Thursday, July 28, 2011

Heat Wave

I don't know how things are where you live, but conditions are really challenging in my part of West Texas right now.

The information below was published in the July 27th edition of the San Angelo Standard Times, our local newspaper. We subscribe to the paper, so I'm not sure this information is available in the online edition. Keep in mind that the National Weather Service began keeping records for the San Angelo area in 1907, over 100 years ago.
  • The average temperature for July (so far): 89.4
  • Previous hottest July on record: 1912, when the daily average temp was 87.6. So, we are currently almost 2 degrees above that.
  • Hottest month on record: June, 2011 (last month). Average temp was 88.6. We will probably break that record when July ends.
  • Previous longest streak of consecutive 100-degree days: 26 days from July 30 to August 24, 2010.
  • Current streak of consecutive 100-degree days: 25 days from July 2 to July 26, 2011. As I prepare to publish this on July 28, the temp exceeded 100 yesterday, so we have at least tied the record. Our local forecast for the next 5 days calls for temps in excess of 100. So, barring a miracle, a new record will be set.
  • Lowest rainfall for January 1 to July 31: 3.13 inches in 1956
  • Current rainfall for January 1 to July 31: 2.94 inches. Doesn't look good.
Altogether this year, we have had 62 days of 100 degree temperatures. This is a record. These are not the kinds of records we like to set.

So, we've had little rain and excessive heat. Since much of our water comes from area lakes, that is not good. Much water in the lakes is lost daily to evaporation. A bigger problem contributing to our lakes drying up, though, is the fact that we simply use too much water.

The United States is a nation of excesses. We've always been wasteful. If you doubt this, then consider what we did to the buffalo, mostly in the name of greed. Where else but in the United States would we build a metropolis in the middle of a desert and then use water there as if it were plentiful? I'm speaking of Las Vegas. And how much water do we spend watering golf courses, baseball fields, and football fields, among other things. And now the oil companies are using a water intensive method called fracking to retrieve oil. When we finish using something, we throw it away rather than recycle or re-use it.

San Angelo relies on several area lakes for fresh water. Because these are drying up, the city is developing an underground source called the Hickory Aquifer. Below are lake levels as recorded in the July 27th Standard Times.
  • Nasworthy, 83% capacity and 8,438 acre feet (small lake)
  • O.C. Fisher, 0% capacity and 0 acre feet (very large capacity lake fed by the North Concho River that is totally dry)
  • Twin Buttes, 10% capacity and 17,960 acre feet (potentially large lake fed by Middle Concho River, South Concho River, Dove Creek and Spring Creek)
  • E. V. Spence, 1% capacity and 3,522 acre feet
  • O. H. Ivie, 24% capacity and 130,404 acre feet (potentially large lake fed by Colorado River and Concho River)
Water restrictions are in place. We are allowed to water lawns once each week. I continually try to find ways to conserve water. When building the house, I added gutters that could be removed halfway down so that rain barrels could be set in place to harvest rainwater. However, I don't have the barrels in place yet, but that doesn't really matter since it hasn't rained lately. But collecting such water would allow me to water outdoor plants with harvested water. I plan to add these soon.

I also place a 5 gallon bucket under the drain for my AC system. I collect between 3 and 4 gallons a day right now, and I use that water to water trees and selected plants. 3 or 4 gallons doesn't sound like much, but it adds up to about 100 gallons each month.

Basically, it is rather silly for people like me to move to a semi-desert environment and then attempt to build a landscape that is designed for someplace that receives much more rain than we do. And if you look all over the west, you'll see this same practice in place. Green lawns just don't belong in the desert -- it isn't natural.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

San Angelo Friends of the Environment

One of the many things we enjoy about living in San Angelo is the opportunity to recycle. We find that once we get into recycling, the amount of trash we set out by the curb is greatly reduced. This morning, for example, we only had half a bag of garbage to be collected.

The recycling center in San Angelo is operated by the San Angelo Friends of the Environment (S.A.F.E.). This is a busy place. Every time we go, people are busy dropping off all their recyclable goods, and the list of items the center will take is pretty extensive. A list of allowable items is available at http://saferecycle.netfirms.com/recycling.html.

Many years ago, I bought several garbage cans and labeled each one for the recycled product it holds. Now, as we use an item, we immediately put it in the appropriate can. We normally take items to a recycling center once per month; however, with all the boxes we used in our move, we have made many trips to S.A.F.E. since our arrival here. However, we now seem to be getting into our routine, so our trips there will be greatly reduced to probably once per month or so.

Our normal items to recycle include -- but are not limited to -- aluminum cans, tin cans (food cans), #1 and #2 plastic, newspapers, cardboard, and glass. However, the recycling center takes much more. This morning, for example, we left an old stereo system there. They also take batteries, used oil, and many other items.

Each item we recycle saves that much space in a landfill.

This post is dedicated to my good friend and defender of the earth, Steve.

Friday, July 22, 2011

San Angelo Colts

After almost a month of unpacking and working on our new house, we needed a break. We decided a night out watching the Colts was just the thing.

The San Angelo Colts are members of the South Division of the North American Basebal League. Other members of the division are the Rio Grande Valley Whitewings, the Edinburg Roadrunners, the McAllen Thunder, and the Yuma Scorpions. The Colts currently lead their division. The NAL is an independent professional baseball league that was formed in the fall of 2010. Teams play a 96 game schedule, and the level of play is comparable to that of AA or AAA teams.

The Colts play at Foster Field on the campus of Angelo State University. It's a very good facility, and we enjoyed the night out. We decided to go out on "Thirsty Thursday" for the $1 beer specials. Although it was a bit warm for the first hour or so, once the sun began setting, the night began to cool somewhat and the evening was enjoyable. Activities are scheduled throughout the night to keep the audience entertained, and the quality of the play was good, although 3 errors were recorded during the game. Unfortunately, the Colts lost a 6-2 lead during the last inning and fell to McAllen, 9-6.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What a Difference 2 Weeks Make

In a recent blog entitled "Settling In" posted on June 30, I included a picture of our house just after the yard had been hydroseeded for Bermuda grass. I want to post that same picture again with another below it showing what the yard looks like 2 weeks later. You'll notice also that the drive is cleaner, as is the curb area. We have several houses under construction our here, including 2 to our immediate south and 1 across the street, so in the early picture, debris from their work was still in the street. I have since cleaned that up.

Just after seeding

After 2 weeks of intensive watering
The back yard is rather large, and it has some barren spots I'm working on. Donna and I got out yesterday and pulled weeds from the extreme back of the lot. There were some bull nettles we were cautious about and were careful to protect our hands and arms from. But another weed caught us off guard. We were less cautious about it and ended up with some discomfort on our arms and hands. Donna had welts, and my fingers swelled somewhat. I'm not familiar with the weed obviously, but will look it up later to determine what it was.
Because of the drought, lawn watering is restricted in San Angelo. You are allowed to water your lawn only once per week. Because we have a new house with a newly seeded lawn, we have an exemption for one month. At the end of that month, we then must cut back to one week. However, my yard should be established by then (July 28) and only 1 to 2 months of extreme heat remain after that. It should survive as the fall comes on.

All of West Texas is dry. The town of Llano has a supply of only 30 to 60 days of water available. Their only source of water is the Llano River, and it is drying up. Robert Lee, a small town just north of Angelo, also has a shrinking source of water. They use E. V. Spence Reservoir as their water source, and that lake level is down to only 1%. O.C. Fisher, the formerly large lake on the outskirts of Angelo, is also down to 1%. Twin Buttes, another lake on the outskirts of Angelo, is down to 11%, while O. H. Ivie is at 24%. Lake Nasworthy, where Donna and I stayed in our trailer while waiting for our house to be completed, is at 82%.

We need rain. We have a 2-year water supply remaining, and our restrictions are being tightened regularly and water rates are being increased in order to find and develop new water sources. We look forward to the coming of fall and cooler temperatures.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Still Settling In

One of these days, we'll be settled in the house. By and large, things are going well. Grass is now spread throughout the yard -- both front and back -- with a few splotches here and there that have not received good water from the sprinkler system. For the most part, though, the yard is coming along well.

We still have pictures to hang. That is not something I enjoy doing, but I am ready to get some pictures on the walls. At this point, we are simply waiting for a couple of more deliveries to be made so that we can get a true picture of space and appearance.

We have a Geek Squad consultant coming Tuesday to look at our house. We have audio wiring available in 3 rooms: living area, master bedroom, and patio. We want to be able to get music from various sources (stereo, computer, Internet, etc.) to all rooms. We are also looking at a new TV system with home theater in the living area. Until we set up this entertainment center, we probably will not hang pictures.

I continue to work on the garage. It is still half full, but we are able to park the truck in the garage, and we like that. I recently stripped Donna's hope chest and then put new stain on it. It has been in the garage since we moved in, but we are now able to bring it inside, and that will free up some garage space.

I picked up some storage cabinets at Lowe's this morning, and I will be setting those up soon. Many of the "loose" items cluttering the garage will be able to be stored in those cabinets. We also have a few items that we will take to our daughter soon. So, progress is being made.

As we become more settled in our new house, my attention will begin turning to San Angelo and how we occupy our time here. This is really a wonderul, active town, and I look forward to sharing it with my friends. We are also planning a trip in August to the Davis Mountains, the coolest place in Texas during the summer.

Good Eats -- Lowake Steak House, Lowake, Texas

For our anniversary, Donna wanted a steak. In West Texas, that usually means a trip to Lowake Steak House in the small community of Lowake a few miles south of Rowena, Texas, on FM 381.

Lowake Steak House is a legend in West Texas. John Zentner opened the restaurant in 1946 and operated it for several years before moving to San Angelo. Today, Lowake Steak House is run by another family, but Zentner's Daughter Steak House in San Angelo is still run my John Zentner's daughter, Betty.

This was our second trip to Lowake Steak House, which sits by itself at the edge of a field near the very small community of Lowake. The building is old, but it is full of character.

We ordered the KC Steak for 2, which is more food than we could eat. The meal comes with one visit to the salad bar, a baked potato, and Texas toast.

The steak was served on a single platter in the center of the table. The platter held 6 steaks, all about 1 inch thick and cooked to our order (medium for Donna and medium well for me). We could not eat all of the meat, so we asked for a doggy bag.