Friday, June 27, 2014

Harvesting Onions and Other Things

I spent some time in the yard yesterday harvesting my onions. Back in January I planted a bed of red onions and another bed of Texas 1015 onions.  Later, I interplanted some Yukon Gold potatoes in with the onions. Although some of the onions probably could have stayed in the ground a bit longer, I needed to give the spreading potatoes more room, so I harvested the onions yesterday.

Red onions on the left and Texas 1015 onions on the right. Both onion beds share their space with Yukon Gold potatoes. In restricted space, you have to make every inch count.
I've never had much luck growing red onions, but my 1015s normally do well. We've been eating both types for the past 2 months or so, but we still had quite a few in the ground continuing to mature.

A batch of the 1015s I harvested.

I place a layer of newspaper, top it with some soil (sand would be even better), and then place onions so that they are not touching. I repeat the process as needed. The soil keeps the onions from shifting about. Onions store well this way when kept in a cool, dry area.
Our cucumbers are also doing well, and we have started picking them recently. I have them along the back of the house, and they are climbing up some poles I have leaned against the house.

I patched together some poles as a makeshift trellis for the cucumber vines to climb up. This batch is now producing and should give us more than enough for our needs.

A cucumber on the vine.
We also have tomatoes and peppers. Even though the plants are healthy, we do not see any fruit on the vines yet. Hopefully they will begin producing soon.

Tomatoes and peppers in the bed along the house.
In the picture above, note how lush and green the grass is. I continue to be impressed with this Celebration Bermuda that Donna and I put in last year. I have not watered our yard yet this year, but you can't tell that from the picture above. Yes, we've had some good rain in the past month or more, but even prior to that, the grass was still green, though not as lush as it is now.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Images of Big Spring, Texas

Brother Larry and his wife Nancy came for a visit this past weekend. They have not spent a great deal of time in West Texas, so we decided to drive up to Big Spring one day. We would tour the town, then meet daughter Courtney and her brood for lunch.

We started our tour of Big Spring at Big Spring State Park, located in the southwest part of the city. Big Spring SP is not your typical state park. There is no camping, for example, and the park is rather small by Texas state park standards, consisting of only  382 acres. What is impressive about the park are the great views. A one-way loop road twists to the top of Scenic Mountain, which rises about 200 feet above the surrounding countryside. From the top, there are numerous dramatic views of the West Texas landscape, especially to the north and west. Restrooms, playground equipment, and picnic tables are available atop the bluff. The park is popular with locals who like to walk and jog the loop road, especially in early morning.

Below are some photos taken from atop Scenic Mountain.

Brother Larry looking west from the bluff. Directly below (the mounted planes) is the Vietnam Memorial. Also in view is the Big Spring federal correctional institute as well as the local airport, among other things.
This view is to the northeast. The large building lower left is Scenic Mountain Medical Center. The tall building center right is the historic Hotel Settles, located in downtown Big Spring. The road in front of the hospital is FM 700.
Looking north/northwest, over miles and miles of Texas. I'm not sure what the water is near top center, but I suspect it is a "lake" formed on Beall's Creek.
From the state park, we drove to nearby Comanche Trail Park. This is a well-developed city park, with numerous amenities, such as amphitheater, water park, frisbee golf, regular golf, a small lake, playgrounds, etc. However, the park is in need of maintenance in various areas. The city of Big Spring probably exists today because of the big spring located in the park. This historic spring was a life source, and made the area a crossroads of early Texas. It was a major stop on the historic Comanche War Trail, and it later served as a major stop for emigrants on the Gold Rush Trail.

Today, the spring no longer gushes water; it was depleted from overuse first by the railroad and later by the city. Today, it pulls water from neighboring Comanche Trail Lake so that visitors can get an idea of what the spring looked like when it was a vital part of the area. Below are some pictures of the spring.

Sign indicating the spring. Spring itself is below rock ledge in center-right of the picture.

The historic big spring in Big Spring, Texas

Wife Donna, brother Larry, and sister-in-law Nancy on the overlook above the spring.
Comanche Trail Lake, which is just a few feet to the east of the spring.
Another view of the spring.
And to close this post, one picture of my wife standing on a bridge on a trail near the spring. Donna always complains that she takes bad pictures, but I disagree. I don't think she takes a bad picture; she's quite photogenic.

Donna on a foot bridge in the park.

Monday, June 16, 2014

2014 U.S. Open Golf Championship

I enjoy watching golf on television, especially the major championships. This past week, I immersed myself in the 2014 U.S. Open, held at Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina.

It's always enjoyable for me to watch the best golfers in the world compete against one another. There is always a lot of drama in these championship tournaments; the personal struggles of these golfers as they strive for golf's greatest wins is always fun to watch. And as usual, there were several great stories this year. There was the story of Martin Kaymer, the German who led the tournament the entire 4 days, eventually winning by 8 strokes. His game was almost machine-like, and he made few errors on this challenging course. He ended at -9, and only 2 other golfers were able to score below par for the tournament.

One of these other golfers was Erik Compton, and his strong finish was another major story of the tournament. Compton, who tied with Ricky Fowler for second at -1, is on his third heart. Diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy at age 9, Compton had his first heart transplant at age 12 and the second 16 years later. Talk about overcoming odds in your life.

But this year, the real story for me was the course itself. The Pinehurst course today does not look like the same course of a few years ago. It has recently been redesigned to return it to a more natural setting. Gone are the roughs most people are familiar with at U.S. Opens; the second and third cut roughs have been replaced by hardpan, natural bunker edges, and native wire grasses. From my perspective, this makes the roughs today true roughs.

And many of the greens are like upside-down saucers or, as one announcer stated, turtle shells. If you do not hit to safe green locations, your ball can easily roll off the green, even if you hit only a few feet from the hole. In fact, there were many instances of a golfer on the green putting and then watching as the putt actually rolled off the green.

But what I have really enjoyed seeing is the reduction in the watered portions of the course. 650 sprinklers were removed by the design firm of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw in their attempt to revert Pinehurst to the way the course looked back in the 1930s. Today, sprinklers run only down the middle of the fairways, leaving the edges of the fairway brown. In fact, the course has been described in terms of brown being the new green. Water use has been reduced by up to 70%.

This is great news, and I can only hope that other courses around the nation will wake up and learn from this redesign. Golf courses have long been heavy users of water resources, and its time water use on courses is reevaluated.

I like the new design of Pinehurst. It gives the course the appearance of the "links" style course on many courses in the British Open rotation. For me, it is sort of a return to the roots of golf, and I think it makes the game more interesting.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Stormy Weather

The past few days have been interesting as regards the weather.

On Wednesday night, high winds blew in to the area about dark. The area alert signal sounded, and Donna and I headed to an interior room. Quite a bit of damage was reported around town from the winds, and there was also some hail as well. At our house, we had no moisture, but the winds did snap one of the two yucca plants in our front yard.

Last night was pretty similar, but this time 2 tornadoes were reported in the northeast side of town, well away from our location. We did get some winds, but nothing like the 60-70 mph winds we received the night before. Lots of damage was reported around town.

Although this area is no stranger to such weather, these types of conditions normally stay north of here. That's good for us, because Donna and I don't like extreme weather. About 2 weeks after we first moved to West Texas in the late 1970s, a massive hail storm passed through our area northwest of Lubbock and pounded us with golf ball to baseball sized hail. We huddled in our house while the beating continued for a full half hour or more. That is a pretty unnerving experience, and one I don't care to repeat. Crops were devastated, vehicles were beat up, and roofs were heavily damaged.

Considering that we have lived in West Texas for a good 20 years or so, I suppose we are lucky we haven't seen more storms such as that.

There is a small chance of storms popping up again tonight. We'll see what happens.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Sheriff is Mellowing

Courtney and the boys have been with us for 5 nights now. That's long enough that young Camden has gotten pretty comfortable with us. He's changed quite a bit since the last time we saw him. In fact, the Sheriff is beginning to mellow in his old age.

Camden is walking now, and he's traveling quite a bit. Look away for a moment and the little booger disappears. But he walks like an old drunk, so you can catch him pretty easily.

And he's starting to smile from time to time -- not much, mind you, but a little. He can still be the stern despot when he wants to be, but he's showing a human side at times.

And the little rascal is trying to talk. He's not forming words yet, at least not English words, but he's blabbing away about something most of the time. Really, it's more of a caterwauling that he carries on from the time he wakes up until he goes to sleep.

But he's a lot of fun. When Courtney bingos next month, we'll keep him and Xander for a few days, so it will be interesting to see how much he changes between now and then.

Xander is really good with Camden. He's very patient with him, and he plays with him a lot. Camden laughs for his big brother more than for anyone else. They have a special bond.

Camden and his scepter, which he uses to rule his kingdom with an iron fist. The lower lip is still prevalent.
Xander and Camden making bubbles. Camden is a serious little fellow.
One of the few happy faces you'll see on the Sheriff.

Xander and Camden sharing a happy moment.

Monday, June 2, 2014

San Angelo Murals

There are a number of lovely murals in the downtown San Angelo area. At least some of the murals are the product of a non-profit group called Historic Murals of San Angelo. The murals depict scenes representative of local history, and they are quite well done.

I recently drove around the downtown area snapping photos of many of the murals. I know I missed some. A truck was parked in front of one of the murals, for example, so I decided not to take that photo. But not all the murals I saw show up on the list at the above web site. I wonder if there is another group or perhaps individuals who have painted some of the murals.

Anyway, here are pictures of some of the murals in downtown San Angelo. If you get the chance to visit our city, you might want to stop by for an up-close look at each. They really do a wonderful job of telling the story of San Angelo.

This mural is on the side of a building at Chadbourne and East 4th Street.

This mural and the 2 following are together at Oakes and Concho.

Along with the mural above and the one following, this mural depicts the military history of San Angelo. Located at Oakes and Concho.
This is the third of the military series of murals located at Oakes and Concho.
This blacksmith mural is located across Oakes Street from the 3 murals shown above.

This street scene is located near Concho and Chadbourne.

This is the left half a mural depicting scenes from the economics that have driven the area. It is located on Randolph Street just off Beauregard.

This is the right half of the mural above. Cattle, King Cotton, and black gold are featured in this mural.