Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What would Willie Do?????

Hey folks! it's Willie Wednesday here!

Actually, every Wednesday is Willie Wednesday on KVET, the radio station we listen to, so I thought we'd share a little of the local flavor.

Willie's a local icon, very active in all the local venues and a downright nice guy according to anyone who's met him. One of our friends was testing water out at his ranch a few years back and came away impressed at what a genuinely normal and nice person he was. 'Can't say that about a lot of folks who've had both the success and failures that he has.

Every Wednesday Willie makes himself, or his driver or some other member of his staff available to chat with the morning DJ's, and there's always some interesting tidbit to reveal. He cut his braids off last year and wow, did that set folks all atwitter! Kinda like the queen buying a new hat! At any rate, in his honor the following song was written by Bruce Robinson and has been recorded at several concerts. Inspired by all the trials land tribulations Willie has survived (most of his own making), the song was the theme of his H&R Block ad a few years ago, and was also featured in Willie's benefit concert for Tsunami relief.  It's also in Gary Allen's album "Alright Guy". I like this version, which accompanies a series of photos of Willie himself. Enjoy!

If you didn't catch all the lyrics, here they are:

What Would Willie Do?
I was lost in trouble and strife, I heard a voice and it changed my life
And now it's a brand new day, and I ain't afraid to say
You're not alone when you're down and out
And I think you know who I'm talking about
When I don't know how I'll get through
I ask myself "what would Willie do?"

What would Willie do, well he'd travel so far with nothing but a song and his old guitar
And a tour bus and some semi-trucks, thirty crew men and a little bit of luck
Well he loves all the people, the ugly and the randy
If you don't believe me take a look at the family
And they'll tell you that it's true
When skies are gray, what would Willie do?

Well long ago he came unto us, his words were simple but they went right through us
And the whole world sang along, but then they didn't want to hear his songs
He was gone and we thought we'd lost him
But he grew his hair and he moved to Austin
And all of the people smiled, they came to hear him sing from miles
Like a miracle all those rednecks and hippies
From New York City down to Mississippi
Stood together and raised a brew
When it's all gone wrong,what would Willie do?

You know sometimes I wonder when I ain't gettin' nowhere
What would old Willie do when it all gets too much to bear
And I can see him on his lonely old tour bus
And he's got his problems just like any of us
Well he'd just take a deep breath and then he'd let it all go
And he'd take another deep breath and let it all go
And he'd take another deep breath...and he'd hold it
Ah and I bet he'd feel hungry in a way that seems strange
Yeah hungry for all the things that he just can't change
Like the time he passed out in is own bedroom
And his wife sewed him up in the sheets and beat him with a broom and he forgave her
And you think that's rough, well then the IRS came and they took away all of his stuff
They took his golf course and his recording studio, and he just went out and did another show
So when it's all coming down on you
You better ask yourself, what would Willie do?

What would Willie do, well he'd take a little time
And talk to old rooser as he'd drive on down the line
And there's millions down that road, and with a word he's gonna lighten their load
He loves all the people no matter their races
Hell he even had a hit country song with Julio Iglesias
And that ain't easy to do, so when it's all too much, what would Willie
When the game gets tough what would Willie
When they call your bluff, what would Willie do?

[ From: , from the album: Alright Guy]

Friday, May 13, 2011

RV Remodeling

When we bought our Arctic Fox 30U back in 2003 we knew we would be using it for our travels after retirement, so we planned for flexibility.  One decision intended to increase flexibility was selecting the free-standing table and chairs in the dinette area, rather than the fixed benches and table. Though we used the table and chairs for camping trips for several years, they really weren't comfortable or particularly convenient.

Our first move after retirement was to remove the dining table and chairs and move the sleeper sofa forward into that space. The new arrangement allows for more room to walk around the sofa when it's pulled out to make a bed. We often have someone staying with us, so the additional foot room around both sides is nice.

Molly in her favorite corner
In the space previously occupied by the sofa, we installed a bookcase. The cabinet was assembled of 3 sections of off-the-shelf, upper kitchen cabinets from the local home builders store. The two end sections hold books, maps, craft supplies and whatever else we can fit in. The center is situated over an outside hatch, so the boxed-in bottom section opens to the outside, and the top is fitted with a shelf that has a slight lip to keep things from shifting and hitting the cabinet doors. The shelf is lined with light weight carpet to minimize wear on the contents. We use that space to store small kitchen appliances like the toaster and coffeemaker. The cabinet is attached  to the floor with long screws.               

Steve put molding around the top and extended it 1/2" above the top of the cabinet. This creates enough of a gallery railing effect to keep small items like a tissue box or pencils from flying off when we move. The doors are closed with strong magnet catches, and we've added pulls that match the other cabinetry.

Early on we got rid of the two stuffed chairs that came with the rig. They were horribly uncomfortable! We replaced them with two leather office chairs which we find very comfortable as they are adjustable and easily swivel to allow viewing out the window or watching TV without having to move the chair. One chair is arranged in front of the book case and the other at the back end of the trailer, where the chairs are originally shown in the floor plan.

As a temporary arrangement last summer the space by the door was filled with a folding table to hold the printer and other electronics.  It also made for good storage under the table for larger items like a laundry basket, camera case, etc.

After six months on the road we decided we were really happy with the changes made so far, but thought we'd like a real cabinet next to the door rather than the table we'd been using. So, again using kitchen cabinets from the hardware store, we assembled a unit that we think will meet our needs. 

The top extends beyond the base on one end to create a little cubbyhole for the oil heater we carry and a small box fan. The center section has a cabinet and drawer, and the right side has three drawers.

The two cabinet sections are base kitchen cabinets, with the toe-kick removed. The assembly was a bit too tall for our taste with that toe space at the bottom, as it blocked off too much of the window at the back, so dropping the height down by about 4 inches worked well.

The nest of wires for the printer, computer, phone antenna etc.
that always made such a disorganized tangle will now be neatly contained in the wiring grommets on the top and bottom/side of the cabinet. The cabinet section on the lower left has a power strip attached inside that many of the electronics will be connected to, and it plugs in to the outlet in the side wall, through one of the grommets, where the heater and fan are stored.

Just as with the bookcase, the molding was installed so as to create a bit of a lip around the edge. The top is covered with vinyl flooring squares that match the kitchen counter pretty well. Formica has gotten terribly expensive and we couldn't find a source for a small piece. It didn't make sense to by a large sheet for a small surface. The vinyl tiles were a buck a piece, and quite durable.  The drawers and door are secured with heavy duty magnet catches, pulls to match the rest of the cabinets have been attached, and now the whole assembly looks like it came with the rig! We're looking forward to trying it out when we hit the road in a few weeks.

Next project: new solar panels on the roof - stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


We've always had cats. Beginning with two adorable kittens that accompanied us on the way home from our honeymoon, we've always had the furry little devils under foot. We've cussed them and the messes they make, and enjoyed their antics and soft warm fur. When we first moved to Oregon and didn't bother to connect the TV antenna, we spent our evenings watching Paws, a male tabby, entertain us with his interpretation of uses for a cardboard box. Cats kept our daughter company when we lived so far out in the country she didn't have a playmate. They kept our barn (relatively) rodent free, and played havoc with Steve's shop. . . routinely  leaving messes he patiently cleaned up.

It seems strange, now that we are on the road so much of the year and no longer have a cat in residence. Maybe being "catless" is why we are so tolerant of the felines that cruse through the yard as if they owned the place.

We were highly entertained a couple of months ago when a mother tabby boldly led her three kittens down from the back of the property to our compost bin. She sat patiently while they explored for about ten minutes, then gathered them up and herded them off to the next scheduled stop on the field trip. Many evenings we watch a big red tom as he carefully navigates his way along the stone wall that marks the front of our property. Then there's the somewhat homely little tortoiseshell calico that creeps shyly up through the cactus patch, checking carefully along the way to be sure no one pounces on her. She clearly has been caught by surprise by one of Kendra's dogs when the lived here, as Molly pays little attention to any of them. They all look like they belonged here. . .  and maybe they do.

I was reading one of my dad's old Desert Rat Scrap Books the other day (packet one of pouch nine) and found this:
Cats keep snakes away from desert ranches. Few cats kill snakes, but they eat the same food as the snake, making it poor hunting for Mr. Snake, who moves on.

Now, I have no idea if this is true, but it sounds plausible, and certainly is a good excuse for leaving those furry critters unmolested as they explore the perimeters of the ranch.

Friday, May 6, 2011

We must confess, we have been a bit negligent about updating the blog, but we really have been BUSY, and doing much more than watching raccoons! There are a lot of photos in this post, so I'm making them small so the page will load a bit faster - click on any you want to see larger.

The big project has been replacing the foundation skirting. My but that sounds quick and simple in print..... not so much when you are on the business end of the hammer. There were a lot of hings that had to be done to prepare for the skirting.

First was the trenching across the back, then lining with drain pipe, covering with plastic and gravel.

The next phase was deconstructing the deck. We wanted to save as much of the lumber as possible to use in other projects, so we tried to do it as neatly as possible.

Then came removing the old skirting, patching any damage to the siding, and then mounting the new metal skirting.

Here are the two of us, hard at work, and sporting the fashionable and highly effective DIY wear essential when cutting metal. Note the ear and face protection - flying sparks aren't fun!

It was in the 90's most of the days we were working on the project, of course the weather cooled off as soon as we were finished! The skirting is all in place now, and Steve's finishing up the access doors. The new deck will be our project for next year as we're ready to shift into RV mode.

In mid-April Steve's parents visited us. We stopped at Patsy's Cafe for dinner after picking them up at the airport. The place has a lot of "character", and good food too!

A few days later we all drove up to Sweetwater and Snyder for their family reunions. It was a nice trip, and good to see all the cousins, aunts and uncles.  It's roughly 300 miles from here to Sweetwater, and there's a lot of scenery in between. The area around Sweetwater is thickly planted with wind turbines (windmills) which contrast starkly with the old stone buildings and the abandoned areas of what was once a booming oil town. We took a drive around Sweetwater Lake, and to Bud and Daphna's delight the old stone building where they used to go to dances is still standing. It was known as the Rock Inn, and it sounds like it was THE place to be on a Friday night!

We've also managed to tuck in a few other projects along the way. In February we put in a small raised bed garden. Now, we've finished harvesting the peas and are happily munching on zucchini, herbs, green onions and the like. There are a lot of tomatoes set on, so we're looking forward to a fried green tomato supper soon, and then some ripe ones! The skirting project necessitated moving a fairly large crepe myrtle, which turned out to have three separate roots, so they've been moved to the back and with the help of a timer they'll get a little water occasionally during the summer so they should settle in nicely.  This has been (and will probably continue to be) an extremely dry year so we aren't branching out into any flowers or other ornamentals at this point.

At the end of April we celebrated Willie Nelson's birthday along with his family and a bazillion other "friends" at a concert held in The Backyard.  Wreathed in an herbal haze, under slightly cloudy skies, the program opened with the group called Folk Uke, made up of  Arlo Gutheri's daugher Cathy, and Willie Nelson's daughter, Amy. They are hilarious, but a bit risque. You can find several of their performances on youtube. Cathy's young daughter joined the group for this performance, since this was a "family" birthday party!

 The next act was Paula Nelson, another of Willie's daughters, performing with her band Guilty Pleasures.

Then Willie himself launched into a nearly non-stop run of many of our favorites. He's 78 this year, and still outperforms many younger musicians.

It was definitely a full program, and a really nice evening to be outside. Skot and Kendra went with us and it was great fun! The Backyard is a nice facility, with plenty of beer and food vendors. Several of the oak trees were left standing when they cleared the land for the seating areas so there's a bit of shade. We had chairs, but there's a lot of general seating on the grass too. You just can't beat an outdoor concert on a balmy Texas evening.

We've done a little work on the RV, preparatory to the summer trip, and there'll be a separate post about that.  We've also spent a lot of time engineering around the squirrels. We really like feeding the birds, and we knock off work every afternoon around 3 o'clock so we can sit and watch them (and the squirrels) at the feeders.
I don't mind sharing a bit with the squirrels, but as the dry weather has drug on and the young squirrels get older and have bigger appetites they've gotten hungrier and more athletic. So-called squirrel-proof feeders, and techniques for keeping them out of the feeders that worked early in the spring are a complete failure now, so "re-engineering" is a constant task. This young fellow launched himself from a very slender branch that was so far away he was virtually flying when he finally landed on the feeder. The cure for this was to prune his launch pad, but he'll find another way I'm sure.

Male rose breasted grosbeak
We have been lucky to catch some migrating species at the feeder lately.
The Baltimore oriole didn't stay long enough for us to get a picture, but the rose breasted grosbeak couple seem to have moved in.
They are a little bossy, and have been pushing other birds out of the feeder, but they're so pretty we're putting up with it for now.

Male painted bunting

The painted buntings must have had a nest here last year, as we have several pair now. The males, with their red tummy and blue and green backs, look like small parrots. The blue is so dark that they all but disappear when in the shade, but when they turn so you can see the breast or the sun hits that lime green patch on the back they really glow

Female painted bunting.
The ladies are a pale yellow green and disappear in the spring green foliage of the trees. They're rather bashful, at least at first. They like the dense scrubby brush at the edges of our yard, and quickly disappear if startled. This one is perching on the squirrel feeder, looking down at the cardinals grazing below.

 With no rain there's a real shortage of wildflowers, which has really hit the hummingbird population. We put out a three nectar feeders and the first night a raccoon managed to decimate two of them. I rebuilt one and replaced the other with a homemade version, and now I bring them in every night and put them out first thing in the morning. They've really been popular, and we've seen many more hummingbirds that we ever did before.

The birds all enjoy the food we provide, but with stage two water restrictions already in place, water is going to be the really critical commodity this summer. To help out our furred and feathered friends Steve rigged up the air conditioner condensation drain to fill a basin so there should be a little available there all summer. Even when the temp inside the house is set fairly high, the high humidity here results in enough condensation to provide for the wildlife.  This hot, dry spring has been hard on wildflowers, but the cactus love it. We're surrounded by blooming cactus patches, and I just love these brilliant oranges blossoms.
Orange prickly pear cactus