This is an ongoing tale of Alan and Jo's exploits in Austin, TX. Alan hopes there will be plenty of tasty beer involved, while Jo hopes to find lots of interesting aircraft.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A whole year

Today, the lease runs out on our apartment, which means we've been here for one year exactly. Where did that go?

More later, but here's a beastie I missed out from the last round-up:

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Creatures round-up

Here's the latest batch of creatures we have spotted.

In addition to these, we have spied a snake! I think it was a Texas Brown Snake although it seemed to be more yellow and black in colour, but that's the closest match I can find. It was about 12 inches long, hanging around in the long grass at the edge of our lot.

Something has been attacking our bird feeders, too. Often we'll come out in the morning and they will be decimated, with all the seed on the floor. Probably squirrels or raccoons.

Here's a very big giant grasshopper on our window. He was about four inches long and slowly walked up the wall.


This is a Ground Beetle. They're quite cool, they's about 2 inches long and they scurry about, minding their own business.


This nasty mess is a big gaggle of daddy long legs. They are not true spiders as they don't have two part bodies, but they do have eight very long spindly legs. They cluster together like this, often under the eaves, and if they feel threatened the whole mass of them vibrates. They're a bit creepy but apparently they eat insects so they're probably doing more good than harm.


A nice butterfly to counter the creepiness above :-)


An Eastern Dobsonfly sitting on our gate post. It is a type of lacewing, about 2 inches long.


A Crablike Spiny Orb Weaver spider. This is a wierd little thing, with spikes on. He is pointing downwards in this photo. It made a huge web, with thick bits in the silk, like pulsations as he built it. Hard to describe.


A Rabid Wolf Spider. This is a small one, about an inch and a half across. We have one or two big ones resident in the garage which are about twice that size and have more black on them. These are good guys, they eat insects.


A Ground Skink. We have discovered these live in the ground at the bottom of the house. It is the smallest lizard in North America; this one was about three inches long.


Finally, here is a Hummingbird that got itself into our garage the other day. It was trying to fly out of the window. This window can't be opened, so I spent a merry 40 minutes trying to entice it out of the garage with every bright red thing we own dragged outside to attract it. Hummingbird instinct is to fly up, not out, when cornered so of course the daft thing wasn't finding the door. Eventually I hung the hummingbird feeder where it could find it and left the vicinity. Ten minutes later it was gone.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Rain

This last month (because it's almost that long since my last post), it has done nothing much else except rain.

Rain in the morning. Pause just long enough for me to stay dry during my morning walk. Clouds thin a little, hope just starts to get piqued, then hope is shattered as rain starts again by midday. Rain all afternoon until about 22:00 when you might, if you're lucky, glimpse a star peeking out from behind another cloud.

It seems we are living in a parallel world. Both the UK and Texas have seen severe flooding this month. My parents in Gloucestershire both lost their water supply when the local water treatment plant got flooded. Meanwhile, the lakes by northwest Austin which were 40 feet below their normal levels two months ago have now more than peaked about 7 feet above their maximum. All the local dams were opened and the newspapers were filled with images of raging torrents of water. British newspapers carried aerial photos of villages turned into islands. Here's some good pictures of British floods while Texas was also in the news.

Closer to home, we mostly stayed in. Our rain comes in very heavy downpours, all at once. The houses around here all have ditches in the front of the yard to carry water through; all the driveways have pipes underneath. Here's one of the ditches during one heavy rainstorm:



Here's someone's front garden. A house further down the road has part of the creek running through it and they had even more water.



One night we went out for some food. The storm started during our meal and when we left, the Jeep was in water almost up to the wheel rims. We got wet, leaping into the vehicle. It was the right car to bring though - the journey home was interesting to say the least. I've never seen flash flooding rain like this. All the roads were completely covered. One field was sloping towards a section of road; the road was awash. Of course we waded through this lot and got to the level crossing which stands between us and home, and a train had decided to park itself thereupon. So we had to make a longish detour, wondering if the low water point would be crossable or not. As is turned out, the raincloud didn't reach that far so we were OK. In fact, our main route home might have been impassable as that road _was_ under the cloud.

This is Alan and I, waiting inside my Jeep for the rain to stop. All around us was bright sunshine, except for the raincloud dumping water onto precisely this bit of parking lot. We gave up waiting and got wet (again). By the time we came out of the store, it was all gone.



I relocated my weather station last week, so the rain collector is no longer underneath the roof overhang. Now it can count rain properly and won't under-read as it has been doing. Since I did that, the storms have gone away.

Sorry Central Texas, it was obviously all my fault!


Meanwhile, people continue to notice we have bought a house. This means people like mortgage financiers, banks, credit cards, DIY and homeware stores etc. Some of these are a pain but some are good. The stores have been sending us 10% and 20% off vouchers. And then a lady from the Buda Chamber of Commerce turned up one day with this big basket of stuff, including coupons and free samples from all the local businesses, as a welcoming package. Isn't it nicely presented?



Items of Americana: The Wagon.

You see people with these things everywhere, a lot of times with small children being towed in them. We wanted something to drag stuff around the garden, but didn't want the bulk of a wheelbarrow. This is so typically American, it had to be done!:



And lastly (for now), I was in Kyle yesterday. They are doing major works on their high street. Here's a really mega giant chainsaw! I love the fact it's parked outside a martial arts studio - gives a whole new meaning to 'Karate Chop'!

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