On the western side of the property is one of the more deeply cut ravines in our neighborhood.  It has caves and even a bit of live water since the drought broke a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, it’s full of dead brush and fallen trees and it’s very difficult to navigate on foot. Moreover, it is a great hangout for feral boar, which I am not keen to encounter during a pleasant hike.

The good news is my neighbor owns a land clearing company and has all of the necessary tools to clean the ravine. And he and his crew are on the task this week. It will be absolutely beautiful when they are finished. Here are some before pics and one I took when they began the project. After pics are forthcoming.







For the past two years we have had virtually no winter in the southern portion of Texas. This year is different. Since Christmas the cold air set in and we have had two stretches of more than 48 hours when the temperature did not rise above the upper 20’s. Not unusual for some parts of the country but darned cold for these parts. And with all of the clouds and low sun I only generated 420 kWh of power on the solar panels in the last 30 days. Pretty sad when I was pushing over 1000 during the summer months. Oh well, the sun is on it’s merry way back to the northern hemisphere now and we may have seen the worst of it for this season. I certainly hope so.




Over the past couple of weeks I have cleared out an area near the center of my property that will be dedicated to relaxation, meditation, cocktails by a fire or simply a good nap on a warm day. I built a fire ring in an area free of trees and have steadily fed it with dead wood and low lying branches as I raise the canopy of the ceders in the vicinity.

This project is mental floss at its best and therapy for the soul. With a Stihl MS170 saw and two hours of cutting I can realize more tangible results for hours worked than six weeks of work at my previous life at the office. And it’s physical work that at the end of the day makes the body feel tired in a good way. The dead wood burns about as fast as you can feed the fire and I keep it contained to a seven foot diameter ring of stones and only burn on calm days.

After cleaning up under a grouping of oaks one of my first tasks was to hang this colorful and very comfortable hammock given to me by a dear friend and coworker when I retired.


Here is a view of the overall area.


And me with my therapist and a newly manicured cedar.



We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. – ts eliot

Two fallow deer, Henrietta and Bianca, enjoy fine dining on the tender emerging grasses near the back of our house. The ladies are regular visitors both morning and evening on some days. They are not shy. One afternoon during a light rain they were up for some sport and ran at a full sprint right passed where we sat on the porch not twenty feet away, the sound of hooves pounding the dirt like the home stretch of the Kentucky Derby.

Henrietta and Bianca are most likely siblings and appear to be quite young but no longer fawns. We noticed them for the first time the day our furniture arrived at the house. They are the first fallow deer I’ve seen. Fallow deer are similar to but are a different species from the axis deer that roam all over the area.

As one who appreciates a healthy dose of myth and symbolism to counterbalance the materialistic worldview I employ(ed) to survive 21st century American corporate life, the timing of their arrival and their ongoing visitations seem to call me to the next stage of the journey. About four years ago I adopted Artemis, the goddess of the wild animals, as a symbol for the property. It seems that she has now bestowed a housewarming gift. I will accept it with gratitude and know that this gift, beautiful as it is, is not merely for decoration.



A Place to Walkabout

I discovered that my commercial grade weed whacker was perfect for cutting short the native grasses and weeds with greater efficiency than I imagined. Last Saturday I managed to trim back about a half acre in short order. Now, one is able to pad about the grounds without fear of unwittingly challenging a rattlesnake for territory. I am considering scaling back the xeriscape to a more limited area near the house and letting the look below hold sway for the rest of the hill top.

The hot tub is now full of well water and awaits a final blessing from the electrician. Perhaps next weekend I can try it out.

Inside the house, the final punch out items are being addressed. Metal railings are the last items to be installed as there is a back log at the powder coating shop and they may not make it before this weekend. Final cleaning service is scheduled for Friday, along with our final walk through.


Closing in on completion

We are pretty much down to the finishing touches inside the house. Window motors, activating the water system, metal railings, installing door stops and work on the A/V system remain. The rest is outside. This week should see the completion of the well house, barbeque area and patio. Then, cleanup time for the house and property. The month of June is largely punchout and fine tuning. The movers come in early July. I am more than ready for that day.

April was all about flooring

The tile contractor and to some extent the painter had the house to themselves most of April. The entire floor coverage in the house is ceramic tile and it took a looong time to install and grout it. It’s all done now, though and May has kicked off with a flurry of activity from many trades.

Last weekend Carolyn laid out the tile patterns for the backsplashes and the island kick wall. The exercise involved laying the tiles out and orienting them correctly, then drawing out a grid on paper and numbering each tile on the back according to the grid. For the island kick wall, there were 192 tiles. It took a while.

If all goes according to schedule, the next two weeks will see the house mostly completed. The trim carpenters are installing baseboard and great room beams, plumbing fixtures, hardware and lighting are being installed. The water filter and pump system will be installed and activated.

Outside, the action is picking up as well. Site cleanup and prep for the patio and barbeque are in progress. The cement drive apron and the larger driveway work is scheduled for late May. It will be very good to have that steep portion of the driveway cemented. With all of the rain and abuse from construction vehicles over the past year, four wheel drive is almost a requirement to get up to the house these days.

The end of the project is in sight.


As a side note, the rainwater cistern is now 100% full. The spring rains have been kind in that regard. Last weekend the sun was shining, though and some magic light came our way as we sat in a porch swing at our cabin.



Floors and Doors

The eight foot, five panel doors turned out to be a good selection as well. The modernist touch pulls back the reigns on the Tuscan thing a bit. I think they work particularly well as exterior doors in the front where they are solid mahogany finished with several coats of tung oil. Matching interior passage doors are painted in taupe as shown below.

The flooring is being installed now. Wood plank look ceramic tile is the only way to go for our lifestyle. I have destroyed too much wood flooring over the past 30 odd years to go with anything else. It should take the rest of March to get it all installed and finished.

Interior Stone and Trim

We selected a field stone mix for the fireplace and arch to provide a bit of contrast to the white native limestone and add a measure of warmth to the interior. The selection was made from photographs on the internet and I was holding my breath that the result would be what we hoped for. Happily, it turned out very well.

The trim carpenter has worked for a couple of weeks now building out closet and pantry shelves and doing the trim around the windows and doors. Ceramic tile work begins today. The cabinets are all built and now reside in the garage, awaiting installation of the ceramic tile floors.

The cistern is now about 60% full.

Completion of kiva, rock wall garden, and interior plinths

The rock wall garden was my idea and a later addition to the original plan. The thought was to have a cool retreat during the blistering Texas summer. I envisioned water features and some nice potted plants that would not be a salad bar for the local deer herds. To the right of the kiva will be wrought iron fencing to preserve the view from the shaded porch. The trim carpenter will build a wooden door for the opening at the end. I think this space has a lot of potential for landscape design but I’m going to have to sit with it a while.

The only interior feature that will use the same stone as the outside are the gallery plinths. These were completed last week and I’m pleased with how they help frame the great room. The fireplace and great arch will also be stone but a more warm, field stone look.