The Austin Pond Society-Annual Plant Swap, April 2015

Plants in the Plant Swap 2015 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Well it has finally happened. The Austin Pond Societies Annual Plant Swap has come and gone and thanks to Barb Lenhardt and her many volunteers, went off very smoothly.As is always the custom, the set up was on the lawn next to the Zilker Meeting Room and participants were asked to drop off their goodies directly to this spot. The many volunteers arrived to set up at 5:30 PM and immediately got to work putting out and filling the portable ponds and putting down the protective tarps so that the lawn would not get damaged. For thirty minutes or so, there was a steady stream of members bringing in their wares while others were wandering around making mental notes of what they would like to pick out for themselves when their time arrived.

At 6:30, our resident chef, Laura ably assisted by her husband, Stefan, served hot dogs on a bun with all of the fixin’s. I don’t normally eat hot dogs but was hungry enough to have one of them and I have to say, it was very enjoyable. It tasted good enough that I had to fight the urge to go back for a second. I missed out on desert but probably that’s a good thing.

There was not much in the way of business when Jeannie Ferrier brought us to order at 7:00 PM. We did have one really good announcement that John, our ex-Parliamentarian had been busy recruiting and had talked a lady by the name of Cynthia Bennett into filling the open position. Welcome Cynthia, we are glad you are with us to keep us in line during our unruly Board Meetings. Turns out that we had new family membership and a returning husband and wife team who had been away for a while, also rejoined. Barb went over the rules of the Plant Swap more to remind everyone what was allowed and what was not. It was almost like the start of a Marathon or similar type race with many members standing waiting and straining at the bit for the word “Go”, and without further ado, they were off with the volunteers having first dibs.

Plant Swap April 2015 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

There was so much stuff, pond plants, garden plants, cactus and even some tadpoles that there was no real need other than getting the article of choice, for any particular order as in the end, a lot of stuff went home with the original owners. Our policy is that if no one new claims what you bring in, you, as the donator have to be responsible to take it back home with you. That happened to me as not all of the Iris, Angelica and Thalia were taken. Luckily for me, I have a friend who was looking for some plants so I made a quick stop on the way home to drop them off.

Following the Swap, the same volunteers made short work of cleaning up the lawn, folding the tarps and rolling up the ponds, leaving it as though nothing had been on it that evening. All in all, the Swap went very well and I truly believe that everyone got what they wanted and probably a lot more.I wandered around and took a lot of pictures and videos of both the business part of the meeting and the swap itself. I had already viewed all of the offerings and quite honestly, could not see anything that I desperately wanted. My yard and ponds are already pretty full and there are many plants that I can’t put in the ponds because the big Koi have a fun time in destroying them almost as fast as I put them in the water.

Judging by the very happy members as they carried their new-found goodies to their cars, the Plant Swap was an enormous success and thanks have to go to Barb Lenhardt and her merry band of volunteers for making it happen. Thanks to you all. Now let’s get ready for the Pond Tour.

Plant Swap Business April 2015 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Fresh and Green

Green

                New Greenery

The view from my window though wonderfully green
has changed so much from things that were seen
before the seasons changed to Spring
are now no longer visible to me
as I cannot see through the leaves on the trees
so thick and new and beautifully green.

During the winter months with the leaves all down
I was able to see all through the grounds
to watch and see what was around.
like squirrels running from tree to tree
chasing each other away from the feed
put out for the birds in the form of seed.

The birds all gather in little flocks
before swooping in on the perches to feed
Goldfinches abound in their special way
with a dozen or more all at having their say
feeding and squabbling as they search for the seed
put out for them to satisfy their needs.

The Ring-Necked Doves come in threes and fours
trying to perch in places where they
are far too big and cannot stay
as with a fluttering of wings they scramble away
to settle in the trees and watch the show
before giving it another go.

I love this time of the year
with everything so green and new
with leaves so thick and growth so wild
and plants springing up where there were none
as nature performs her miracle of life
to make everything come back as one.

Spring Time

Springtime

Springtime

I love the spring
when everything is green
and looks so new.

The animals and birds know its spring
as they chase each other around
following their natural tendencies
to breed.

Even humans seem more cheerful
as they go about their tasks
with everyone happy.

I love the spring
as Mother Nature shines out
in all of her glory.

A Poem – Dedicated to a Friend

Sunset

Sunset

 

I read a blog from a friend who cares
one I have known for many years
in it she talks of her life
and the twists and turns and many strife’s
of failing health and the fight back
to bring herself on the right track
to where she can enjoy what is left
knowing she has given her best.

Like me she finds solace in her mind
the written word and thoughts from within
as she talks about the stress and strain
of how the body is not so strong
but puts up a fight with the will to live
and the spirit fights on brave and longs
to send the word both far and near
to all of those that she holds so dear.

Two different kinds of people are we
as I write about my stupidity
and forgetfulness always an excuse
and if under the weather I feel
no others need to know that fact
so instead talk about the beautiful day
with the birds and animals all out to play
and lots of pictures to light the way.

She has her readers as I have mine
both are probably of a different kind
as we both work and scribble away
trying to send a message each day
of the things we believe and about what we write
both trying to stir up some strife
as the written word we both send forth
our choice of words from a different source.

What do we have in common you say
as we do our writing in a different way
she is the artist, the singer, the muse
and writes about dreams and sweetness and life
while I am straightforward and more down to earth
and write about nature and things I can see
no make-belief or dreams of pie in the sky
no romance or endings happy or sad
just words as I see them no love left in me.

When we are gone to that other place
what will our friends on our tombstones write
that we both believed in the written word
hers so sweet and gentle and kind
writing with care to those left behind
while he likely more remembered will be
for reporting more than artistry
as it takes skill to pen the words into rhymes
and requires a much more active mind
to write the words and still be kind.

 

Time on my hands? It will never happen…

Cutting the long grassAfter all the recent activity over the past three months with building the new website plus filming the meetings and the Zilker Gardenfest, things are finally beginning to slow down a little even to the extent that I was able to work out in the yard most of this week. At least until today as it is raining. I am not complaining mind you as we need the rain. After all, this is Texas and we always need rain.

So today I plan on doing a little writing and then going to the gym for a coupe of hours trying to play catch up as the gym has been neglected these past few weeks. I wonder why it is that exercise is the first thing to go when we are pushed for time by other projects. The one thing that is probably the most valuable for our bodies, next to eating and sleeping and yet, we willingly give it up at any excuse. I do count yard work as exercise so all is not lost.

This past Monday, I decided on the spur of the moment to mow the bottom area where the Murmuring Creek is supposed to run and then go outside to the road frontage that I try to keep mown and looking neat and tidy. The grass and weeds had grown really tall in the Creek so I started with a hand-held weed wacker. I managed to get the weed wacker too close to the electric fence I have running around the yard to keep the dogs from burrowing under the fence and it coiled around the shaft pulling twenty yards of wire with it. I decided that this was going to take a really long time to untangle and as I wasn’t making much progress, I switched to the wheeled weed wacker that I have. It has been sitting in the shed all winter and of course the gas tank was bone dry.

I know that the mechanics and people who deal with these sort of machines will tell you that you should start them up on a routine basis through the non use months in order to not let the seals dry out in the carburetor. Knowing what should be done and actually doing it are two entirely different things. Consequently, after I put enough gas in it to start it up (I thought), I began yanking on the pull chord, getting more hot and bothered by the minute as the stupid thing would not start. After about ten minutes, a hundred pulls and the air-filled with curses, the things fired and ran very smoothly as though to say, “No problem”.

I finished the Creek area and moved out to the front. The grass was very long but worse than that, it was a tangled mess of weeds especially of one called Galium aparine L with common names such as barweed, bed-straw, burrweed, catchweed cleavers goosegrass, common bedstraw, common cleavers, everlasting friendship, goose grass, goosebill, grip grass, hayruff, hedge clivers, mutton chops, robin run over the hedge, robin-run-in-the-grass, scratch grass, small goosegrass, stickyweed, sticky-willy, velcro plant and finally, white hedge. Some of these names are very apt especially velcro plant and stickyweed as that is exactly what it does as it attaches to your skin and clothing.

This weed was so thick that several times it wound around the mower shaft and literally stopped the engine and I had to take some time to cut it loose before I could start-up again. Normally, I use the tractor mower that I have that I bought many years ago when I was attempting in a very futile way, to turn the back yard into a lawn area which, incidentally was never a very big success. What with more than forty evergreen oaks casting shade in every direction and Zippo, my old Arabian horse that spent his last 10 or so of his 36 years living in the yard, the lawn never had a chance. Even after Zippo died, the trees were still there and very successfully stopped the grass from growing. After I built the ponds which now cover two-thirds of the yard, the only use for the mower was out the front and side, usually twice a year, tops.

The grass and weeds were nearly as tall as the mower and I knew that it would not cut the grass but just roll it over. Besides, as is true of all of my motorized equipment, it had not been started in several months and the battery probably needed re-charging and goodness knows if it too, would start.

I struggled on with the wheeled string wacker and finally got it cut, I felt like a really old man instead of my normal sprightly 79-years after pushing and tugging for the last couple of hours. I had aches and pains where I didn’t even have any muscles so the first thing I did was to jump into the hot tub which I hadn’t used in a couple of weeks. The water was not hot and then I remembered that we had an electrical outage a couple of weeks back which automatically switches the thermostat back to 96 degrees instead of the normal 101, This is less than body temperature so instead of refreshing me, I felt like I was taking a bath in luke warm water.Disgusted with myself for yet another failure on my part to keep things running smoothly, I got out of the tub, changed into clean clothes and drove to Starbucks to sooth my nerves with a grande latte. Starbucks is my cure-all for all of my problems, at least those of this nature.

Yesterday, I finished off re-potting lilies and other water plants. I had one that I had overwintered in one of the many tubs I have for that purpose that needed a bigger pot. It already has a mass of new leaves so after I had it re-potted and fertilized, I changed into my wading shoes, turned off all of the pumps and electric fences and jumped into the middle pond to join the Koi and turtles. I dragged the heavy plant into its new location and then very carefully separated out the leaves, jumped back out of the pond and turned on the pumps. The Koi immediately came to investigate the new plant. I am hoping that because of the many existing leaves, the Koi leave it alone or maybe that is just wishful thinking on my part and it will only be a matter of time before they tear it to pieces, Now, if they would only attack the Heron with the same voracity as they attack the lily……

I have poison ivy on my property. Who doesn’t if you live out in the country? Anyway, there must have been some of it mixed in with the mowing that I had just completed and as I was wearing shorts and a tee shirt, I had a lot of exposed skin. I was just reading that the Velcro plant using one of its many names, is also like poison ivy and can cause a rash where it touches the skin. Poison ivy or Velcro plant, whats the difference as the last couple of days have been a little miserable but it is finally clearing up, thank goodness. Nature is constantly reminding us of her many sides which are not all good.

Time to go to the gym. Wonder what I can screw up there?

Truly Lost or Just Brain Dead

lostandfoundI made the mistake of ordering some plants through a garden catalogue the other day. This was not on-line but the old-fashioned way of filling out a form with a pen and other details along with credit card information. I was so happy to be ordering some wonderful looking roses that I did not give too much thought to the methods I was using to make my purchase. I was more worried about how the letter/form was supposed to fold and that if I enclosed a check, it would probably slide out of the sides.

I stuck a stamp on it and put it in my mail box and waited for the roses to be delivered. Three weeks later, I began to get a little worried as I had not heard from the nursery. I decided to call them to see what had happened to my order. First call was a busy signal. You have to remember that I hate using the telephone. I would rather e-mail any day. I called a couple more times that day and still the busy signal and I began to suspect that something was wrong with their phone system.

The next day, I tried a couple more times but nothing. Just that infernal busy signal. Business must be good, I thought. Either that or they were getting a lot of complaints. So the next thing was an e-mail which they had already stated might take up to 2 days for a response and sure enough, 2 days later, I had an e-mail back that said they had no record of the original order and I should go ahead and order again. I still had the original catalogue and went ahead and re-ordered on-line and this time used a different credit card, you know one of those gift cards that is only good up to a certain amount, in my case $150.

Then another thought struck me. I had been able to re-order the plants that I wanted but where was my original order form along with its credit card information (and my signature). Lost in the mail, never-never land, someone’s pocket? That last one really bothered me as you hear so much about on-line theft and all that sort of stuff.  Lets see now, first thing is check my bank statements (also on-line). check my American Express (on-line). Nothing there yet but keep an eye on it.

Two days later, I received a letter from the Catalogue place and in it was my original order that I had sent, you know, the one they had said they didn’t have. Attached to it was a note stating that the credit card was not honored and if I still wanted the plants to re-order and choose a different method of payment, if you don’t mind. I had already received a response to my on-line order thanking me and giving me some shipping details so I thought that at least, I would get my roses soon. I really had to wonder how they managed to run their business if one hand didn’t know what the other was doing.

I’ll bet that if the original credit/debit card had gone through (which I fail to see why it didn’t considering how much money it is worth) along with my on-line order, I would be getting two of everything.

A couple of days later, I was looking for the returned order form to check out the card number and I couldn’t find it anywhere. I knew that I had it on the table close to my computer or on the island where I spend some time eating and watching TV but it had disappeard……again. I turned the place upside down and couldn’t find it. I had just recently, the night before, paid a visit to the dumpster that HEB has in their parking lot to take re-cycled materials. I am pretty big on re-cycling doing my small bit to save the planet and I collect all of my re-cycleables in the bags that normally contain bird seed.They are a decent size and as I go through about 40 pounds of seed a week, what better use to put the bags to. Anyway, my feeble brain began to think of all kinds of scenarios as to what may have happened to the letter. I remember cleaning up a lot of junk mail deciding who to donate to the night before and so my first instinct was to look in that bag to see if I had accidentally re-cycled it. The problem was, the bags were already in the dumpster. By now it was already dark and I couldn’t put the thought out of my mind as to what to do about it. I did not know what happens in the re-cycling plants and whether things are sorted  and if so, into what or even if they look very closely at what they are sorting. I had visions of my credit card information getting stolen and sold and all I could think of how bloody stupid I had been to even think of doing what I had done. I thought of paying a visit to the dumpster but decided against it in the dark. Needless to say, I barely slept a wink all night, tossing and turning to such an extent that the dogs and cats left the comfort of the bed to find quieter places to sleep. I must have eventually settled down as they were all back on the bed in the morning.

The next morning saw me up early hurrying the animals through their breakfasts and not even stopping for coffee in my urgency to visit the dumpster. I had brought a step-ladder with me to make it easier to get into the dumpster which luckily for me was only half full. I knew exactly where I had put my two bags and headed for that corner falling over beer cans and other bags that hopefully only contained re-cyleable materials and located both my bags. I carefully sorted out my bags going through the thrown away mail not once but twice but could not find what I was looking for. With one last look around, I thought about that guy that lived in a dumpster for a year as a part of some project of another and wished him well. I wasn’t about to do it and clambered over the side to get out.At least, that was my intent but the step ladder was outside and when I tried to build something to stand on, there was nothing solid inside of the dumpster that I could use. I could reach the top of the sides and with a tremendous effort managed to pull myself up half way and got a charley-horse in the back of my thigh which was painful enough that I had to drop back down into the dumpster falling over the stuff that was in my way so that I could stretch it out.

After a few minutes of stretching and massage, I tried again and this time managed to get to where I was able to drag the step ladder close enough for me to climb out. All of the pull ups were like going to the gym only a little bit messier.I still hadn’t located that bloody form and was getting really PO’d at myself for being so stupid in the first place especially after it had been returned with no harm done.

I drove home and searched the place again but with no luck. It’s hard to get mad when there is no one to blame except me. Then, I had a brainstorm. I had stopped from my work out in the yard yesterday and is my won’t had made tea and and taken it and a couple of magazines outside to drink on the patio. I thought that it couldn’t be that simple but I went out and looked on the coffee table outside where the magazines were and lo and behold, there was the precious letter that I had worried and fretted over. it had been there all of the time and obviously, I had accidentally picked it up and carried it outside along with the magazines.

I didn’t know whether to be happy or sad. A part of me was very pleased that the letter had shown up and that the worry of my credit card information floating around for all to see was gone. On the other hand, it brought up the question that has my brain deteriorated so much that I can’t remember my actions in the past 24 hours? It’s a little annoying but also funny when I have to retrace my steps because I can’t remember why I went into the other room or whatever the action is but this whole story is one mistake after another starting with releasing the information in the first place. It’s easy in this modern age when things are always at your fingertips to get complacent and careless.

If nothing else, I learned a valuable lesson with this whole episode. I don’t want to live in a dumpster. I’m not into dumpster diving, and oh yes, I’m still waiting for the roses…

Zilker Gardenfest Spring 2015

Zilker Gardens in Spring from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

The gardens are indeed a thing of real beauty and I couldn’t resist in taking more pictures of the flowers already in bloom and of course, to share them with you.

Zilker Gardenfest 2015

I attended the Zilker Botanical Gardenfest last Saturday, May 28, partly as a volunteer to help man the Austin Pond Societies table but mainly to take pictures and report on the event. The start time for the general public was set for 10:00 am and I got there around 8:30 or so  planning on getting an early walk around to beat the throng of expected people. The weather was warm and sunny and it turned out to be a beautiful day.

Inside of the Garden Center Auditorium was the “This Land is Your Land” Flower Show so I made that my first port of call before the crowds arrived. I pretty much had the place to myself as I wandered around admiring the wonderful displays and taking as many pictures as I could. The artistry of some of these pieces is truly amazing. The timing had to be perfect for the flowers to be on show.

Zilker Gardens Flower Show 2015 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

I left the beauty of the Flower Show behind and started to walk through the Gardenfest. There were more than 100 booths and tents set up mainly in the normal parking areas under the trees which was called the Vendors Circle and extending all the way down the hill to the Rose Garden. As I strolled around, there were a great number of different wares on view including a lot of hand-made items. I was talking to one vendor and she was telling me that some of these storekeepers, including herself, spend their summers driving from show to show to sell what they have spent the winter months making.

Some of the items included clothes, art, glassware, ornaments, jewelry, things for pets, kitchen ware, wooden furniture, fans, cactus, pottery, spices and much, much more. There were booths that offered new windows or special house insulation or even rain gutters and yet another had a demonstration of a Hydroponic system for growing plants and vegetables. There were so many different things offered that it is impossible to name but just a few.

At 11:30, I took my place at the Austin Pond Society booth along with another member, Delaine Brady who I was meeting for the first time. Delaine was more than eager to talk to the many people who approached our table and I was more than content to sit back and only put in a word here and there when it was required. I didn’t need to say much as Delaine had it pretty much under control. We did not actually register any new members but gave out a lot of advice on how interested people could register and we handed out a lot of information. We got to meet some interesting people many of whom had ponds.

When our hour and a half was up for which incidentally, I was grateful for the time to sit and rest as it is very tiring walking up and down the hill inside Zilker Gardens. I went back and did one more circuit this time joining many throngs of people. I wandered around the booths slowly making my way back down the hill on the Escarpment Trail. I passed the Food Court where just about every type of fast food was available until I arrived at the Rose Garden where a stage was set up. On the way, I found myself in the Faerie Grotto and had taken a couple of pictures not realizing where I was before I decided to get out of there before the Leprechaun’s and Goblins got me and turned me into a frog or something like. Probably in my case, it would be a toad.

I had heard singing as I was making my way down the hill and the music sounded very interesting. I had never heard the artist before so I sat and listened for a while and of course, had the camera taking a video of the artist and his music. Unfortunately, he is very much in the shadow and is not too visible but his music is great. The wind played hell with the acoustics as it blew across the mic. I introduced myself to his sound man, Carlos Conseca and found out that the artist’s name is Jonray Higginbottom an extremely talented singer and musician. He played and sang on at least three different instruments, electric piano, mandolin and guitar. The link to Jonray’s website is http://www.jonraymusic.com
The link to Carlos Conseca’s website is http://www.facebook.com/cansecomusic

Jonray from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

In all. I took well over 200 pictures of just the booths and the people. The photography was a challenge with the different shades of light and shadows and the huge spread of white canvas everywhere I looked. I had to make many adjustments to even get close to a decent shot on many occasions. But then again, that is the fun of photography. I opted to put over a 100 of these pictures in a gallery for viewers to see. Clicking on the picture will get an enlarged view.


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