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October 30, 2017

The heat is gone... Sculpture class has concluded.

I'm still working on landscaping when I can find an hour or two. The view of the new area from the back balcony:

plate steel planter box palo verde 


My metal sculpture class at the art school has concluded. This is what I walked away with:

paul schuster sculptor art metal sculpture 

It's mostly complete. I need to mount it and consider illumination.  

metal art sclulpture paul schuster austin texas 

owl reach box austin westlake hooter 

Hooter is still with us.

The scraggly mesquite tree we planted on June of 2014 is now a beautiful shade tree with a nice canopy.  

retama and mesquite west lake hills 78746 

The retama (right side) struggled for a few years but is now growing in nicely.  

I had the family sit down for a quick picture together... it's not the best, but I had to work quickly as everybody had something else they wanted to get back to.

schuster family austin  



October 22, 2017

Monkey Wrench Bicycles saves the old bike restoproject

Monkeywrench finished the bike MUCH faster than I had anticipated.

They replaced the rusty quil/stem headset and handle bars. The new stem is aluminum and the handle bars are carbon fiber.

monkey wrench bike repair austin tx

They also replaced/upgraded both the shifters, and brake system, complete with new cables.

monkeywrench bicycles austin monkey wrench repair 

monkey wrench austin bicycle shop local bike shop 

The cost to upgrade this old bike was much less than buying a new one and the results are fairly amazing. This bike easily goes uphill due to all the weight savings. 

The final weight on this bike is 24.47 lb using their accurate scale. Maybe next year we can consider a carbon fork and replacing the wheels. But for now, #1 son needs to get some riding in.  

Palo Verde tree shuffle

The process for acquiring the Palo Verde tree was arduous.  First I had to clear a section of yard, then level it, then build the box, haul in a couple tons of soil.

We went to our regular local garden supply store to get a Palo Verde. They had one, priced at $469... that was sort of a deal breaker. We regrouped and settled on a shoestring acacia. The local vendor had none, and they didn't plan to receive any more. I got on the phone and called our preferred garden store, that is a bit further out. They DID have ONE Shoe String Acacia, $79. I raced over and bought it.

As I was loading up the Acacia, I noticed another tree. The label read "Blue Palo Verde $120". 

I eventually went back and bought the Blue Palo Verde. Later that week I needed some Silver Pony Foot. Once again my local store was sold out, I made the trek to the other store and bought some. While there... I saw a beautiful tree. The label read "Palo Verde $120", and it was much taller than the Blue Palo Verde I now had planted in my box.

This weekend, Kat and I returned to the Natural Gardener. We returned the Shoestring Acacia (I believe it was cursed as it caused so many problems), and we purchased the Palo Verde with a 10% off sale going on.

palo verde tree west lake hills 

It's not easy taking a picture of a GREEN (Verde) tree with a green background. Everything here is green and it's beautiful. 

palo verde green trunk tree desert museum 

The striking feature of the Palo Verde is the bright green trunk. This tree is leafless much of the year and can photosynthesize through its trunk.  

palo verde tree austin texas 

blue palo verde 

the Blue Palo Verde moved to the front yard. We spent all of two minutes selecting a location and in it went. Too much thought about trees has been burdensome. I'm glad to have this all settled and we can hopefully start to enjoy the fall weather.


kay-so big fat kitty titties 

Kay-so is enjoying it so far. She loves to sun her big-kitty-titties.  

October 19, 2017

Project Bike update #2

vintage cannondale mtb project

This was a big weight loss upgrade, Street Tires! and new tubes.

I ordered some tires that were better suited for pavement or hard packed surfaces. We don't really go down any rough downhill off-road paths. 

Each old tire/ tube combo was 3.9 lb! (7.8 lb combined).

Each new tire/tube is 1.3 lb (2.6 lb combined). The old tubes had been filled with a gel to prevent flats... I had wondered why that bike was so much heavier than it was supposed to be.

The new weight comes in at UNDER 25 lb! I took it for a quick uphill ride and it was notably faster due to the tires and weight loss.

Exact weight today is 24.86. I've taken it to Monkey Wrench Cycles to have them replace the rusty quil/stem and handlebars.  

October 16, 2017

Bigger Hooter

"Who-hoo, hoo-hooo"

That's what I hear when I'm up all night. Our owl in the box is much larger than the last one. Or could it be the same one, just older and well fed?

owl reach box austin west lake hills tx 


The image below is from April of this year

small hooter

Blue Palo Verde Box

I'm still not done... I hauled in over two tons of soil this week. Wheel barreled it all UP hill to fill the quarter inch steel containers I constructed to house a Blue Palo Verde tree.

Blue Palo Verde steel landscape container west lake hills 

Kat doesn't like surprises. I try to keep her informed of the plan and I had her choose the siting and box arrangement (a 12" 5ftx5ft box is floating over a 6" tall rectangle).

We sited the upper box first. Our lot has a pretty good slope to it. When it came to install the lower container, half of it was under ground when leveled. The remedy was to spend many hours with my pick axe and shovel leveling an area between the containers and the house. I still need to get some small desert plants and a ton of white limestone chips. But for the most part... I'm over the hump on the Palo Verde project.

Quick trip to the Texas Wine Country

airstream in fredericksburg tx

(full disclosure, I made a propane tank and some septic equipment disappear from the pic above) 

Friends of ours recently bought a ranch near Fredericksburg, in the "Texas Wine Country". We took our airstream out for a quick trip to sample their local wine.  

sunrise fredericksburg texas ranch 

Fall weather blew in as the sun rose.  

fredericksburg texas pond fall 2017 

Temps dropped quickly. That didn't stop the boys from playing around the ponds (there are two).  

fredericksburg tx ranch house 

fredericksburg winery texas 

Kat and I tried some of the Texas wines when we first moved from Northern California more than a decade ago. The wines were not good. We gave up on the local juice pretty quickly. I can now say the scene has improved. The wines we tasted this weekend were not bad at all. The majority of the grapes were sourced from the Texas High Plains (a seven hour truck ride), with some of the grapes still coming from California. The whole area between Dripping Springs and Fredericksburg is flush with new Wineries, SO MANY new wineries there now.

kuhlman cellars fredericksburg tx wine country 

We enjoyed the signature tasting at Kuhlman Cellars. They have figured out how to get the most out of the wine, by pairing each with a chef prepared bite.  

kuhlman cellars wine tasting food pairing fredericksburg, texas wine  

I'd recommend it. We took a bottle of their  Hensell Rose' which is dry, acidic, with a nice minerality. We enjoyed it with some Spicy Indian foods later that evening.

Hendrick's Grand Garnisher

Hendrick's Gin invited us to come see their 38 ft Cucumber Slicing Machine. We had really enjoyed the Hendrick's event a few years back, so we made the effort to view their new device.

hendrick's Gin Mattias Horseman Austin

It was just as the press release stated, a 38 foot mobile cucumber slicing machine, The Grand Garnisher. Mattias mounted the beast and demonstrated his pedal power ability, and paid tribute to the cucumber.

Hendrick's Grand Garnisher 

#hendricksgin #grandgarnisher 

October 09, 2017

Floating Vanity Cabinet

The way our master bath vanity has been for the past ten years...

floating sink shelf before 

the PVC P-traps were all exposed. We had so little storage for bathroom cleaning stuffs that they often sat out in the open. Clutter is a constant battle, one that I often conceded defeat. The round vessel sinks had been replaced soon after the pic above was taken. I still have one of them in the garage.

I've spent countless baths staring over to my left, mentally fixing the issue.

It's been a rough couple of weeks here with a hectic schedule that rarely yields more than an hour or two to work on projects, of which I have three in progress. BUT, I managed to buckle down and complete the floating vanity cabinet (seen below).

midceentury modern inspired floating cabinet 

I have a bit of trim to apply, but mostly it's done.

floating angled bathroom vanity 

Let's see if I can complete another project to share for next week... 

October 02, 2017

Fall arrives in Central Texas, the grass is greening

We had a good rain, followed by a cold front. It's becoming nice to be outside. The grass is green, I will need to mow this week. I'm behind on two projects and I've started a third. My week days are often sliced up into small segments, creating difficulty to find a block of time to progress. I hope to get at least one project completed this week. But look at how nice our yard looks now... So many things to occupy the eye.

austin modhouse back yard sculpture paul schuster 

I am also enrolled in a sculpture class that meets once a week. I might be the youngest person in the class. I've been welding for more than twenty five years. When the instructor is busy, some of the other students have learned they can rely on me to help if they have a problem with their welder. I like being useful.

While they were learning how to weld, I made something with scraps found in the shop (below).

floral metal sculpture 


I started to work on a larger piece in the class. One of the older ladies looked at it quizzically, squinted her eyes and asked "What's it FOR?". I gave pause, looked at the beginning of my creation, looked back at her as she patiently waited for my response.... "It's for looking at", I concluded.