Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Black-vented Oriole

Yesterday’s weather surprised the forecast by providing a gorgeous afternoon; the typical T-shirt and shorts and “outdoor air conditioning” weather that makes this place the beloved winter home to many retirees from “up north”.   The decision was obvious:  an afternoon of walking and birding Bentsen State Park. 
No birder has high expectations of “good birding” at 2:00 in the afternoon.  Birds seem to “get” what the U.S. working class does not—quiet time after lunch as a regular habit, not to be denied by the business of work or play.  Of course birds are also akin to farmers; their work day tends to start with the rising of the sun.  Not an attribute of most software engineers.
But Bentsen is no ordinary park, and a walk through it, any time of day, is a birdy experience.  After so much focus on CoachHouse construction, I expected to gleefully blog about my close and prolonged encounter with two Song Sparrows, not to mention a beautiful look at a Gray Hawk, circling overhead.  

The Gray Hawk angled with each circle, showing off its black wing tips, slate-gray back and wings, and famous black-and-white barred tail.  I saw my first Gray Hawk last spring, when walking through the Cottonwood campground at Big Bend National Park.  A park ranger alerted me to sightings in that campground, a rarity for the area.  

Whether you are a beginning birder or experienced birder—or just thinking about birding, park rangers and volunteers are a wonderful source of information for seeking out both common and unusual sightings, and best locations for both.  Yesterday was my second sighting of this beautiful hawk.  Look it up in your favorite bird book or birding website and note its normal “range”, and you will see another great example of the extraordinary birding opportunities in the RGV.
The Song Sparrows of yesterday were not new “lifers” for me (the birding term for a new species on a birder’s list of lifetime sightings). But Songs are one of a “whole bunch” of sparrow species that are always ding-dang hard for me to identify.  Yesterday afternoon I stood for at least 15 minutes, getting detailed markings on those two beautiful Songs.  But my love/hate relationship with LBJs (little brown jobbers), as sparrows are often called, is another day’s blog.
Later in the afternoon I sat on a bench, by the Ebony tree area, not far from the “peanut butter” feeders and halved grapefruits.  The grapefruit halves are pierced through nails on trees, meat-side out, looking like orangey-pink pin wheels.  These famous “bird treats” of the park, resupplied daily by park volunteers (during the winter season) are a favorite of Altamira Orioles, Orange-crowned Warblers, and almost everything in between.  

The “bad behavior” fighting for control of these treats can provide a pleasant afternoon of entertainment.  I was watching a Great Kiskadee attempt to intimidate away a Golden-fronted Woodpecker; “pushing on it” with wing beats as the Golden-fronted gobbled down the peanut butter, perched precariously on the side of the feeder.  The Golden-fronted was not responding politely to the Kiskadee’s intimidation attempt.  You try taking a spoonful of peanut butter away from a toddler, and you’ll get the picture of the woodpecker’s reaction.   

So I sat, relaxed, happy and amused by the behavior in front of me, some thirty yards away; a wonderfully close range through binoculars. 
And then I saw it, the Black-vented Oriole.  Look it up in Sibley’s.  You won’t find it.  Go to the wonderful Cornell Lab of Ornithology “All About Birds” website and search their “Find” tab for “Black-vented Oriole”.    The response will be “returned no matching results.”  

The Black-vented Oriole is not supposed to be in North America.  Period.  And there I sat watching it as it perched atop some underbrush, in clear view beneath the Ebony trees.  The Black-vented seemed to be doing the same thing as I—quietly watching the squabble between the Kiskadee and the Golden-fronted; but it watched, not for entertainment (I assume), but to contemplate how to grab a turn at the peanut butter.  And so it did.
How did I know it was a Black-vented, if not found in my well-worn Sibley’s that stays tucked in my day-pack, along with water bottle and other necessities of a day in the field?  Let’s just say that the Black-vented, a rarity WAY out of range, has been the talk of the RGV, among birders and non-birders alike.   A Google search of “Black-vented Oriole Bentsen” will supply multiple links, where outstanding photographs of this year’s “darling of the RGV” can be found. 
Before the hard freeze that hit all of Texas, the Black-vented was seen (beginning in December), on “Coral Bean” trees in the vicinity around Bentsen State Park.  These beautiful small trees have lovely green winter foliage and vibrant red flowers.  One particular Coral Bean tree was beside a road in a neighboring RV park, and photographers were able to get amazing, close range shots of the Black-vented.  

You will find some of these photographs via the above suggested Google search.  But the freeze took the foliage and flowers of the Coral Bean trees, and the Black-vented adapted by focusing on the cover of the Ebony trees inside Bentsen, and the vibrant orange-pink pin wheels of the grapefruit and nearby peanut butter feeders.  Although any photograph of a Black-vented in the U.S. is an amazing “get”, the feeders of the Ebony grove do not provide the close range of the roadside Coral Bean tree. 
Rare bird sightings and the system called “Rare Bird Alerts” is a fascinating sub-specialty of the overall sport of birding.  Via Google, it is easy to find NARBA, the North American Rare Bird Alert website.  

This fascinating website is sponsored by the Houston Audubon Society, and the tab for “Texas Rare Bird Alerts” can be viewed without membership.  NARBA focuses on “review species” which are generally defined as birds that have been sighted (with some stiff documentation requirements) four or fewer times per year, anywhere in Texas over a ten-year average.  

The NARBA website lists current Texas review species.  In simple terms, they are called “review species” because an official Texas record review committee reviews the data and associated statistics to determine if a “review species” should be added to the official species list for Texas.  Total state species lists and the associated economic industry, not to mention habitat restoration and conservation, are BIG business—especially in Texas.  

The economics of nature tourism, especially birding tourism, would surprise many.  Birders from all over North America—and overseas, will come to Texas this season to “get” the Black-vented Oriole on their life list.
I probably fall into the category of “advanced beginner” when it comes to birding—especially in the RGV where many of the birding world’s best can be found.  I don’t fall into the sub-category of “rare bird alert chaser”.  Someday I may; but I have mixed emotions about rare bird sightings.  Just as I want to know why an electrician uses a wrench to “whack” nails rather than a hammer, I wonder why this Black-vented Oriole, or any bird species, is so far off its normal range.  

I could be a positive poet, and consider the Black-vented to be a Biblical Caleb, sent forward by its tribe as a scout, to seek out a land of milk and honey.  I would know, just as we know the story of Caleb, that the Black-vented would safely return to the habitat range of its tribe, and it would carry back news of pinwheel nectar and brown gooey treats, and fair weather and adoring fans of tall two-legged mammals, with large protruding eyes.  

Or I could be the systems engineer that builds the fault-tree analysis, pondering the likelihood of an error in the Oriole’s built-in GPS system that sent it so far off range; or failure in its wind-storm response system, blowing it so far off course.  Will this Black-vented die alone, away from the home of its tribe?  Or will it feast on grapefruit nectar and peanut protein and find its way back to future mates and offspring?
No, I don’t find the thrill in rare bird alerts--yet.  But yes, I expanded my Excel spreadsheet life list for a new row:  a new lifer.  I have seen the Black-vented Oriole in North America.  

I hope to always remember this sighting: the bad-boy infighting between Kiskadee and Golden-fronted; the patient, watchful perch of the Black-vented Oriole, and its pounce on the peanut butter feeder when suddenly available.  

The fact that even the Great Kiskadee let the Black-vented dine in peace, as if it knew that this was a rare guest; as if it knew that we should all give this rare visitor the best chance to go on its way, hopefully homeward bound, to breed a next generation of Black-vented Orioles that might call the RGV their winter home.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Real Electricians Don't Use Hammers"

Yesterday’s electrical work was more of what one might expect:  be available when the electricians arrive, stay out of their way except to answer a specific question, poke your head into the CoachHouse occasionally to see how things are going or to offer bottles of water, and otherwise sit on the patio and pretend to concentrate on reading a book.  

I’d like to say that they arrived at 8am yesterday morning and finished all the work necessary prior to sheetrock installation, but with their arrival time of 1:20 p.m. and a quitting time of 5 p.m., I’ll see them again late today or early tomorrow (I think).  But enough electrical work is completed to allow the insulation work to begin this afternoon, per this morning’s phone call from the prime contractor.
This morning was cool and my day started with an hour walk.  I’m still amazed by the low humidity here, and even with yesterday’s unusual February heat, it seemed a nice temperature sitting on the patio in the shade of the Airstream, listening to the work of the electricians.
But the 10-hour day of electrical work last Friday was also a 10-hour work day for me.  As mentioned in my last blog, starting with “where do you want to put the toilet,” this tiny custom CoachHouse build has been followed by a continuing set of questions I’d never considered before.  And last Friday’s focus, actively working alongside 2 of the three electricians, included determination and placement of wall receptacles (what I’ve always called electrical outlets), switches (and which switch controls which device), recessed lights, vent fans, outside lights and receptacles, etc.  

These decisions may sound easy, but I was staring at 2x4 studs and concrete floor when asked questions such as, “Where do you want the switch for your kitchen under-counter lights?”  I first had to envision a kitchen, then countertop space, then backsplash height, then a switch.  

Even harder than switch location was the electrical wiring drop for the under-counter lights themselves.  If I pick a spot too low, the wiring won’t be “under cabinet” but will stick out of the back splash and upward to the light.  If I pick a spot too high, the wiring will be up inside an upper cabinet, costing valuable storage space.

Certainly there are “work arounds”, but they fall into the added cost category. As a side note, the entire kitchen cabinetry is only 5’6” wide, and when you take away 36” for short upper cabinets above the kitchen sink, you are limited to a 30” wide full upper cabinet.  Every inch counts.  

And do you know, off the top of your head, the height of your kitchen countertop?—34”or 36” or something in between?  I had no detailed cabinet drawings yet, no mockup—just my “Revision 20” of a hand drawn floor plan, a tape measure, and my hand to point and say “please put it here.”
And then I’d listen to the “whacking” of the electricians’ wrenches, their tool of choice, to nail the receptacle box, or recessed IC box, or other electrical component onto the stud (or stud pieces onto stud, then box, depending on location).  All three of the electricians had one thing in common:  they all were wearing fancy leather tool belts, with lots of tools, but not a hammer among them.  

And let me say, the sound of driving a nail into a stud with the side of a wrench is not a pretty sound—closest technical term I can think of is a “whacking” sound.  As the morning progressed, and these twenty-something aged electricians became more comfortable with their elder female handy assistant, I had to ask:  “Did all three of you forget your hammers today?”  And I got a polite, somewhat proud, and tightly specific answer:  “Electricians don’t use hammers.”
Well, there you have it, question answered and our work continued.  And so I stared at 2x4s, measured distances, discussed with the electricians and the rick-man, pointed, and listened to whacking in response to my “please place it here.”  I thought about it and just couldn’t figure it out—why not a hammer?  Safety issues?—nothing was “hot” yet.  Weight issues?—they were already carrying enough tools to make any tool-man proud.  And so they went off to lunch, and I still pondered the specificity of their answer:  “Electricians don’t use hammers.”
I'm probably not known for socially polite silence taking precedence over an interesting discussion.  I’m also not known for small talk at parties; seems such a waste of time when interacting with another human being to only talk about the weather or the latest episode of “Lost” when I could be learning about their opinion on international trade, or their experience in career or volunteer work, or their belief system that drives their habits and hopes.  I can’t ask a bird “why”, I can only watch, listen (to their foreign language) and learn; and if I stared at people the way I stare at birds, I’d probably have the police knocking at my door. 
So mid-afternoon, I couldn’t stand it anymore, and asked—“OK, so electricians don’t use hammers.  But WHY don’t electricians use hammers?”  The two lead electricians literally stopped work and smiled at each other with that good humored expression that comes when the knowledgeable receive an honest question from the ignorant, with the simple goal of learning.  

You see that smile all the time from a parent over their four year olds’ endless supply of “why” questions.  But today I was watching two kind-hearted twenty-something electricians smile over the ignorance, and honest question, of the elder CoachHouse owner.

Just as children are encouraged by the parent’s smile, I knew my question was well received.  One of the electricians came over to me, holding out his wrench.  “See these 2x4s framed so closely together?  You can’t get a hammer in between them to get a good drive on the nail.  But this wrench?  I can bang it almost any direction in a tight space and get a good drive each time.  See?” Then he whacked the wrench back and forth between the two studs, and handed it to me to feel its weight.  “Electricians carry HEAVY wrenches—much better than using a hammer.  If someone uses a hammer, they aren’t a REAL electrician.” 

His words carried the sound of a craftsman, with a great deal of pride in his voice.  And so he completely answered my question, took back the wrench and continued his work; and I continued mine—with new appreciate of what we often casually call “the tools of the trade.”  Maybe a new bumper sticker is warranted:  “Real Electricians Whack Nails.”
A four switch box mounted between closely neighboring 2x4 studs:

How many electrical receptacles could we possibly have in a 12’ x24’ CoachHouse?  Twenty; but that includes the washer/dryer and water heater—so only 17!  Two cell phones, laptops, and “Nooks” to be charged, not to mention digital cameras, crock pot and rice cooker.  Seems we need electricity for everything but the binoculars!

How many electrical switches could we possibly have in a 12’ x 24’ CoachHouse?  Fourteen, but that includes 3 for outdoor receptacles… 
And where do you want to put your modem and router boxes?  How about on a top shelf, inside the upper cabinet, above the refrigerator?  And so the boxes below, just beneath sheetrock line:

Any day that we can learn from a craftsman that takes pride in their trade--that is a good day.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Tiny Custom Build

I come from a career world where building “stuff” entails worrying about how much that stuff weighs, how much power it consumes, how large a space it requires, how often it breaks, and how to repair it without access to the local hardware store, much less plumber, electrician, IT specialist, etc.
I come from a life history that involves multiple “homestead” moves, both as a renter and a home “owner”.  I’ll always remember my first home “ownership” (i.e. mortgage)—a small two bedroom patio home with one car garage.  After years of dorm life and apartments, that patio home was a heavenly mansion.
Each homestead move had its own unique set of “requirements” to turn a “house” into my home.  The patio home was a very minor remodel--repainting walls and replacing carpet before moving in with the beginnings of “my furniture” that has moved around with me these thirty-something years.  I still give thanks for my dear friend and mentor (Jan) who wisely steered me to this simple patio home “remodel”, knowing I was young, inexperienced, and definitely on a limited income. 
My first new home was in a developing track-home neighborhood where you walk through the builder’s series of model homes and select a specific, predefined floor plan (with a fancy name), and make a limited set of decisions related to light and plumbing fixtures, brick color, flooring type, etc.  Still a lot of decisions, but not on the level of:  “Where do you want to put the toilet?”
My more recent homesteading experience involved gutting and completely remodeling an older townhome.  And when I say gutting—I mean gutting:  down to concrete foundation and dry wall (and in some places, studs).  Almost six months were involved with a prime contractor team to remodel 1800 square feet—that “time per square foot” pretty much frames the “joy” of the experience.  

Or put another way, I told a friend:  “never again”.  But I would be remiss to not mention everything (almost) turned out beautifully—i.e. to our liking; but still, never again!  And even though we completely gutted the master bathroom, replacing a shower stall with a soaker tub, the new toilet went into the same location as the old.
A year and a half after townhome remodel completion, I would have laughed if you’d suggested I was going to take on a custom build of a new home, no matter how small.  And yet on January 3rd, 2011, I found myself in the RGV (Rio Grande Valley) staring at a grassy lot, 45’ x 93’, with schematic in hand that showed the footprint plan for a  30’x74’ concrete pad, with 12’ x’ 24’ of the concrete allocated for a CoachHouse foundation.  The builder’s representative turned to me, as we stood looking at the grassy lot, and said:  “Pretty much the first thing you need to decide is where you want to put the toilet, as well as other plumbing.  Also you need to decide where you want to run the conduits for electrical and data lines, because all of those decisions must occur before the concrete pour--and concrete pour is planned early next week.  And of course the next big decisions you want to make are where to place the door and windows, as the framers for the CoachHouse will start as soon as the concrete has cured.”
Without CAD software, it was somewhere around revision 20 of my hand-drawn CoachHouse floor plan that became the “build to” schematic.  Drawing these schematics became my nighttime work, after each day of discussions with the builder, and advice and examples from others in our new neighborhood.  

In former career years, I’d encourage those in my work environment to try and approach me with technical challenges before 3pm, when my brain seemed to work its best.  Budget and management challenges I could tackle late afternoon, but please bring me the design stuff early.  

So here I found myself in this new winter-time place, 8 p.m. until 2a.m. and I was hand drawing, to scale, a floor plan for a CoachHouse to include bathroom, kitchenette, laundry and living space—learning about the footprint requirements of internal walls,  doorways, recessed lighting, plumbing, vents, etc.  The following day I’d meet with the builder, make notes on the drawing, and start another revision that night.  I still can’t decide if I loved it or hated it—but I learned a lot. 
Don’t get me wrong, the positives of the build flexibility are enormous: within a 12’x24’ space (subtracting 4”for front and side walls, and 6” for the back wall) we were free to design anything we wanted—a complete custom build, within reason and a few obvious constraints.  I’ll write a future blog on some of the creative and innovative designs I’ve seen from neighbors’ CoachHouses, not to mention all I’ve learned.  But, starting with “where do you want the toilet” introduced me to a crash course on not only designing a home, but designing a home where every square inch is a trade off.
I want to mention the amazing “neighbor helping neighbor” support I received during this time.  This is an active community of retired WTs (Winter Texans), many having owned or managed some form of manufacturing or construction business during their career. Many are “finishing” their CoachHouse with their own hands, rather than creating a schematic to hand over to a prime contractor.  

And so when word spread through the village that I’d arrived and backed in a 31’ Airstream and unhitched it by myself (into the corporate CoachHouse lot provided to new owners until their CoachHouse lot is ready for occupancy)—well, it seems I’d earned the support of the knowledgeable and experienced of the neighborhood.  So they began the patient, daily tutorials to teach me about plumbing lines, conduits, and the multitude of design trades for a fully functioning CoachHouse, none of which  I’d learned from watching “This Old House”.
But I also can’t emphasize enough the challenges of a design that is constrained to such a small space:  forget having space for a side by side washer/dryer; realize that if the toilet placement is a few inches off, the sink vanity size will disappear; understand that hot water heaters and their maintenance access requirements take up a lot of space, so over-sizing hot water needs will cost valuable living space, but under-sizing hot water needs will be a long term annoying mistake (And electric tankless tanks won’t work when the entire CoachHouse is 125 amps. 

CoachHouse lots are plumbed for water, electric, and data, but not natural gas—so bring your own LP if you want to use gas appliances, and some innovative owners did). It was about revision 5 of my schematic when I realized that the space requirements for the bathroom door are not a nicely drawn 30”, for there are at least 6” of framing space needed-- not to mention “doorway” space regular homeowners call a “hallway”!  And so my former career comrades can picture me with amusement, as here I was with the CoachHouse requirements and design life cycle phases squished together, inside a week schedule, with no PDR or CDR, much less SRR—except for the wonderful knowledge and experience of neighbor helping new neighbor.
And so FINALLY follows the beginning of the “pictures are worth a thousand words”:
Placement of the plumbed toilet, tub, washer, bathroom sink and kitchen sink, as well as conduit for breakerbox, with fresh concrete in place--no changing now! 

My last blog showed the externally finished CoachHouse, with rick-man, myself and Airstream moved onto the lot, but I thought I'd include one photo of the CoachHouse external build, as I watched window and door placement occur.

This past week began the internal finishing:  carpentry framing of ceiling and internal wall on Tuesday to allow installation of the plumbing lines Thursday, and the 10 hour  electrical work Friday, continuing tomorrow.

The carpenter created a beautiful raised ceiling in the living/kitchen area (another design decision), based on my verbal descriptions.  He and his assistants were the wonderful example of people who take pride in their work.

The below photo shows what will be the kitchen cabinet wall, with bathroom/laundry room door on the right side.  On the left, an innovative, space saving design (thanks to neighbor Bill!): the placement of a "shorty" hot water heater hidden behind the refrigerator; roll out the fridge and there is the hot water heater for easy access or replacement!

Plumbing lines and recess lighting boxes, oh my--the lessons continued! "IC" (insulation contact) boxes for new construction allow placement of the insulation directly on the metal box without fire hazard--but the available space  limited us to a 4" IC box, which limited the recessed lighting to a 45W bulb. The trade to use a 6" non-IC box would allow more wattage, but there was not enough space to build protective boxing for insulation.  With insuation the higher priority, the 4" IC was the decision.  And yes, the plumbers returned to moved the plumbing line:

A bathtub, 33" space for toilet, and a window--a learning experience!  :-)  (looks different than first picture in wet cement!)

10 hours last Friday, plus all day tomorrow (and maybe more) with the electricians-- deserves its own next blog, because I've learned why "Electricians don't use hammers".

Not birding yet, but a pretty special place where you wake up listening to the "crying" of Great Kiskadees.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The RGV CoachHouse

Over the last four years the rick-man and I enjoyed two trips to the RGV.  The RGV, a new acronym in my vocabulary, stands for the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.  The RGV is one of the most important birding “hotspots” in the U.S. (along with southern Arizona) and the favored locale of WTs (Winter Texans).  I look forward to posting blogs about Bentsen and its amazing habitat, but promised family members that my first blogs would show pictures of our “CoachHouse” build.  Today I’ll simply include one photo of Bentsen S.P. that I took a week ago:

I had hoped to spend part of today blogging and posting multiple pictures on the details of the CoachHouse, but after spending ten hours alongside three electricians today, I’m going to save blogging the details for tomorrow, as construction pauses for the weekend.  
For now I’ll post these 3 pictures, as you are asking yourself—what is an RV lot with an unfinished CoachHouse?  But don’t be fooled by the lack of habitat on our new site, future pictures will show the beautiful tropical habitat that surrounds us.
A seventy-four foot long driveway with 12' x 24' CoachHouse:

The "condo on wheels" and its new winter home base:

The unfinished interior, with boxed bathtub and kitchen sink:

Thursday, February 17, 2011


I have a reputation for being a chronic planner.  Whether detailing a product-oriented work breakdown structure for a “flight system”, or developing a spreadsheet itinerary for a three week vacation some six months in the future, I enjoy planning.  Perhaps it goes back to fond childhood memories.
The early 1950’s home of our family of five, maybe 900 square foot in size, had a single room for cooking, laundry and dining.  Our Dad, ever the “function over aesthetic” practitioner, took our round wooden dining table to a local construction shop where they covered the table’s top with a glue-on thin-sheet Formica-type product (and cut off the wooden legs and welded a center aluminum-clad metal stand that looked something like a large aluminum spool).  

I wish I could say I knew the conversation that took place between husband and wife over this action, but my childhood innocence never even considered such conversations.  I just liked the Formica-type top because pencil marks erased so easily.  And so this Formica-covered round table, maybe four foot in diameter, served as our family’s favorite work space, as well as seating for five when devouring our Mother’s southern-style dinners and our Dad’s daily supply of homemade waffles for breakfast.  

My fond memories are tied to spending many a winter evening, after school and athletic practice, sitting at this kitchen table with homework in front of me, watching our mother fry that night’s dinner on the gas stove, and watching our dad, seated across the table with a spread of maps and library travel books, plan our next family camping trip.   I knew something good was coming from both, but the trip planning interested me way more than the cooking.  

Our dad sat at that table, night after night, and planned those trips.  It was a sad day when our parent’s health caused them to no longer travel. Visits back home found Dad sitting at the table playing solitaire rather than planning trips, and Mother still cooking, but not the wonderful meals of our childhood.
I don’t know if my love of planning is tied to the memory of childhood camping trips, or to the smell of fried foods, but I am a happy planner.  It doesn’t mean I don’t have a spontaneous side, but spending time creating a plan has always seemed a part of the fun.  

But this last year and a half  my life has changed in some ways that were almost spontaneous:  moving from my home of 19 years to downsize into a smaller stick house, and retiring from a wonderfully long career.  You’d think I’d at least planned the retirement part, but spontaneity can be a wonderful thing. And so here I am:  downsized and not earning taxable income.
And with this new set of life tags, I'm "planning" to spend much of my time RVing the 48 contiguous states.  You won’t find me planning overseas trips or cruises; I’ll leave those for “travel by flight” family and friends.  But I do hope to lay plans for spending a great deal of time in our country’s beautiful national and state parks, and the back roads in between.  

Of course any day spent with family or friends is the best kind of day, whether in a stick house, RV or other’s homestead.  A wonderful attribute (forgive the software speak) of the RV lifestyle is that “home port” can be a commercial park close to family or friends, providing the perfect interlude before going back on the road, headed to the next planned or spontaneous stop to bird or hike or take in the view.  

I do know, as well as most other over half-centurions, that the best laid plans can be trashed by unforeseen events. But when it comes to trip planning, my cup is always more than half full.

And so I begin this blog as  I begin a new lifestyle, with no greater plan than to share my adventures and experiences.   

I should note that since retiring, I have actively given myself some time “on the playground”, avoiding schedule commitments and “have to” responsibilities for awhile.  Will I blog daily?  Probably not--OK, surely not.  But I do hope to post pictures and experiences frequently.  I’ll encourage you to save my blog link and check in regularly, as you wish—especially if you need a quick break from your daily responsibilities, or if you should need help overcoming a night’s insomnia.  My writing "might just" be the ticket back to sleep.
Tomorrow I "plan" to post the latest progress and pictures of the CoachHouse build--and greetings from the valley.