McKinney Roughs 3-6-2018


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The Colorado River.This pano is made up of 4 different vertical pictures.

I decided that I had sat around long enough and that it was time to hit the trails again. This time, I chose to go back to McKinney Roughs as I haven’ t been there for a while. I arrived at the Main Parking Lot around 1:00 pm and being a Monday, the lot was pretty empty as I knew it would be. The lady in the Office in answer to my question, “That no, the big loop is not yet finished as they are building a new bridge”. She did say that they are working on it and that it shouldn’t be too long. I paid my $3.00 and thanked her for the information and went back to my truck.

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This is a pano of 3 different pictures

For those of you that read my blogs know that it takes me a while to get ready for a hike what with changing boots putting on the camera harness and backpack. It has been some time and the Cotton carrying systems that I use for my cameras  needed some attention before I could put it on. I finally got it straightened away and hooked up two cameras and my Bino’s. What I didn’t remember until I got out onto the trails was that I had removed part of the system that connects to the cameras the last time I filmed the Pond Meeting and had not paid enough attention in replacing them. Consequently, I had to make some adjustments out on the trail in order for the cameras to remove smoothly from the holders. It was not a big job and only required an allan wrench to do it but the wrench was in my backpack which I had to take the off in order to retrieve the wrench before making the adjustments. None of it earth shattering but aggravating all the same.

I finally got it all squared away and continued along the Riverside Trail marveling at the beauty of the day as I walked. The sun was shining, the sky was blue and it was not too hot. What more could this old man ask for. An LCRA truck pulled up alongside of me and the driver, “Just to let you know” informed me that there was a big machine up ahead that was cutting down the underbrush and to be careful.

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Showing the clearing work that the Loader has been doing.

I thanked him for the information and continued on my way. I came upon the Loader but it was parked so I did not have to worry about getting run over or mulched up by the gadget on the front.

All around me were signs of spring. Many of the Oak trees already had new leaves showing. There was a Blackthorn Bush that was just covered in flowers and I even saw a couple of butterfly’s although they wouldn’t settle for a picture. The trail leading through the trees just after the riverfront had green grass . Some of the trail was a bit rough in places where it had rained and then horses and people had walked on the wet trails leaving footprints  that had not yet smoothed out. As I headed down towards the river I marveled at the beauty all around me. My attention was drawn to a rock that had different colored moss growing on it and when I got close enough, there was also a small  yellow flower growing alongside of it.

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This particular trail leads right alongside of the River for about a half mile. I passed one older gentleman that was just packing up his fishing gear ready to leave. Other than him, there was no activity on the river, no egrets or herons nor many other birds that I could see. I could hear them but they were well hidden. I followed Riverside Trail until it meets up with Coyote Road which I knew would bring me back to the Parking Lot. On my way up Coyote, a guy on a bike passed me. That is the first bike that I have ever seen on these trails which are generally not open to bikes. Then an  energetic young man who was running the trail passed me going in the opposite direction.  Near the end of the walk, I met yet another runner. It was a great day for any sort of physical activity. I arrived back at my truck thankful to be still be able to walk on these hikes. Altogether, I covered 5.5 miles and I could tell that I hadn’t been out on the trails for some time. My old body was protesting loudly but I knew that a stop at Starbucks on the way home would fix everything…

Hiking McKinney Roughs 3-6-2018 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

 

This is such a beautiful time of the year to get out and walk and commune with Mother Nature.

Written 3/7/2018

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A New Computer, not Really?


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The weather here in Central Texas has been kind of difficult. It has warmed up a bit through the days but more often than not, it has been raining throughout most of the time. Not heavy rain but enough to keep me indoors and not out in the garden or hiking the trails where I would rather be.

At the same time, my computer which is an older model, was running out of space on the hard drive and although I moved as much stuff as I could to different drives that I have hooked up, it was getting real close to full. I thought about for a bit and came to the decision that I needed to buy a new computer as to add a bigger hard drive was going to cost me at least $400.00. I had seen computers in the Best Buy store close to me that were going for that and even a bit less so it made sense to buy new.

I talked to a salesperson after spending time reviewing my options and settled on one that had the really fast operating system and lots of storage space with all of the other bells and whistles like a touch screen and facial recognition, the latter nice but not necessary. They did not have one quite like the one I wanted but had an “open box” model almost the same which I figured was a good buy as it was saving me an additional $180.00. The total price at the end for this model was around $850.00 which was more than I was originally going to spend but did give me the faster chip and lots of memory and storage space.

I spent a couple of days setting up the new machine reinstalling most of the programs that I use and  generally had it running as I wanted it. Apart from the facial recognition and the touch screen and of course the space on the hard drive, it was no faster than my old one. It was also much slower in booting up some of which was probably due to loading newer stuff that was not on my old computer. The screen was also a bit smaller resulting in the print being smaller which was bit of a strain on my old eyes.

I thought about it for a bit and made a search for Computer Repair Specialists other than Best Buys Geek Squad where everything started at $100.00 and found an independent business located not too far from me. I called the guy up and we chatted for a while and he told me to bring my old computer over and he would take a look. Long story short, he discovered that the gentleman I had originally bought the computer from was a bit of a computer genius and had modified it by removing the disc player and installing a super fast SSD drive so in essence, I had two hard drives, one of which still had a lot of storage space. He proceeded to move as much as he could from the main drive to the secondary drive resulting in gaining almost 50% more room on the main drive. This meant that my old computer was back in business and as an additional bonus, the total charges for this service was just a little over $70.00, a far cry from the cost of the new computer or for the $400.00 for the work that the Geek Squad was going to do.

I thought about it for a bit and then spent the next two days cleaning up the new computer taking off all of my programs and information. Satisfied that it was as clean as I could get it and knowing that in order to sell it, the Geek Squad would have to format the disk to wipe it clean and reinstall whatever they needed on it. I packed it back in the box and returned it to the store within the 14 days that was allotted as the return time. Other than checking  that it wasn’t damaged, Best Buy returned my money back onto my credit card with no questions asked.

I did run into a problem on my old computer with Outlook which is my email program of choice and spent the next two days working on that. I figured out where and what Outlook was saving with my information and files and eventually with the very last try of the day, as I was pretty fed up with not getting it to work, the program did what it was supposed to do and all of the recent files came alive, all 3000 of them. Satisfied with the results, I left cleaning up the unwanted files to the next day.

The bottom line is that although my computer doesn’t have a touch screen or facial recognition, those are things I can do without. I took special note of the times I used the touch screen and it was almost zero as I preferred to use a mouse so there is no loss there. As for the facial recognition, I am well used to typing in my password at the start of the day so no biggie there either.

The moral to this story is to check out all of the options before settling on the first one you think of. Spending time on a little more research of what is available can be well worth it.

Now, I am waiting for the weather to clear up so that I can get back outdoors as I no longer have an excuse to not be out there. Besides, I need more pictures to work on and material for the new blogs to write. Maybe, the Osprey is back…

Written 3/5/2018

Austin Pond Society Meeting March 2018


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The third Monday of the month rolled around as it does on a regular basis which is also the day, actually evening, that the Austin Pond Society hold their monthly meeting. There were about forty two people that showed up and they were treated to a Chinese meal from one of our Sponsors, Bamboo Bistro. The food was absolutely delicious and there was none left at the end of the night. Thank You Bamboo Bistro. BTW, as a sponsor, they offer a 10% discount on all of their food by showing your APS Membership card.

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With the meal out of the way, the Speaker for the evening was Dr Geigel who spoke to us a couple of years ago. Dr Geigel is a travelling fish doctor although he treats any and all animals and birds no matter what type they are. For the evenings lecture, he focused on fish and fish ailments. At the end of his presentation he took many questions from the floor all related to fish illnesses.

Dr Geigel Video March Meeting 2018 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Following the Speaker, Jeannie, our President took over. There was very little official business, just a lot of general discussion. The evening ended with the drawing for the door prizes which always leads to much mirth and laughter as different and various people win the prizes. My apologies for the quality of this video. My original video camera that I had setup, the battery went dead so I grabbed a second camera and shot this without the use of a tripod. Again, my apologies.

APS Meeting March 2018 – Business from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

The next meeting will be on April 16, Income Tax Deadline Day. Hope you have filed yours in time. This meeting is our Annual Plant Swap when members bring in their surplus fish, garden and pond plants to swap or giveaway to anyone that either wants them or is willing to take them. However, at the end of the evening, any unswapped plants are the responsibility of the original owner who must take them home. If you are looking for plants (or fish) bargains, this meeting is for you. This is not restricted to just pond plants. Any form of garden plant can also be swapped, The one exception are any invasive species which also applies to pond plants. This is not to be confused with the Annual Swap and Sell Meeting held later in the year which is more about material items such as used pond and garden equipment. Hope to see you there.

This is the view through the windows of the Garden outside.

Written 3/22/2018

Wondering What to Do.


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Before the frosts

I sat looking out of the window at grey and cloudy day
trying to find the energy to go out and play
in the yard where so much needs to be done
after the winters frosts.

Cutting and cleaning  up the dead parts
and raking and loading them into a cart
to place them gently on the top of the compost heap
that is now over six feet tall.

Most of the work is already done
with just one corner left the sum
of which amounts to a couple of hours
of my time.

But today is not the day
to go outside to play
and clean up the winters mess
when I can do it tomorrow.

But wait the sun is starting to shine
and this might change my mind
to work outside in it’s warmth
and clean up the yard.

Written 2/9/2018

Thoughts About Dogs


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The new little boy, Mikey

Following the death of my fat little Chihuahua, Pete from untreated heart worm caused by his previous owner not taking the necessary precautions, I spent most of the week visiting many of the Animal Shelters around Austin including the one at Bastrop.

I was looking for a small dog of any breed that would keep Ginny  and me company. Not that she really cares that much as she spends most of her days under the covers of my bed, fast asleep in a world all of her own. Occasionally, she rushes out through the doggie door to do her business and if the weather is warm, she may stay outside for a couple of hours or more. Her favorite spot is at the bottom of the garden, sitting in the grass, warming in the sun and barking at anything that moves on the other side of the fence. When she does come back in, she heads straight for the bed again and disappears under the covers. Not exactly what you might call a companionable dog. She interacts with other dogs only when she has to like warning them away from her food or treat. I love her dearly but she is not the greatest of company. This is OK with a couple of other dogs around but when she is the only one…..

When our pack was at full strength a few years ago with Manley, a male Maltese, BeBe, a female Dachshund, Minnie, a female Scottie, Danielle, a female large breed mix, Abigail, a female Dachshund, Richie, a male Dachshund and her, she fitted in just fine getting along with all of them in her own snotty way. I think that was because there were so many of them and they were all established when she arrived. BeBe, Manley, Minnie, Danielle and Abigail were all laid back and could care less about the pecking order and when Richie arrived, he quickly established himself as the leader of the pack.

Minnie and Danielle went to that Doggy Heaven in the sky  due to age related illness and Manley had a heart attack and died in my arms leaving Abigail, BeBe, Richie and Ginny three females and the Pack Leader. Disaster struck and Abigail fell into the septic tank and drowned while we were doing work on the system. BeBe wasn’t acting right so I took her to the Vet’s where she died in my arms in the waiting room leaving just Richie and Ginny. All of a sudden, my house that had been so full of dogs before was suddenly very empty and way too quiet and peaceful.

I had a neighbor call me to see if I would be willing to take another rescue, this time a fat little Chihuahua named Pete and of course I immediately agreed. As it happens both Pete and Ginny got along well with each other so the deal was done. Those of you that follow my blog are aware of the circumstances leading to Richie’s death from the rattlesnake bite and then last weekend, little Pete was struggling with his breathing and I took him to the Vet’s where he died overnight from Heartworm complications . We thought we had treated the recurring heartworm at Pete’s last physical and check up but apparently, his little heart had been damaged and just gave out.

Now that leaves Ginny who not being a super active dog, is not the best of company for either myself or herself so when Pete died, I started to look for another to fill the voids. My Neighbourhood Watch was a great place to start and I visited a couple of people with dogs that were looking for new homes for some reason or another. I took Ginny with me as she was the final test. If she didn’t like them, it didn’t matter what my feelings were as they were not coming into her house and that was that. As it happened, she didn’t approve so we were still the two of us.

I decided to visit the local shelters to see what they had to offer and what I saw made me feel very sad. All of those wonderful dogs just looking for a fresh start. They too had been dealt a raw hand (in their case, paw) in their lives and it was not their fault of their current situation.

The primary breeds in the big dogs were Pit bull or Pit bull Mix and in the small dogs, Chihuahua’s or their mix except at Bastrop where the Big Dog breed was Great Pyrenees. I was not sure if I wanted to replace both Richie, a Dachshund and Pete, a Chihuahua with another of the same breed as neither of them were replaceable in my eyes and heart. I knew that although there were so many dogs to choose from, the right one would eventually choose me.

I received a call from BJ, my very good friend who was looking at the dogs over at the Bastrop Animal Center when they had twenty eight dogs come in all at one time. She called to tell me of the new dog shipment they had received and that I should drop everything and rush on over. When I arrived, they were very busy but the Director took it upon herself to personally give me a guided tour and even though it was a bit of a mad house with the dogs being unloaded and immediately getting their shots, took the time to show me around the facility. It was not the time to be choosing a dog but from what she showed me, it looked like we might find Ginny a buddy out of this batch. The Director told me that these dogs would be available on Friday and Saturday so I told her I would be back.

Friday rolled around as it always does on a regular basis and I was at the Animal Center bright and early as soon as the doors opened. I wandered the aisles of the different kennel buildings and saw several dogs that I might be interested in. With help from one of the kennel attendants, I finally settled on a little long haired Dachshund and Chihuahua mix. The attendant carried the dog whose name was Matthew to the front whilst I went to get Ginny from the truck so they could do a meet and greet. All went well as they both more or less totally ignored each other which was good as at least they were not trying to tear each other apart.

Back at the Office, the Director helped get the paperwork done and held Ginny while I had Matthew. She followed me out to the car and we put Matthew in a crate for the ride home as I was not sure of his reactions in a truck. I made a stop at my friend BJ to show her the new puppy and she was immediately taken with the dog. We spent a couple of hours visiting and Matthew spent almost the entire time in her arms making himself right at home. I should mention that BJ had taken it upon herself to help in finding another dog and for that, I am forever grateful.

On the trip back to my house, Matthew, who previously had been very shy, sat in the front with Ginny and myself and it wasn’t long before both of them squeezed onto my lap for the ride home. At least Ginny didn’t complain or try to go after Matthew so that was a very good sign but it was a little difficult to drive.

Matthew has been renamed Mikey as I could not for the life of me remember his name and so far, has settled in nicely. Except for the occasional growl over her food bowl, Ginny has accepted Mikey as one of the family. Whether she really warms up to him time will tell but as she is not an affectionate dog by Nature, tolerance is probably the best we can hope for. Mikey has discovered that he likes to cuddle especially at night and sleeps as close to me as he can. With Ginny on the one side and Mikey on the other at least I am not cold but it is tough to roll over and as for hitting the bathroom the three or four times a night, the downside of growing old as a male, I have to be very careful when getting out of bed. I think that Mikey sees me as his knight in shining armor after rescuing him as he is never very far away from me at all times.

As for me, I think he is going to work out just fine. We have several challenges ahead like bathroom training, leash training, stop jumping and other simple commands but they will be fun and yet another challenge. Is the pack complete? Hardly as two is not a pack and I would still like to see a couple more dogs around but we can work on that in the weeks to come. Maybe there are more dogs that need rescuing and would like a home with the three of us. Not maybe, a certainty. But that is in the future.

 

You can read more about Richie at these links.
Richie and the Snake
Memories
and Pete at these links.
An Addition to the Family
More Sadness

Written 2/7/2018

The Second Walk of the Year


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As I had promised myself a couple of days ago, I was back out on the trail again and back at Reimers Ranch. This time I planned on a longer walk to get in some exercise as well as take pictures. It took me a while to gear up as I hadn’t used any of the camera carrying equipment for a couple of months. I finally sorted it all out but ran into a problem with one of the camera safety straps as the clip on the end was malfunctioning. I had to cobble together a temporary strap promising myself that I would fix the other one as soon as I got back home.

With everything in place, I set off along the Turkey Trail with the usual high hopes of seeing something worthwhile to photograph. Even if I didn’t see anything dramatic like a Deer or a Turkey I always had the good old standby of the trails themselves. The Parks people had been doing a lot of controlled burns on this end of the trail exposing the very nature of the ground itself. It is so rocky in a lot of places that it is no small wonder that the only thing to grow is scraggly grass, cactus and more rocks.

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As I made my way down the trail, I noticed that I was being followed by a young couple with a two fairly large dogs. I am quite sure that if they had walked at their normal speed, they would easily have gone by me but they chose to hang back. I took the River Trail just before the Park ends and cut back along the river towards the Rock Climbing Area. This is a nice and interesting trail to walk now that the Parks people have cleared it. The river is on one side and the rocky bluffs on the other making for a shady walk for most of its length.

I could hear the rock climbers on my left talking and laughing and generally sounding like they were having fun. Not quite my idea of entertainment even if I was a young man. Definitely not now. I passed a few people walking the trail in the opposite direction, most of whom were younger people although there was one older guy with a dog. When I reached the rock climbing area I managed to get a couple of pictures of three of them on the rock face.

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As I continued along, I saw the most river activity that I have seen since walking these trails. First I passed a motor boat that was anchored in the stream and a bit further up, a family of four who were fishing, standing in the water with waders on. I did not see them catch anything while walked by. A little further, I passed a Father with three kids who had some sort of contraptions that they threw into the air. The things made a loud whirring noise and were a bit like a boomerang as they were supposed to come back to the thrower.

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Next and for the first time ever walking these trails, there was activity on the opposite bank from one of the houses that sits on top of the bluff. The family were involved in several different activities from wading in the water to canoeing to just sitting around.

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As I continued along, I passed other people who were just sitting around on the river bed enjoying the beautiful day. Today was the most activity not counting the swimming area, that I have ever seen that many people actually enjoying the river. Of course the day was a Sunday which tends to bring people out. As I walked along, I noticed a square shaped rock on top of the bluffs that looks like it is just balancing in place and just had to take a picture.

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I kept walking and decided to go up the steep exit to the third parking area. This is quite a feat by itself as I have often mentioned before as making one’s way up the stone steps is quite an effort. All that remained was the walk back along the gravel path that spans the entire length of the park on top of the river bluffs. I passed two different Buzzards and what looks like a Sparrow perched in the trees. They all allowed me to walk right past them and made no attempt to fly off even though I was as close as twenty feet from them. Of course, they were up in a tree and they knew I couldn’t fly.

I arrived back at the Parking Lot and my truck and the lot which had been totally full when I pulled in was now beginning to empty. As usual, I had to change out of my sweat soaked clothes before taking a slow drive home stopping at Starbucks along the way to reward myself with  latte. Altogether, I covered almost five miles enjoying every minute of it. It’s great to be  walking again…

The story would not be complete if I didn’t include pictures of the trails that I walked. It is definitely the winter season here in central Texas. Everything is so brown and lifeless. Any patch of green is a welcome relief.

Plus a few panoramic views.
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Written 2/6/2018