Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spring time in Hill Country

Spring has definitely arrived here in Hill Country! Every day there's a different wildflower popping out. We had a couple of nights that dipped down to freezing this last weekend, and the plants know it, so only the hardiest have shown up so far. That includes the fields of bluebonnets, wild onions, and a few others that aren't as showy as some of the later blooming varieties. The mesquite trees haven't popped out yet either, but the oak are blooming like crazy, which makes the allergy sufferers not too happy to say the least. Our yard is shadier than others around us, so things are slower to bloom. Molly and I take walks up and down the road so we can see what varieties we have to look forward too. Here's a shot from beside the road as we went into town to do errands yesterday. There are huge fields of them all along the road, and on the property right in front of our front gate.

If you've only read the last two posts, about our nights out, you might think we haven't been doing much actual work, but actually the opposite is true. . .  what with mowing, battling squirrels in the bird feeders, planting a few flowers for the wedding, battling squirrels in the bird feeders, working on shelving and organizing stuff in the shop, battling squirrels in the bird feeders, trips to the home improvement stores,  unpacking and organizing in the house, battling squirrels . . .(are you getting the trend here?). We have admittedly also spent afternoons sitting on the porch, enjoying the sun and watching birds (and squirrels).

We love the cardinals, doves and the others that have been here all winter, and there are new varieties of the birds moving in as the weather warms up.

 The kids and grand puppies have been out a few times, and the dogs always enjoy a session of fetch in the backyard where they have lots of open space to run.

Ryloo is a good squirrel deterrent when  she's here, and Molly's picking up the idea, but she's not on guard often enough. They are eating me out of house and home!

Molly supervises, as she doesn't see much point in all the running around.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cheatham Street Warehouse

The small tin shed beside the railroad tracks, across from the burned out shell of a feed store, is bigger inside than you'd expect. A weathered, hand lettered sign over the door says " beer joint". Inside, a small stage is "set" with two neon beer signs, a Texas state flag which takes the spotlight, and in case you forget where you are, a green street sign stating "Cheatham Street Warehouse". 

The low ceiling reflects the glow of a dozen other neon signs, most of them sporting some version of the Texas state map or state slogan. Humble indeed - BUT - we didn't come here for the decor. The Cheatham Street Warehouse is renown as the starting place of many world famous country and western entertainers. George Strait and his Ace in the Hole band played their first 50 or 60 shows here, with other performers and writers too numerous to mention also on the list. It's really the writers that this place was created for, back in the early '70's. We came to see a musician we'd only heard on the radio, Jason Boland.

The warm-up act was Jordon Minor. If you check his MySpace page you'll see he's a busy guy. . .His forte is writing as far as we could tell, and we really liked his songs. He was accompanied only by his bass player, and the two of them put on quite a show.

Jason came on at 11 PM, and keeping in mind we're old folks, it's saying something that we didn't even think to look at the time when he finally finished up at 1 AM. What a great show - he left the Stragglers (his band) at home and performed only with a fiddler, a friend he "talked in to" accompanying him. The friend was Brady Black, fiddler with the Randy Rogers band, which was a nominee for this year's best vocal category for the Academy of Country Music awards. What a show! It was hard to know which of the two to watch, as each put on such a great performance. Jason's lyrics reflect the region, so the folks in the crowd were happy to join in with a lot of the songs they know and identify with. We had a table right up front, closer than we've ever been at a live performance before, so caught all the action (including the groupies!) All for $15.00 a person (plus cheap beer in long neck bottles or a mason jar).

Another great addition to the evening, while waiting in line before the Warehouse opened, we met Machelle Dunlop, a live-music photographer and writer for the Examiner. She knows the venues and entertainers in the area and was a wealth of information and idea for future performances to watch for.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Night on the town

 We were out late last night, late for us anyway, but more about that later…. Suffice it to say we weren’t hitting on all cylinders when early this morning, barely halfway into the morning coffee I stepped out the back door to hear a loud beeping coming from the RV.

We have all kinds of alarms – propane, fire, and who knows what else, so I hurried over to investigate. The specific cause of the increasingly irritating sound was not to be traced. First the sound seemed to be coming from one corner, then another, then through the ceiling vents. Steve remembered we’d removed the smoke alarm, though I distinctly remembered putting it back, it wasn’t on it’s bracket, so we were that far in identifying the cause, but we still couldn’t find it. We worked our way through every cupboard inside and out, but the little thing eluded us. It seemed to be coming from the roof! Not possible…. So we tore apart the cupboards again….. finally Steve climbed up on a ladder and looked on top of the living room slide. He instructed me to pull the slide in a few inches and reach up, and there it was. Apparently I HAD reinstalled it, I just didn’t do a very good job of it! It must of popped off when we hit a bump and landed on the slide, and then when we pushed the slide out here at home it ended up outside. What a way to start a Monday!

Now, about our evening out.

We had tickets for the Texas Heritage Songwriters Association Hall of Fame Awards Show, so had an early dinner here and then headed up to Austin. We picked up the tickets at will-call just as  they were opening the doors, and a gentleman looking remarkably like the Master of Ceremonies, Red Steagal, opened the door for us and motioned us through. Of course, everyone was dressed in western hats and boots, so he could have been anyone….. only when he walked out on stage did we realize it really was Red Steagal!! Not surprising I guess as western entertainers seem to be a very friendly lot. The show was a great combination of interviews with the award recipients and live music.  The show featured interviews with all of this year's recipients, and ended with a session featuring Lee Roy Parnell, Clint Black and Mac Davis playing some of their own favorites of all the songs they've written interspersed with telling stories. Very informal and great fun! Hey Grayce! I had a Makers Mark at the bar before the show just for you!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Home Sweet Home

This will be a somewhat condensed update, as due to yours truly dropping the laptop and damaging the broadband card we were without Internet access for several days. OOPS!

We stayed in Las Cruces on the the 24th and 25th - went down to El Paso to shop for serapes to use as drapes in living room and then out for a great Mexican dinner in Mesilla, just outside of Las Cruces.

On the 26th we stayed at Balmorhea State Park. This is a really unusual campground, as it also includes a "motel" consisting of several little adobe style cabins clustered near the wetlands display. The park features a large pool and wetlands habitat, all fed by San Solomon Springs. Though it wasn't crowded due to the time of year and cool weather, indications are that it's really crowded once the kids are out of school.

On the 27th we stayed at South Llano River State Park. This is a fabulous park for birdwatching, and hunting. There are several bird blinds available for use by wildlife photographers, and miles of trail to hike, though the trails are closed during hunting season. This is a primary wild turkey breeding area, so certain areas are marked off limits when they are nesting. It seems a little strange, coming from Oregon, to have hunting in a state park, but here in Texas there is nothing equal to the BLM lands we have out on the west coast. All the land, with the exception of a few national parks (which are relatively small) and the forts, all the land is owned by the state or private individuals, thus, hunting is allowed in the state wildlife management areas and state parks.

Once we arrived at the ranch we shifted into unpack and organize mode..... which is where we still are. We're making headway, but there's still a lot to do. This week was primarily devoted to mowing chores, and planting a few flowers in hopes they'll be up in time for the wedding in mid-May. With a little luck Mother Nature will assist in that department. The blue bonnets and other wildflowers are just starting to show up, and it's raining right now, so it should be a really good year for the wildflowers this state is so famous for.