Battling hummingbirds and the state of the stairs

A couple of weeks ago I put up a hummingbird feeder, finally, after being astounded that my sister had hummingbirds at her feeder on New Year’s Day, in the snow. In Austin we never had hummingbirds in the winter, but apparently some kinds live here year-round.

This dear little bird has been keeping the others away.

Last week we had a warm, rainy day, so I opened the sliding glass door to the deck in our bedroom. To my surprise, our cat Hillary, who hasn’t been outside since she was six weeks old (she was born in our junk pile to a feral mama) and has never shown any inclination to go outside, walked right out. I got worried about that after a second (because there are coyotes around, and she is not exactly an outdoor-saavy cat) and scooted her back in. Just as I was closing the screen door, I heard a whirring noise, and there was a hummingbird! A little brown one. I have looked up the hummingbirds in our area and think she might be a female calliope or black-chinned hummingbird. She has a little cream-colored tummy.

A while later, I heard more whirring, and there were two hummingbirds, one a rufous. Unfortunately, the brown hummingbird was chasing the rufous hummingbird away from the feeder.

So, my husband and I went out and bought another feeder, figuring that would surely make room for two. This one has a red glass reservoir with a metal base. Less than an hour after we put it up, the rufous hummingbird spent about 10 minutes drinking from it. He came back several times (I admit, I have no way of knowing if these are the same birds or several of the same kind) but then the little brown bird started chasing him off. Since then, we have only seen the brown bird at the feeder and an occasional hummingbird battle. Yesterday there were two brown hummingbirds at the feeder. They like the red one best, although yesterday I finally saw two back at the original feeder, fighting.

A six-foot square area at the back of the staircase is unfinished.

Last week our contractors didn’t come until Friday, when they started putting in the flooring next to our new staircase. They did a really nice job, but they ran out of hardwoods. So, another wait. You can see in the picture that there is a distinct difference between the old wood and the new wood, but the new wood should darken up a bit when it is clear-coated. We knew the match wouldn’t be perfect, but when Dustin showed me the sample, it looked like it would be very close. We’ll see.

We have some painting left to be done, touch-ups and painting of the new doors and clear coating the new wood, but they won’t be doing that until the stairway is complete. However, Monday we were able to go back to order more carpet for the stairs.

We put a light-blocking blind in one of our bedroom windows yesterday. All I had been able to find for that window was a muslin curtain, and it gets light so early here that we have been waking up much earlier than we want to. We ordered a cellular shade, the kind that you can move up and down with your hand. Even though it hasn’t quite stretched out to cover the whole window yet, it makes a big difference in the darkness of the room.

Today I am going to the light store to pick up the new bathroom lights. We are getting close to completing the work on the inside of the house, whoopee! The only inside project that isn’t started yet is to replace the worn vinyl in the bathrooms and laundry room.


At home in Washington

I realize I haven’t been good about keeping this blog updated since we arrived in Washington, even though it was my intent to have it continue. So, let me talk about where we live.

As you drive to our house, you turn onto the last of a series of mostly two-lane highways or roads that wind through a rural landscape. There are lots of farms and cows, horses, and a few goats. A dairy, several Christmas tree farms. But when you turn on the last major road before our little street, you start climbing immediately and move into deeper forest. Of course, there are still homes and farms, but they are farther between, and the trees are larger and coated with moss.

Then you turn down our little one-lane gravel road. We are part of a small neighborhood of maybe seven or eight houses (I haven’t driven all the way down to see). They are far enough apart. We can see the lights of only three from the back of our house at night. The road twists among the trees. Then you turn right at the hydrangea bush, go up a steepish hill, and you’re at our house.

It’s been raining most of the time, and it’s pretty cold for someone who has lived in Texas for 30 years. I have wimped out in Texas, I find, because sometimes I get in bed just to warm up. But I am happy to get out of the relentless heat and sunshine that is Austin most of the time. I’ll unwimp at some point.

Behind the house and above the pond, a bit of sunshine peeps through.
Behind the house and above the pond, a bit of sunshine peeps through.

We are still busy unpacking. On Friday guys come to lay a carpet in the daylight basement where our guest room and family room and my husband’s office/storage room will be. Once the carpet is down, I hope to be able to move a lot of my husband’s junk out of my office and other parts of the upstairs to the downstairs.

Also coming is a contractor we hope to hire to complete some projects around the house. First priorities are putting in a wood stove and replacing the scary spiral staircase that is so narrow that you literally can’t carry anything up or down the stairs without fear of falling.

We have also had some more hassles, because everything just seems to go wrong with us. Today we spent two hours in the social security office. But that is a story for another day.

How this all got started

I have lived in Texas for more than 30 years. I am from Michigan, and Texas’s climate is not my favorite. When I first moved here, I thought I would stay here five years, tops. To make matters worse, it has gotten significantly hotter in Texas since I originally moved here.

I always thought I’d retire farther north, but when my husband (also from Michigan) and I got married, he stated a preference never to have to shovel snow again. So, we bought retirement property in the Davis Mountains in far west Texas. But as each summer got hotter and hotter, I started to wonder whether it was a good idea to retire in a desert.

My family at the reunion

Coincidentally, some of both of our families now live in the Pacific Northwest. Since most of my family is somewhere on the West Coast, we started having family reunions in Washington. My niece has a home in the countryside of Southern Washington, about an hour from Portland, OR.

Four years ago, we went to the first reunion. My husband and I got up early on the first day and started wandering in the large garden my niece has planted. Chickens were clucking to our left, and a bee hive was humming to our right. There were two aisles of ripe raspberries. The property is lush, a green lawn surrounded by forests, with blackberries and blueberries growing along the edges. I looked around at the thriving veggies and ate a few raspberries and said to my husband, “This is like paradise.”

Then my niece’s husband mentioned that a short distance away was a house for sale. Well, we ended up buying it, and we have been renting it out for four years. Now, if we can only get going, I am almost ready to retire. I can retire in October, and we can leave any time after we sell our house in Texas. But the catch is, I can’t retire until we sell the house.