Flowers in my Garden, Spring 2017


Flowers in my Garden Spring 2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

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Busy in the Garden and the Ponds.


DSC_5129I have spent the last couple of months working either in the garden or in and around the ponds and have not had the time to go on any hikes at all. In between, I fitted in a couple of fish rescues and consequently have added to the plants that are surplus to my requirements.

Spring arrived early here in my part of Central Texas with only two days of freezing weather, which was enough to knock down almost every living plant in both the garden and the ponds. This required considerable effort to cut everything back and then move the cut material to the compost heap and took several days and much moaning and complaining on my part. Nothing new with that as I tend to moan and complain about everything especially if it is not going well. Luckily, I am the only one within earshot as usually, the dogs make a quick exit when I start cussing. Actually,I don’t rant and rave but generally just utter a quick “f” word and then go about my business figuring out how to get over whatever caused me to cuss in the first place.

I have already written a couple of blogs of some of my other escapades. Things like the Skippy Filters, part 1 and 2 and the Doggie Escape Fixes and the Ponds at Mayfield Park. I spent some time in reworking the plumbing inlet pipe to the pump on the Aquadyne system on the 6000 gallon pond and am much happier with the result. At least now, it sucks in water and does not keep blocking up although in fairness, this is a bad time of the year with the Live Oaks dropping all of their blooms most of which seem to go into the ponds. Thank goodness that this is nearly over as it is very messy, everywhere and not just in the water.

The pictures show the amount of new growth already in the ponds.

Altogether, I repotted a dozen or more lilies plus sundry other water plants and then, spent some time trimming the remaining lilies getting them ready for others to plant. I took a 5 gallon bucket full with about 30 or so plants to the Pond Meeting which happened to coincide with my planting efforts and they were all gone within minutes. I still have at least that number remaining in the tubs which I plan on taking to the next meeting which is our Annual Plant Swap. I also had a few other people stop bye to get some of the plants for their own ponds.

Potting lilies is not hard work although somewhat messy and the old potted material does not smell that great either.. First of all, it requires getting into all of the ponds and removing the pots to the side and then getting out of the pond to transport them to the table, upending the pot on its side to get the lily root (tuber) out of the pot, and then trimming it back to a more manageable size that has new growth that is already sprouting. These are then placed back into the pot on top of a layer of clay type dirt, adding fertilizer tablets and then covering it up with more dirt so that just the new growth is showing. I usually place pebbles on the top to try to discourage the big Koi from washing the lily out of the pot with their tails as they love to get at the roots. The whole pot is then submerged back into the water about a foot or more down.

Following all of the repotting efforts, it required that I get back into the ponds to place the pots which I did. This year, I am trying something different in an attempt to get some of the lilies to last long enough to flower and that is, to place anywhere from 6 to 10 lilies in each of the big ponds. Maybe, if there are so many, the Koi will leave them alone. In some cases, I had used the 18 inch tall pots which I just stood on the bottom of the pond and already, the ponds are covered with lily pads and I noticed that we already have a bloom. First lily bloom of the season.

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With everything growing so fast, it is hard to keep up with all of the trimming and raking but it is a labor of love and quite enjoyable. I need to get my riding mower repaired to cut the grass alongside of the road. Seems like every year, I have to have something done to that particular piece of machinery before it will start. I have other mowers so it not like I have to use the riding mower.

Darn, the pump on the stream has just stopped. I wonder what is wrong with it, Just blocked up or maybe worn out. Stay tuned for the next story…

ZilkerFest 2017


DSC_5027-PanoZilker Gardens, situated in Austin, Texas, held their annual Zilkerfest on March 25, 2017. This is one of their big moneymakers that helps to defray the cost of maintaining Zilker Botanical Gardens as the City of Austin only finances a part of that cost.

Zilkerfest comprises mainly of individual and mostly garden related small time retailers who spend their time travelling the circuit of these types of shows. Most of them have been here before. There are also other booths set up by the local Garden Organizations that claim Zilker Gardens to be their base all belonging to AAGC, (Austin Area Garden Council). You can find out more about the 31 different organizations that make up the Council at this link.

As it happens, this show coincided with the Grand Opening of the Stream Project which consists of a major rebuild to a lower length of the existing (man made) stream that runs from the top of  the hill to the bottom  finishing up in one of the ponds at the lower end. This had been leaking for some time and was badly in need of repair. The Austin Pond Society donated $5000.00 towards the cost of the renovation and it was only fitting that they had their booth set up next to the new renovation.

The local model train enthusiasts had their tracks set up and had at least two trains running at the same time with others pulled off into the siding. They were located next to the main building. The trains are very realistic with smoke bellowing out of the stack and the wail of the whistle which by itself conjures up memories of times long gone.

It was a beautiful day and many people came out to purchase plants and other items of interest. Some came for the Food Court which had several interesting food trailers including a local brewery. Those that were partaking of their wares were serenaded musically by local groups.

Below is a slideshow of some of the beauty of Zilker Botanical Gardens

The Beauty of Zilker Gardens 2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Below is a slideshow of the many vendors who helped to make this event such a huge success.

ZilkerFest Booths March 25, 2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

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The Second Fish Rescue.


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Mayfield Park

As I mentioned in the previous blog, I worked two fish rescues this past week. The one in Georgetown is the subject of that blog. This one was in a place called Kempner which I have never heard of. When I first received the email from Sonja asking for help with her fish, I had no idea that eventually it would lead to a 75 mile one way trip.

She explained in her email that caring for the pond was getting too much for her so she was going to close it down completely and would like someone to come and rescue the fish and find them good homes. We conversed and I made arrangements that I would visit her on Saturday. She sent me a Google Map of where she lived and the shortest route to get there as I had never driven up to that part of the State  which is another reason I agreed to make the rescue.

Basically, the drive was up Hwy 183 North for most of the way towards Killeen and Copperas Cove with a couple of tricky turn offs onto Hwy 190 before taking FM 1630. My GPS was only good so far and in the end, I had to rely on the printed Google Map for the final directions. It was an interesting drive and it is only when you drive on the less travelled roads do you realize just how big and beautiful this Country really is especially with Spring just breaking out.

I pulled up to the house which was on a country road way out in nowhere although with houses all the way up and down the street to be met by the Man of the house who opened the gate for me. He directed me to the pond and I was able to drive right up next to it which is always a plus. Then Sonja came out and greeted me with a thick German accent pleased to see that I had arrived early. We chatted for a bit and exchanged histories of the why’s and when’s of out arrivals to the States. All of this while the pond was pumping out.

Sonja told me that she had built the pond 15 years ago by herself except for a couple of the big rocks that required help and had maintained it herself in the interim. It  was her hobby but for the last year, it had started to get more work than she could handle and she admitted that she had sadly neglected it. She had very recently changed out the pump, a 3600 gph unit and was looking to sell it as she had no more use for it with the pond closing down.

It was obvious that the pond had been neglected. The water was very cloudy and it was almost impossible to see the fish. There was a huge of cluster of water lily plants growing in the middle that upon inspection, turned out to be just one lily. It had long overgrown the pot and was firmly rooted into the sludge on the bottom of the pond.

I put on my wellie boots, rubber boots to you Americans, and carefully climbed into the pond. Sonja was fussing over me the whole time so worried that I would slip and fall and indeed, the bottom was really slick but I managed to stay on my feet the whole time. With the water going down, I could spot the fish and went about the business of netting some them and handing them up to Sonja who transferred them to the containers.

I started to cut back the lily plant so that we could get it out of the pond it was so big. It took quite a while but eventually, I had it into smaller and more manageable pieces all of which could be repotted and would probably regrow. While I was working on the lily, Sonja and her Husband were trying to catch the remaining fish which were proving to be very elusive.

Finally, with the water level down and the lily out of the way, we were able to be very positive that we had netted all of the fish. Altogether, there was one very large Koi and 15 what I thought were black goldfish, all in beautiful condition regardless of the water condition. Fish are so adaptable.

We collectively reloaded my trailer including all of the water lily pieces and I carefully strapped everything in place. I told Sonja that the fish would probably end up in Mayfield Park which seemed to please her that many others would get the same pleasure out of them that she had.

I said my farewells and drove off trying hard to remember which roads I took coming up. Needless to say, the GPS was not showing the way back that I used to come up and redirected me at least 20 miles out of my way so instead of going to Cedar Park, I ended up on IH 35 in Killeen. Mumbling under my breath, I headed for Mayfield Park in Austin.

Being a weekend, the Park was very busy but luckily, there is an unloading zone right next to the entrance with no one in it. I parked and uncovered the trailer and loaded one of the containers onto my dolly. As I wheeled it into the area where the ponds are located which is very rough stone, the container managed to slip off the dolly and it and fish were everywhere. A couple of people stopped and helped to pick them up so that I could get them to the pond we had worked on the previous Saturday. It was over a week and I figured that the chlorine in the water had already dissipated. The second trip was uneventful and just like the time before when I was unloading the goldfish, I had a lot of help and questions from the younger members watching the whole process. Altogether, I placed 13  fish into that pond.

I repacked my trailer and made my way home with the Koi and a couple of the black (Gold) fish which I put into the 5000 gallon pond where they happily mingled in with the other fish that already reside there. In the opinion of at least one member of the Pond Society, it might turn out that the black fish may not be goldfish after all but common carp although the previous owner stated that she bought a black goldfish way back and has no recollection of any carp added to her pond.  Regardless, they are still beautiful fish in very good condition and will make a good addition to my pond and Mayfield Park. Koi are very close members of the Carp family anyway.

All in all, another successful fish rescue and I got to meet some more very nice people plus enjoying a trip to a different part of the State. Altogether, I covered around 160 miles because of the redirect to Killeen.

Austin Pond Society March Meeting 2017


DSC_5001The Austin Pond Society held their monthly meeting on March 20th which was attended by about 45 members. They were treated to a meal of Chicken Spaghetti with the salads  and fixin’s provided by the members. We were a little short on deserts this time around much to my disappointment as this meeting is the only time I allow myself the luxury of desert.. Many Thanks to Steven Monfrini, our Hospitality person shown below in his kitchen.

Following the meal and just a little different from our normal procedure, John O’Sullivan announced that he was now involved in helping people to get their Voter Registration up to date and that he was now able to give assistance to any and all that might need help in this area. He mentioned that Texas is now the most stringent State in the Union regarding Voter Registration and he felt that it was very important that everyone that can vote is eligible to do so.

Following John’s discussion, Jeannie Ferrier, President, started the advertised part of meeting with the introduction of a couple of new members followed by a brief report of the members activities this past month with cleaning Mayfield Ponds and the fish rescues that we have done. With that out of the way, we moved into the presentation for the evening with this particular one offered by Jeannie and Steven. They spoke about the construction of their 10,000 gallon pond and all that was involved in it from digging the hole to installing the pond plants. Steven spoke about the lights he has installed both in and around the pond. They fielded a lot of questions during and after the presentation which was warmly received by all of the members. Below is a video of their presentation.

Jeannie and Steven, March 20, 2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

After their presentation, there were reports from the various Board Members and a lengthy discussion from Ted Paone about the upcoming Pond Tour. He also discussed Zilkerfest which is being held  the weekend of March 25-26 for which he needed Volunteers to man the Austin Pond Societies booth which is used to promote both the Society and the upcoming Pond Tour on June 3-4. The new stream renovation in Zilker Gardens is also having their official opening dedication ceremony which the Pond Society had donated $5000 to help towards the cost of that project.

The Tour arrangements are moving along very nicely, according to Ted. So far, there are 11 ponds on the North side and 9 on the South with the possibility of at least one more.

The meeting came to a close with the drawing for the door prizes and this time around, all of the food had been consumed so there was no need to ask people t0 take some home. The next meeting will be held on April 17 and this meeting will be our Annual Plant Swap. Bring along your surplus plants or fish that are both pond and garden related and swap them for something useful to you. Hope to see you there.

Below is the Business Video of the meeting.

APS Business Mar 2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

An Easy Fish Rescue.


goldfish2 (002)This past week, I visited two different locations to rescue the fish and plants that the owners no longer wanted. That sounds a bit harsh and in both cases, they had very legitimate reasons for giving up their water hobbies. In the first case on Monday, the owner, Renee, was selling the property and she did not have the room to re-locate the fish. In the second instance, Sonja, the lady who contacted me stated that the pond was getting to be too much work for her.

I made arrangements with Renee to visit them in Georgetown on Monday. It was a bit of a problem finding her house as the GPS would not show her address. I even stopped to talk to the mailman but his directions were not that clear. I finally pulled into another guy’s driveway and he was able to point me in the right direction.

As it happens, Renee had been on the lookout for me and she was waiting at the top of her driveway. We chatted for a bit and she then redirected me around the back of her house to an 8 foot circular barn trough that had a couple of straggly looking plants growing out of it but was full of goldfish. They ranged in size from very small to about 6 inches.

It was a comparatively easy to catch them although not the cleanest of jobs as the tank had a lot of sediment in the bottom. I pumped it down as far as I could which left about 3 inches of water in the bottom and then went about netting the fish. Renee helped with her own net and between us we caught around 50-60 fish.

When that tank was emptied, she directed me to the side of the house where she had yet another small trough that held another 50 or so fish of which she had already caught 35  or so and had them in a 5 gallon bucket ready to transfer them to my tanks. Altogether, there must have been close to a 100 goldfish in my containers.

I packed up my trailer and after bidding goodbye, set off for Mayfield Park where I planned to populate a couple of the ponds. The journey to the Park was uneventful and I pulled in and began to unload the containers that held the fish. The Park was really busy and I got a lot of questions especially from the younger generation as they watched me rehome the fish into their new surroundings in two different ponds accompanied by the raucous racket of the Peacocks.

After emptying the containers, I repacked the trailer and made my way back home. The traffic was light making for all in all, a good rescue day.

The Ponds at Mayfield Park


DSC_4969-PanoMayfield Park is a nice little city park located off 35th street and is the home of several peacocks (and peahens), ponds, gardens and Nature trails. The gardens are maintained by volunteers several of whom were working this Saturday morning. Many more people were hiking the Nature Trails. It is a popular place for weddings and as it happened,  one of which was due later in the afternoon meaning that we had a deadline to finish our work.  This is the link to the Mayfield Park website.

There are five large ponds and one smaller one. The volunteers from the Pond Society chose one that was obviously in need of cleaning as the project for Saturday, March 11th. Altogether, there were nine people that volunteered their time and braved a cold and pretty wet day. It rained that fine misty stuff that gets you wet without you being aware of it.

I got there around 9:00 am and there were several people already working. Steven had a pump set up and had his waders on and was in the pond lifting out the  heavy lily and iris pots. The first thing I did was to set up the pump that I had brought with me to help lower the water level. Charlie was moving the old pots over to the garage where Jeannie, Julie and BJ were busy emptying them so they could trim the lilies before repotting them. Phillip, Mike and Cory made themselves useful  wheeling barrows full of the waste dirt cut off from the plants and coming back with barrows of repotting dirt. I joined Charlie in dragging the repotted plants back to the pond on a skid contraption that actually worked pretty well on the flagstone. Not quite so good on the grass.

Steven found two turtles and a snake while he was in the pond and he commented that accidentally grabbing the snake gave him a bit of a start. Snakes tend to do that to most people especially when it is unexpected. The pond we were working on holds around 17000 gallons of water so it is pretty big. Mike put on his waders and  jumped into the pond to help Steven place the repotted plants and clean up the debris from the bottom of the pond. After the completion of repotting the lilies and placing them back into the ponds, the two of them spent time netting out the leaves and other trash during which they found six Perch that had been placed in there by persons unknown. They put them in one of the other ponds as the city water that we were using to refill the pond has chlorine in it which is a death sentence to any fish or other aquatics. The turtles were released into the stream that flows at the bottom of the hill and the snake had already made his own way to safety.

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There were a lot of visitors that were in the Park while we were there. The older people use the Park for exercise and whole families came out to enjoy Nature. The younger generation oohed and aahed over the two turtles that were temporarily in a container and the Peacocks were strutting their stuff and kicking up a god awful racket with their calls. They are pretty to look at but can be very annoying with their extremely loud and very unmusical voices. If it wasn’t for the rainy weather, it would have been a real pleasant place to work. We still have one more pond to go so hopefully, the sun will be shining when we get to that one. That is a story for another day…

Below is a slideshow of the some of the views within the Park.

Mayfield Park March 11, 2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.