and it pays nothing. I basically have a catastrophic health care policy. Nothing for preventive care, dental, long term care, etc. I pay EXTRA for all those things. I will now step down from my soap box...thank you very much.

I have begun preparing for my week off from work. I will head out of here tomorrow morning about 8 AM for the drive to Galveston to get on the ship. Then a week of (mostly) fun and relaxation. I will be teaching two classes on the cruise, and I am taking lots of work with me to try and get done while there are no phones to answer. I have the best of intentions, and so I hope things work out as I am planning. I am taking four pieces of luggage, two of which contain the stuff to teach my classes...student handbooks, forms, computers (two) and all those things. I am definitely not travelling lightly on this cruise, but I am still expecting it to be a good time. These cruises always provide time for you to get to know your colleagues better as well, and I am looking forward to that. I wonder what I will forget to take? I will let you know...

I fed the cattle and took another bale of hay out to them. They will have plenty of water (since the stock tank is full) and they have TWO bales of hay, that should last them for LONGER than I will be gone. They were not terribly anxious for the feed when I went out there, and to me that is a good sign, they have been eating the grass and not counting on feed or hay, so they were certainly not starving. It is nice to see them drinking the water out of the tank, and it occurred to me that I should keep the water off while they are in this pasture, just to conserve more need in serving the cattle treated and chlorinated water when they have a perfectly good source right there in the pasture. What a concept!

Jody and I went into Austin after I fed the cattle, and I just wanted to touch everything in the office one more time before I left town. All was good, and we did not stay there long. On the way back towards the farm, traffic was a little bit crazy...more in just a second...BUT lo-and-behold, driving down IH-35 was the Mascot Himself, Good-Old-BEVO. I knew that he was treated pretty well, but I never realized he had an air conditioned trailer for his transport. It kind of brings back memories of Jim and Tammy Fay, but I will not get into that right now. Further down the road, there was a futon or some other piece of furniture laying half-way in the far right lane of traffic, causing lots of tire screeching and lane-changing. Pretty much chaos on the expressway. Not too much further up was a pick-up on the shoulder with a large load of crap in the bed, with no visible signs of restraint. It looked like they just piled all this stuff up (and I do mean a PILE), and thought they could drive down the expressway and it would all stay there where it was supposed to be. WELL, IT DID NOT STAY THERE, and the guy running down the shoulder to rescue the futon was jeopardizing himself and others in the process. I wonder if this will be on the 6 o'clock news or in the morning paper?

No more progress on the progress front, but there is this (and many other) towers laying on their sides here-and-there around the house. SO, I decided to see how much muddier I could get for the sake of this photograph. It was DARNED MUDDY if I do say so myself, and most likely not worth the trouble, but here it is, up close and personal with a giant electrical transmission tower laying on its side, waiting for its erection. I feel certain there is a punk rock song in that sentence somewhere.

That's it.

Deeds, Actions, Changes, Kindnesses, WHIRLED PEAS, FUN!

Friday, January 29, 2010

2010 - Day Twenty Nine...

I slept very nicely last night, and it seems like I slept through quite a nice little storm. That is what usually happens when I self-medicate. I have not been sleeping really comfortably, so I decided I needed a good nights sleep, and I got it. It seems we had about an inch and a quarter of rain overnight, and that is a good thing and a bad thing. I know we need the rain, but we have had SO MUCH rain out here, the ground is soggy and we cannot get anything done. I know I will soon be complaining that the ground is dry and cracking apart because of NO RAIN, but I cannot only complain about one thing at a time. The drive to work was pretty much as I expected it to be, long, tedious, stop and go (mostly stop) and time consuming. We cannot (for sure) drive in less than optimal weather conditions, so I just settled in with my book on CD and went with it. It did, however, give me a good opportunity to take one of my special 'rain-on-the-windshield' photographs that I like taking. Hope you enjoy it! I am especially pleased that I had the new windshield wiper blade inserts put on the car earlier this week when I had it serviced! CLEAN AND CLEAR!

I am counting down to leaving town for a week, but I will be posting every day! I will be on a cruise and taking Continuing Education courses at the same time. I think it will be a lot of fun, and I am really looking forward to it. I am not looking forward to being away from Jody for a week, however. BUT, I am certain it will all be okay!

I decided I could take a risk and go to WhatABurger for lunch today. The risk (to me) is that I LOVE WhatABurger, and if I am not careful I can make it a daily (twice daily?) routine. I have been pretty good about avoiding the WhatABurger temptation for a couple of months, and since I am going to be gone for about two weeks, I can avoid the formation of this recurring bad habit. But I have to tell you, I loves me 'dem burgers!

Okay, by the time I left the office ALMOST EVERYTHING on my to-do list had been marked off. I have even finished projects that are not due until after I get back. I am happy about that, because I know there will be piles of work when I get back. So, I am comfortable knowing that I at least am relatively caught up, and that I am already prepared for meetings and things that I have scheduled for when I return.

I decided to take another route home this afternoon, so I could go through the low-water crossing. As you can see, the creek is flowing pretty briskly. Jody reports that the news stated that Lake Travis is rising nicely, and that all of the water shed that flows into Lake Travis got good amounts of rain. Yippee! That means that Austin will have drinking water for another several years, and life will go on as we know it. From what I understand, the lake has come up three or four feet, and it is expected to come up at least that much more as a result of the overnight rains.

I decided that, in my quest to be getting things done in advance, that I would go on out and move the cattle into the other pasture, and move their troughs and all that stuff, so I would not have to do it tomorrow. As usual, they were all very curious about what I was doing, and they thought they would help me out. Not really, they are mostly just in the way, and I have to be very careful with them when they are close. They can easily, and unintentionally, knock you into next week with their horns. If you are petting the bull, and he decides he has a bite somewhere, he will jerk his head around, and there you go. ANYWAY...

So I got everything moved, and I am here to tell you that a good north wind with temperatures around 35 degrees can make mud and water REALLY cold! Of course, I have lots of good gear, but a lot of these things cannot be accomplished with big heavy gloves on. Anyway, it is all done now, and I get to brag that I am a 'dirty boy'! Tomorrow, I will feed them, and take another bale of hay out there to them, and they will be fine until I return. Unfortunately, the water pipe to the trough where they are now is broken (I guess it froze, but the water to it was turned off, go figure) but I am not even worried about that because they are in the pasture with the big stock tank (as you can see in the photo) so if they drink all that water in ten days, they will most likely not survive anyway.

Jody has home made split-pea soup and baked potatoes for dinner tonight. YUMMY! Perfect for a cold night in the country. That will do it for this post, but stay tuned, I have a great blog-theme for February. It will be a LOT OF FUN!

Deeds, Actions, Kindnesses, Changes, Whirled Peas, FUN!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

2010 - Day Twenty Eight...

This day has all the makings for turning ugly. It was pleasant enough this morning when I went out to get the newspaper, and do my morning chores, but it drizzled a little bit on me coming into the office, and it has gotten progressively more rain-like as the day has gone on. I did make it through my Meals-On-Wheels without getting wet, and that is always a good thing. This is a photo of Dennis and Mr. Stan, two of the guys that I hang out with (usually) when we are waiting for the meals to be delivered. It is kind of like just three old guys telling stories and seeing who can make the other ones laugh. I have been doing Meals-On-Wheels for a long time, and I really enjoy it. Aside from the clients that I deliver to, it is folks like Dennis and Mr. Stan that make it a fun thing to do.

I have had just a little bit of a nagging feeling that I needed to confirm that all our our property taxes had been paid, so I called the taxing authorities (we have three different accounts in two counties), and determined that two of the three had been paid, but a little one, $116.43, had not been paid. So I am going to stop in Georgetown on the way home and take care of that. I am glad I followed my instincts about that, and did not let it get away from us. It would not have been a terrible penalty or anything, but they could foreclose for non-payment of taxes if they wanted to, I guess. Anyway, it is all cleared up in my head, and will be further cleared up when I get to Georgetown this afternoon. I made it to the tax office, and I was surprised at how many people were there. I had assumed there would not be too many people because I had no trouble when I telephoned. I did not have any hold time at all, BUT when I got there, they were backed up practically out the door. This office handles all kinds of tax payments, and I was wanting to pay property taxes, but it was really not too bad, less than twenty minutes (I was number 92 and when I got there they were calling number 81). Most everyone was very friendly which is typical for the country, but there was one unhappy British woman (most likely a Sun City War Bride) and she was not at all happy. But the clerk that was trying to help her just listened and took her crap, and finally the Tax Assessor herself came out and rescued him.

Here is another photo of the progress of the progress. It has made a little bit of progress since yesterdays photo. Again, I am not against progress, I just do not want it to be so close to me. Whatever...

We are going to the Filling Station for dinner tonight, so I expect I will take another photo from one of their archived photos on the walls. We shall see. The Bartlett Tribune-Progress (Serving Central Texas Since 1886) reports the Filling Station will be serving BBQ 'Fresh off the Pit until it's gone' tonight, so we are going to see what that is all about. They also report that they sold out last week. I will provide a full report when we return!

Okay, we are back from dinner, and I must say, it was yummy good. I had the BBQ Rib Dinner Combo (Ribs, Brisket and Chicken with Mashed Potatoes and a Salad). Jody had the pulled pork sandwich. They offer two different kinds of sauces (sweet or regular) and to be honest, I couldn't tell a lot of difference). ANYWAY, it was more than I could eat, so I brought home a rib, the chicken and the pickles! I also brought the bones home for the dog-boy. It was a tremendous sacrifice for me to order something with the dog-boy at the crux of the decision. Whatever... This is another copy of the photos they are displaying on their walls, all of them are old photos of Bartlett 'back in the day', but there are no legends as to what the photos depict. Take a look at the guy in the front row, 8th from the right, with the khaki pants and the short sleeved white shirt. That guy either 'reminds me of' or 'favors' my father. Not sure which. He does not look like my dad, but something about him makes me think of my father every time I see that photograph.

That will about do it for today. No freezing weather tonight, but the next two nights will be freezing, so I will have to turn the water off to the pastures. I am moving the cattle to the other pasture on Saturday, so that will take care of their water needs while I am gone next week.

Deeds, Actions, Changes, Kindnesses, Whirled Peas, FUN!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

2010 - Day Twenty Seven...

Not one of our cows...our cows have justs as much attitude, but they hide it better. It was dark when I left for work this morning (it usually is) and it was ALMOST dark when I got home this evening. Part of it was the overcast skies tonight, part of it was because I got a late start home from the office. BUT, I had a pretty darn good day, but today (my day) was probably not something that will be considered news (or blog) worthy of my vast ether-net audience. I count three folks who regularly tune in to these posts, and if I keep boring everyone to death, I will have to start my recruitment efforts all over again.

I actually was able to leave a little later than usual today, since I was heading directly to the Board of REALTORS for my first official meeting as a Board Director. I can tell you, running an association such as our is complicated business, and there are lots of things that go on behind the scenes that many (or most) of our members are not aware of. Just like Dolly Parton's quote 'It takes a lot of money to look this cheap', it takes a lot of hard work and attention to details to run an operation with several thousand members. And, the staff and volunteers make it all runs very well, so we all think it is easy, but it takes a lot of attention to details. The more I understand the process and procedures, the more impressed I am.

I heard a good quote today, from one of our guests this morning (thanks Joe). 'You don't always have to agree with it, but you do have to understand it.' I paraphrase, but that was a pretty good thing for me to think about.

After the Board meeting, I had another meeting at the Board that started at 2 o'clock, so I just stayed, since the first meeting went a little bit long. Then, I headed for the office and got there about 3:30, and left for home just a little bit after 5 o'clock.

I had noticed the cranes working down from our house yesterday, but I did not feel like making the detour to see what they were up to. I did tonight, and it does not look like they are making fast progress, but progress nonetheless. I am not sure progress is a good thing out here in our little area, but I do know for sure that it is inevitable. So, hopefully after this construction is all done, we will just pass by them and not pay any attention. This will be a double set of towers, and I want to see how it turns out. One thing is certain, these things are huge. We you look at them along the horizon, they look like robot sentries from outer space, spaced at convenient intervals so they can monitor all our doings. Okay, probably too much Rod Serling, but that is what they remind me of when you see them in a series.

Yum...stuffed salmon for dinner tonight...along with a nice salad and some green peas. What could be better?

Deeds, Kindnesses, Changes, Actions, Whirled Peas, FUN!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

2010 - Day Twenty Six...

Today has been a nice day. It was cold this morning when I got up, but not terribly so. I just thought I would use this photo to catch your attention. The thermometer on the front porch read right at about 32 degrees, and the nuclear powered weather station reported it to be over 40 degrees. Taking into consideration the location of the register on the latter, I really judge colder temperatures using the plain old mercury thermometer. So, I had turned off the water last night to the cattle, and since it was not really a hard freeze, I went out in the dark and turned the water back on. No threats of a freeze for the next few nights, so that is no issue.

On the way in, I stopped and filled the car up with gas, and ran it through the quarter-car-wash. Remember those? Well, inflation has now made (what used to be a quarter) the quarter-car-wash $8. EIGHT DOLLARS to take your car through the quarter-car-wash. You get a discount of $1 if you get more than 8 gallons of gas, but if my car took 8 gallons of gas, it would mean that I had to push it into the station. Whatever...

Every other Tuesday is recycle day on the street that runs along side our office, so I have made a deal with one of the neighbors that I can bring my recycling in from the country AND take the recycling from the office and deposit into his recycling container. This is pitiful, but when he fills up his container with his own recycling, it have to do the little 'stomp the recyclables' dance to make everything fit in. It is not usually too bad, but every now and then it is a challenge. USUALLY it is only a challenge when the weather is inclement...I am sure you understand that. There I am in the rain stomping of pie pans and milk jugs to get them to all go in the container. I am quite certain it is a site!

I am still working ahead, trying to get things done in anticipation of my being out of town all next week. Should not really be any big deal, I am fortunate to have surrounded myself with good, competent and reliable folks, and we are all in this together, so we will cover each other when it is necessary. I am working on my to-do list, and the to-dos are getting shorter and shorter!

Among other things, I had an appointment early this afternoon with a very wonderful friend of mine, even though we do not see each other that often. I wonder if absence make the friendships better? Could be... Anyway, I was on my way to the appointment and called to ask if he (Ed) had had lunch already. He had not, so we met at the Torchy's Tacos on Spicewood Springs Road, and had a very nice lunch. I think that is the first time I have ever had a 'Mexican' (Hispanic) Coca-Cola. Maybe it is just me, but I could not really tell any difference. I am sure I have just insulted many Coke Connoisseur, and if so, I apologize in advance. Anyway, lunch was very nice, and afterwards we went to Ed's condo and he listed the property for sale. He will be also purchasing a new home, so this will be a 'tag-team' kind of a deal, and I am certain he will find a wonderful new home for himself and his sweet (possibly hyper) puppy, whose name escapes me right now. I know it is a two-syllable name... that's three syllables...

Got back to the office, did a little bit more work, reconciled an account, and marked that off my to-do list. Tomorrow will be a full day of meetings, including my first full-on-meeting as a Director of the Austin Board of REALTORS. I am hoping I don't mess up too badly. I am prepped and ready! I think it will all be okay!

Oh yeah, I also had to stop at the Post Office this morning on my way to the appointment. SO, as I mentioned above, I got my car washed this morning, and as I was walking out to get in my car, I went to the DIRTY Prius, and tried to get into it. My bad...and the woman that owned the dirty Prius was right behind me, and she did not want to hear about the fact that I was more used to getting into a dirty car, blah, blah, blah... It does not look like there will be any kind of a spectacular sunset tonight, so I will close this post for today.

Deeds, Kindnesses, Changes, Actions, Whirled Peas, FUN!

Monday, January 25, 2010

2010 - Day Twenty Five...

This will most likely be a short, sweet post. I have decided not to bore you with the mundane, and overall today was just nothing really to write home about. I got into the office early, and was in power-real-estate mode for most of the day...well until about 1:30 anyway. I had an appointment to get my car serviced (90,000 mile check-up) and I was told by Sally (service person extraordinaire) that I would be there for a while. And she was right. I was there for three hours, and got more work done while I was waiting.

While I was still there, Konrad (my bee keeping teacher) pulled in with his Prius for an oil change, and we sat and talked about bees for a while before all my bee questions were exhausted, and we started talking about other interests we share. Konrad is also a high school economics and government teacher, so he had lots of interesting experiences to relate. I am really excited about my bee keeping future, although it will still be a month or six weeks (I imagine) before I actually get my bee packages. Yep, bees come in packs, and I am told it kind of freaks the mailmen out just a little bit. I am sure it is not the worst things they have delivered, most likely unknowingly.

So, I left the dealership and headed home, just in time to get this shot of the sunset. We have been really lucky lately to have good sunsets, and I hope you enjoy them. This week is going to be a busy one all the way around. Two of our agents are out of town (one is on a cruise). My business partner Carrie will be leaving on Wednesday (on a cruise) and I am leaving Sunday for a week (on a cruise). I wonder why we all did not cruise together, but I may have also just answered that question.

Tomorrow I am going to meet with a good friend of mine (Ed) who is interested in putting his home on the market for sale, and purchasing a new one. The tax credits will work out wonderfully for him, so that is exciting!

Deeds, Actions, Changes, Kindnesses, _______ ____ (fill in the blank), FUN!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

2010 - Day Twenty Four...

It has been a relatively busy day, and one in which I figured why I have such terrible neck and shoulder pain. More in a second... I got up about 5:30 and read meters, got the paper, drank coffee and all that stuff. Jody got up about 7, and did his morning rituals, and it was time for egg loaf. Pretty darn good this morning if I do say so myself. After a while, it was time for me to go outside and do stuff. The first thing I wanted to do was to cut a trail from the creek that goes into the middle tank to the water cut-offs for the back pastures, so if Jody has to go out there while I am gone (cruising the first week of February) he will not have to deal with snakes, holes, etc. So that was taken care of, and as long as I was out there and pretty well bundled up, I figured I may as well feed the cattle, etc. So, I went over to their troughs and put them where they needed to be, and by then Violet and Mr. Speckles had figured it out. The rest of the cattle were in the front pasture, and as I have reported before, as far as they are concerned, the only way for them to get from one place to another is a straight line. SO, there I was with my blue whiffle ball bat herding cattle from the front pasture to the other one, so I could close the gate. Then I loaded a bale of hay on the tractor, and took the Mule to the feed shed, and fed them. Here are a couple photos of them all lined up like Pavlov's cows, slobbering all over but happy as clams.

I took the hay out to them while they were distracted, and next week I plan to move them to the other pasture so there will be plenty of water for them in case it freezes and we need to turn off the water. After I got the hay taken care of, it was time to clean out the Purple Martin houses. The Purple Martins will begin arriving in the area pretty soon, maybe in another couple weeks, but there will be scout birds in the area before that. ANYWAY, our houses are clean now, and ready for new tenants. Jody swears he saw some Purple Martin scouts in the area last week, and I saw some birds on the Purple Martin houses last week as well, but I did not think they were Martins. Jody said he also saw some birds checking our the bluebird houses along the fence line last week, so maybe we will have a good bird year.

Once we had all the chores done, we went in to Georgetown and did some things. Most importantly we stopped at Dairy Queen and had another round of spoilers. And I wonder why it is taking me so long to lose any weight. Whatever... At the Dairy Queen, the place was INVADED by kids ranging in age from (probably) two years to eighteen or nineteen. Speaking particularly of the youngest of the children, I decided that they are really just smaller versions of cattle, but not necessarily as easily trained, and much more expensive as a hobby than the cattle. AND, you don't have to put cattle through four (or six) years of college. AND, when the cattle have offspring, we can sell them. Try that with your average, run of the mill child. It won't be long before the folks in the black helicopters will be knocking at your doors with unhappy looks on their faces. Whatever... While we were in town, we also went to the Collector's Market, HEB and Tractor Supply (where I got candy cherry jelly slices). Whatever...

When we got home, Jody went down for a nap, and I got busy playing catch up and working on stuff that I had on my to-do list that I brought home with me. Still trying to have a clean to-do list before I leave next weekend. A week from today. I had no idea it was as far to Galveston as it is. The last time we took a MCE Cruise from Galveston, it did not seem like it was a five-hour drive, but that is what my map says. Admittedly, we did live in Austin at the time, and Jody was with me, so time passed easier, BUT the way it looks, I will need to leave the house next Sunday at 9AM to get there as I am planning. The boat is loading at 1PM, and I would like to get there between 1:30 and 2, and we sail at 4PM. Never want to have to be in a rush...early early early, that's me.

So, life, as usual, is good here, and I am constantly reminded that I am a lucky man. If you don't believe it, just ask me, and I will tell you again!

Deeds, Changes, Actions, Kindnesses, Whirled Peas, FUN!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

2010 - Day Twenty Three...

Well, I am kind of proud of this fact...we have now had TWO days of self-sustainability since we installed the wind turbines. That does not sound like a lot, since we installed the turbines about 240 days ago, but it is better than most folks can say about their houses. Yesterday, we used a total of 22 KWhrs of electricity off the grid, and we sent back 25 KWhrs of electricity back to the system. I am not sure how much electricity we produced yesterday, but it was definitely one of our better days, and today looks pretty promising too. Since we have had the turbines operating, we have produced thousands of KWhrs of electricity, and we have reduced the amount of carbon that we would have needed to produce that energy by thousands of pounds. Okay, so that got me interested, and so here are the facts: Since we have installed the turbines, we have produced 2,791.2 KWhrs of electricity, and kept 2,847 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (assuming we were getting our electricity from a coal source, which we are). This month, we have generated almost 400 KWhrs of electricity. We certainly used a heck of a lot more than that to power our house, but it is a start, and it is free. Okay, well, the turbines were not free, but you get (I hope) the idea. It is free after the initial payback of the equipment, which I figure to be about 350 years. Whatever... I will temporarily step down from my soapbox.

Today was my second bee keeping class, and we are getting closer and closer to having our own bees. If you remember, a couple weeks ago, I got our five hives, and we got them all set up and ready to go. We are pretty much ready, but I will need to buy a few more items before the bees get here to have what all I need immediately. I think the bees will be here the end of March or so. I am a little bit concerned about doing this all alone (not sure if I can get Jody in a bee suit or not), so I have been putting out the word at the class that if folks want to experience this, they are welcome to come out and help. I have a couple folks that I think would like to come and work with me on it (Nic and Diane) and I think the Instructor (Konrad) may be available too. I tell you, this bee keeping stuff is pretty darn interesting. I am posting a couple photos from the class today, and the first one is me hold the smoker (bee marijuana) that calms them down and curbs their aggression. Another interesting fact: the color white calms the bees, and color black pisses them off. Who knew? The second photo is a shot of the interiors of the hive and the bees up close and personal.

When we got back to the bee warehouse, we did a tasting of honeys from around the world. Tasmania, Italy, and a variety of other honey from around Texas. It was pretty interesting, and I have to admit I have never eaten just nothing but honey before...I have always had honey on a biscuit with butter. An interesting concept. Some of the honey was really bitter, and left a bitter aftertaste in your mouth. Commercial honey producers heat their honey (almost a pasteurization process) so it will have a longer shelf life. Raw, natural honey last anywhere from three to nine months before it starts to crystallize. When it does that, you just put it in warm (up to 130 degrees) water for a while and it will flow easily again.

Jody and I are heading to an auction tonight in Georgetown. I think on the way we are going to stop at the Dairy Queen for a spoiler, and probably get something to eat after the auction. I do have my eye on a couple things at the auction, but I am going to try my best to NOT GET CARRIED AWAY in the process. Calm is the word. So, that is it for now, I will report the goings on of the auction when we get back.

Okay, we are back. RATS! The auction was kind of a bust. We had gone there to bid on a few particular things (one thing in particular) and it was not there. They said they had decided not to bring it because there had been no on-line bids. Well, that is because I intended to bid in person at the auction. I did not want to bid on-line, because I did not really care for anyone knowing that I was particularly interested in purchasing it. Maybe I am just crazy, or do not really understand the auction world. Whatever...

Tomorrow we are planning on cleaning out the martin houses, and I will need to feed the cattle and take a fresh bale of hay out to them. Stay tuned for cow photos. They are getting a little impatient, they have not been featured in the blog for at least two weeks, and they are not happy. They have very delicate sensibilities for such large creatures.

Okay, here is another sunset photo, this one I took just at 6 o'clock. I expect sunset was officially just a few minutes past six. This is the good thing about being out here in the country, nothing gets in the way of you and nature. That can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on nature at the time. Now, if it is a tornado (not uncommon up here) it can be a bad thing, but thankfully, there are a lot more sunsets than there are tornadoes, so I will take my chances.

Deeds, Changes, Actions, Kindnesses, Whirled Peas, FUN!

Friday, January 22, 2010

2010 - Day Twenty Two...

How many REALTORS does it take to change the 'lamp' in a rear projection television set? Well, I had my concerns, but it turns out it takes one (with invaluable assistance from Jody). Last night when I got home, Jody reported that the big tv in the den was not operating, and from the array of lights there were going off and on, I kind of determined that the lamp had gone bad. So, I got out the old trusty manual (I'm amazed that I could actually find it) and checked out the procedures for changing the bulb. Looked simple enough, five pages of WARNINGS and illustrations, but it did not look like anything I could not handle. So, then I was off on a search to find the replacement lamp. Looking it up on the Internet, I determined I could order one on-line for $263 plus shipping, etc. I found one locally for $215, and off I went to get the bulb. When I got there, the counter-guy asked if had bought in the 'housing' and I said no, I just needed the bulb, and I would replace it myself. LOUD LAUGHTER ALL AROUND, and I told them I had reviewed the manual, and it did not look like too big of a deal. MORE LOUD LAUGHTER ALL AROUND, this time accompanied by conversations in a language I could not understand but I was not deterred. I was convinced I could do it.

So, I got home and went to work. All the illustrations were pretty accurate, up to a point. There is/was an entire section of issues and situations that I came upon that were not mentioned (or illustrated) in the manual. There are no illustrations in the manual of having to contort your body (hands, mouth, fingers and tongue) in order to get all the little screws undone and to actually get the lamp out of this 'cage' wherein it has been happily ensconced in for the last 10 years or so. They also warn NOT TO TOUCH the lamp with your bare hands, and the new lamp included ONE rubber glove. I am not sure how many one handed tv repair people there are out there, but I needed two gloves to accomplish the task at hand. Luckily, we live on a farm, and we buy rubber gloves in boxes of 100. Don't ask. ANYWAY, with Jody's help, I was victorious, and the tv is in there entertaining itself and am being very smug that I actually got it fixed! Your congratulations will be graciously accepted at our next meeting.


So, the day was a good one, lots of accomplishments, and lots of errands taken care of. I had a conference call at noon that lasted WAY LONGER than I was expecting it to. That is over now, so on to bigger and better things. Plenty of stuff still to get accomplished before I leave town on the 31st. I am getting pretty darn excited about this cruise, and I think I am teaching two classes instead of just one, which makes better sense to all involved.

While I was out today, I had lunch at Wienerschnitzel, and that was adequate. It was late and I was hungry, so that was about it. Two chili-cheese dogs, and a small order of fries and a medium Barq's. Hot dogs are one of my favorite foods (okay, I never claimed to be a gourmand, that is part of the reason I am excited about the cruise), and it is not too often that I get to sate that craving. There was a poster in the place of an old advertisement that showed hot dogs for 18 cents...these delights have really out-done themselves in the 'everything is more expensive today' category.

We are pretty darn close to having our second self-sustaining-energy day since we put in the wind turbines. As of my last reading, we had used 17 KWh of electricity off the grid, and we had sent back 14 KWh to the grid. So, I think we are in the running to have a totally self-sufficient day here. I think that is pretty darn cool. Okay, I am a nerd under all this other stuff...I admit it. Okay, let me clarify that, I consider myself an energy-nerd. I am not ashamed.

Time for dinner, Jody has made meatloaf and a nice salad. Jody has had the recipe for this meatloaf for over 15 years, but this is the first time he has made it. I bet you $1 it is going to be delicious! Tomorrow is my second bee-keeping class, and that will be fun. AND I think we will be going to an auction tomorrow night. BUSY, BUSY, little bees!

Deeds, Actions, Changes, Kindnesses, Whirled Peas, FUN!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

2010 - Day Twenty One...

Well, today started out just about like any day would start out. I was getting in the car to leave for the office (really I was heading to the Austin Convention Center, but that is another paragraph), and I noticed one of my tail lights on the car was not working. This tail light is a free-spirit, and it kind of works when it wants to and does not work if it cannot figure out the motivation. Usually a little bit of wiggling will get it to work, but not today. It looked as if it were actually burned out. I had gone though this in the past, and I bought replacement bulbs (they look like the old fashioned Insta-Matic flash bulbs) so I knew I had a bulb SOMEWHERE. And, like everything else we ever look for around here, we just concede that it is 'in-a-box' and we go buy new. TEN, once we buy new, we will find what it was we were looking for within a day or two, totally by accident. ANYWAY, that is done for now.

I was headed for the Convention Center for the final economic forecast of this years series. Today makes the third forecast I have attended this year, and parts of this one were better than parts of the other two. Each of the three forecasts had their own individual redeeming values, but I think, overall, that I preferred this forecast over the others. The main thing about this one was, our guest speaker (James W Pauslen, Ph.D.) was/is a very entertaining economist, and he delivered his message in a way that made you pay attention. In his opinion (and in the opinion of many others) we bottomed out last summer, and things should begin to look up. Interestingly in today's talk, it was considerably more about the world economy, not just about the economy of our nation, state or city. VERY INTERESTING, and it has given me the will to get up out of bed again tomorrow. I was invited to the forecast by the CEO of the Austin Board of REALTORS (thanks David), and there were two tables at the event of Austin Board members. I was privileged to sit between Julie Potts and Earl Hairston (that is Julie and me in the photo), and the place was packed. BUT, good information was received by all!

I made it out of the meeting and back in the office in time for a brief bit of power real estate, and then I was off to my Meals-On-Wheels delivery. YIPPEE! I seem to have leveled off at six clients, and that is a comfortable number. The last two clients on my route live in a mega-apartment complex, and it is very difficult to navigate in that place, but i will get used to it. At another of my clients today, there was a stray black kitten that looked remarkable like our former Princess Kitty that we think was kidnapped by either a hawk or coyote or some other beastie in the area. Jody said all little black kittens look the same, and I guess he is right. This photo is one of my clients and her caretaker, and I really do like her, and I have been delivering to here for years. I always get a hug and happy words when I visit her. She is TOO sweet. I asked her if I could take her picture and post it on my blog, and she said sure, but she really wanted to put on some lipstick! OF COURSE!

I made it back to the office, and did MORE power real estate before I was off to a meeting at the Board of REALTORS. Good meeting, planning for the Education and Professional Development Committee. 113 members of that committee, it is a BIG committee, and a hard-working committee.

Back to the office again, and a bit more work done. I left for home about 4:30, and when I got home, Jody was ready to go out for dinner. We went to the Catfish Parlour in Georgetown, and had a great dinner. And now home, and ready to call it a night!

Deeds, Kindnesses, Changes, Actions, Whirled Peas, FUN!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

2010 - Day Twenty...

Okay, well, I have to admit, the day did not start out all that great! I was on my way into the office, and driving down IH-35 (minding my own business) a rock hit my windshield and now I am the proud owner of ANOTHER broken windshield. CRAPOLA! I just had that freakin' windshield replaced in October...and that was nothing short of a series of traumatic events! Don't get me started! Not sure how effective this photo of my VIOLATED windshield will play in Peoria, but I AM NOT HAPPY about it.

Okay, then things started to get a little bit better. I was invited to a breakfast meeting this morning at the University of Texas Club. The invitation was from the Texas Real Estate Political Action Committee. This is a very worthwhile cause, and it is something that I believe in totally. It is about more than the endorsement of particular candidates, it is about making sure that we maintain a strong lobby to keep our taxes to a minimum. REMEMBER, a fee is just another name for a tax. In Texas, we had a $1 fee per transaction until recently, and now that fee is $5. That is a 500% tax increase. No big deal you might say, but wait until someone needs more money, and then it will be a $25 fee. There is just no stopping these fees, and as we get tighter-and-tighter with our local and state funds, I expect we will all see more fees (sorry, taxes).
One highlight of the morning was being led in the Pledge of Allegiance by the Austin Board's Governmental Affairs chief, Earl M Hairston (LTC, USAR). When Earl was announced, everyone began rising for the pledge. Earl asked everyone to sit down for a while, and went on to tell us that we should not be in such a hurry to recite the pledge. Take some time to think about the words that we are saying, and to consider the pledge as a living and breathing pledge, not just something that you say in a hurry to meet protocol. That was great!

I sat with Carrie Weikert (see the photo above), one of the usual suspects, and my sometimes partner in crime. It was a very good meeting, and we had a lot of fun. ALSO, one of the treats of the meeting was to go the the bathroom in what (in reality) is the University of Texas House that Football Built. The breakfast was on the 9th floor of the facility, and that is where all the private sky boxes for the UT stadium are. Okay, I have to admit, I have never been IN THE STADIUM before, and I have lives here 25 years. So, if this was my introduction to the stadium, it was pretty darn cool!

I am doing some power-real-estate right now, and I have a couple meetings at the Board for later this afternoon. I am blowing through some stuff, and I need to leave the office at about 1 o'clock, and I have lots of stuff to do before I leave.

I made it to my meeting at the Austin Board of REALTORS (hi Beth) and we were asked to critique the Leadership Training Program we had in 2009. The program was the first at the Austin Board, and overall it was a fine class. We are planning more classes, and we are looking for ways to build on what we did, and make it better. We were joined in the meeting by Deb Waldman, the Director of Education with the Texas Association of REALTORS, and she provided us with an update of the Leadership Program was developed (and is always being tweaked and revised) by the State. I think there is always room to improve, and we were all happy to hear from Deb as well as the other graduates of the program. Look for bigger and better things in Leadership from the Austin Board.

When I got home this afternoon, I spied a great blue heron fishing at the tank behind the house. By the time I got in the house and called Jody to 'come see' he was just taking off. We have seen this guy several times at this tank and at the big tank further back at one of the pastures. They are magnificent creatures. I decided to go back and check on the cattle, and you can tell it is a nice day in central Texas (70 degrees today) by the fact that I can go out in the pastures in my boxers and my knock-off pink crocs. Okay, so I go almost everywhere in my knock-off pink crocs, but it was a beautiful afternoon so I was going closer to au natural than usual. Possibly too much information, you be the judge. ANYWAY, the only challenge was I had no pockets for my camera, phone and other vital electronic embellishments that I must carry everywhere. ANYWAY, as you can see by the photo, you can hardly see any evidence of my knee surgery three weeks ago. Really, all you can really tell is a little bit of swelling still in that left knee. So far, so good.

Deeds, Changes, Actions, Kindnesses, Whirled Peas, FUN!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

2010 - Day Nineteen...

Okay, I did it, and now I will be in cell phone purgatory for a week or two. I went and bought myself a new iPhone, the survey I took over the last couple days was overwhelmingly in favor of going that way, and the folks that had the real issues with that phone have very real complaints. I am certain that I will have issues with the phone, but I know enough folks around with that phone that I believe I will be able to find someone who can help. I AM TALKING TO YOU ED! You know which Ed I am talking about, too. So far I can make and receive calls, and I can check e-mails on the phone. I have a 2 o'clock meeting at which time I will ask Tom if he can sync my Outlook, find a password app for the phone, and get the blue tooth in my car to work with it. If all that can happen today, I will be a happy guy.

I am amazed that Tom can make these electronic devices work effortlessly, and I told him that this morning on our way to lunch. He acknowledged that he is a GENIUS, an opinion that I agree with. He also said that it is just a good thing that he uses his powers for good and not evil, and I whole heartedly agree with that as well.

Today was our monthly NARPM luncheon meeting. National Association of Residential Property Managers. Always the third Tuesday of the month. Today we had speakers from the City of Austin about new maintenance codes the city is going to try and get through in this calendar year. Mainly deals with health and safety issues. BUT, before the meeting, I was asked to come to the front of the room to receive my Residential Management Professional plaque (RMP) from the National office. It took over a year to meet all the requirements for that designation, and the recognition was nice. I am already working on my MPM Designation (Master Property Manager). I can't wait to get that designation, so people can refer to me as 'MASTER'. Oh, and just so you don't have to say it, this photo is another in a series in which I look a lot like Burl Ives. Carrie says it is the vest. I just think it is the 'largeness' of the subject. Whatever!

Oh, and I had the pie with lunch too. I weighed myself last night, and so far this year, I have lost three pounds. Not too bad for a casual, just try to eat less kind of a diet plan. Once I can actually get on the bike a little bit more, I think I will make better progress. I need to get on a plan like one of our agents, Toni. She has lost about 12 or 15 pounds since the middle of December, but she is actually working at it. Going to the gym, exercising, that kind of thing. I am just trying to make small lifestyle changes that will be sustainable. We shall see...

When we got back from the luncheon, Carrie and I actually had a nice meeting with Toni in the office, working on her business plan, and confirming things that we can work on with her, and what we can support her on so she will become a successful agent. It is nice to work with someone who is motivated and someone will admit to others that she can use help and guidance to fulfill her dreams. We are happy to help, and we all understand that what is good for Toni is good for our company.

On the way home, I needed to stop again at the AT&T store for one more accessory for the new phone. Then I had to go to the Board of REALTORS for one piece of equipment, since the new phone does not have infra-red, and therefore will not help me access my lock boxes. Hopefully, this will be a small and short-lived inconvenience, since there is supposed to be an app soon that will give iPhone users access to our lock boxes. I HOPE SO!

Another nice sunset out here in the country. We have been really lucky these past few days, and it is interesting how quickly these sunsets fade. When we lived 'in-town' we were aware that there were gorgeous sunsets happening all around us, but we could not see them for all the buildings and other houses around us. Now, we get unrestricted views, sunrises and sunsets. I hope you like this photo.

Deeds, Actions, Changes, Kindnesses, Whirled Peas, FUN!

Monday, January 18, 2010

2010 - Day Eighteen...

There are lots of things to be thankful for in all of our lives, but one of the things I am thankful for is the weekends. I practically live for the weekends. As I have become more mature, and closer to 'a person of that age' I am really jealous of my free time. I love doing little things around the farm, and sometimes just doing nothing, although that is not really all that often. I really do need things to do, I am not good with free time. I need to stay busy, busy, busy! BUT, one of the things I look really forward to on the weekends is the opportunity NOT TO SHAVE. I know, you all think just because I have a beard that I don't shave anyway. Well, that just ain't so. People who are beardless do not even have to think about it when they shave, they just lather up and scrape everything off, no big deal. But when you have a beard, you have to be a trimmer and a touch-upper and a contortionist as well. You have to tidy things up, and you have to put some thought into it. A well groomed beard does not just happen, it takes work and lots of cultivation. This is serious stuff. And that is why I like the weekends. If I am lucky, I can shave on Thursday and not look at the razor again until Monday morning. That is if I am really lucky. And I usually am!

This morning started out grey and cloudy, even though I was not expecting that. Tom and I went to visit two of our managed properties, and when we returned, I had a couple errands I needed to take care of. I stopped at Souper Salad for lunch (all by my lonesome) and had a nice lunch. I did not even gorge myself, I just had a nice lunch. Soup (minestrone) and Salad (kind of a Caesar knock-off), a little bit of vegetarian lasagna (not that great, today was a test) and a slice of blueberry bread (not good ever since they changed the recipe about five years ago, but I still hope).

I got back to the office, and did a bit more work, and today really is slower than usual. Many folks I guess are really not working today. AND, the fact that I got pretty well caught up over the weekend has helped me out as well. I have made a few phone calls, and so far have really not had any response, so I guess tomorrow will be a little bit busier.

I did a little bit more about the cruise I will be leaving on in THIRTEEN more days. The closer it gets, the more I am looking forward to it. It is really just a big, floating sideways Hotel, but it will be fun. There will be a fun bunch of people going. I tell you get a bunch of REALTORS together in a small space, and if the liquor is flowing there will be some interesting conversations! ALWAYS a blast!

I took off from the office early today, and did a couple errands on the way home. I made it home by about 4 o'clock, and that was pretty sweet. I thought abut doing a quick bike ride, but my knee is thinking otherwise. I do not want to push the envelope too far on this one. It turned out to be a beautiful day here, and the temperatures hit 70 degrees. Pretty darn nice for January. I spoke with one of our vendors in Virginia this afternoon, and she said there was still snow on the ground there from before Christmas. She did report that it was a very nice day today there too.

That is it for now. Almost dinner time, and I have to make time for the really important stuff! Deeds, Changes, Kindnesses, Actions, Whirled Peas, FUN! is a little extra added something for you. As we were sitting down to dinner, the sunsetbecame better and better so I just wanted to share it with you. I hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

2010 - Day Seventeen...

Okay, this morning was the start of another great day. We got up, read the paper, I (anally) read all the meters and went into the office to catch up on who might have desperately needed to get in touch with me overnight. Whatever... Jody and I decided we would clean out the Purple Martin houses, but when we got back there, it was too wet and muddy to get into it, so we put it off for another time. Then I thought I would try to clean out a space in the garage so I could put my bicycle and biking stuff in the garage and have it handy. What is it about us, that everything has to be 'handy'? Not sure, but I will take convenience over inconvenience any day of the week. Well, the garage proved to be too much of an obstacle to both of us, so I decided I would clear out a bicycle space in the front shed. Well, there is space, but now I cannot really walk from the shed to the driveway with my bike shoes on because of all the mud and gravel. SO, I have decided to live with some inconvenience for the foreseeable future, and I will make myself happy even if it is not convenient.

Afterwards, I decided to feed the cattle and put out a fresh bale of hay for them. That is always something I enjoy doing. The neighbors cattle were all very curious to see what was going on 'across the fence', and I am certain they are envious of our cattle. Our cattle are truly spoiled (and I think they know it). Anyway, I loaded a bale of hay on the tractor, took it into the front pasture, and then loaded up the Mule with three bags of feed (totalling 150 pounds). I then took the feed and distributed it to the cattle, and while they are distracted, I take the bale of hay into the big pasture and untie it for them, and put the hay ring around it. Mr. Speckles was in need of a quick 'trim' in his private places, so while he was distracted with the feed, I got the scissors and performed a few little snip-snips on him, and that was that. He did turn around to look to see what I was doing, but he was too busy eating to pay too much attention. I am sure, however, that if I had slipped with the scissors, and if there was any blood to be let, the whole thing would have turned out differently. Suffice it to say, this is the second or third time I have had to remove burrs from his delicate spots, and I am still here to tell about it.

After that, I decided to put my 'improved' knee ball to the test. I would have said 'new and improved' but as we all know, the doctor says I still have a few years to go with this knee, and I think if I can get some good exercise therapy with it, maybe I can delay it. The doctor also said that bike riding is actually better than walking. OKAY! So, I dressed and saddled up and took off on the bike. My intention was to do a slow and easy five miles, but I ended up doing just about eight miles. I am pretty impressed to have had knee surgery less than three weeks ago, and today I was on my bike, and I am not in any agonizing pain. I could probably have gone further, but I do not want to push it for now. I think I will try to do a few miles every other day or so for a while, just to see how things go. But, for now, I am pretty happy with the results.

Jody and I had lunch, and we finished off the quiche. He had made me the quiche for breakfasts a couple weeks ago, but I am on a binge of bagels for breakfast right now, and I did not want the quiche to go to waste. SO, it is all gone now, and I can have my morning bagels without the guilt, thank you very much! After lunch, I went outside to put my bike up, and to change clothes. While I was out there, I decided to rearrange the yard furniture, so I can get the Mule in and out of that area a little easier. It is a lovely shady place at the front of the property, where Aunt Mary used to live. Aunt Mary is the lady that used to own this property years and years ago, and she had a small house up in the front. We still have some of her antique rose bushes up there, and the hand dug well is still there and still holds water. Anyway, it is a lovely place to sit and think of the world happenings, or just get lost in the quiet. I love it up there.

AND, there are some big old gnarly trees up there as well. I like sitting under the trees and looking up into the sky. Old gnarly trees fascinate me. I read something in the paper this morning, that has had me thinking about it all day. Human beings are the only creatures that know they will eventually die. I think that is something really interesting to think about. We go by cattle out here all the time, and they are so interesting to look at, but they have no idea (I don't think) of the fate that awaits them. Can you think of anything except us that has the ability to reason and KNOW that from our first breath we are just that much closer to our last breath? Interesting...

Deeds, Changes, Actions, Kindnesses, Whirled Peas, FUN!