Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Tracy, Paul, Helicopters and Deer

Lots of pictures this time - let 'em download, they're nice, honest.

Tracy (Alan's sister) and her boyfriend Paul have been visiting recently. We had a great time while they were here. They arrived on June 1st. I met them back at the house after Alan had picked them up as I'd been down in Hondo for a big fly-in that day - furthest I've driven yet in my Jeep!

They arrived to a slight kitchen-based technical hitch - the sink had collapsed! We had to get the plumber out to fix it. He came out Saturday morning but it had to remain unused until the glue had set and they checked it Monday morning.

Not enough glue... you can't screw it into marble.

Other slight mishaps included the headlight on my Jeep getting shattered. No idea how or when; probably on the way back from Hondo. We eventually found a replacement light unit in O'Reilly Autoparts for $8 which was a damn sight cheaper than the $94 the dealership wanted for it!

We also took some tree damage on Saturday night, along with most of the other houses in the community here, from a truly monster thunderstorm that crashed its way through here. A neighbour said the news had spoken of a hurricane forming northwest of Austin and heading southeast - straight for us. We certainly got it, and with the winds came almost constant lightning - you could have eaten your dinner in the flickering light. It was a doozer! Woke up next morning to bits of tree scattered everywhere and two major branches down. We got off lightly; other people had roof damage and one chap lost eight trees. It also completely totalled the frame of the community pavilion that had been erected - a pile of matchsticks is all that was left.

Anyway, we went out for some Mexican food, the first of many far-too-huge meals we'd eat that week. Other eateries included Hula Hut, the Salt Lick, the Oasis (for lunch, not sunset), and just staying in to grill our own food after going out far too much.

Tracy and Paul at the Oasis, wearing their new Western hats!

We didn't really seem to actually do a whole shedload of specific activities; we went down to San Antonio to see the Alamo and take a boat ride around the Riverwalk, which was very pleasant. I took Tracy and Paul down to Aquarena Springs too.

Tracy and Paul at the Alamo.

Tracy and Paul at the Aquarena Centre boardwalk, where many turtles, fish and dragonflies reside.

The United States Post Office are celebrating 30 years of Star Wars with a special set of stamps, and these post boxes. This one is in San Antonio, right near the Alamo.

A lot of the time seemed to be spent in shopping, waiting for plumbers, and playing with tiny remote controlled helicopters. I bought one a couple of weeks back ($20 from Costco!) and Paul just had to have one too as soon as he saw it!

Paul's micro helicopter in full-on Ride of the Valkyries mode...

Still, they seemed to enjoy themselves and they have now gone off in a rental car. They should be in Dallas as I write, about to board an aeroplane for Las Vegas. We are due to meet them there tomorrow night.

Meanwhile, the deer have been visiting in large numbers. There must have been a dozen of them hiding in the trees yesterday, including a couple of young males, the first ones I've seen, and certainly more deer than I've seen together before.

Action shot of a baby deer, in weird soft focus because I shot it through a mesh screen.

Doe, a deer, a female deer (you knew that was coming at some point, right?)

The twins, eating. No idea if they really are twins but they seem to hang out together. I think there's a third baby around somewhere too.

I've got an audience! Five of the herd here, before they all ran away.

A young buck and doe in a Texas meadow.

A few other things to round off this altogether far too lengthy blog entry.

Here's the latest run-down of Things We Have Seen In Our Garden:

Wolf Spiders - these live around the outside and in the garage. They're lovely chunky spiders that pounce on insects.

Daddy Long Legs Spiders - these are less charming, with tiny bodies only 4-5mm across but long thin legs of about 8 inches span.

A Boxer Dog, taking itself for a walk - so that's what's been making the mysterious tracks across our driveway...

The aforementioned deer, of course. The neighbour across the way feeds them every afternoon, so it transpires.

Fireflies - these come out when it's quite dark and pulse their way across the garden, leaving you wondering if you really saw something or was it just your eyes?

Road runners - they don't say Beep Beep! They make a Craaak sound and run up and down through the garden on their way to places.

Humming birds - have been seen fleetingly, both here and elsewhere in the Ranch.

Cardinals remain happy and colourful in the trees round about.

Big giant crickets! About three inches long and very handsome. I hear them clattering around as they fly across the garden; not true flight but kind of an extended jump, I think. One found its way right inside Tracy's shirt where it hopped and jumped about - she was not amused!

Walking sticks - these are impressive. About 7-8 inches long, the longest insect in the USA, here spotted sitting on our windowframe. They are harmless; quite attractive really.

Scorpions are ever-present and occasionally appear on the kitchen floor. They apparently like the cooler insides of a house and are frequently found in new build properties. We'll just have to bide with them for a few months and they should disappear. Also noted for finding their way into Tracy's suitcase!

Pussycats still prowl through every now and then :-)

Big vulturey birds. There's two big birds about - one with white parts and one without. I think the all-black ones are Turkey Vultures. You see groups of them at the roadside now and then, feasting.

And in the flora world, our Mesquite trees are blooming:

We apparently have Persimmon trees as well, which should bear fruit if we're lucky.

Finally, here's a glorious Texas sunset as seen from our balcony.