Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Some (more) Assembly Required

In the last blog I mentioned the simple request to assemble a new desk before we left.  I also mentioned that it turned out to be a large office suite that came in nine different boxes. Once we had removed the 250 gallon aquarium and relocated several file cabinets it was time to begin assembly.

1.Open a heavy box and pull out a flat stack of shrink-wrapped parts.

2. Spread everything out on the floor and find the instructions!!  Each box came with 50-100 different pieces of hardware including strange fasteners, screws, nails, hinges, drawer glides, etc.  It was really important to get those sorted out.

3. Step-by-step, piece-by-piece, put everything together.  Remember to nominate whoever invented the cordless drill for the Nobel Prize.  I don't know how we ever put anything together without one!!

It took me half a day to assemble this first module. I really thought that we'd need to extend our stay to get this thing finished.  Since Teri was still filling file cabinets I was without my helper, and that makes a huge difference.  Having someone to sort parts, find the correct piece, hold parts while I fasten, etc. is priceless!!

The next day things went more quickly.  I was more familiar with the assembly, and more importantly had Teri to help.

More parts, more instructions.

The main desktop is finished.

Third day, add the credenzas and the connecting bridge.

Done. Altogether we utilized over 1000 pieces of hardware to put this thing together!!

So the next time someone asks if we will put their desk together, we'll get a little more information.  But we'll still say yes!!


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Some Assembly Required

Since it got up to 91 degrees in Elgin yesterday I am wishing we were back in Colorado!!  So I'll go back to one of the last tasks that we completed while at Alamosa/Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuges.

It started out with the simplest of requests from the Administrative Technician, LeeAnn.  "Do you think that you could put my new desk together before you leave??"  Well putting stuff together is one of my favorite things, so I told her that I was sure we could do that.

Have you ever assembled one of those cabinets or home entertainment systems from Walmart that comes in a flat box and weighs about 100 pounds?  Particle board and a big bag of screws??  Imagine my surprise when LeeAnn pointed to NINE of these boxes leaning against the walls.  Not just a desk, but a complete office suite!!

The picture below shows the contents of Box #1.  Hard to believe that stack of "wood" weighed about 50 pounds and would become a pedestal with two drawers.

But I am getting ahead of myself. LeeAnn was sitting in a raised area near the front door of the office, but planned  to locate her new desk down in a different area.  So we needed to relocate the office file cabinets from the lower level to the raised level.  The picture below is the current location of LeeAnn's office. Kind of cramped.

This office is an old house, and there was a 250 gallon, built-in aquarium occupying the space where the file cabinets needed to go. So first I had to remove this aquarium and get it outside.  I broke out the surrounding cabinetry so get the aquarium free, but couldn't budge it.  Turns out that it weighed 650 pounds, empty!!  Luckily the staff meeting was the next day, so before we adjourned I gathered up the six biggest guys at the refuge and we barely managed to wrestle that thing out of the house and onto the front porch.  It is very likely still out there on the porch!!

With the aquarium out, Teri and Suzanne (the Refuge Manager) unloaded the file cabinets. I moved them up to where the aquarium had been, and they reloaded them. We also moved a big gray flat file up to the raised area.

Check back later and I'll share pictures of the assembly of the Super-Deluxe Office Suite!!


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Big Fawns??

For the couple of months that we are off of the road we have been splitting time between our "old" home in Elgin and our "new" home in Medina.  We are working hard to get the Elgin place cleaned up and ready to sell, and returning to our smaller park model home in Medina to rest and relax.

While in Medina we have visited the city park in nearby Bandera to play disc golf and enjoy wildlife. Last week we came across a herd of exotic, introduced Axis Deer.  These deer were brought to the Texas Hill Country by game ranches to hunt, and they have escaped and become rather common in some areas.  They are very handsome deer, and they keep their spots throughout their lives.  At first you might think that you are seeing a group of Whitetail Deer fawns, until you see some with big antlers!!

This herd had a single buck, and about 15 does.  Quite the harem!

While the Axis Deer are fun to look at, they are unfortunately conflicting with the native Whitetail Deer by creating competition for food and space. This seems to be the story of most exotic species!


Friday, October 12, 2012

Welcome To The Jungle

We've been staying at our place in Elgin for the past week getting it ready to put on the market.  For a place that hasn't been watered in almost three years - it's a jungle!

The first item on the agenda was getting the yard presentable.  Years ago we turned the front yard into a hummingbird/butterfly garden.  We had something blooming all year long. 

It looked a lot different when we got home:

We spent a couple of days pulling weeds and cutting down dead trees:

We bought a few new plants at the local garden center and hauled in a load of mulch:
It has been an amazing transformation!

We've been hauling loads of indoor items to the thrift store.  It's amazing how much stuff you can accumulate in 30 years (18 years in this house).

This is a great place!  Exactly the kind of place we would buy, if we were looking for a house!

The house went on the market today.  We're still working on the yard and clearing out the inside.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Mesa Verde National Park - Part 1

One of the last trips we took while in Colorado was to Mesa Verde National Park (Mesa Verde - Spanish for Green Table).  It is one of 13 national parks in Colorado.  With over 52,000 acres, it preserves and protects nearly 5,000 archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings and over three million objects and archives.

On June 29, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt established Mesa Verde National Park to “preserve the works of man”.  It is the first, and still only, US national park of its kind.  Here is preserved an extraordinary record of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made this place their home for more than 750 years, from A.D. 550 to A.D. 1300.

We decided to stay at the Far View Lodge inside the park.  It was a good decision since the Visitor Center and most of the sites are 15, very winding, miles from the entrance to the park.
The drive into the park is beautiful.

We upgraded to a newly renovated room.  Although the room was quite nice, you would think for $160 a night, it would at least have a TV!

View from our balcony.

We got to the park in late afternoon and after dinner at the Far View Terrace restaurant, we headed to the Far View sites.  There are a few self-guided sites where you are allowed to walk around without a Ranger.

Far View House was the first mesa top site excavated.  Work began in May 1916 and was completed in less than four months.

The Far View area was one of the most densely populated regions of Mesa Verde.  At peak population, there were at least 50 occupied villages within a half square mile area.

Far View House was built around A.D. 1000 and occupied for nearly 300 years.  Wood recovered from the site indicates that there is most likely an older structure below Far View House.
I found it amazing that any of the structure was still standing.
Sunset over Mesa Verde.
Next time - A full day at Mesa Verde.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Kingfisher in Flight (for Judy)

Judy (of "Travels with Emma" fame) asked about a bird-in-flight photo of a Kingfisher.  Here is a shot that I got last February at the South Padre Island Birding Center.

I seem to recall running through a whole lot of images before getting this one.  We're headed back to that area in January, and I'll keep an eye out for more kingfishers!


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Birds in Flight - Part 6

Back to the marshes for the last Birds-in-Flight (at least for now). While geese and ducks are the most common birds in the marsh, we do have a few shorebirds, waders and terns.

Winning the prize for "Best Bill" is the American Avocet.  The latin name for this bird is Recurvirostra americana which refers to its recurved, or upturned bill.  In winter they are muted gray and white birds, but in breeding plumage the head and neck are cinnamon colored.  

Most terns are basically white, but the breeding tern here on the refuge is the Black Tern. Its body is not white, but is, well... black!!

There is a signifcant group of breeding Black-crowned Night-Herons here in the marshes. They sit quietly in the marsh reeds during the day, and fly in the evening.  They are relatively large and slow, so are good targets for bird-in-flight photography. They have a deep red eye.

I have found that the toughest birds for photos on the wing are the swallows.  They are common and easy to spot, but they are small, fast and very erratic in their flight.Out of literally dozens (hundreds?) of attempts, here is my best capture of a Tree Swallow in flight. They are metallic blue/green above with a clean white belly. Did I mention that they are quick?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Birds in Flight - Part 5

Time for a few more Birds-in-Flight. I previously covered  two common hawks here at the refuge (Swainson's and Red-tailed), but we do have other raptors.

The Northern Harrier was formerly called the Marsh Hawk, and that was a good name.  We regularly see them flying low and slow over the marsh, listening carefully for the sound of a tasty rodent moving through the grasses. The white rump is a good field mark.

At the other end of the spectrum behaviorally is the Peregrine Falcon. Flying high and fast, the Peregrine Falcon is considered to be the fastest animal in the world. In a high-speed dive, they have been clocked at over 200 mph!  We occasionally see a Peregrine hunting over the field behind the trailer, but have never observed it diving on prey.

A common bird around the refuge is the Black-billed Magpie.  They are large, flashy, and loud, so when one in around you know it! In this area you are more likely to see magpies on road kill than you are vultures.  They are omnivores and will eat just about anything that they find.  This serves them well during the very cold winters here, as they aren't at all picky and will eat even pet food and garbage.

Today's final bird-in-flight is an uncommon one. We have seen a few Lewis's Woodpeckers in cottonwood trees along rivers. This is an unusual woodpecker in that they regularly feed on insects caught in the air while in flight.  This photo shows the very broad wings which are handy for aerial hunting. Also notice the pink body that is distinctive for this woodpecker.