Austin Pond Society May 2017 Meeting


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As it usually does, the third Monday of the month rolled around and with it the Monthly Austin Pond Society Meeting. This one was held for the wonderful sponsors to set up a table and Meet and Greet the members. Those that had goodies for sale, brought them along and set them out to tempt the most stringent of buyers. Those that sold services greeted the many people that attended and engaged them in conversation about what they had to offer. There were about 45 members attending and they got to meet the following sponsors.

Cory Ferrier 
Bloomers – Marcos and Jody
PrivateLabel Realty – Barb Lenhardt
Water Garden Gems – Shane and Alona
Taylormade – Taylor Miller
Amber Prosceno LMT – Amber Prosceno
Hill Country Water gardens – Jeremy and Emily
Texas Land and Water Design – Paul Lawrence
Honeycomb Fish Farm – Steve and Yvonne
The Great Outdoors – Al
Environmental Survey Consulting – David and Amy 

Each, as they were introduced, gave a brief description of their business. Several brought and sold their wares while others  contributed door prizes and in the case of Hill Country Water Gardens, an entire Fairie Garden to be auctioned off for charity. It eventually went for $140.00 to one of the members who bought it as a gift for his wife’s upcoming birthday.

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The evening was a huge success as members got to meet the sponsors. Intermixed in all of the excitement were several raffles and door prizes which always garners interest.

This video is of the Sponsor Meeting.

Sponsor Night May 5-15-2016 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

This video is of the several auctions and door prizes.

Auction at Sponsor Night May 2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

The food for the evening was Pot Luck and the members didn’t disappoint as there were many hot dishes and lots of desert. most of which was consumed by the Members. The meeting ended around 8:30 pm and a quick clean and straightening up of the Meeting Room was the final act of the evening.

The next event will be the Splash Party which is a private party for the Owners and Volunteers  where they can pick up their materials that they will need on the day. This will be held on Saturday, May 20th at Zilker Botanical Gardens. Then comes the “BIG” weekend of the Pond Tour, June 3 for the North Tour and June 4 for the South. Make sure that you have purchased your wristbands. Use this link, if you haven’t.

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The Wildflowers at Reimers Ranch 5-2-2017


Spring, the most wonderful time of the year when Mother Nature decorates the land with her beautiful paintings as she wields her brush. Enjoy the video taken of the flowers at Milton Reimers Ranch in Travis County.

Reimers Ranch Flowers 5-2-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Reimers Ranch 5-2-2017


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This panorama of several pictures shows the flowers in all of their glory.

Now that I am pretty much caught up with the yardwork, the ponds and cleaning all of the sheds, I have time to get back out on the trails again, just where I love to be.

I decided that I would take a short walk at Reimers Ranch and the trails were flashing through my mind after having hiked there many times before, as I drove to the location. The weather was pretty warm with the forecast to reach 90 degrees and sunny and Reimers only has limited cover on most of the trails. I thought about it and decided that I would take the recently built trail known as the Hogge Trail which as yet, is still not shown on any of the trail maps.

I chatted to the lady at the gate and she remembered me even though it has been a while and I told her of my plans. How does that saying go, “The best laid plans of mice and men…”. Well, after I pulled into the Mountain Bike Parking Lot which I had entirely to myself, and changed into my boots and gear including putting on my backpack and camera, I had a change of heart, jumped back into the car with all of my gear on and very awkwardly drove to the Pavilion Parking Area instead which was just across the road.

At the last minute, I had decided that I would hike the Multi Use trail all the way to where it hits the spot where the Pogue Creek joins the Pedernales River which is the westernmost point of the park but somewhere along the way, for reasons best left alone, I changed my mind yet again and stayed on the Multi Use Trail. I came to the signpost for the Kelly Prehn and Pogue Canyon Trails and opted to walk both of them. There is not much water in the creek at either overlook. The magnificent Cypress trees in the Pogue Canyon look taller and greener than ever. I wonder why the Travis County Parks people have not made an actual trail that connects the Pogue Canyon Trail and then  following the creek all the way to its furthermost end. That would make for a nice loop. Come to that, why not a trail that follows the creek for the entire way.  Oh well. dsc_4562

I walked back and rejoined the Multi Use Trail to where it meets Johnny’s Homestead and made my way back to the Parking Lot from where I started, taking many pictures along the way. The high spot of the day was to get a picture of a Ruby Throated Hummingbird as it drew nectar from a thistle. It was totally unexpected as I was focusing on the flower when the bird suddenly appeared. I never had time for any camera adjustments and kept snapping away in the hope that at least one picture would come out and luckily for me, one did.DSC_5301

Before calling it a day, I wandered over to the Pedernales River Overlook and took a couple of pictures. I met a few people along this part of the trails but none on the other trails I had walked. One couple were obviously rock climbers as they had on all the gear and were very animatedly talking about and working on climbing knots as they walked.

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The wildflowers are outdoing themselves and I took nearly 80 pictures.  I have one interesting shot of the controlled burn as it looked back in January to what it looks like today. Nature is amazing and apart from some Oak tree damage, it would be hard to tell there was ever a burn.

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The regrowth taken May 2017

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Following the burn January 2017

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Showing the burn damage to the lower branches.

Reimers Ranch Trails and Creek 5-2-2017

Reimers Ranch Trails and Creek 5-2-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Postscript:
Following this walk, one thing became very obvious and that is that hiking is not something that you can lay off for a while and then pick back up by just going out and taking a stroll. At least, not when you are in the advanced years that I unfortunately happen to be. It requires much more consistency of walking by going out at least a couple of times a week. My layoff from around the first of February really showed in yesterday’s walk as I found myself tiring towards the end of the 6th mile. Working in the garden is not the same as consistent walking. I no longer walk fast but pride myself on being able to walk for a long time so just like when I was younger and trained very hard for the game I love, (Football to us Brits, soccer to you Yanks), I need to walk more often.  I don’t propose to get into a serious training regime but I do plan on getting out on the trails more frequently. Just gotta work those tired old muscles.

McKinney Roughs 4-26-2017


DSC_5195Finally after a couple of months away from the trails due to suddenly getting very ambitious around the garden even to the extent of cleaning out the three sheds which haven’t been cleaned in 20 years, my friend BJ and I were able to hit the trails at McKinney Roughs for the first time since January of this year. We chose McKinney because we knew that the flowers would be out and everything would be so green and I am very happy to say, we were not a bit disappointed.

We arranged to meet around 1:00 pm and the trip to Bastrop usually takes me 45 minutes but for some reason, the traffic was very heavy even at this time of the day and it took me 30 minutes just to get out of Austin. The 45 minute trip this time took me a good hour to complete. Very frustrating. I needed the walk just to calm my frazzled nerves down after dealing with the usual frustrated and frustrating idiots on the road.

We chose the Yaupon trail which I knew from previous walks would give us a good challenge as it has many ups and downs. The map claims that it is only 2.7 miles long but both BJ’s phone App and my Pedometer showed it to be closer to 4 miles and we still had another 4 miles on the return trip. Yaupon was designed to hook up to with Roadrunner and then Coyote Road to make a complete loop but somewhere along the way, floods have washed out a part of the trail alongside of the river and the trails do not connect so there is no alternative other than to backtrack. Even though under normal circumstances, I do not like backtracking, being the first time out for a while, I was perfectly happy just to be walking and didn’t mind covering the same trail in reverse. You do get a different perspective in the reverse direction and the uphills are now downhills. Of course the downhills also get reversed so you don’t gain anything on Yaupon. On a couple of the other trails, you can choose the direction to walk and make sure to walk downhill wherever possible.

Trails at Yaupon, McKinney Roughs 4-26-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

As you can imagine, everything is beautifully green, the sort of bright and fresh green that has not yet weathered in. Everywhere we looked there was fresh growth as Mother Nature performed her annual miracle of Spring. The flowers were out in abundance and we spent a lot of time just clicking away with our respective cameras, BJ with her Iphone and me with the fancy Nikon D7200 that I take all of my pictures with. Her pictures were equally as good as the ones I was taking as the cameras in the Iphones are really top notch plus the Iphone is a lot lighter than my camera. BJ tells me she even has a telephoto lens to fit her phone. Amazing…

Along the way, we came across an Oak tree that had very interesting bark to it that seemed to spiral around the tree although the pictures that I took do not really show it very well.  We also saw a couple of Buzzards perched on an electric pole. Other than keeping a close eye on us, they ignored us walking directly beneath them. Other birds were full of song and we could hear them all around us but as usual, hardly any were visible.

As we hadn’t seen each other for a while, we had a lot of catching up to do and I swear, we chatted the entire 8 mile hike about this and that and everything else although neither of us mentioned Trump  once. We arrived back at the parking lot at the main office and spent some time taking pictures of the flowers that are planted in the flower gardens that surround this beautiful place. There were not very many butterflies out, not like it will be later in the season but the flowers were a sight to behold.

Flowers at McKinney Roughs Spring 4-26-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

After comparing our respective devices both of which had different numbers on just how far we had walked and how many calories we had burned, we agreed that we had covered 8 miles, not bad for a “first time in a while” hike.

Next up, Pedernales Falls, next week.

The Past…


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I do not weep for times gone by
instead I view my life with joy
the many years spent on this earth
the good, the bad, sadness and mirth
for all of the moments I have lived
knowing that my life I give
to caring for me and my pets
for no one else except maybe my vet
can give them the love that they deserve
as answer back, never a word.

I lead a very selfish life
no wife to cause me untold strife
I come and go just as I please
and spend my money in varying degrees
on whatever I fancy at the time
nothing for me is out of line
I do not justify the cost
because for me, I am the boss
I write the checks and pay the bills
and no one else in my life to fulfill.

Do I like the way I live
I really do have lots to give
but to share my life in that way
and another person having a say
in what I do and whatever the time
and someone else spending my dime
it’s been too long to change the score
over twenty years and more
and just like my pet, the one in a fix
you just can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Thoughts….


DSC_5112I have not walked much in a while in the Parks and special places that I choose to lose myself in nature. Instead, for the past couple of months I have been communing at home, mostly out in the garden and in and around the ponds.

Cleaning up the winter mess left over from the couple of frosts that we had and trimming back those remaining plants that the frost did not damage. Repotting the water lilies and other pond plants to give them a fresh new start in this cycle of their life. Working on the filter systems on the two big ponds to improve their capacity to clean the water.

The two sheds and the greenhouse that have not been cleaned in twenty years need work. Tidying up the Yellow Shed, the one that contains the mechanical tools used around the yard. Starting the mowers and discovering that only one out of the three that I have will work. Turning the greenhouse into a storage area for all of the pond tools and equipment including all of the various and many plastic fitting accumulated over the years and the odd sections of pipe with bends and valves and other sundry parts that have been changed out in the past. Parts kept in the off chance they can be reused in the future.

And finally, working on the big workshop. Finding tools that I thought were long gone, lost in the very jumble that happens after twenty years of neglect. Rearranging the shelves and adding new places to store things. Putting things on the walls until there is no space unused. Sweeping the floor and removing years of accumulated dirt.

Wondering what to do with the huge pile of junk that for me,  no longer has a use. Maybe a trip to the dump and another to the junkyard to recycle that which is old and worn out.

Just like me…Where do I get recycled.

Looking forward to cleaning out the sheds in another twenty years…

A Wonderful Stroke of Luck…


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The one from BJ on the 5000 gallon pond.

For those of you who have been following my blogs might remember that I managed to acquire two separate Aquadyne Filter Systems, These systems are top of the line as far as having an outdoor pond and eliminate the need to frequently wash filters. I bought one from my good friend BJ who had not installed it on her own ponds and this one, I installed on the 5000 gallon pond. I used a 3500 gph submerged pump on it but was not very happy with the amount of water it was putting out so as I just happened to have one,  I added another 1200 gph pump to the system to make a combined total of 4700 gph.  This was an improvement.

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The one from Jim on the 6000 gallon pond.

The second system,  I acquired from a Fish Rescue from an older gentleman named Jim. This one came with a 4700 gph above ground pump. I installed this setup on the 6000 gallon pond. after a few trial and errors, managed to get it up and running.  This pump seemed to put out a lot more water than the combined pumps on the 5000 gallon pond. This was the first time that I have used a pump of this type (above ground) as prior to this, all of my pumps have been submerged. I was really happy with the entire set up as it moved a lot of water through the system.

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Sea Horse (new)

Unfortunately, the pump went bad as they usually do especially as it was an older pump in the first place and it would have cost more to repair than to buy a new one. So, I bit the bullet and went on line and purchased a Sea Horse 1 HP pump that came with a leaf pot already attached, was self priming and moves 4700 gph. I installed it, which was pretty simple although it did require a few modifications to the inlet pipe as I couldn’t get it to prime. Eventually, I got it worked out and it puts out more water than the other older pump did. In fact, it is flowing at full 1-1/2 inch  pipe except when it starts to accumulate dirt inside the filters. Then it cuts back a little on the output until I manipulate the valve to clean it. That’s the beauty of the Aquadyne System, there are no filters to wash out manually and all of the cleaning is done by manipulating the lever built into the head of the tank.

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I was so pleased with this pump, that I decided that I needed to install something similar on the 5000 gallon pond which had the first Aquadyne System installed on it. As I mentioned before, this was powered by two submersible pumps one that put out 3600 gph and the other was only a small one at 1200 gph. So between them, in theory, they were pumping 4700 gph. I could never get a very strong flow of water out of this set up and after seeing what the above ground pump was doing on the 6000 gallon pond just knew what the answer was. Even though my intentions were good, for some reason, I kept putting off buying another Sea Horse pump which as it happens, turned out to be a stroke of good luck on my part.

Thirty odd years ago before I moved into this house, I had 5 acres way out in the country. It had a creek running through it with a small pond although it was prone to getting low on water by the end of summer. I had a garden and I bought a 1/2 hp pump to irrigate it by pumping the water out of the pond. When we moved to this house, I brought it with me and over the course of time, it got buried behind a pile of junk in one of my sheds. The other day, I decided to clean out that particular shed and came across the pump which quite honestly, I had forgotten that I had. The brain started clicking as I looked at it to see if I could adapt it for the present purpose which was to attach it to the Aquadyne System on the 5000 gallon pond.  First of all, I was surprised just how heavy the pump was but then I realized that it is made of all metal and has no plastic anywhere in it. After all, it is 34 years old and is labelled as a Sears Pump. You remember them, Sears and Roebucks or maybe my age is showing?

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Sears (very old) showing the Leaf Pot that I installed.

I plugged it in and it fired right up with the motor spinning away very smoothly. No grinding or strange noises.The next thing was to hook up a temporary inlet and outlet line and try it in some water to see if the pump part still worked. The plate only said it was 1/2 horsepower and nothing about how many gph it could put out. Watching the amount of water coming out under pressure at the end of a hose pipe, it just looked like it would work very well for what I had in mind.

The next thing was to plan on how I was going to hook it up. Out came the tape measure and I measured this and that and visualized all of the steps in my mind before deciding on a course of action. Even then, I was not 100 percent sure it would work and I kept going over the different steps in my head that it would take to hook it up. The next day, after a trip to Home Depot to buy the necessary fittings, I bit the bullet, turned off the other pumps and cut the pipe that connected those pumps leaving the smaller 1200 gph pump hooked up to an urn which has been on that pond ever since it was built more than 25 years ago.

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Note the non return valve installed in the line to help with the priming.

I turned my attention to hooking up the pump to the Aquadyne System and several hours later, had the thing connected. Then came the moment of truth as I prepared to test the new setup. The pump did not have a leaf pot attached to it and I just happened to have one that I got from some rescue or another. I had tried to give it away at the last swap but had no takers which turned out lucky for me as it was going to provide me with a self priming hook up for the “new” system. With everything in place, I filled the leaf pot for the first time and turned on the pump and all that happened was the water that I had put in came out of the temporary outlet I had rigged up. I had to take the temporary route as I didn’t want to pump any rust or 30 year old  gunk back into the pond. I would hook everything up permanently after the pump was clean. That was the theory anyway.

I tried it several times and it still wouldn’t prime enough to start pumping so I took a step back to consider my options. As I had similar problems when I installed the Sea Horse pump  on the other pond and I had got over it by taking a more direct line to the brass inlet foot which is under the water. So, I broke down a lot of the inlet pipe setup that I had just built, found a piece of 1-1/2 inch flexible  hose that just happened to have a part of the right coupling still attached to it and hooked everything back up together again. I repeated the process of filling the leaf pot to prime the pump, plugged it in and away it went. Water came out of the temporary 1-1/2 inch outlet at a tremendous rate so I waited for it to start running clear with no sign of rust and then shut everything down.

I re-hooked the line back to the Aquadyne System and turned it back on. I could hear the water within the tank just sloshing the beads around, which is a good sign and it just poured full pipe out onto the waterfall where I had placed the outlet end. I think the pump is putting out just as much as the 4700 gph Sea Horse or at least it appears so. I stood there for a while just marvelling that this 34 year old pump is still working after all of this time . In truth, it never got used very much at my old house and not at all here at this house so it has not had a lot of wear and tear but even so, it is amazing. Heck, I have to turn on my Dishwasher for a couple of seconds every day or that motor will just buzz and not run and freeze up and I have to get under it to give it a turn to start it again. So, to me, this pump is the cat’s miaow. Now all that remains is to see just how long it will last. After all, just like me, it is very old.

With the pump running at full tilt, the last part of the project was to make a basket that the brass foot sits in to shield it from the leaves and silt that tend to block things up. The bane of having ponds is the amount of dirt that the fish generate hence the need for cleaning the water in the first place and shielding the inlet in the second. Ponds, being what they are, also grow algae which also can block the inlet pipes and that is not counting the debris like leaves and such from the trees.

What I do is take two of the plant baskets, the sort that are perforated and place one on top of the other with zip ties, cut a hole the size of the brass inlet in the top and attach it with wire to the pipe that sticks out. This will slow down the amount of junk that attaches to the brass foot but will not stop it completely requiring that from time to time, I have to disconnect that section of pipe and take the whole thing out of the water to clean it. Small price to pay for having clean water. I include screw couplings just for that very reason in the inlet line.

You may notice the large 4 inch diameter pieces standing on the top of the vertical pipes. These are to place a leaf blower in that which when activated, stirs up the beads that are inside the Aquadyne tank. It only needs to happen about once a week. It is possible to buy the newer systems with a blower already permanently installed.

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Oh yes, it was a good job that I decided to clean the shed and to locate the pump after all of these years or maybe, if my memory wasn’t so bad, I would have remembered the pump and could have foregone the shed cleaning.

Next up is to clean out the greenhouse. Wonder what hidden goodies I might find there and I can’t wait to clean the workshop. I might even find my 3 pound club hammer that somehow has disappeared. Dream on, as it is probably buried out in the garden somewhere, victim of my forgetfulness. Anyway, if I ever get around to cleaning the workshop, I will need a dumpster to get rid of 30 years of surplus junk.