Cleaning the Willy Birge Memorial Pond – March 2015

Cleaning the Ponds at Zilker 2015 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

One of the tasks that volunteers from the Austin Pond Society perform every year is to clean out the Willie Birge Memorial Pond located in front of the Meeting Room at the Zilker Botanical Gardens. Usually, the work happens the first weekend in March but this year, the weather was not kind and the work was delayed until this past weekend, March 14, 2015.

For as long as anyone remembers, the leader of the group of volunteers has been Darren Bayhi who is also the Membership Manager of the Austin Pond Society. He has so much knowledge of what needs to be done which not only includes draining the pond and cleaning it out but also to re-pot the lilies and lotus plus all of the other pond plants that call this pond their home. Luckily, apart from many Gambusia, a very small fish often called mosquito fish mainly because they do a good job of eating the mosquito larvae, the pond does not have any other fish to add to the difficulty. It was interesting to see the care that the volunteers gave to these tiny fish. When they were spotted mixed in the mud on the bottom of the pond, one or the other of the volunteers would very carefully pick them up and place them in a bucket of water put aside for this purpose.  Several frogs were also caught and kept safe to be returned after the pond was re-filled.

Along with Darren, his band of merry men and women composed of our President Jeannie Ferrier and her husband Steven Monfrini, our Secretary Julienne Smith and the rest, a happy group of men, Phil Prokaski, Charlie Melear, Chuck Graves and Bruce McDonald. I was also there but did not help out much as I was too busy trying to get a record of this event. At least, that was my excuse. It was pointed out several times that I was the only clean one in the group. The others were up to their collective ears in mud.

The group also worked on cleaning one of the smaller ponds further down the hill and also the Rose Garden Pond where they added plants and made adjustments to the new fountains that have very recently been installed. I told them I had a very important job but I don’t think they believed me…

The entire process took a little over five hours and the end result was that the pond was clean, the lilies and lotus were replanted and fertilized along with a couple of Papyrus and Pickerel. Give them a month and the new growth will be showing for a glorious display of water flowers for the entire summer for the visitors to the Zilker Botanical Gardens here in Austin.

Many thanks to all of the people who helped out on this Annual project. it would have been very difficult for Darren on his own. On the plus side, we all got a free lesson on how to re-pot lilies and lotus, knowledge that we can put to good use in our own ponds.

Attached are links to the three different videos about the re-potting process. Easily worth the membership fee to join the Pond Society.

Re-potting Water Lilies
Re-potting Lotus
Re-potting water plants.

All of the above were supervised by Darren Bayhi with the volunteers from the Austin Pond Society.

Cleaning Zilker Pond 2015 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Zilker Botanical Gardens March 2015

I was at Zilker Botanical Gardens filming the cleaning of the Willie Birge Memorial Pond along with a couple of others by volunteers from the Austin Pond Society and in between shots, wandered around a part of the grounds taking some pictures. Nature is just beginning to wake up for our enjoyment.
I have assembled them in a slide show below. Enjoy…

Zilker Gardens in March 2015 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Apologies for my absence


Trail at the Austin Greenbelt

To all of my readers out there, I must apologize for nor blogging for a month or so. I have quite literally been up to my ears building a new website for my favorite Association, the Austin Pond Society. The last Webmaster had slowly been pulling back from his involvement and I had taken over most of his duties in keeping up the old site. He had mentioned that it was time for a new site with a more modern look to it but that he just didn’t have the time.

I am not a computer geek inasmuch that I am not professionally trained but I have been around computers for the past 20 odd years and have had a couple of websites in the past but nothing to the degree that the Pond Society expected. Being the adventuress sort, I said to myself, “What the hell, all I can do is screw up or I might just succeed” and in my mind, failure was not an option.

Central Texas where I live, has been experiencing some very cold (for us) weather with freezes at night and temperatures in the day not going much above 40 degrees Farenheit with some days even colder than that. Consequently, the attraction for going outside and working in the yard or even going hiking was not very appealing and it wasn’t hard to stay glued to the computer for the last couple of months. Sad to say, I got so involved that I even let slip my work out schedule and barely made one trip a week to the gym instead of every two days.

I chose to build the site using WordPress which is also the site that hosts my blog so the decision was not very difficult. I set up a new account and downloaded a package to get me started. I found a hosting site and also downloaded a Theme which I liked and got to work.

It was a struggle at first and more than a little frustrating as many things I tried would not work and I spent a lot of time debugging my own work. I settled on a format that was also flexible enough that I could make changes as the site grows and spent the next two months almost totally glued to my computers. I even had one computer freeze up on me and had to rush it to the shop for repair work but luckily for me, all of the content was backed up.

Finally, last week, the site went live at That doesn’t mean to say it is finished. Like all good things, the work is never done as there will be pages to add as the Pond Society goes through its usual annual routine of Speakers at the monthly meetings, Sponsor Night when all of our sponsors have a show and tell, the Plant Swap when our members bring in all of their surplus plants, fish and equipment and swap it out for someone else’s plants, fish and equipment. Everyone goes home happy. The big item will be the Pond Tour that this year that will be held on June 6,7. Following that, the next meeting will be a review of the Pond Tour when many of those that showed their ponds talk about their experiences. The final meeting in November will be our Thanksgiving/Christmas Party when a fun time is had by all. Finally, as the weather warms, there will be hikes and trips to the great outdoors.

So, I have lots of material up ahead to report on both in the new website and also in the Ripples, the quarterly Pond Society newsletter for which I am the Editor, and of course my own blog which I have neglected these past couple of months.

Luckily for me, the weather is going to warm up. After all, this is Texas, the State with the 100 degree summers. This we can rely on with real certainty. Usually, we go from Winter and the small amount of cold that we have to endure directly to Summer. Somehow, we miss out on Spring as it slips by us so fast that we barely notice it probably because it lasts all of two days. Just kidding of course but the temperatures do warm up very quickly.

I can’t wait. I hate the cold which is why I ended up in Texas after ten years of New York State winters. Oh yes, please check the new site out and let me know what you think of it. Criticism or Praise, we all need both.

Maybe, I’ll see you on the hiking trails.

Hiking the Greenbelt 2-21-2015

Barton Creek

Barton Creek

The weather had warmed up and it had been a while since my last hike so I decided to take a short walk in the Greenbelt in Austin. This time, I entered by the Scottish Woods Road off Loop 360. There are a lot of cars parked on both sides of the road as it is a popular entrance to the trails. It beholds us visitors to be nice and respect the neighborhood and the people who live there.

The entry is across the road at the very top of Scottish Woods Road and is actually off Camp Craft Road and it leads immediately onto the trail known as the Hill of Life. They were not kidding when this trail was named as it is a real killer. The terrain is rocky, with concrete steps here and there and is very rough underfoot. What makes this a real tough trail is the steepness. It seems almost vertical but of course, is not. It is steep though. My guess is that it is probably between a half and three-quarters of a mile long.

Some people use this for their exercise and believe me, it is a work out in both directions. One lady passed me going down and then passed me again on her way back up. As though this was not humiliating enough, she passed me a third time going in the opposite direction. Finally, feeling a bit like the old man that I am, I asked her if she just walked this hill for her exercise. She said that she was aiming for three times up and down and that would be her work out. I congratulated her on her fitness and continued my weary way back to the top. By the time I reached it, my legs were really tired. Below is a picture of this super fit lady on her way up.

Lady Climbing the Hill of Life

Lady Climbing the Hill of Life

I made it to the bottom and headed west off to the right in the direction of the Twin Falls, not too far from the bottom of the Hill of Life. As it was such a beautiful day, there were many hikers, cyclists and of course dogs. Lots of dogs, all enjoying themselves. Below are some pictures of the walk down the Hill of Life.

The Twin Falls are about a quarter of a mile along the trail from the Hill of Life and many people were enjoying its beauty, which can change depending on the amount of water flowing through the Creek and the time of the year. I took a picture of the Falls but the sun was giving me problems as you can see from the picture. It is possible to walk across the Falls and continue the trail on the other side. As I was watching, one avid cyclist was carrying his bike back across and managed to slip on the rocks and took a tumble into the creek. He still hung on to his bike and manfully climbed back out and made it across as nonchalantly as possible as though he had never fallen in.

Twin Falls

Twin Falls

Continuing on the trail, I chatted to some of the hikers as we passed including a group of four young ladies who were obviously enjoying their walk taking pictures on their smart phones. Seeing my camera, they wanted to know what I was taking and why and of course, I was more than happy to tell them. Their eyes opened wide when I said that I would probably take more than a hundred pictures and would only keep 20-30 of them. Below are some of the pictures that made it..

I came to one area that was exceptionally green as a small stream was continuously running. It is amazing what effect water has on plant life. Most of the scenery was more drab and grey waiting for Mother Nature to break out in all of her glory and this particular stream and rocks really stood out.

As is true of much of the Greenbelt, the rocky areas added to the scenery. Some had small caves carved out of the hillside but they all presented a grand display.

As it was getting late and because I knew that I had to climb up the Hill of Life, I turned back about a mile beyond the Falls and passed the same group of young ladies making their way home. I reached the bottom of the climb and made my way upwards into the clouds (well it seemed like that) passing the lady I mentioned previously. Actually, she was passing me, three times in fact. I finally reached the top as one thing I have learned as age has crept up on me and that is how to pace myself. Slow and easy is the word and just keep moving. Below are pictures of the hill looking up. Unfortunately, they are not in 3D so do not really show how difficult it is.

I already talked about the lady working out by climbing the Hill but several athletic people were also using the Hill and were quite literally, running up the Hill albeit at a slow pace. Even so, I take my hat off to them. All in all, I covered nearly 5 miles and enjoyed every minute of it, Hill and all. I plan on going back…

APS February Meeting 2015

Pond at Buescher State Park

Pond at Buescher State Park

The Pond Society held their second meeting of the year on Monday, February 16 at the Zilker Botanical Gardens Meeting Room. There were about 40 members in attendance including a couple of new members. We welcome them.

Our resident chef, Laura Creasley, offered us chicken Tetrazzini with a salad which really hit the spot. Someone else had brought an apple pie. I’m a sucker for any type of pie so of course I grabbed a piece of it and it was delicious. There goes my weight again….

Our speaker for the evening was Steve Kainer, owner of the Hill Country Water Gardens in Cedar Park. If you have not yet visited his place, you are missing out on a real treat. With 5 acres laid out with ponds and plants and everything that a pond and garden enthusiast could want, it is a gardeners paradise.

Steve spoke to us about preparing our ponds for the Spring and elicited a big response from the floor as he answered question after question. There were lively discussions on many of the topics. Thanks Steve for a very interesting presentation.

Following Steve, Jeannie Ferrier, our President took the floor for the business session.  She introduced our new out-of-state sponsor, Empire Aquatics and also mentioned that we still need a Parliamentarian. The meeting adjourned at 8:15 pm.

Our next meeting will be held on Monday, March 15 at the usual time and place. We hope to see you there.

The video below is of Steve Kainer.

APS Steve Kainer Feb 2015 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

This video is of the business section of the meeting.

APS February meeting 2015 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

APS January 2015 Meeting

Splash Party leadin (1 of 1)

The Austin Pond Society held its first meeting of the year on January 18 at the Zilker Botanical Gardens Meeting Room attended by about 40 members. There were several new members who introduced themselves. As usual, Laura, our Hospitality Guru fed us with another delicious meal of Chile with a salad. I really need to get there earlier so I have more time to enjoy the meal. As it is, I spend a lot of the time just setting up the camera and then almost immediately, taking still pictures and in between, wolfing down the food. The good thing about that schedule is that I do NOT have time to eat any desert…

At 7:00 pm following the meal, Barb introduced the speaker whose interests seem far from what most female interest are as she talked to us about bugs. Her name is Wizzie Brown which by itself, is a very interesting name. When I asked her, she said that  it goes back to her childhood and has stuck ever since. Wizzie is an Entomologist with the A&M Extention Program.

In spite of her topic, which most people, except Pond People, would not find very interesting, we got to learn about the life styles, uses and habits of the bugs that are in and around our ponds. Which ones are good and which are bad. Probably, only an entomologist would think there is such a thing as a good bug with pond people a close second.

Her talk was very interesting and we could all recognize most of the bugs she was talking about as we see them on a daily basis busy at work in and around the ponds.

Following Wizzie Brown’s presentation, we had some business but nothing of major importance. We are still looking to fill the Parliamentarian’s position and again, there were no takers.  Sure miss John and his humor.

The next meeting will be on Monday, February 16 at Zilker Botanical Gardens at 6:30 pm. Our speaker for the evening will be Steve Kainer from Hill Country Water Gardens and his topic will be, “Preparing our ponds for the Spring”. Hope to see you there.

Wizzie Brown video.

Wizzie Brown Bugs from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Pond Society Business video.

APS January Meeting 2015 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.


Pond at McKinney

Pond at McKinney

The lights reflect off the surface
and dance sparkling in the trees
I hear the sounds of running water
and I am at peace..