Category: Backyard/Pool


This is not an unusual scene in my backyard:


You might get the idea that we are big campers.

Not that we aren’t, but we aren’t.

(I can’t tell you the last time we went camping, which is actually sort of sad.)

We aren’t opposed to camping, it just hasn’t happened recently. Life is busy, y’all.


If you have teenagers, especially teenagers who have older siblings who go to college or teenagers who have attended summer camps where college students work, you may look out your back door and see the very same thing.

(Actually, if you have college students, you are more likely to see this around their college campus. I see hammocks, occasionally, on the Baylor campus, and I know it’s happening on college campuses all over the nation.)

(I would have LOVED to have a hammock, at college, to lie in while studying!)

(That statement assumes I actually studied.)

(Admittedly, I DID have a hammock in my apartment bedroom during my Junior year at Baylor. It was just for looks, though; it held my stuffed animals and Beenie Babies.)

(Remember Beenie Babies?!)

The hammock is called an Eno, short for Eagles Nest Outfitters. They are fantastically light-weight, small and quite comfy. Both of our sons love theirs.

Obviously, our youngest loves his enough to use his around the house, during non-camping days and weeks.

Sometimes, it’s even strung up directly on the back porch…so he can see the tv.

(I wish I had a picture of it; pure laziness and comfort at its best.)

iPhone pic of our son and a couple of his good friends, last Spring:


The kids are even prone to stacking the hammocks, so they hang directly above and below each other!

My youngest and I recently had a conversation concerning Prom: he said he thinks it would be WAY more fun for his group of friends to get all dressed up, take pictures, go eat at a fancy restaurant, then, instead of going to the actual Prom, they should come back to our house, change clothes, go build a fire down by the river and spend the night in Enos.

(with adult chaperones, of course!) 

Enos and S’mores! How fun is that?!

Doesn’t his “non-Prom” idea sound fantastic?!

So, if you are in need of an unusual and uber cool gift for your teenaged (or college-aged) son or daughter (yes, many of our sons’ girl friends own and love them!), you might look into getting them a hammock.

(I’m all for a gift that moves them outside and up into the trees!)

Happy Hammock-ing, y’all!



Spring 2015 Gardening

This Spring, I decided to go a different route and try my hand at raised beds.


My sweet, handyman of a husband built these awesome beds and I am already loving them!

I like the rustic look of these beds…rusty tin recycled from the ranch, and rough-hewn cedar lumber.  

I’m hoping, by having smaller, raised beds, I’ll have larger output of vegetables.

(Fingers crossed.)


The plan is to use these beds for herbs and more compact vegetable plants, while using the original garden plot for corn, beans, squash and watermelons.

You know, the plants that like to wonder and spread out.


Okay…I do plan to put a couple green and purple pole beans in these boxes to climb on the trellis.

I love having a pretty trellis in the garden, even in raised beds.

(See our sweet pet cows and donkey?!)

(Have I told you ThrillCam doesn’t really like it when I call them our pets?)

I’m sort of bummed I didn’t ask ThrillCam to take some “how-to” pictures for me.

Pictures would have shown how he put a floor about 18′ down, in each box, so we didn’t have to fill the entire box with dirt and compost.


And, believe you-me, we shoveled in plenty of dirt and compost!

I can’t imagine having to completely fill each box.



(Okay…HE shoveled the majority of the dirt…”and I helped!”)

(A little.)

(I really did shovel some! I have the very sore shoulders to prove it!!)


(Does it count that I’m the one who will tend to the garden, though?)



Actually, I think we make for a good team!

I’ll be sure to give updates on what veggies and herbs I’ve planted and how they do.

Happy Spring, y’all!





Bird Dilemma…

Every year, about this time, my husband diligently cleans off and puts up his Martin House.

He has a love affair with these birds, and it started back when his grandparents had their Martin house.

Over our 25 years of marriage, occasionally, ThrillCam would recall his fond memories of his grandparents’ Martin house.

Somehow I actually remembered this, and a few years back, the boys and I gave him his very own Martin house.

He’s been dedicated to those little migratory birds ever since.

Every year, it seems we both equally get caught up in waiting for and watching, protecting and being entertained by the daredevil Purple Martins.


Needless to say, this year is no different.

ThrillCam cleaned and even re-positioned the Martin house, in anticipation for the arrival of the birds. His theory was, if we move the Martin house a little closer to our house, maybe the Sparrows won’t try to move in and take over.

So far, the Sparrows have stayed away.

But, not because he moved the house.

In fact, we have a way bigger dilemma than those house-squater-Sparrows.

You see, the very day the martin house went up, in moved two beautiful Bluebirds!


You can see the pretty female, above.


In this picture, you can see the male, below the female.

(My photograph does nothing to show you his brilliant electric blue color.)

As you can image, we have fallen in love with these two and we want them to stay!

What’s funny is, the Bluebirds have protected the house from the Sparrows, who always give the Purple Martins a hard time about nesting in there.

By allowing the Bluebirds to stay, the Sparrows are kept out!

That’s a good thing!

Getting to watch the Bluebirds up close and personal is also a treat for us.

But…we also enjoy watching the Martins, when they arrive each year. Besides, they depend on humans for their homes…Bluebirds do not.

But, by golly, those Bluebirds sure are pretty! And I don’t think I’ve ever been close enough to truly observe Bluebirds for any extended period of time.

Can see our problem, y’all?

Will it be Bluebirds?

Will it be Purple Martins?

Or, will the Sparrows push their way in and mess everything up?

Oh, the drama!!

Stay tuned, y’all.


I kinda felt sorry for the little guy…


This is what I saw the other morning when I let Bear out to do his bi-ness.

I don’t know how he got there, but the little guy was hanging on for dear life.

I have to admit, I was torn as to how to handle this situation.

If it had been a snake, there would have been no hesitation. The snake would have gone (I’m sorry snake lovers) to snake heaven (if there is even such a thing…I think not…).

But, this little mouse was cute.

And wet.

And desperate.

So, I did what all delusional, indecisive people do: nothing.

I told myself he was having fun on his little water ride.

I told myself he was sunbathing, enjoying his little vacay.

I told myself he could drink plenty of water if he got hot.

I reminded myself that he could even swim a little, if he needed to cool off. After all, he got there somehow, right?

Every time I would walk by the pool that day, I would check to make sure he was okay, but I would never dip him out.

I mean, come on…I didn’t want to re-populate the mouse population. We don’t need any more mice on this planet, there are plenty.

But I didn’t want to kill him.

I just don’t think I’ve lived in the country (again) long enough.

I’ve softened a bit in the 25 years I’ve lived in the city.

A few hours later, I walked by the pool and the little guy was gone.

Next to the pool lie the pool skimmer pole.

Someone had fished the mouse out.

I never got the guts up to ask ThrillCam what happened next.

Country life is harsh.


Creative Challenge Update


Last week, I issued a creative challenge: to try something new, to stretch your creative legs a bit.

My personal challenge was to use a different camera lens than my go-to 70-200mm. Using different lenses offers different vantage points.

The lens I grabbed was my Canon 24-105mm. I had purchased the lens for our trip to Jordan back in 2010. I needed a good lens that would give me a little zoom along with a wide angle. It worked pretty well for me. But, since purchasing the lens, I haven’t used it too terribly much. It just doesn’t give me what I hope for.

Or, to be honest, I have not worked very hard to learn its strengths and weaknesses.

(May I take a moment to say something that’s been heavy on my heart? Just because someone has a bunch of expensive camera gear it does not mean they actually know how to use it. Cameras have continued to improve over the years and everyone has a pretty decent camera in their possession–even the phone cameras are improving with each new release–that does NOT necessarily equate to a good photographer. A good photographer knows how to creatively and properly compose a photograph. A good photographer knows how to expose for the light properly. A good photographer can take his/her camera off auto–if they want–and still take beautiful, creative photographs. A good photographer knows how to pose one or more people. So, if you hear someone say, like I did the other day, “Wow, that is a great camera and lens! I bet it takes super pictures!” please remind them the equipment needs someone to actually know how to use it creatively to capture super pictures.)


I guess what I’m trying to say I needed to practice with a new lens to learn how to best use it. In some pictures I succeeded (notice the road pic–I didn’t put the horizon in the middle of the picture; it leads the eye and adds interest), some I didn’t (like the sunflower, above and below–I didn’t expose too well for the backlit subject–I needed a reflector or something to pop some light to the center of the flower, or I needed to move and squat differently, but my knees were already beginning to stage a coup).


It was 3pm and blazing hot, about 90+ degrees the afternoon I took the above photos. Too hot and harsh to be out practicing, but it was good for me. It forced me to deal with some not-so-great light. I had to change my ISO, speed up or slow down my shutter, and close down or open up my aperture, depending on what I was shooting. All good for me, especially since I was using a somewhat unfamiliar lens.

All in all, it was a very beneficial lesson for me–fun and creative, to boot!

How did you do over the weekend? Did you work on something creative? Please let me know what you worked on and if you learned anything through the process.


Purple Martins Galore!

So I told you our Purple Martins had babies. It was a very exciting time for ThrillCam and his little adopted family.

Then, once the babies grew big enough to fly the coop, the Martin house became eerily quiet.

It was empty.

No birds for about three to four days.

I even mentioned to ThrillCam that maybe he should go ahead and take down the house, because the Squatter Sparrow was starting to take over the place and call it home.

But, then, suddenly, from out of nowhere, the Purple Martins began re-appearing!


And, not just one or two…


Today, we were counting up to ten or twelve Purple Martins flying around our backyard.

It was as if the original family left and told all their friends how great the landlords were and that they, too, should check out the apartment complex!

If you build it, they will come, apparently.

(That stinking Sparrow was such a pest! It did not like the Martins returning; he had assumed the place was his. He/she kept flying around, madly chirping…or chirping madly. Not sure which. Either way, the bird was mad and the bird was chirping.)

This experience has really captured our attention over the last couple of months. We waited for what seemed like forever for them to choose our house. Then, once they decided to stay, we were nervous they weren’t going to like it and leave. All the while, the Sparrows kept building nests on the opposite side of the Martins and about every 2-3 days, ThrillCam would lower the house and clean out the Sparrow nests…. Of course, once they had babies, we knew they were fully calling it home. It’s truly been fascinating to watch the whole process.

And, now, we have even more who are congregating on and in the house! In fact, I sat watching them for a good 30 minutes, counting all the extra birds flying around.

Eventually, it dawned on my to video our fine feathered friends!

(The video’s a little shaky, as I had not grabbed my monopod or tripod.)

Listen to how noisy they are–very excited little things!

Oh! And listen for the clicking noise…

(Just click on the link below to watch my video.)

The Sparrow stayed on the house, if you noticed, but eventually, the Martins shooed him off.

We are really curious why the Purple Martins left for a few days and then returned. ThrillCam has read other people’s experiences and they believe the Martins are beginning to group up for the impending migration back to South America.

I guess we’ll find out in the next couple of days as to whether they intend to stay and be “late nesters” or if they are just resting and preparing for the long trip home.

When they do finally leave, we’re going to miss them; they’ve added quite an odd bit of excitement in our new country experiences!


We Have Babies!!


I’ve tried three mornings, in a row, to get pictures of our Purple Martins.

All three mornings, I have failed.

Well, not completely failed, but failed to get the shots I wanted.


You see, our Martins have had babies!! And, I have yet to get any pictures.

Bird photography is not as easy as you’d think.

Unless they’re Ostriches, they’re pretty small targets. And, fast. I’m thinking that’s another story for another post.

Anyway, ThrillCam took pity on this fool and graciously offered to take down the house so I could hopefully get a picture.


This is a big deal, because ThrillCam is quite protective of his little bird family.

He opened up the side where the Squatter Sparrows CONTINUE to invade and began cleaning it out, so our growing Martin family could spread out, if needed.


ThrillCam informed me the thicker straw is Martin nest material, whereas, the thin grasses are Sparrow nests. Turkeys.

Well, not turkeys, because turkeys do not squat in Purple Martin Houses. Sparrows are not a member of the turkey family. Turkeys are big. Sparrows are not. Turkeys taste good. Sparrows do not.

Just wanted to clarify.

I are smart.


In this little hole, there are, we think, three babies! I still was unable to get a picture of the babies. They stayed VERY still, not making a peep.

ThillCam did not want to disturb the babies by opening the side where they were nesting–he’s a good Purple Martin Daddy. Protective.

I wish you could have seen and heard the adult Martins while we snooped around their babies. Suddenly, there were 5 adults flying around us, chirping up a storm, obviously perturbed we were messing with their offspring. They are protective, too.

Finally, once we moved away, the mamas and daddy (daddies?) returned to check that all was okay on the home front.


Four of the five settled back onto the house.


Now, that they have established a family, hopefully, the Martins will return yearly.

It’s really been a fun experience to watch and be a part of, I must say.

Have a great day, y’all!


P.S. Scroll back up to the very top picture; I just noticed–I think there’s a baby sticking his head out of that bottom hole!