Monday, February 21, 2011

One of nature's little mysteries

Steve has been working on a cabinet to be installed in the RV this week, and staining the trim was my job. I climbed up on a ladder in the shop to take down the small bucket that had the paintbrushes in and when my fingers reached down into the bucket to pick it up I ran into the strangest feeling stuff. "What the @#$% - what did he put in here?" I muttered.

Yes, I know, unfounded malicious accusations toward the beloved spouse.

I wasn't enlightened much when I finally got the bucket down on the counter and could see inside. All the brushes were intermingled with a lot of juniper bark shreds and who knows what else. What a mess. Not knowing where the bucket had been in it's recent journey from Oregon to it's shelf here in TX I could only assume the mess fell in while it was outside, or something.  I began pulling out all the paintbrushes one by one and eventually it became clear. This mess is a nest!

But whose?
And how?
And why?

After comparing notes we determined the bucket has been up on the shelf, near the door of the shop, for quite some time. The door is open during the day if we're working in there, but closed at other times, and often for many days at a time.

There were four eggs in the nest. One had been cracked and the yolk was starting to dry out, another cracked while I was rummaging around investigating and it too was moist, so the eggs were probably this season's.

The mystery is, we have never seen a bird in the shop.

Based on the eggs and style of nest I'm thinking it's a tufted titmouse, as we have a lot of them around here. Admittedly they are a small bird, but I think we'd see it at least once if one was in there often enough to lay four eggs, and there's no way in other than the doors.We see titmice outside fluttering around us all the time while they feed, so they don't seem to be a particularly bashful or secretive bird. It's a mystery!

If the bird is still around I'm afraid it's going to have to start another nest somewhere else, or it may be that this one was already abandoned and the eggs just hadn't dried out yet.

If anyone has any other theories, or suggestions of what the identity of the bird is, we'd love to hear them!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

New projects

We escaped the last wave of severe cold (18 degrees was the low we recorded here) with all our pipes in tact, and my little vegetable seedlings have quite a few miles logged, as they've been hauled from window to window, or to the back porch if the weather was above 40 even briefly. Steve used some timbers we had around to make a raised bed at the back and after filling with some good compost we're ready to put in some plants. . .  as soon as we can be sure the cold isn't coming back. The peas that were already up when the cold hit survived quite well, covering them every night helped I think, though peas are known for being pretty cold resistant. I also covered the little trees I had planted about two weeks before the cold wave. The magnolia still looks good, and it's all leafed out, but we can't tell about the red bud or crepe myrtle until later as they are completely dormant.

I did make a nice discovery while digging the holes for the trees.
This seemingly normal rock, when turned over, revealed a nice scallop shell fossil. It's about 4 inches across, and considering the edges are missing, it must have been a really large scallop!

Hill Country is layer upon layer of limestone, so fossils are to be expected, but this is the first one we've found in the yard.

Now that we can come out of hibernation we are starting on the bigger outdoor projects. Removing the deck and replacing the skirting are high on the list. We got started on the deck yesterday, lifting the boards with the tractor and then finishing the removal of each with crowbars. Another couple of days and we should be finished with the destruction, then the construction of the skirting and new deck can begin.

Another project is a new cabinet for the RV. We had installed a bookcase cabinet a couple of years ago and really like the way that worked out, so we decided to do a bit more customizing and are adding a cabinet to hold the computer printer and a few other items that we had been storing on a table. This should be a lot more efficient and convenient. 
When the projects are finished we'll post before and after photos.

Out of hibernation - at last!

Happy Valentine's Day! The sun is finally out, and the cold front is (we hope) gone for the year! In fact, we'll have weather up into the 70's today!

We celebrated Valentine's day early, with a night out at the Rascal Flatts concert, on one of the coldest iciest nights of the winter. When we arrived the parking lot was circled with 11 large trucks, all displaying the Rascal Flatts group photo.

It's amazing the amount of equipment and people it takes to put on productions like that. There were also several other large trucks and motorhomes. Like a small city on the move!

It was great fun, as they put on a good show, and had two other great acts with them - Luke Bryan and Chris Young - as warm up acts. The Cedar Park      is a nice place for a concert, not too big, and the lighting effects the bands used were very effective for this size facility. 

 They're good at predicting the weather here, so we left home early enough to get to the venue before the snow started, but coming home was another story. Drivers here are unfamiliar with icy roads and there were cars all over the place. Off ramps were closed, as well as sections of the freeway in some places. With the icy roads and all the wrecks it only took us twice as long as usual to get home, so we didn't get home until around 2 AM - that's late for us old folks!

The next morning we woke up to a real winter wonderland. Not much to get excited about if you live where it snows regularly, but folks in these parts don't quite know what to make of it. Schools and many businesses were closed and towing companies and body shops undoubtedly did a booming business.
Within a day all was melted off and things went back to normal.
All the critters are starting to move around as it warms up. While closing the blinds at dusk yesterday Steve noticed a small fox checking out the ground under one of the bird feeders. He'd clearly been here before, as we watched him confidently make the rounds of the compost heap and other feeders, then trot off into the deep woods.
This morning the hackberry tree out in front was filled with a flock of small birds with yellow tummies (we haven't identified them yet), readily gobbling up all the little "berries" from the branches. All the cardinals are out staking out their territory, and I do believe it's Spring! The weather man says he expects one more freeze, so we'll see.