Stuff on a Rainy Day

Another rainy day

Today it is raining at my house here in Austin, Texas. The weathermen, or should that be weather forecasters considering there are as many women as men, forecast the possibilities of flash flooding and thunderstorms which tends to happen a lot here in Texas. Probably due to the fact that we can go a month or more without it raining and then all of a sudden, down comes a couple or more inches all in one go. It was almost exactly a month ago when I posted about the last heavy rain and the flooding through my yard. You can read about that one here. On the other hand, the forecasters are not always right and we may end up with nothing more than a shower and nothing else to worry about.

The Corona-19 virus has not claimed any victims in my immediate neighborhood that I know of. What has happened is an increase in the locals and neighbors doing a lot more walking and exercising, many with their furry buddies for companions. That includes me as I have not visited or been hiking at any of the local parks lately. What I have been doing for exercise apart from the usual work of attending to the ponds and working in the yard is to take the dogs walking late in the afternoons. They have got to that point where they now expect it or rather demand it. Sandy, the little girl dog is really intelligent about it and when it is about that time and if I am showing the right inclinations, will stand by the table where her leash is and look at it and then back at me several times all the while barking her fool head off. This gets Mikey, the little boy dog going and he will join in with the barking. It’s really hard to ignore them and regardless of how tired and sore I might be from all of the outside work, I just have to give in and get them ready. The hardest thing is to get the leashes on as they won’t sit or even stand still, they are so excited. Actually, I have a single leash that is split at the end to hook up two dogs at a time. I find it very useful especially as both of my dogs do not have the greatest of manners when hooked up with a lot of pulling and tugging to get me to walk faster. I don’t usually mind as I use them as my method of walking allowing them to tow me along.

Mikey, the boy dog

We eventually make it out of the house door and then out through the garage door where I have to stop by my truck to get the garage door opener in order to close the garage. Then, we are off with Sandy leading the way. Her nose is always down and she stops often to pee like a dog with her leg cocked followed by a lot of growling and scratching usually covering Mikey who is behind her, with leaves and grass. Remember, she is a bitch in dog language but she doesn’t behave like one. Mikey, on the other hand does not pee very often and is usually content to walk a step or two behind Sandy. If he sees something that bothers him like people walking in the distance, especially if they have a dog or two, will stop and stare at them and I have to cajole him to get going once more. If and when either of them does their business, like a good neighbor, I stop and pick it up in one of those little plastic bags designed for it and put it in my other larger plastic bag attached to my belt for later disposal. Not the pleasantest of jobs but my neighbors do not need my dogs poop in their yard even if it only on it by a foot or so.

Sandy, the little girl

The other day as we were passing one of the houses, one of the neighbors little female Dachshund had gotten out and was pestering the other dogs next door who were behind their fence. Spotting Sandy, who by this time was kicking up a fuss, the little weiner dog went for her and she did very well in returning the attack with me and Mikey caught in the middle. While I was trying to get them separated, Mikey, who is definitely not a fighter but a real chicken little, was desperately trying to jump up into my arms to get away from it all. Me, I was too busy trying to get the dogs separated and managed to do so but not before getting my legs scratched up as I had shorts on. Neither dog was hurt other than their doggy pride and the Dachshund went back to her original game of bothering the dogs behind the fence and we went on our way. Sandy wasn’t through and kept turning around and sending out growls and barks in the general direction of the Dachshund. A couple of days later, we passed the Dachshund this time on a leash and on the other side of the road with its owner and even then, they both barked up a storm and tried to get at each other. Guess they just plain ole don’t like each other. Both are Females which should explain everything! By the way, the Dachshund is really a very pretty dog and is a mix of brown, black and white.

The other little female Dachshund looks similar to this one in coloring but with more of the darker colors.

Today, the guys are out of luck with it raining like it is. I don’t care how cute Sandy looks or excited that Mikey gets, we are not walking. It’s raining for goodness sake…..

Written 5/12/2020

Bastrop Animal Shelter

This is a wonderful place.

I sat down in front of the computer and looked at the empty screen wondering out loud to the two little dogs looking affectionately up at me, what are we going to write about today? Unable to respond in anything that I could understand, they just sat there with their big brown eyes looking doefully at me as if to say, “What the hell are you expecting us to do”.

I thought about it for a bit staring back at them and said,”OK, if you are not going to help, then I will do it on my own”. They wandered back to their chosen places of rest to sleep and I was alone to contemplate a blank screen and not to much going on with the grey matter between my ears. Then I remembered that Sandy and I had taken a trip yesterday to Bastrop Animal Shelter, the place where I was lucky enough to get her. Primarily, she needed a Rabies shot plus a couple of others that she was due. I couldn’t believe that it was 12 months since she and I laid eyes on each other for the first time. and had gone ahead with forging a beautiful relationship at least from her perspective. Me, I wait on her hand and foot along with Mikey, her buddy who also came from the same shelter. The two of them get along just fine with each of them taking it in turns to be the dominant partner. The reason for the trip other than for the vaccinations was so that I could get Sandy in to the groomers as like me, her hair is getting long and she is tangling up with all kinds of plant seeds and burrs and she complains bitterly when I try to comb her out. Time to get it cut short. Me, I will have to wait a bit longer before my trip to the hairdressers.

Bastrop is a nice little Shelter even though it is still a kill shelter. They try to move as many animals as posible to other shelters and of course adopt out a lot more. This is the one place where you can usually see a couple of Great Pyrenees brought in from the surrounding farms. They are put out with the farm animals to guard them from Coyotes and are notorious for wandering off from their task and ending up at the shelter. It is a long drive for me, close to 30 miles one way but worth it as they are a sponsored clinic and much cheaper than my regular vet. They only do shots and simple treatments and anything that requires surgery would have to be done elsewhere.

Their opening hours are very short so I had to get up early as they opened at 10:00 am and it takes me an hour to get there. They operate on a first come first served basis which normally is not a problem as there are some very interesting people in line. Under normal circumstances, we would all wait seated together in a medium sized waiting room with the overflow outside the door but in these troubled times, they had us wait outside. When I arrived at around 11:00 am, there were about ten or so people in front of me, some with more than one dog or cat. One guy had 3 three dogs, another lady had three or more cats in crates so I could not see the exact amount, many people had two dogs so I knew that we were in for a long wait. Normally , seated in the waiting room, there are some very interesting conversations going on with everyone putting in their five cents worth but outside, spread out as we were, the atmosphere was a little subdued. Besides, it’s hard to hold a decent conversation when you are wearing a mask because of the Corun-19 virus and are six feet away from whoever you are talking to. Not everyone wore a mask which I found a little disconcerting. There was a young couple, the guy with the three dogs, who did not. The guy was working the chewing tobacco real hard and spitting often which I found a bit much. Hopefully, the tobacco will kill any germs that he has and most certainly will kill him in later years if he keeps it up. Several other people did not wear a mask and I made sure to stay away from them by a goodly distance.

A couple of hours later, it was our turn and I dutifully handed Sandy over to the veterinary assistant and then waited around until they were through with her. In the meantime, I struck up conversations with the Clinic Staff as we spent an awful lot of last year together when Sandy was on her heartworm treatment regime from which she came through one hundred percent cured. They really are nice people. There is a lot to be said for a small town which Bastrop most certainly is.

We left home at 10:00 am and did not get back until 4:00 pm, a total of six hours of which two were for travelling but it was worth it not only for Sandy but also to renew my acquaintances with the staff at Bastrop Animal Shelter. The good news was that the Starbucks in Bastrop was open but had a long line so I drove on to the one off Hwy 290 in Austin. I at least managed to quell my thirst for a latte on the way home. We don’t need to go back for a couple of months when she is due for a couple of other shots including the one for anti-Rattlesnake venom. This is Texas after all…

Now, all that remains is to call the groomer and set up an appointment.

Written 5/4/2020

This Virus

The Line at Starbucks. Notice the pedestrians.

In the good old days, before the Covid-19 virus took over our lives, I would not give a second thought to jumping in my truck to go to whatever store that the thought had crossed my mind. Nowadays, things are just a little different. Apart from the fact that not all stores are open due to their inability to enforce social distancing because of the nature of what they sell or offer, hairdressers and massage parlors come to mind, the State Governors deemed that the only businesses that should be open are those with absolute necessities like food and hardware stores and several others. In my part of the country, that is HEB for food and Home Depot or Lowe’s for hardware. There are many others but those are the biggest and the ones that I frequent occasionally.

Lowe’s at Brodie Lane, Texas

Both of these stores have gone to extreme lengths to enforce social distancing by limiting the number of people allowed in the store at a time, placing markings on the floor at the checkout registrar and providing hand wipes and sanitizing the food carts. They have tried to make it safer for their employees by installing perspex screens between the check out and the customer and have a permanent cleaning staff who walk around all day doing nothing but wiping things down. Even so, I am very grateful that they are willing to put their lives on the line to keep the stores open. They may have other motives and I am sure they do and probably do not consider themselves to be heroes but to me and many others, they are. I realize that they are not driven out of a sense of fulfillment but something more practical like putting bread on their own table but it could come at a cost.

The reason I am on this diatribe and reverting back to my opening sentence is to understand my reluctance to go out to any of these stores. I used to visit HEB 2-3 times a week even if I only wanted a couple of items. Same with Home Depot and Lowe’s. Jump in the truck, take a quick drive to the nearest store, buy what I wanted and drive home or many times in my case, take a longer drive with a Starbucks latte to listen to an Audiobook on the way home.

Home Depot at Brodie Lane, Texas

I have one pond that has an algae problem meaning that the water is green and it needs treating, which is not a big job. It does require buying and then applying Algae Control to the water and as I happened to be nearly out of the stuff, I thought to myself, lets go to Home Depot or Lowes as both of those stores carry what I needed. So I jumped into my truck and made the short drive of around 5 miles to the one in town pulling into the Home Depot parking lot only to discover that it was pretty full and there were a lot of parked vehicles meaning that there were also a lot of people in the store. Wasting no time, I drove to the closest Lowe’s which was only half a mile down the road (these two stores are in competition with one another) only to discover that their parking lot was also full up with vehicles. I know it was a Saturday and both stores had just received the shipments of summer plants but even so, I was a little surprised how busy it was. It had not been like this a week earlier when I had reason to stop by.

Then I remembered that our Governor, Greg Abbott had just lifted some of the regulations that had been in place and some of the other stores were allowed to open as long as they practised social distancing which also included the aforementioned hairdressers, although I have yet to figure out how to cut hair and still maintain a 6 foot distance. All of those people that have been cooped up in their houses and apartments must be making the most of it and were out and about. I thought about it for a bit and decided that I had enough Algaecide at home to get started and that I would wait for midweek to make the trip to the stores if I needed more. The truth is, I did not want to go into a store where there were a lot of people, some of whom would not be very careful of how they carried themselves and would forget the rules.

Which brings me to the point of this discussion. It’s one thing having to shop for food and the other necessities of life but to return to semi normal when this pandemic is still very much alive does tend to beg the question. I know that for myself, I am very reluctant to get out into any sort of crowds or to willingly put myself in the line of fire even if there is only the remotest chance of catching the virus. I realize that I am fortunate that I am retired with sufficient income to see me through as opposed to being a working man or woman and having to put bread on the table to feed a family, which does give me choices. I choose to stay home and only venture out for necessities, in my case food, Starbucks and algaecide.

Starbucks at Escarpment, Slaughter Lane, Texas

By the way, There are several Starbucks that I visit in my immediate area. There are several next to different HEB’s but of late, it has been very difficult knowing what sort of hours they keep. Just lately, a couple are closing at 2:00 pm while others vary depending on the amount of traffic. The one at Circle C and Escarpment, which is very conveniently next to my favorite HEB, is keeping weird hours and I never know what time they will close. The few times in the past week or so that I have been there when they are open, there has been a line of 20 or so vehicles plus usually a couple of people on bikes and even a couple of walk ups. It is a little frustrating as they are not keeping regular hours and it’s a kinda hit and miss game. Probably a good thing when you get right down to it as I drink too many Lattes and spend way too much money per month/year on the stuff. I consider coffee as my only real vice as I gave up drinking more than 12 years ago coupled with the fact that the pretty girls no longer notice me and I have given up trying to attract them. To them, I am just another old man on the road of life fast reaching the end of the journey.

HEB at Escarpment, Slaughter Lane, Texas

I wonder how long it will take to return to any form of normality. Here in Texas, there have already been protests at the State Capitol as a couple of hundred noisy demonstrators complete with their armor and guns, have blockaded the road. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and beliefs but to me, it does seem a little premature to end the lockdown. It could easily start a second wave of infected people which could be far worse than the first time around and we would have to do this all over again for an even longer time period.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how it turns out. Me, I am only going to the stores when I have no other choice.

Given the choice, I would like to die in my bed, naturally…

Written 5/2/2020

The Covid 19 Lockdown

Flowers are always beautiful

The trouble with staying indoors all the time
although not much different than I normally do
is trying to stay busy and occupy the mind
something different than the normal kind
of things that I do nearly every day
like reading the mail and then have my say
when in return I write a response
not always agreeing what others may write
but freedom of speech is one of the joys
that still remains a useful ploy
after exhausting the need to respond
I search about for things to do
reading up on the latest news
and of other people’s point of view
tending the ponds takes a lot of my time
cleaning filters and other such tasks
accompanied by my two little dogs
who are really not much good at the work
preferring instead to run and play
but helping in their own little way
I love their company and they enjoy mine
and between us we have a fine old time
sometimes I need to go to the store
to replenish the food we ate last week
I leave them at home and lock the door
and they are sad to see me leave
but happy when I arrive home
as we usually go for a walk down the street
passing neighbors walking on the other side
in a group but six feet apart
keeping their distance as the orders provide
we wave and greet each other at will
although they are strangers at this moment in time
and the need to be social is strong indeed
but because of the lockdown we keep our space
as members of the human race
families do not have to answer this call
they live together after all
and hope that immune from the virus will be
together as a family
I have a large yard that takes some of my time
mowing and weeding and keeping it straight
and this year things are growing so fast
different than in years gone past
maybe the lack of vehicles on the road
improving the pollution in the air
is allowing Nature in her own way
to recover a little as if to say
“See just how much I can do
when given the chance I come shining through
and from this moment you should learn
and do the right thing in return
clean up the world and clean the skies
and if you need a reason why
look around to see what I have done
in a few short days you can see the sun
and the stars at night and the moon shining through
as the pollution abates what a wonderful view”
Alas we humans are a stupid race
and on this earth we have no place
we don’t know how to keep it clean
pollution free is not our scene
and it does not fit in with our style
we are not willing to go that extra mile
to clean up our planet now given the chance
as the lockdown is just a temporary thing
and as soon as we’re able we’ll be at it full swing
polluting the planet as though it’s our own
instead of remembering that it is on loan
and we are the tenants as a far greater force
controls all our destinies on a far different course.

Written 5/1/2020

Something to Say

The Roses are blooming

I haven’t written in quite a while
anything to make readers smile
about life at home or about the ponds
or even of walks that I have yet to go on
the truth being that I am in a rut
staying at home is anything but
good when there is a world to see
out there just inviting me
the truth is that I am more than concerned
that trips from home as we have learned
should only be from necessity
like going to the grocery store
and staying apart six feet or more
or maybe to the Home Depot
the hardware store to get and go
and come back home to another task
hoping that to make it last
to fill in yet a bit more time
instead of waiting here in line
at the local Starbucks Store
with cars lined up a block or more
as people yearn for normality
instead of closed shops and roads that are free
of traffic and people nowhere to be found
all staying at home contributing to the sound
of silence as we wait out the time that we need
to get back to normal and be virus freed.

Written 4/27/2020

Staying in Place

Staying in place is what they said
this is what we have to do
in order to beat the virus thing
as it is more serious than regular flu
so following orders like a good chap
and doing what they say I must do
I stayed home tending to my ponds
and writing bad poetry which is nothing new
going out when the needs must
grocery shopping to name but a few
and of course I couldn’t miss out
with a stop at my Starbucks drive thru
where the line of cars it twenty deep
as others have the same urge as I
not so much for the coffee to drink
as mingling with others the reason why
even if we are far apart
sitting in our cars as we wait in line
just to be out with others the same
almost human contact makes us feel fine
staying at home is nothing new
for me as I do it all of the time
as we grow old the needs grow less
and mixing with others is not so sublime
I have my dogs whose company I need
although they are sleeping most of the time
but the minute I move to get out of my chair
wide awake and tails wagging they are right in line
I can always find something to do
usually out in the garden I go
tend to the ponds and take care of the fish
or pull weeds in the yard with my trusty hoe
and if the weather is not so kind
and I must stay in so not to get wet
a can always listen to an Audiobook
where the hero the good guy never gets upset
and rescues the damsel that is in distress
vanquishing the bad guys for their sins
even though these are trying times
human contact few and far between
many years of living by myself
for me does not really change the scene
I will continue the way that I am
me and the dogs living alone
enjoying our company the best we can
staying in our home sweet home.

Written 4/17/2020

Stuff Keeps on Happening

Standing there as bold as brass. Signs of the recents pond cleanup are visible.

I was sitting by the window and working away on something that I deemed interesting enough at the time and I happened to glance up and lo and behold, there was a heron in full view standing on the edge of the 5000 gallon pond. I carefully reached for my camera and snapped off a couple of shots before opening the back door and scaring it away. Damn, those birds are big. You don’t realize it until they are in flight and they have their wings spread open. They have a six feet wingspan on a full grown bird and they look like a modern day Pterodactyl. I hope that I scared him enough to stay away although that pond is too deep for it to wade in. I suppose that it could fish from the bank. Most of the fish are way to big for it to lift out of the water but if they try, they usually damage the fish enough to kill it or it dies later with their attempts to get it out.

I spent some of the afternoon digging a hole and planting the cypress tree that used to stand in the 6000 gallon pond. I wrote about it before and you can catch those blogs at these links here and here. I had uprighted it a couple of time previously and this time, I determined that it was way too big for the pot and had either to replant it in a bigger pot or get it out of the pond and plant it in the garden. I chose the latter option as it was really difficult to move it around in the water by myself. The tree now has a permanent place in the bottom corner of my garden and will probably outlast me.

While in the pond and dragging the tree out, I took care of a couple of other chores one of which was to re hook up the frog fountain statue in the center of the pond that had come disconnected and then clean out as much debris and leaves that I could. After finishing and by now, well and truly in the swing of things, I transfered my attention back to the 5000 gallon pond off the deck and rehooked the Urn bubbler backup that a jumping fish had inadvertently knocked over. I had to rebuild the blocks that the Urn stands on as they had collapsed when the fish knocked the Urn off of them. I also fished around and dug out a couple of extra concrete blocks and several pots that had gotten submerged when one of the shelves gave way. This created another project of cleaning out as much debris and leaves as I could. Finally, with all of the chores taken care of, I collapsed into my hot tub to try to ease the aching joints and muscles as in the good old British jargon, I was “knackered”. I sure do know it nowadays if I have any amount of heavy duty work to perform. Not like when I was young when I could work forever and never get tired. Damn I hate growing old. On the other hand, it is a privilege not shared by everyone so, at the same time, I am really grateful.

Written 4/15/2020