Saturday, March 29, 2014

Recycling Water

Donna and I attended the annual home and garden show at Foster Coliseum last weekend. Lots of vendors were there showing their goods. I saw a nice green house, for example.

One vendor that really interested us was Morrow Water Savers out of nearby Ballinger, Texas. This company manufactures Irrigray, a gray water recycling system. This system collects gray water from a home, filters it, then disperses it into a yard using a system of sub surface dripperlines.

Gray water is water collected from showers, sinks, dishwasher, and clothes washer in a home. The water is directed to a filtering system. To take advantage of this, a house must be prepped so that gray water is separate from black water (toilet systems). In a pier and beam house, this can be fairly easily re-figured, but in a slab home such as hours, it really isn't financially or structurally practical. But should we ever build another home, we will certainly look into such a system. And we'll certainly look at other manufacturers as well.

In the Irrigray system, water is not stored. Once 5 gallons is collected, it is dispersed to the dripperlines. Consider how much water you use in your home each day for bathing, washing your hands, washing dishes, and washing clothes. There is enough water here to keep your yard healthy and green.

I'm not aware of what the downsides to such a system might be, but I'll be looking into that. I know that we used to be big fans of wind turbines until we watched a documentary that showed some of the negative effects of wind farms. So, I'm open to the idea that recycling gray water may have negative sides as well.

The important thing, though, is that all of us look for creative solutions to our water problems, and we need to focus on solutions that are good for the environment.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Walk along Spring Creek

Donna and I did not go on a hike on the first day of spring (see my last blog entry) but we did go for a walk along Spring Creek.

Spring Creek Park is a San Angelo city park on Lake Nasworthy just off Knickerbocker Road. Lake Nasworthy is formed by the Middle Concho River, the South Concho River, and Spring Creek. Donna and I parked our car in an area known as Horseshoe Bend and then spent the next hour walking along the creek.

We drive through Spring Creek Park several times a year. We always see wildlife out there, especially deer and wild turkey. We were not disappointed on our latest trip. A herd of 8 or so deer were grazing along the road near the entrance to the park. They continued to graze as we passed, unafraid of humans in this park setting. We also saw a turkey in the park, as well as numerous squirrels, several ducks, a heron, and even a woodpecker. I hoped to get a photo of one of the many black squirrels in the park, but was unable to get close enough to get a clear shot. There are quite a few that make the area their home.

The lake is now showing the effects of the ongoing drought. Lake Nasworthy is normally a constant level lake. Just to the west of the lake is a long dam that forms Twin Buttes Reservoir, which is also fed by the South Concho, the Middle Concho, and Spring Creek as well as Dove Creek. In normal circumstances, water from Twin Buttes is released to keep Lake Nasworthy at a constant level. However, Twin Buttes is now dry, as is O.C. Fisher, so there is no more water to release into Lake Nasworthy, which is now about 2 feet below normal. Two feet may not sound like much, but Nasworthy is a shallow lake -- and a small one -- so two feet is substantial.

Below are some pictures I took while we were on our walk.

Spring Creek, looking upstream. Pecan and other trees line the bank.
Water line shows the lower level of the creek. That is a grape orchard in the background.
Spring Creek with Twin Buttes dam in the background.

Normally most of this is underwater. This is a bend in the creek.

Spring Creek near its junction with the Middle Concho River. You can see the Twin Buttes in the background. To be honest, the terms Twin Buttes and Twin Mountains are both used in the area, and I really am not sure if they refer to the same things or not.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Hello, Spring

Today is the first day of Spring, and I'm ready for it. Maybe Donna and I will go for a hike to celebrate.

This has been an unusual winter. The temperatures have been all over the chart. One day, it will be a warm day, in the 70s. Then we'll have a cold spell, with 3 or so days of temps below freezing. Now, weather in the Concho Valley -- the name given to our general neck of the universe -- is known to be subject to sudden ups and downs, but it seems to me that it has been more pronounced this year. And we've had quite a few days with temps in the teens, which is rather unusual for us.

To make matters worse, we've had virtually no rain since early December. For the year 2014 thus far, we've had only .08 inch; that's less than a tenth of a single inch. We normally don't get much rain in winter, but we should have had a couple of inches or more by now. We are very dry for this time of year. Wild fires will be a concern as warmer temps settle in and the countryside dries out even more.

But what Donna and I have noticed the most is the wind. Now, West Texas is known for its wind. Donna and I first moved to West Texas in the late 1970s to a small town (Olton) northwest of Lubbock. We had our first taste of West Texas wind in that farming area, and we sat through some really interesting dust storms. Since then, we've lived in several others parts of West Texas, so we thought we knew the West Texas wind. But the wind we are experiencing now seems to be different. It never seems to end. Even at night, the wind blows. I'll wake at 3:00 in the morning only to hear the wind buffeting the house. When we rise in the morning, the wind is blowing. Traditionally, I seem to remember the wind dying down at night and not really revving up until afternoon. Not any more. And this wind, of course, just dries out the land more and helps the lakes evaporate at a faster rate.

We drove Courtney and Camden home this past Sunday, and the wind was out of the north. As we drove towards Courtney's home, we were heading northwest, almost directly into the wind. My new little Toyota Camry with its sleek design and low-to-the-ground profile normally gets about 35 miles per gallon on the highway. On this day, I got only 26 miles per gallon. That's a strong wind.

Oh well, I'm sure the wind will stop blowing one day and the heavy rains will fall.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Invasion of the Barbaric Hordes

The Sheriff and his rowdy posse are back in town. It's spring break, so they have swooped down on us for a few days. They arrived Wednesday at noon, but Papa Michael and oldest grandson Xander left today for a cub scout camping trip; however, Mama Courtney and Sheriff Camden are staying until Sunday.

The Sheriff has changed quite a bit since his last raid. He definitely has more personality now, but he is still a no-nonsense type of guy. He crawls around and plays, but smiles are rare. He is a very serious little fellow. His bottom lip seems to permanently jut out, and that reminds us all of my father.

This is probably the closest thing to a smile you'll get out of the Sheriff. He was really in a good mood, believe it or not. How do you like that lower lip?

But his very serious disposition reminds me of my great-uncle Thomas, the youngest brother of my grandfather. Uncle Thomas was born in 1910, almost 20 years after my grandfather. Sometime in the early 1980s, Donna, Courtney, and I were visiting my parents in their Fairfield home during Easter break. Dad needed to go to nearby Mexia on business, so I tagged along. On the way back, we decided to detour past the last area farmed by his father near Pt. Enterprise and Shiloh, small communities east of Mexia. As we were driving along a dirt road, we saw a farmer plowing a field with a team of mules. Dad recognized the man as his Uncle Thomas, and had me pull over. He had not seen his uncle in years, and I had not seen him since I was a child. We waved the man over, and he approached the fence where we were standing. Dad spoke to him, asked him how he and his wife were getting along, and just made the normal chit chat. During this time, Thomas answered questions briefly, and never smiled. He was not a friendly sort. After a few minutes, he asked, "Are we done here?" He then turned and resumed his plowing. He had work to do and didn't have time to spend with idle chatter. It was Good Friday, and like many traditional farmers, he wanted to get his seed in the ground.

So, I can see a little of my Uncle Thomas in the Sheriff.

Here's a recent picture of Camden that Courtney sent us. Again, that bottom lip is hanging down.

This is a picture of my mother holding me when I was a mere babe. Can you see a resemblance with the picture of Camden above?
I was fairly chubby as a baby, but soon became slim and remained so until Courtney was born. I've been fighting my weight ever since. We'll see what happens with Camden.

Courtney and her husband are expecting another child. It is due in July, which is when Camden was born, and this one is also another boy. Wow, they went on a 10 year drought, and now she's popping them out annually. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Springing Forward and Other Things

We sprang an hour forward yesterday. Spring isn't far away, just another 10 days or so. I always look forward to Autumn and Spring, in that order, each year.

I'm hoping we will have a good wildflower crop this year, but because of lack of rain, I'm prepared for a poor crop. On our trip a couple of weeks ago, we saw scattered batches of dandelions, both yellow and white, on our drive through East Texas. We also saw dogwoods and one or two redbuds. I'm sure there are more now, and the wisteria, my mother's favorite, is probably draping the trees in that part of Texas now. I do miss the colors of spring and fall.

Color in West Texas is not as prominent and plentiful as in East Texas, though it is evident if you know where and when to look. During my days working at Region 18 ESC in Midland, I always looked forward to February trips to the Big Bend area when the Big Bend Bluebonnets would be in bloom. Mountain laurels should be blooming soon, I think.

This has been a very dry year for the Concho Valley; we've had only .08 inch of rain so far. This is not good for wildflowers, but there has been more rain in the Hill Country, so it is possible they may have a good crop. I'm watching the paper for wildflower sightings now, and when these start to pop up, Donna and I will probably make some day trips in the area. I'll let you know what we find.

I hope you have good spring color wherever you are.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

On the Road: Boat Loop

Donna and I just returned from a week long trip.

Our recent 1100+ mile trip.
We started our trip by spending some time in Conroe so that we could visit Donna's mother. Conroe is Donna's hometown. We make several trips there each year.

Next we went to Shreveport, where we stayed at the Eldorado. We had some free nights, free play, and free meals there, so we spent 3 nights, doing a bit of gaming there and at Sam's Town next door. We also visited Athena Greek and Lebanese Grill while there. This is a stop we almost always make while in Shreveport as we really enjoy their food.

From Shreveport, we went to Ft. Worth for a couple of nights to visit my brother Larry and his wife Nancy. We took a different route to their house, going up through Mt. Pleasant, Sulphur Springs, Greenville and other places along a more northern route. We just wanted to see some different country for a change. While in Ft. Worth, they took us to the Ft. Worth Museum of Science and History. We enjoy museums, and Ft. Worth has some very good ones. I hope we can visit more next time we are in town.

Finally, we headed home along I-20. Since we were in no hurry, we detoured through Ranger and Eastland, even driving around Lake Leon just south of Eastland. We stopped for lunch in Abilene at Fazzoli's, our favorite Italian fast food place; I wish we had one in San Angelo. We then drove home on US-277, passing through a range of hills that were rather scenic for this part of Texas.

It's always good to get out. We don't travel as much as we did when we had our travel trailer, but we do have some trips planned for the coming months.