Monthly Archives: November 2007

Frequent visitor

For the past week we’ve had a frequent visitor at Windhaven, and today I finally got a chance to take some photos.

I was alerted to this Barred Owl’s presence by the alarm calls of numerous songbirds mobbing something. I thought it would be a Screech Owl because the smaller birds don’t usually mess with the big boys (they leave them to the crows and jays). But there it was, trying to take a nap on a lower branch of an oak tree, right between our two bird feeders.

The Barred Owl is between the Great Horned Owl and the Eastern Screech-owl in size (Oklahoma’s two other common owls). The Barred measures about 21 inches long, and has dark eyes; unlike most owls that have yellow eyes.

I have only seen one at a time around the house, usually in the trees near the shed. I haven’t heard it calling a mate, so I have to conclude, so far, that it’s only one bird, but I see it about every third day. I would certainly call that a frequent visitor and a really special one!

Treasure in the grass

I found this unassuming little plant deep in a patch of Little Bluestem. As you can see, the flowers have already faded, but not long ago, because the plant is still fresh. I found the shape familiar so I wrote to my friend Pat Folley with my suspicions. I described the leafless stalk and powdery seeds.

Pat confirmed my suspicions. This little treasure in the grass is an orchid. To be specific, it’s a Ladies’-tresses, probably Great Plains Ladies’-tresses. It blooms from September through November, so I did just miss it. I found two plants so far (I’ll make a more thorough search tomorrow). When fresh it has a strong vanilla like scent. I can’t wait to look next year!

Low cost, big results!

Since we spent a big chunk on the geothermal installation, we decided to do some low cost renovations. Our biggest problem with this house is the cottage cheese ceilings. Awful stuff that makes the rooms look dingier. Well, I set out to remove all the cottage cheese ceilings in the public areas of the house during the month of October.

I started in the hallway, the smallest area. It’s fairly easy to do but messy. You have to wet the ceiling, let it soak in, then scrape it off with a putty knife. After it’s all removed, spackle is used to repair the joints and touch up the nail holes. The whole ceiling is then rinsed and smoothed with a sponge and water, then primed and painted. Not complicated but each section took a week.

I should mention that in my quest for an easier removal method I came across articles about asbestos in this stuff. Our house was built after the ban, but builders apparently continued to use up their stock until 1986. Great! I had already scraped the hallway ceiling and I’d previously done the two guest bathrooms. I had visions of asbestos dust floating around the house … forever. So, I got a sample tested, which came back negative; what a relief!

As I said the hall was first, then the kitchen and dining room, finally the living room. There’s just a small section left in the entryway (see photo), because I needed someplace to put the loveseat and chair. The upheaval was disturbing but thankfully brief.

What a difference it’s made. The rooms are brighter and feel cleaner. For the price of some paint and primer, and my hard work, we have what looks like brand new rooms. I was able to find a brand of paints (Olympic) that has few or no volatile organic compounds, VOC, so we didn’t have to move out because of the stink; there was almost no smell.

Now I have to figure out what to do about the texturing on the walls. One option that I want to try on the main dining room wall is a clay plaster. It’s made from natural products, mostly clay, it’s sound absorbing, so it should make up for the loss of the acoustic texturing on the ceilings, and there’s no waste, so if you have leftovers, you just re-wet it and use it again.