Category Archives: Castle Willett

A Hint Of Green

One almost immediate benefit that’s come from all of the rain that we’ve had is that the back yard is starting to look a tiny bit less barren.

With a few days of sun in between a few days of rain, for the first time since the lawn watering restrictions went into effect back on June 1st the back yard has some green to it. There’s a long way to go, but any port in a storm! (So to speak…)

Unfortunately, it’s not grass, except for a couple of patches around the sprinkler heads where there were slow drips. Instead it’s this clover-like stuff, so it’s not clear how much actual coverage we’re going to get, how sturdy or hardy it is, or anything else.

I would probably worry more about it if I owned the house. But we’ve been renting for 4+ years, and it’s ultimately not going to be my problem. I try not to be a schmuck about such things, but I’ve also got my limits on what I can afford to spend time worrying about, and someone else’s landscaping when under a strictly enforced set of water restrictions is over the line for me.

Welcome, little clover-like stuff! Don’t get eaten by the birds!

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Filed under Castle Willett, Photography, Weather

Christmas 2022

Cupcake down!!!

It was suffering horribly, so it was put out of its misery. (It was delicious.)

Meanwhile despite my common sense suggesting, demanding, shouting, and finally whimpering pathetically about moderation, I ate far more than I should have today. “Moderation” will resume tomorrow, as in, “I may not eat until New Year’s Eve.” But the food and company was great, gifts were received and given, and in general a good time was had by all.

I hope you and yours had a wonderful holiday or a relaxing Sunday and are able to do whatever you need to do tomorrow, whether that be lying around like a beached whale, cleaning up after the present pillaging, or just relaxing after the stress of the this holiday and starting to prepare for the next one in six days.

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Christmas Eve Eve Hot Dogs

As I come into the kitchen to fix my plate I find the hot dogs already in the buns, with a whole smorgasbord of condiments laid out.

From the living room, she shouts, “Your hot dogs might be a little bit…charred. Put lots of stuff on them!”

“They look fine! Wait…did you put them in the buns already so that the charred side is hidden?”

“Of course, how stupid do you think I am?”

She probably learned that from my mother. At a very young age I realized that Mom would often leave one side of a grilled cheese sandwich a bit more “well done” than the other. That side was always on the bottom as the sandwich was served. By my teen years I would get the sandwich served still hot on the spatula with the top side visible, then plopped and flipped so that the other side could be seen.

Mom’s been gone for a while now, but somehow that family tradition continues on. I’m pretty sure I served grilled cheese sandwiches to my kids that way back when they were still at home.

Christmas Eve Eve. It’s been a heck of a week, lots of little victories, a couple of big ones, and still a ton of things to get wrapped up (see what I did there?) before the jolly fat guy slides down the chimney tomorrow night.

Hot dog powered, I will prevail.

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Filed under Castle Willett, Family, Photography

The View To The West Has Changed

The house across the street from us will be getting new occupants soon (details unknown, mainly because it’s none of my business) and whoever’s in charge now is doing some massive amounts of cleanup and landscaping work. Yesterday morning I woke up to chain saws and trucks and chipper-shredders.

It was a bad day for the neighborhood bunnies – that heavy brush is home to dozens as far as I can tell. At least, that’s where they run when I spook them out of my yard.  Of more interest to me was the fate of that giant pine tree.

It’s a gorgeous old tree and I like trees. It’s also home to hundreds of birds, and you may have noticed that I like birds. But it’s not my house and not my tree.

Also, let’s face it, if you’re looking toward Vandenberg to see a launch, the rockets rise RIGHT SQUARE BEHIND that tree. Take a look at many of the ISS pass photos over the last four years from here and you’ll see that tree blocking some part of the flyover most nights. So if it were to be gone, it wouldn’t all be bad…

Presto chango! Or maybe presto chainsaw-o! There’s now a LOT of open sky to my west.

Let’s see when the next ISS pass is. Or the next launch out of Vandenberg.

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Big city, no wildlife, the paved over urban jungle. Right?

Yeah, if you’ve perused this site you’ve seen pictures of deer and raccoons and opossums and rabbits and squirrels and skunks and a few dozen bird species and god knows how many lizards and…

But me? I’m just an old Boy Scout from Vermont. I know that there are critters out there. So earlier this week, in the back yard, when I saw a couple odd looking piles of scat, it piqued my interest. (For those who weren’t Boy Scouts, “scat” is a fancy, semi-polite term for “animal shit.” It often has “things” embedded in it which will tell you what the critter has been eating.

Grizzly Bear Warning Sign Bells

So these small piles of dark scat have berries and nuts as well as fur, so probably something omniverous-ish. Smaller than a bear (probably), and there really are bears around, although more likely to be seen near the bigger mountains in places like Pasadena and Glendale, bigger than a feral cat. Yes, a curiosity. Also curious how it’s found in the back yard, which is surrounded on all sides by at least a 5′ chain link fence. So either something that’s coming from tree to tree or a jumper.

This morning, I found this on the front yard, well away from the sidewalk, which is where the rude folks walking their dogs let them leave a pile for me to clean up.

That most certainly wasn’t there last night – and it’s right where I should be able to see it on the front porch security camera. So let’s see what motion there was last night other than cars driving by…

(Click on any image to enlarge it. If you save all five temporarily, you can flip between them quickly and it’s pretty clear who our visitor is.)

Rabbits are a known issue in both the front and the back yard, so my suspicion is that this dude spooked a rabbit into the bushes and then came looking for him. Unsuccessfully, as far as I can tell.

I hear these coyotes a couple times a week, but they usually don’t come all the way to the top of the hill, preferring to stay down in the canyons. Of course, this also explains all of the shipping crates left around the yard for Acme equipment.

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Filed under Castle Willett, Critters, Photography

Fantasy House Re-Imagined

I’ve been spending a lot of my spare time cruising Zillow, looking for that rainbow unicorn property that’s out there for our “forever home.” There are some truly spectacular places out there — if you have several million dollars to spend.

There are some very nice and perfectly acceptable houses in a number of different locations around the country, for $600K to $800K. Which is still a problem since we need to be paying about half or 2/3 of that if possible.

For $400K to $500K there are some very nice and perfectly acceptable houses – except for “something.” In a town that’s way too small. In a city that’s way too big. In a state where I would make it about a week before there would be folks with torches and pitchforks out on my lawn. On a lot with about three feet between us and the neighbors.

We’re going to move once, and ONLY ONCE if I have anything to say about it. The “forever home” doesn’t have to be 100% perfect, but it would help if it’s in the high 90%’s.

Oh, but those “fantasy homes!” The ones with fifty or sixty acres, on a river with a dock, an in-ground pool, six or seven thousand square feet or more, a barn and paddock and kennel and workshop, that huge built-in BBQ and patio and jacuzzi…

I don’t know if it’s worse to look at them and drool and dream and occasionally deal with the disappointment of knowing that we’ll never have one, or to swear off looking at them and just settle for so much less.

If you happen to know of a 2,500 to 3,500 square foot, one-story ranch on a 1/3 or 1/2 acre lot in a mid-sized college town in a blue or purple state for under $500K, let us know, okay?

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Filed under Art, Castle Willett

In Search Of A Little Green

We started restrictions on lawn watering back in June (or was it May?) and between that and several solid weeks of 100+ºF days every single day, the back yard has taken a beating.

But abour ten days ago, just after we got back from Chicago, there were some hurricane remnants wandering through and we got a tiny bit of rain here. Other places out in the mountains and deserts inland, out beyond Palm Springs and into Nevada and Arizona, some isolated spots got enough rain to cause some flash flooding and mudslides, but here we got maybe 0.2 inches of rain over a 24-hour stretch.

Plus, since then it’s been mostly in the mid-80’s every day instead of 100+.

Did it help?

I’m going to go with a resounding, “Maybe?”

I’m not sure how much of it is wishful thinking and how much is actual recovery, but it seems to be a tiny little bit more green than it was.

I’m not talking about those tall, long desert grasses on the right, it’s the standard issue monoculture lawn grass on the left hand side of that barrier that I’m wondering about. Maybe? In spots? Kinda?

At this point, I would be happy to have the lawn hanging on in a “less dead” state than even bothering to hope for “thriving.” Let’s manage our expectations, folks.

This would be another benefit to owning our home instead of renting. If we owned I would be ripping out the wanna be putting green and putting in some low water, desert vegitation and flowers, along with some succulents, cactus, rocks, pathways, and lots of fancy gravel or decomposed granite in between everything. It would look great, be very low maintenance, and have ultra low water requirements. Maybe a bench or two, a birdbath, some bird feeders…

I think we’ll probably be out of the drought via natural causes and a couple of consecutive El Niño years before the owner will be doing that. Brown and dusty might be the new norm. With just the slightest, semi-hallucinatory bit of green mixed in…


Filed under Castle Willett, Photography, Weather

NFL Week #2

We kicked it off this week with the Thursday night game. Arrowhead was rocking like it should be, a great venue for a great showdown against our interdivisional rival, the Chargers!

Twas a great game, which the Chiefs won 27-24. It was tight all the way with the deciding big play being an interception by the Chiefs and a 99-yard runback for a Pick Six.

The fun part was having a Board Zoom meeting from 16:00 to 17:00 with the game starting at about 17:10. Let’s not allow that meeting to go long! (Not a problem.)

The best part was being dressed in some of my pre-game Chiefs gear for the meeting. We’re not one of those companies where we’re really strict about protocol, and my pre-game stuff is pretty tame (no beads, no funny hats, no face painting, etc) so it was good for a laugh or two and some friendly ribbing.

It’s all good. We’re 2-0, and with no Chiefs game on Sunday, there might be some alternative activities available. They just opened a new grocery store, an Aldi, the first in the area. Maybe a visit there instead of the same, old Ralph’s.

Do we know how to party hard or what?!

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Filed under Castle Willett, KC Chiefs

Japanese Maple With Issues

Spring is well on its way here with the trees, flowers, birds, and other critters all in their blooming, flitting, mating, and reproducing modes. Except for the little Japanese maple tree out there.

I do remember from previous years that it can be a late bloomer, but this is ridiculous!

It’s the last week in April and this stubborn dude has nary a single bud on it, or even a hint of a bud to come. It’s a collection of sticks!

It’s a not-so-fine line between “stubborn” and “kindling.” If there’s sap flowing, the leaves need to be popping soon or the gardner’s going to take it out!

C’mon, Red! Let’s pop some of those red leaves and get some photosynthesis going! You’re going to have to do it on your own, I don’t know how to do CPR on a deciduous beastie!

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The Weekend Gone By

What did I learn?

tl;dr version – a 30-minute job turned into a six-hour job and today I’m sore as hell after lifting too much, stretching too much, and doing all sorts of contortions that my middle-aged body isn’t used to.

And it’s almost Monday.

Hitting the new week running…

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Filed under Castle Willett, Paul