A Better Rat Trap?


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A couple of days ago, I was poking around in my newly cleaned out workshop trying to find something that I knew I had just seen and I couldn’t for the life of me remember where I had put it. I  happened to glance up to the top of the storage unit and was very surprised to see a big old rat snake waving its head around. As I watched, it gracefully extended its body until it located a hole in the plywood that lines the inside of the shed, one where I hadn’t cut too closely around the roof truss, and disappeared inside behind it. It had to be all of four feet long. My first thought was that now, I had a much more lethal rat trap than I could ever buy at Home Depot and just maybe, it would clean out any stragglers that may still inhabit the place. I was quite content to let it be but for the next couple of days, was very careful when I went in looking for a tool. You know, just in case…I don’t mind snakes as long as I can see them. I hate surprises of that kind.

Yesterday, as I walked out to feed the fish, I spotted what I assume is the same snake only this time it was out in the open sliding over one of the tubs that I use to store the pond plants.  It was a fine looking fellow and was all of 4 feet long.My immediate reaction was to keep the dogs away from the snake so as not to disturb it. My second reaction was to run indoors to get my camera and then I remembered that I had my cell phone in my pocket. I whipped it out and looked at it not really knowing what I wanted to do. I knew how to take a picture but didn’t have a clue how to take a video so I missed up on that opportunity. This is from a camera man that has almost 8000 pictures in my files all taken with my DSLR Nikon. Guess I am a bit of a snob when it comes to cameras.

Meanwhile, the snake was beginning to make tracks  to get under cover so I started clicking away and managed to get a couple of decent pictures. The markings on this guy are really pretty and he shone in the sunlight. As I was just going out, I put the dogs in the house so that the snake would have a couple of hours to make tracks to where it was going. Hopefully, it will end up under the Yellow Shed as I know the pickings for him are probably pretty good. Rats beware.

It must be that he didn’t find anything in the workshop which is probably why he vacated the place. Bad for him but good for me. Damn, I love Mother Nature.

Postscript:
I wrote this piece on May 29 and have to add that as I was walking into the workshop today, June 6, I caught a whiff of the unmistakable odor of rotting flesh. Thinking that it might be a rat that managed to catch himself in one of my traps, I sniffed around (quite literally) and discovered the source of the smell outside of the workshop off to one side. It was the snake and it was very dead and already putrefying. Even the fire ants were working on it building a mound over a part of its body.
Apparently, it had decided to stay even after I had given it time to get away and Richie, the male medium size Dachshund, had found and killed it. I was away just about all weekend photographing the Austin Pond Society’s Annual Tour or I would have heard the commotion that happens when Richie finds something he thinks he needs to go after and maybe would have saved the snake. After all, I could not ask for a better rat killer than a rat snake. It’s a pity as it really was a pretty snake as snakes go and I had no desire to see it dead. Then again, Mother Nature moves in strange and mysterious ways.

Now if I could just get Richie to concentrate on catching that rat that had the nerve to dash across the floor last evening as I was watching TV with Richie on one side and Peter, the fat little Chihuahua that we recently added to the family, on the other. Ginny, the miniature Dachshund, was fast asleep on the bed and anyway, catching rats is way below her. Not at all the sort of thing that a princess does. Richie never even woke up while Pete went to investigate but as the rat was nearly as big as he is except not so fat, didn’t try very hard. So now, the war on rats has moved inside of my house and it is time to get serious about clearing them out.

I could really use that rat snake about now…..

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Mike Peppers Garden


Mike Pepper is a member of the Austin Pond Society and his pond and Garden are scheduled to be on this year’s upcoming Austin Pond and Garden Tour. He is also a member of the Austin Daylily Group and he showed his enthusiasm for these beautiful flowers by opening his garden to the public to see the Daylilies at the height of their blooming cycle. Even though they would still be blooming in a couple of weeks, June 4, he felt that they would be coming to the end of their show and would not be at their best.

I made my way over to his house after spending a couple of hours at Zilker Botanical Gardens to try to take some pictures of the Splash Party scheduled for earlier that morning. However, Mother Nature had different ideas and decided to open the clouds and put on a light display accompanied by rattle of the base drums as a fairly heavy thunderstorm swept over the area. The Splash was moved into the greenhouse and I gave up on taking any quality pictures of that event and headed for Mike’s house.

The rain had stopped when I arrived and there were several people standing around talking and eating breakfast that Mike had provided. Even though it was offered, I skipped the breakfast and got right onto taking pictures.

Mike has a beautiful backyard made all the more attractive by the more than 200 varieties of different colored Daylilies scattered around the entire yard. In between all of this riot of color was the pond of around 600 gallons with a waterfall at the top end . The pond has a natural bog filtration system and is about a year old. It was built by one of the Austin Pond Society Sponsors, Texas Ponds and Water Features. The yard is about a quarter of an acre and the pond and the Daylilies complement each other very nicely.

Here is a video of the Daylilies for your enjoyment.

The Beauty of Daylilies 5-20-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Here are a few more pictures of Mike’s beautiful garden.

My Three Sheds


The workshop

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The greenhouse is where the old bird flight used to be.

If you have been reading my blogs lately you have noticed reference to the sheds that are in my back yard and which I have spent the past couple of weeks cleaning up. After more than 20 years of accumulation and also having some surplus energy, I felt that it was time to perform this onerous task.

Basically, I have three sheds, well two sheds and a greenhouse which is not used to grow things but to store them, hence the redesignation. The yellow shed I built when I first moved in 32 years ago not as a shed but as an aviary as I was an avid parakeet and finch breeder. I brought my stock with me when we moved and for about 6 months, they lived in my garage in a hastily built flight that measured about 12 x 12 x 8 tall. This was home to the parakeets and other exotics while the finches lived in cages. As soon as I had completed the Aviary, which on the one side had outdoor flights but not on the other side yet as this is where I planned on the flight from the garage to go. There were flights on both sides indoors so I moved the birds into their new home.

When I had built the flight in the garage, I built it with a steel framework that I welded together and covered it with 1/2 inch  hardware cloth with the intent of hooking it onto the side of the new aviary for additional flights for the new bird tenants. It was pretty heavy and cumbersome so I rounded up a few neighbors and their bigger kids and between us, we all got around it and hoisted it into the air to carry it out to its new location. Someone broke into a song and before we knew it, everyone was singing as we walked. I think the song was “Heigh Ho” from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It was very fitting.  What a way to meet the neighbors. The flight fitted perfectly and I completed the work to give the birds a place to stretch their wings.

I kept birds until I got divorced and then somehow, all of the fun had gone out of it. I sold off most of the stock and opened the doors to let the last few fly free before the rats who by now had colonized under the aviary, got to them.

At that point, it was time to rethink the direction my hobbies were going and that is when I built the first pond. The aviary was by now an eyesore with no bird life in it and I decided to turn the main part of the building into a bigger shed and at the same time, build a greenhouse where the old flight used to be. The truth is that I get a bigger kick out of the planning and then the construction than I do out of the finished product hence the use of the greenhouse as a storage shed for all of the plumbing parts and other things that it takes to maintain 5 ponds. To be fair, I did use the greenhouse to over winter my outdoor potted and container plants for a few years and then it kind of deteriorated into a catchall for anything needing a dry place. The potted plants have ended up in my bedroom for the past few winters. The main part of the shed was nicknamed the Yellow Shed for obvious reasons much to the disgust of my choice of colors by my neighbors. It is used to store the ladders and mechanical equipment like the mowers, blowers, weedeaters and things with gas driven engines and other such stuff.

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Inside the Yellow Shed (1)

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Inside the Yellow Shed (2)

The main shed is a 24 feet by 12 feet Morgan Building that I bought at the same time we moved in knowing that I needed a workshop and a place to store the myriad of hand and electric tools that I own. All my life, I have been a tool man spending the first 4 years as an Apprentice Bricklayer back in England. I was very observant and quickly branched out into all of the other trades learning as much as I could about how other people worked and what it took to build things knowing that all of that knowledge would serve me well further down the road. I put it all to good use in Fort Plan in New York State having had a small construction company for a few years when we first arrived and Supervising Pipeline Construction and Construction Management in my later years. Now at 81 years of age, I still love to plan and build and figure out ways to get over problems and I am still very good at it.

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Back to the sheds. Over a period of time, 20 plus years or more, all of the storage sheds filled to the brim and remembering where everything was, let alone ever getting to it, was becoming a real nightmare. A lot of it was really useful stuff to somebody and a lot was junk. Being the packrat that I am, nothing that even looked halfway useful was ever discarded or thrown away, just in case… An example is the 1/2 horsepower pump that is now churning away on the 5000 gallon pond and living a very useful life not to mention saving me several hundreds of dollars at least for a while. It had been buried both figuratively and practically and if I hadn’t decided to have this major shed clean up, well…I also located several other tools that I felt sure I had left out in the garden. I do have a pile of metal that I need to take to the junkyard and a lot of stuff has either been recycled or sent to the trash dump.

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So now, I have 3 comparatively clean storage areas which includes a workshop that I can actually perform work in with everything, well almost everything, in its place. Now all I have to do is remember what is in which place…Now where did I put that wrench?

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.

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.