No lions, tigers, or bears.

I checked the SD card on my critter cam yesterday.  I moved it a few weeks ago to point at the opening of a burrow I discovered that some animal had recently dug in the middle of our back lot.  I just wanted to see what I could see.  I captured countless daytime visiting backyard bird species (doves, blue jays, cardinals, titmice, wrens, mockingbirds,…).   But it turns out, it’s quite the popular nightspot.  Here are some snaps…it’s a jungle out there.  I thought these were the most interesting visitors.

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Nine-banded Armadillo – time to set up the trap again
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Gray Fox – we’ve seen this guy during the daytime as well
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Damn cat – this guy and several buddies are out here day and night, chasing my birds away
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Opossum
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Cooper’s Hawk – bottom left of frame
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Racoon – this guy also stars in some crittercam footage I took of our trash can
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Another dillo – this one is posing standing up on his hind legs, almost cute, no?

 

In case you are interested, this is a nice reference for wildlife of Texas put out by Texas Parks and Wildlife.

 

Fountain 4.0.

A year or two ago, I installed a small water feature under the oaks next to our back patio. It was a small fountain powered by a tiny water pump (4W, 80 gallons per hour). The birds have enjoyed it almost as much as I have.

The first pump lasted about a year. I clean it every few weeks. But one day it just stopped working. No problem. I ordered another pump from amazon and installed it. A week later some varmit pulled the pump out of the water basin, and it ran dry until it melted. 😦

I bought a third pump and the same thing happened; probably by the same damn varmit. 😡

This time, I’ve placed the pump under a rock and added a piece of plastic tubing to carry a stream of water through holes in the rock onto the pebbles below.

Wish me luck!

Sterling silver jewelry cleaning technique.

I’ve read about an easy do it yourself way to clean up tarnished sterling silver jewelry. I finally got around to trying it today.

You’ll need:

– a piece of aluminum foil
– bowl
– boiling water, 1-2 cups
– baking soda, 1 Tablespoon per cup of boiling water
– some tarnished silver jewelry to clean

Crumple up the foil really well, place in an empty bowl, and nestle each piece of jewelry into the foil so it is making good contact with the foil. This is really important to ensure the electrochemical reaction required to clean the silver.

Boil the water, add baking soda, stir well and then pour into the bowl with jewelry and foil. The chemical reaction to remove the tarnish from the silver will bubble while it’s happening.

Wait 15 minutes or so. Remove jewelry and rinse well.

Tarnish results from silver reacting with sulfur-laden substances in the air, forming black silver sulfide on the surface of the silver. This technique reverses that reaction, causing the sulfur to instead move to the aluminum in the foil.

Before:

After:

Wasn’t that easy?! 🙂

Blue sky days.

We headed west with a mission to see where the Pacific Ocean meets the state of Washington.

Along the way, we stopped in Aberdeen, home of Kurt Cobain, former frontman of Nirvana. We stopped at a modest but touching memorial to him.

We thought this sign at the neighbor’s house was especially funny.

And we did finally make it to the coast. It was our first smoke-free day, and it was lovely. We spent a day at Ocean Shores…

And another clear sky day at the coast, this time at Westport…

We spent the night at our niece, Rachel’s, new home, joined by Fran, Aaron, Rebecca, Noreen and David. We had fun exploring the area and enjoying our time together.

Story of an Artist.

Recently, Apple has been running a commercial with someone singing in the background as the camera flashes clips of people using a Mac.  I immediately recognized it as a song I first heard over 10 years ago when it was featured as KUT Song of the Day. The Austin radio station has since changed to KUTX but their Song of the Day feature is still a terrific place to hear new music.

The song is Story of an Artist, by Daniel Johnston.  Daniel is a visual artist, songwriter, and musician who moved to Austin in the 1980s.  He’s had a lifelong struggle with mental illness, but has found success and is fondly regarded here.  He is the artist who, in 1992, painted the frog, Jeremiah the Innocent, in the iconic Hi, How are You mural in Austin on 21st street at Guadalupe.

The version of the song I heard on KUT was a recorded-live-in-studio-1A cover of Daniel’s song, performed by M Ward in September 2006.  I liked it the first time I heard it.  But it is a sad song, in my opinion, of an artist shunned by society for being different.  And after having learned more about Daniel Johnston, I think it is autobiographical.  A 2005 documentary about him called The Devil and Daniel Johnston reveals more about the man and his struggles.

The version of the song in the Apple commercial is performed by Johnston himself, originally recorded in 1982; just him, a cassette recorder, and a piano.  In the commercial, the lyrics are chopped up and rearranged, so it comes off as a funky upbeat tune; you don’t get the whole vibe of the original song.  Here’s a link to his entire original recording, if you want to give it a listen.

I think the M Ward version I first heard on KUT Song of the Day is beautiful….but when I heard it, I didn’t know the background story of the artist.  Now I do.

Get out there and listen to some music!

From my mind’s eye.

I saw a white ceramic boot at a thrift store last week.  It gave me a flash of inspiration; a vision of what it could be.  It would become a colorful planter.  Yes.  That’s it.  I brought it home.

First, I drilled a drain hole in the bottom. Slowly and carefully with my Dremel tool.

Then I popped over to Michael’s craft supply store for paint. I have a lot of acrylic paints, but I wasn’t sure what kind would work on already glazed ceramic. After shopping a bit I found one that sounded like it might.

Craftsmart multi-surface paint pots; you let dry for 72 hours and then bake in the oven.

I also grabbed a pen to help outline the design.  I thought it would be easier than using a paint brush.

I chose a clear acrylic glaze spray-on finish to seal it from the elements.

I used rubbing alcohol to clean the surface first.   I sketched a design on paper to plan it out.  Next I drew it on the boot.  Pencil worked great on the shiny finish.  Then I let loose with color.  I was trying to mimic Mexican glazed pottery designs, though not with real kiln-fired glazes.  I was extra-pleased that it didn’t crack in the oven. After it cooled I sprayed on the glaze. Voila!

 

Now to get a lovely flowering plant.

¡Vamos!

The World Cup matches begin today. We cut the cord a couple of years ago, but will not be denied live coverage. Thank you, over-the-air Telemundo HD TV channel!

The USMT didn’t qualify, so I am all in for España. They play tomorrow.

Up, up and away.

As if I don’t have enough stuff in the backyard already, I went out today in search of a few more things. Planter, check. Bird bath, check. New whirligig thingie, check. 🙂

Our local.

We were treated to a visit yesterday from our long-time pinochle buddies and newly moved-to-the-hills friends, Tom & Doray. We took the opportunity to pop over to our nearby bar hangout for dinner and cards.

The guys kicked the ladies’ butts. Next time…. 🙂

Homeward.

I spent last night in a very funky hotel in the South Terminal of Gatwick airport. It’s called bloc hotel and they market their rooms as “yacht-style;” think tiny, as in a cabin on a cruise ship. But it was modern, comfy, cheap and EASY, which makes it worthwhile for me. The airline check-in counter was literally 2 minutes away from my room.

This is the smallest room, they have bigger ones for more $$.

I’m looking forward to getting home. But I sure had a great week!

For Pilar.

My friend, Pilar, called today with some editorial direction for sheila365 — more armadillo content (or aardvark, whichever). 🙂

Ok. I’m on it.

That’s the trap right now; next to the hole under the fence that used to be on the armadillo super highway. Unfortunately, we have not caught a dillo since last summer/fall.

We’ll keep trying. We may need to move the trap, because we are seeing evidence of armadillo activity in the yard.

I can, however, report that there are 3 or 4 cats that feel entitled to frequent and freely roam our lot every day, which would be ok if they were not STALKING MY BIRDS, which is infuriating.

Back in the hood.

I joined five of my girlfriends yesterday at the Infinite Monkey Theorem winery & taproom to catch each other up on what’s been going on the first two months of this year. It was, after all National Drink Wine Day! Like we need a reason. 🙂