Monday, March 16, 2015

Little Things Make Me Happy....

When I pulled into the parking lot at work this morning, I looked down at my dashboard and saw:

The car that the dealership wanted to dump so badly that they gave us a great deal on it just proved its worth!

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Friday, March 06, 2015

We Had a Little Winter Weather

We had a little winter weather overnight. Yesterday, it snowed! The roads were a sheet of ice. By late afternoon, the roads had mostly cleared, but not all of the ice had melted nor the water had dried. Overnight, it froze again.

When I left the house this morning, the yard was a sheet of ice. It was so thing as to be invisible in most places, but it sure was slippery! Along the north side of the house, I found some remnants of the sleet from Thursday:

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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Mother Neff State Park

On this Saturday, after the farmer's market, we decided to visit Mother Neff State Park. Mother Neff is one of the oldest Texas state parks. Isabella ("Mother") Neff donated the land in 1921.

Several years ago, it was severely damaged by flooding along the Leon River. This is the first time we visited it since it was repaired and reopened.

The first thing we noticed was the new entrance and ranger station. This is significantly up the hill from the old location. This spot used to be and undeveloped part of the park.

We stopped at the Ranger Station and flashed our season pass to get in. We picked up a map:

As this was our first "real" hike of the year, we selected a loop of new trails with little change in elevation:

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine's Day

Today was a beautiful day. After the farmer's market closed and we packed up our booth, we decided to do something different - we decided to take a walk.

Oh, yeah... I guess I should mention: we have been setting up a booth at one of the local farmer's markets. We have been selling handicrafts and farm-fresh, brown eggs laid by free-range, naturally-fed chickens. We cannot call the eggs "organic" because to legally use this term, we have to fill out a long application, submit to numerous annual inspections and, of course, pay an annual fee to the US Department of Agriculture. To be able to sell eggs legally in Texas, we already have to undergo an annual state inspection and pay an annual fee.

We decided to take a trip to Lampasas, TX and walk through their park along Sulfur Creek.

Back when Lampasas was founded, it was known for its mineral springs. People traveled from far and wide to bathe in the city's famed sulfur-laced mineral springs. The remains of these facilities have been upgraded and improved over the years and still provide the municipal swimming pool.

We started from the pool, heading east along the south bank of Sulfur Creek. This bridge across the creek marks the current end of the trail. If you look along the banks to the east, you can see the remains of the trail continuing on. We crossed this bridge and returned westward along the north bank.

As we approached our starting point, the trail crosses the pseudo-suspension bridge. This bridge is a replica of the original suspension bridge that was originally built on the same spot. The current bridge is a solid self-supporting structure. The towers, cable and suspenders are just for decoration, making this bridge look like the original.

And, here we are, home in time for another beautiful sunset...

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Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Let's Welcome the New Kids

Between Christmas and New Years, these brand new kids were born! Aren't they cute??

Of the six, there are two sets of twins and two born as single kids.

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Friday, December 26, 2014

Vandalism by our Tenants

Perhaps we should have expected it...

We had these tenants who, when they moved in, promised that their dogs would not bother our livestock. In November, one of their dogs almost killed one of our goats. The veterinary bill for this goat was around $250. She survived, but her neck is not right. Her head is turned to the right and the neck is still stiff and swollen.

After the incident, we asked about the tenant's insurance policy. Having a tenant liability and damage policy is required, in writing, in the lease. This turned out to be only one of the lease violations. The upshot was that we asked them to leave. They refused. We filed for eviction and won. The court said that they had to move out by December 24. Because of their dogs, we could not inspect the unit: those "gentle dogs" were actually pit bulls.

Today, we saw that they had moved out. The yard was trashed. The rear door of the unit was kicked out at the bottom. A bedroom window was broken. Holes had been punched into various walls with a kitchen knife or a hunting knife. In two places, they had kicked holes in the walls, just above the floor. The door between the master bedroom and its bathroom and the entry door to the master bedroom each had a hole punched in it. Casing had been torn off of some of the door frames and one of the door frames had been broken, leaving nothing secure to hang the door on. The unit, which as specified in the lease, is a non-smoking living space, reeked of marijuana. To top it all off, THEY POURED CONCRETE DOWN TWO OF THE TOILETS AND ONE OF THE BATHROOM SINKS!

We called the Sheriff's office and reported it. We also called our insurance company and asked them to send an adjuster.

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Monday, December 22, 2014

The Polar Express

Earlier this evening, we did something unusual. We took a trip to Palatine, TX to ride on the Texas State Railroad's Polar Express. The Polar Express is a Christmas story for children written by Chris Van Allsburg. In it, a young boy, dressed in his pajamas, takes a trip on the Polar Express to Santa's Workshop at the North Pole on Christmas Eve. It is a charming and fun story which was turned into a movie starring Tom Hanks.

First, we reserved our tickets weeks in advance. By the time we signed up, most of the trips were already sold out.

We drove out to Palestine, Texas, a little early since we did not know exactly where the depot is. In Palestine, we stopped at a Cici's Pizza for dinner. we were a little surprised to see whole families sitting there, in their pajamas, eating dinner! We knew where they were going!

After dinner, we headed to the depot. Parking was really a problem. Thank God for my wife's handicap parking placard! It allowed us to park only a short walk from the depot. We quickly realized that the train was completely sold out!

The train was still out on the trip prior to ours. While we waited, we explored the station. The train runs between the depot in Palestine and in nearby Rusk, Texas. The place, although recently built, has an "old timey" feel to it. Along the walls are pictures and display cases showing the recent history of the Texas State Railroad.

When the train arrived, we had to wait while the previous ride disembarked and the crew reset the cars. We walked up to the head end to look at the locomotive that pulled the train in. It was decorated with a few strings of blue lights as shown in the following photograph. We found out that there was also a locomotive at the rear end of the train &em. they were operating in a "push-pull" configuration, both to carry the load of the heavyweight cars and to allow forward operation in either direction.

Once we boarded, we were assigned to a pair of bench seats with a table in between. Once all were aboard, the train moved out. The conductor came through the car, punching tickets. The white tickets issued to adults received a single punch. The children received a gold ticket and the conductor performed the multiple punch routine described in the book. After the conductor, the "cooks" came through issuing mugs of hot chocolate and reading from the book. The mugs were ours to keep as a keepsake. Although we took a number of pictures, only one came out reasonably. The rest were blurred, due to the slow shutter speed, this quick movements of the crew and the vibration and jostling of the car.

Shortly before the Rusk depot, a "Santa's Village" had been set up. With some hoopla, Santa (actually, multiple Santas) boarded the train. This shot is a little shaky because the train had started moving and the low light made for a long exposure.

As the train headed back to the Palestine depot, he walked through each car, talking to the children and giving out silver colored "sleigh bells." True to the story, most of the adults pretended that they could not hear the bells ring as the children shook them.

We had a lot of fun! We are thinking about doing it again next year!

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