Where I write

KarlsAttic_001Sunday night it was raining and I got to do one of my favorite things — sit in my attic room and listen to the rain fall just above my head. It’s the place to sit and write, paint, spend quality time with my cats or just think. It’s winter now and sometimes I nap there with visions of seed catalogs dancing in my head (you should see that — well, then again, maybe not).

Being up in my attic when it’s raining might be the most perfect circumstance I’ve ever encountered. Sitting at my desk in front of a louvered dormer window listening to rain fall creates a state of almost perfect bliss for me.

Our house was built in 1923 and the original owner was an architect who worked for Sinclair Oil (the Sinclair Building is one of my favorites downtown — classic Deco, with stylized metal eagles) and designed over 2500 gas stations in the southwest US from the 20s through the 50s. Gas stations could look a lot more interesting back then. There’s one only a few blocks from here, though of course now it has been unceremoniously demoted to a Dominoes Pizza and painted all one color. It’s not even a nice color. Still it retains its understated style.

This man painted and at some point finished out the attic to use as his studio. My guess has always been that it happened in the 40s though it could have been earlier. There’s wood paneling all around. It has two dormers on opposite sides (north and south facing) and a cute exhaust fan that lives behind a hidden door in the paneling. So the ventilation is decent. Later someone even vented it to the a/c. There are also several closets with doors seamlessly placed in the paneling and built-in shelves in one area. I did my best while designing and building two bookcases to create something modern yet in keeping with the spirit of the room.

Having coffee at my little table up here in the morning and listening to the rain hit the roof above is the best way to start my day. So I guess it’s just too bad we’re in the middle of this seemingly endless drought, huh? But, even I if lived somewhere it rained all the time and rain was nothing special, I would still love it. It’s wonderful up here rain or shine.


This really counts

Many of you may have heard of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and/or Great Backyard Bird Count. Some of you may have even participated. If so, then don’t worry about reading this. Just go sharpen a couple of pencils so you can be ready for this year’s count.

For the rest of you, following the links above will tell you much more and more accurate information than I can, but I can say, having participated in this event for several years, that it’s easy and fun. You’ll be part of a very large worldwide event and you may not even have to leave the comfort of your blog.

My wife and I like to sit in the backyard, have a cup of coffee and look for every bird we can. You can count for as little as 15 minutes on just one of the days, but it’s pretty easy to do more. And you can even go to different locations over the course of the count which runs February 13-15. Lists of birds that you are likely to see in your area are available on the Bird Count website.

This can be a fun and educational event for adults and kids. After the count is done, you’ll be able to see data showing how many of each species were counted in your area or any other part of the world where people participated. Last year 144,109 checklists were submitted and well over 17 million birds were counted.

While you’re at it, be sure to take a look at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology web site. In case you haven’t been there, it is an amazing resource for the identification of bird species. Along with tons of other good information, there are sounds and/or video of 215 species and these can be really helpful in identifying backyard birds. And of course, be sure to check out the All About Birds Blog!

For anyone with an interest in birds or nature in general, the Great Backyard Bird Count can be a great way to get involved in determining what’s going with bird species these days.

Come on, admit it, haven’t you ever wanted to sit somewhere comfortably enjoying your beverage and try to tick off every last living creature that passed by? Hey it’s for science

Waiting for the ground to dry

…so I can pull some weeds.

Here I am sitting outside and typing. I always wanted to learn to type. Somewhere along the way I learned how to do it. There may have been some view of radical persons typing on a city street or something crazy, but forty years ago no one was envisioning exactly this.

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Time to plan(t)

Not one to rely on long term weather predictions from even the most reliable sources, I nonetheless have a strong feeling that this winter is not going to be too harsh at my locale. There’s something about the trend in temperatures that makes my middle age backyard farmer’s bones feel there won’t be any very late freezes this year. Of course, this could just be a way to make sure everyone keeps following my blog so that, in six weeks time,  you can all smugly comment on what an idiot I am.

Whenever we have an early spring, I like to take advantage of it by planting tomatoes as soon as possible. The best tomato crops that I’ve ever had here in our sunny dry clime are the ones that have been started no later than the middle of March. If I don’t have an opportunity to plant them early, I usually skip them all together. Also, I always plant a mid-size variety that will grow and ripen sooner. We don’t eat many cherry or grape tomatoes so roma tomatoes are usually the smallest ones that I grow. These are just my personal preferences and a plan that I have developed over the years based on how I like to garden and where I live.

I have a place in one of my 4’x4′ raised beds that gets a great dose of morning sunlight and then is protected from the long, hot, scorching, drying, burning afternoon sun that we always seem to have in such wonderful abundance around here. This has been working very well and the spot also offers protection on the north side in case of any late blasts of cold air when the plants are young and vulnerable. If anything too cold is expected, it’s easy to just cover them up for protection. In case anyone is wondering if this is some error talking about burning and freezing in the same paragraph, the standard response is, “welcome to Texas!”

The sun is coming up now as I write this and the clear blue sky out my attic window is giving me hope for a good crop this year. That’s a good thing because even looking at a picture of home grown tomatoes makes me not want to eat a store bought one!


Picked in late May from plants planted at the beginning of March

My morning walk

When it comes to being a creature of good habit, I often do a very poor job of it. I can never tell myself things and take myself very seriously because I always know that it’s just me saying it. It took me years to learn to get out of bed on time so that I would not be chronically late. Every day I told myself the same old lie — I’ll just stay here in bed a few more minutes — and every day I fell back to sleep until well past the time that I needed to get up in order to start my daily routine in a “timely” manner.

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