Friday, May 20, 2011


Finally, we have got some rain. We could just feel all the plants soaking it in and rejoicing. The picture below is during the rain taken from the front porch.the picture above is the same shot with the flash on. It certainly created a different perspective.we ended up receiving four inches of this precious commodity.

So far we have really loved having Zinnias planted around our circle. They are so easy to take care of and so beautiful. Their leaves stay green and the flowers remain very vibrant for at least a week at a time.

The Wisteria has been growing for a few years and has reached up into the very top of these trees. These kinds of vines are known to kill the tree they climb up. So we are retraining the Wisteria, to create a crown around our statue. Hoping that because the vines are not up in the tree preventing light from reaching the leaves that we will not kill these trees .

The new chicks are about two months old and are free from their confined area. They are out and about with the other chickens, free to roam the 10 acre spread. It will take them about a week to where they feel comfortable enough to explore beyond the enclosure.
This pullet (a chicken before they begin laying eggs) must have eaten something that block it's croup. She would eat and her croup was swelling so badly that she was unable to walk very well. I tried to massage the area to dislodge what ever was blocking her passage way, but I was unsuccessful. Therefore, we decided to end her misery.
Beautiful clouds in the sky and hopefully the rain follows.
The first blueberries of the season! . I usually make blueberry pancakes at least once a week during blueberry season. We also have them with yogurt or cottage cheese or just eat them right off the Bush. It has been a very prolithic season and it lasts at least a month.

Below is a copper head snake, with a very poisonous and painful bite!!!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Good ,the Bad and the ugly of Internet in the country!!!!

This is the Hughes Net Satellite internet dish.
These three Pictures are the Rohn tower.

This is my review of / satellite Internet versus / wireless Internet versus local broadband.

It all started when my current broadband Internet provider was bought out by another local broadband Internet provider. These are the kind of receivers that are put up on top of a pole and they are about the size of a pizza box, they need a direct sight of line in order to get good reception.
To back up a little bit, when we first moved on to our land. I had dial-up with our local Verizon landline, it was painfully slow and impossible to transfer data, most dial-up is about 40 to 50 kB per second. I decided to upgrade to the local broadband, at the time cobalt was the only provider in the area. Their office space was about 200 miles from us. And this service was horrendous, it was constantly breaking down, their towers were overloaded and there was absolutely no customer service.

I was with them for two years because that was the length of the contract and it would have cost $200.00 to get out of it. They happened to have a clause in the contract that I signed that if I did not notify them four months before the end of this term that they would automatically renew me for two more years. Luckily, a neighbor who had been through this before told me about this in time for me to notify them ahead of time and I was on the search for a new provider.

Another neighbor said they had a local provider that was building his business and they were very happy with the service and the price. So I called this provider , he came right out , hooked me up without a contract and I was back on the internet very happy with the service, for a while anyway. Then it seemed either his towers were getting hit by lightning on a regular basis or my receiver would be blown off course or his equipment wasn't working. He was such a nice guy answering his phone in a timely manner and took care of the problem right away, but it seemed like there was always a problem.

So all of a sudden I get an e-mail saying that He had sold all of his clients to another competitor in the area. They came out and evaluated my service. They informed me that I needed a 80 foot Rohn tower in order to receive their service. I thought that this was my only option for I had heard horror stories of other Internet providers like satellite so I didn't think I had a choice. So I made a few calls trying to find out how we could get a Rohn tower founding out it would cost around $5000 to get one erected by a company. I made a few more calls in the area finding a ham operator who was willing to have us come over and look at these Rohn towers that he had.

He had gotten his from what are called Ham Fests in the area. After my husband and I saw how they needed to be erected and guy wired we had second thoughts.
We knew we could not afford to have someone else erect this structure and when we found out it would probably cost us around $1000 and a months worth of time to do it ourselves, I was back to the drawing board to find another Internet provider.

Another neighbor of ours had the satellite Internet, he was very happy with it, although he did emphasize that he just did e-mails, not really any data transfers and he was on the lowest plan, which was about 475 kB per second. Not really enough for large data transfers, which is what I needed the Internet for. I did find out they had a larger package for more money. So I proceeded to explore. When I called the wild blue number I had to put in my zip code and in doing so I was automatically transferred to . There was another time that I tried to acquire the Wildblue satellite and I was given an message to write in my zip code and my e-mail that if I was interested in attaining wild blue satellite that they would let me know when it would come available. I never have heard from them to this date.

So I hesitantly scheduled an installation by Hughes net, being promised that I would have 30 days to make a decision if it was right for me or not, and I would be refunded all my money. Except for the installation fee, which they said was only $50 and I thought well it would be worth a try if this was my only option. Now I understand how they work. What they do is promise you a rebate. After about two or three months of service they will rebate you one hundred fifty dollars for the installation fee. So when I canceled within the 30 days, I was still responsible for the $150 installation fee which I did not realize until after I canceled ! And I really thought I asked all the right questions to thoroughly understand what their obligation was to me if I was not a happy camper. they are very tricky.

The installer of the satellite was very nice, very professional and did a great job. When he configured the satellite he said I had really good reception and that it was really good I was going with HughesNET instead of wild blue because wild blue had overbooked their satellite and they only give you a certain quota per month depending on how much you paid them a month and if you go over that quota during the month then you have no Internet for the remainder of the month. Wow, he was really a salesman. I was all set up with Hughesnet.
I downloaded their software, which is extremely invasive and takes over a lot of the functions on your computer, like the download function and you need to check your Internet speed only through their HughesNET satellite Internet speed test. Somehow they say it is the only speed check that is accurate for satellite.
I have always used and have consistent results with that service. I do believe that Internet speed is the same measurement for all providers.
I learned the reason satellite is so slow, is what is known as ping (how long it takes the signal to travel from your computer to the satellite and from the satellite to the website you have requested, back from the satellite to you) ,and how much data the satellite can handle at any given time.

I was on the phone for hours almost every day to try and resolve this problem of no speed. I was always given the runaround and repeatedly told that they do not guarantee the speed , it is in the contract that you may receive up to 750 kB per second on the plan I was on, which was $60 a month. I was told that 500 kB per second was acceptable. They had me check my speed through Hughes net speed checker for a 24 hour period. I was able to get around 700 kB per second at about five o'clock in the morning, the rest of the time I measured between one hundred and 160 kB per second up to around 500 kB per second, depending on the time of day . Because they could check exactly what my speed test was and because I at some time during the day was able to get around 500 kB per second, that's what the contract promised.

I also realized that if it was raining or windy or if trees got in the way of the line of sight between the satellite and my receiver then I would not have any Internet at all.

So after struggling with this for two weeks , not getting any results , completely frustrated when I was on the Internet, that I basically had dial-up for the tune of $60 a month. I canceled my service.
Certain parts of the satellite needed to be returned and that was on my dollar. And to this day, which is about two months since I returned the components I have not received my initial refund of the equipment, I am still waiting.

I was back in search for an Internet provider. I remember when my daughter came to visit. She had an AT&T wireless data card. She was transferring a lot of data and said she had never had a problem with the service.

We have AT&T for our cell phone service and get great reception outside of our house. So I did some research and found that there is a way to get the Internet from outside of your house into your house. It's kind of like having your own personal tower inside your house. The name of the product is Z-boost, and it really works. If you have a really good signal for your cell phones outside of your house, then it will capture that signal and bring it into your house.

So that was the first step to get our signal inside the house so I could utilize the data card where I do most of my work. All of the representatives for AT&T that I talked to in that initial research time had all told me that if I had a good cell phone signal, then I most likely would have a really good data card signal, so I proceeded to get the data card and installed the software and test it out. It wasn't until after I received the data card I was told that the data service is a different apparatus on top of the tower then the cell phone service. That, in our area we only have the capability for a 2G ( that stands for second generation )transmission in our area. The cell phones work off of a 3G network, which is a different part of the tower. So because the data card was calibrated for three or four G network, I was not able to get a good signal. This was something I realized within the first day.(they give you 30 days to try it from the day of activation) I was able to return the data card to a nearby AT& T store and didn't have to pay a penny for any of this trial period. I must commend AT&T for their great customer service and acknowledgment seeing that it was not going to work. I was able to return everything and get out of the contract very easily.

Back in search of an Internet provider I turned to Verizon wireless, believing that if they were the dominate provider in this area that they would have a good service with a good signal. I ordered their data card and received it very promptly, but I only had two weeks from the date of ordering the data device, not the date it was activated, to return it. When I did activate it I did not get a very good signal and during the time of free calls on cell phones, I noticed it was extremely slow. Verizon cell phones and data cards are on the same system,but because the data card takes up more bandwidth,that's where you notice the speed.
It was more difficult dealing with the Verizon wireless customer service. I was charged a $35 restocking fee when I took it back to a store instead of shipping it back. ( that was later refunded after much negotiations.) I did need to talk to a more superior representative to not get charged the early termination fee.

I went full circle with all of this exploration, and ended back with a local broadband provider. I learned that they are not all created equal, I learned that my previous broadband Internet providers used home made kits as receivers., did not have tall enough towers and did not have state of the art transmitters that could ark over trees. I am now with a company called Zochnet . He only serves our County (Lee) and is extremely customer service oriented. There were a few bugs to work out of the system, but he was always very responsive and took care of the issue within the day. I am now getting about 1.2 MB per second and I am extremely happy with the broadband experience.

My suggestion for all those living in the country looking for the best Internet provider, is to find a responsible local provider that knows his craft and has the integrity to run the Internet business like it should be. Ask the questions and do the research, leave no stone unturned!
I hope this has helped those out there in search of the best provider for the best money and the best service. BEST of luck!!!!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Garden Shading

The summers in central Texas are very hot, it can get up to 100° for several months in a row. Therefore I have decided to try shading my garden to see if I can extend the season.

I started by buying six ft T- posts and rebar plastic caps. I set the height and width at four feet. I then strung wire from post to post tying it to each post. I use clothes pins to attach the shade cloth to the wire.

I built the structure that will hold the shade cloth first so I could measure the exact length and width to which the cloth will be attached. This doesn't seem important at first, but when you go to install the shade cloth you find out how important it is to have the grommets meet before the wire for easy and secure attaching.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The new pigeon cage boxes

Richard is finishing up the nesting boxes for his pigeons. He has constructed them so each pair has two nests in which to lay eggs and raise the babies. He has made them so they are detachable and easy to clean.

The top picture is what he calls the "honeymoon cages", so he can separate out a pair for breeding.