Cleaning the Ponds at Mayfield Park, May 2018


 

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Julie Smith and hers Husband Phillip, along with Cory Ferrier, snuck out as I was getting ready to take the picture of all of them together. Their prerogative of course.

The Austin Pond Society has an ongoing project at Mayfield Park located in the center of Austin. The Park has six large ponds that were in woeful need of a little TLC and the Society decided that it was going to be our project at least for this year to provide a little love and care. Incidentally, note that the center circular pond is surrounded by 4 oval shaped ponds (the petals) along with one hourglass pond that contains a small waterfall (the stem).

Consequently, in cooperation with the City of Austin and with help and advice provided by Shane of Water Garden Gems, members of the Austin Pond Society have met several times to clean the ponds and the City has gone forward and provided additional electricity to operate the new filtering system and additional air systems that are now in all of the ponds.

This past Thursday, May 24 was deemed a pond clean up day or rather evening as several members of the Society showed up to get themselves wet and dirty. Altogether, there were fourteen people providing assistance and doing the grunt work from cleaning the ponds of leaves and debris, to repotting lilies and in the case of Steven, Jeff and Ruben, installing a new floating filtering system in the big pond and getting the pumps to work. To Steven, who is a Master Electrician during the day, this was just up his alley. The rest had different duties spread around the other five ponds. Glen was stuck in the last pond (the stem) for most of the evening, this one having the most leaves and debris in it. He seemed quite happy to be working the pond until he came across a water snake that was nestled in the Iris plants. From that point on, he was shall we say, a little cautious. Says he doesn’t like snakes but there again, not many people do.

As is usual at Mayfield Park, the work was accompanied by both the company and the very loud and raucous cries from the twenty odd Peafowls that reside there. One of them grew very attached to Jeannie’s Lexus and was very busy pecking the bugs off the front of the vehicle. It stayed there for the entire time we were at the Park and no amount of shooing would get it to move.

The APS would like to thank the following members for showing up and giving of their time and efforts. Jeff and Ellen Bennett, Mary Ward, Barbara Lenhardt, Nancy Reinert, Charlie McLear, Cat Bilberry, Anne Clarke, Cory Ferrier, Julie and Phillip Smith and finally Jeannie Ferrier and Steven Monfrini and Ruben Angeles. Me, I was there strictly to record the efforts and almost broke into a sweat a few times as I hustled to record what was going on. Ruben is a City of Austin Employee who is at Mayfield Park full time. Really nice guy to work with.

Jets_BizCard_Austin The evening ended with a veritable feast of Pizza from one of our sponsors. That make for me, six large slices of Pizza in three days which is more than I have eaten in the last ten years although I have to say, it was very enjoyable.

There is still some work to be done both by the City and our volunteers but it will not be until next month. Again, thanks to our members without whom, we could not perform these sort of tasks.

I recorded a movie of the different members all performing their tasks and also put together a slideshow of the still pictures that I took.

Cleaning the Ponds at Mayfield Park May 2018 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Mayfield Park Pond Cleanup May 2018 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Written 5/29/2018

Summer is Here


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Our bit of Spring has come and gone
with warmer weather and birds on a song
green leaves and wildflowers bursting forth
to show off their colors for all they are worth.

Too short a season is our Spring
and all too soon hot weather will bring
temperatures in the hundred degrees
enough to bring a man to his knees.

Yet we manage every year
to live with the heat and to appear
that it doesn’t really bother us
used to it all with little fuss.

We work outside or play our games
or take long hikes no thought remains
that inside is where we should really be
trying to feel cool in the A/C.

For being outside in the Summer heat
is not really an impossible feat
you just have to think ahead
a hat and sunblock and water instead.

Do I like one hundred degrees
compared to say a winter freeze
and I would really have to say
I’ll take the summer in Texas any day.

Written 5/27/2018

Sitting and Waiting


Today it is raining but the forecast is that it will clear up this afternoon. That is good as I really need to get outside to continue work on my latest project which is to install permanent electricity to three of the ponds.

The first pond that I built more than 30 years ago was around 2500 gallons and actually looked very nice with a patio that surrounded the entire pond. It developed a leak and even by letting the entire pond drain down to nothing, I was still unable to locate it to make a repair. By then I was hooked on Ponding and I decided to rebuild the pond and at the same time, enlarge the entire thing. The end result is a 5000 gallon pond. I did this one right and it has a permanent electrical supply to it.

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5000 Gallon Pond

I spent the next 30 years messing around building other ponds and streams sometimes even rebuilding because of a change of heart or of different ideas. Because of my restlessness and having a very hard to please attitude, I never installed permanent electricity to any of the 3 other ponds for good reason. For example, the middle pond was actually 2 ponds in the shape of an “L” with water from the top pond filtering down to the bottom pond and then recirculating back to the top pond.
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The original “L” shaped pond

The smaller of the two ponds in this system developed a leak so I decided to separate them into two ponds which meant installing a Sanyo skimmer and another pump on the upper pond. I completely rebuilt the lower pond and installed a new liner and increased the depth to almost 4 feet. It too has its own skimmer box and pump. The electricity to drive the pumps was supplied by lead chords and temporary outlets and worked very well and I kept telling myself that as soon as I was satisfied with the ponds themselves, I would change the setup to something more permanent. Besides, I lived alone with no desire for any sort of company other than my dogs and reasoned that I would be careful as I worked the yard.

I had other water feature that I had built, one in the shape of a “Y” with two streams running into a small pond. This one actually worked pretty well but again, only had temporary electricity to drive the pumps. In a fit of madness, I decided to enlarge the pond at the end of the streams which eventually led to me taking out one stream completely along with the small pond. The end result was a 6000 gallon large pond, quite a bit larger than the 1000 gallon pond it replaced. I kept the one small stream and it still runs very nicely. Throughout all of this building and rebuilding, the electricity to drive the pumps was all supplied through the same system as outlined above, lead chords and temporary outlets.
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The New 6000 Gallon Pond

Human Nature being what it is and with everything running smoothly, I moved onto other things and although the thought would cross my mind very occasionally, I never seriously considered doing much about the electric supply to the ponds. Things were working fine so why mess with it. Besides, I had plenty of other things to do that seemed to be more important and anyway, I was not in the mood to dig trenches and bury conduit.

Then, a couple of mornings ago, I came out to check on the ponds and everything was very quiet except for the 5000 gallon pond, the one with permanent electricity, that was running just fine. I wandered over to the other ponds and both the “L” shape and the 6000 gallon pond were very still. None of the pumps were working. Luckily, the system can be down for a few hours before any problems are likely to develop in the form of oxygen deprivation and less dangerous but just as frustrating, muddy water. As it is still early Spring, temperatures would not be high enough to really cause oxygen deprivation problems.

I traced the lead chords as they snaked from pond to pond and quickly discovered that the very first chord was scorched where it connected to the next chord. Even as I watched, the next junction suddenly burst into flames. At least I knew where the problems were located and went to work in temporarily replacing the burnt out lead chords with different ones so as to keep the pumps running while I planned out the new permanent power supply.

As luck would have it, years ago, I had installed an outlet by the back porch directly from the Main Junction Box which also happened to be the one that the temporary supply is plugged into. I figured that I could come from that one and then run the wire through conduit to the first of the GFCI outlet boxes that I planned to install. I have two metal boxes that contain two GFCI outlets in each box that I acquired over the years. Bit of an overkill as a single GFCI would protect all of the outlets downline from it but as I happened to have the boxes, why not use them.

So, with a plan in mind, I went to Home Depot and purchased the necessary supplies and to start work on the project. This is actually a three phase project the first of which is to install the conduit from the supply to the location of the first outlet box about 45 feet away. The second phase will be to run the conduit to the second of the outlet boxes another 50 feet further along. The last phase will be to complete the run another 25 feet to the last of the boxes.

I started work on Phase 1 which entailed digging a trench to bury the conduit. This is the hard part of the project mainly because I hate digging and it takes more of a mind set to actually start the work than to do the work. I managed to convince myself that as hot as it was, I needed to get after it. The digging was pretty easy but it did entail swinging a pickaxe to break up the ground, something I haven’t done in years.

The next part of Phase 1 of the project was to lay out the conduit and then pull the cable through each piece before gluing the conduit together. The whole thing was placed into the trench and covered over, with sufficient conduit and cable exposed at each end to make the connections. And that is where we are today and it has just come on to rain again. It doesn’t look like I will be working outside today, darn it…

Look for part two of this thrilling instalment of DIY.

Written 5/20/2018

Life is Only Temporary



I sat here thinking about life and how it is constantly changing
nothing stays the same for very long as time marches on
what is currently the in thing today is tomorrow’s news
as time passes by.

Friends come and friends go as time dictates
here today and gone tomorrow in this never ending flow
we are here just for an instant in the grand scheme of things
but we think we are important.

Important enough to dictate how Nature will change
in the never ending search for wealth
destroying everything in the path of success
to attain our goals.

There is no turning back from our chosen goal
and that is to ruin the Earth and all that live on it
until Mother Nature feels the pain
that we inflict on her.

She may lose a few battles along the way
and not all life will succeed
but to be sure we are so small and insignificant
that we cannot win.

When she has had enough of the damage that we wreak
suddenly life will become intolerable as we know it
and the Wonders of Nature will take a vicious turn
and we will be the victims.

When she has cleaned our earthly traces away
in a few thousand years life will begin again
as it has in the past and this time with no man
just the animals and plants.

And she will never make the same mistake again…

Written 5/8/2018

The Snakes are on the Move…


I recently wrote a blog outlining the steps that I have taken to keep the dogs out from under the shed. I continued with that by sealing off the underside of the main deck to keep the dogs out of there as well.

One reason was because of the loud barking of the, “We found an animal/snake kind” which I determined to be coming from a corner under the deck by the house where I happened to have installed a trapdoor to get to the septic system drains. I pulled it up and below me was the usual scene. The snake backed into a corner rearing and striking at anything that came within range and two little dogs screaming their fool heads off in a vain attempt to get at the snake. Theirs was a lot of barking but not really trying too hard to actually make contact.

This corner just happened to have a water faucet and hose pipe within very easy reach which I turned on the dogs first to get them to quit and then on the snake in an attempt to drive it off in the opposite direction which appeared to succeed on both counts as the snake disappeared from view and the dogs were busy trying to shake themselves dry. This episode did it for me and a quick trip to Lowes to buy the material I needed and then back to work sealing off the far side of the deck. The work was not very difficult and I had it finished in a couple of hours.

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The snake under the deck was a Texas Rat Snake that can grow to be six feet long, The are relatively harmless and very useful for keeping the rat and mice population down. They would bite if attacked or harassed but are non poisonous. This particular one was about four feet long and beautifully marked and colored.

Thinking that I could relax a bit as far as the snakes go, I turned my attention to cleaning up the mess that I created the other day when I cleaned the ponds of leaves and debris and thinned out some of the many plants growing in them. I moved an existing tub that was on the walkway which contained a large growth of Lizards Tail, to the other side to make more room on the path and then decided to pull the weeds by hand that had accumulated in that area.

I was working away and not paying much attention to what I was doing and I nearly grabbed a handful of a very large snake that was already coiled and had its mouth open in a very threatening posture. This quickly brought me back into focus as I slowly stood up with no sudden movements. The snake was within easy striking distance of originally my face and then as I stood, my bare legs. I looked at it trying to determine just what type it was and although it looked for all the world like a rattlesnake with the right size, markings and color, apart from the aggressive posture, it made no attempt to strike me which it could easily have done as I was well within its range. I could not see a rattle on the tail neither did I hear anything vaguely familiar. Not wanting to take any chances as two of the dogs were on the deck and had not realized what was going on, I called them to come indoors, grabbed my camera and stepped back out. I was too late as the snake had already disappeared and although I searched around, came to the conclusion that it was probably under the deck which at the time was only a couple of feet away. The more I think about it, I think it too was a Rat snake even though it was not as brightly marked at the other one. This one was probably longer then the other and looked like it had recently consumed a Dove as there were a lot of new dove feathers littered about. It was also much bigger around the girth than the first one which may have been due to its recent meal.

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I considered this to be getting a bit much with two different and very large snakes in two days but the story is not over yet as far as snakes go. It is a bit anticlimactic as the next snake that I saw as I went out to check on the dogs who again were doing there barking routine, was a two feet long either Western Coachwhip or a Texas Brown Snake. I was very brave confronting this one as I shooed it away where it disappeared into the underbrush.

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Texas Brown Snake
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Western Coachwhip

I decided that this was all too much of a coincidence and the next day, I took Mikey into the vets to get a anti rattlesnake shot and then Gizmo in to have his follow up shot. Turns out that Ginnie had a rattlesnake shot and booster last year and is not due for another until August. After losing Richie, I can’t afford to take chances.

In retrospect, maybe I am the one that needs the shot as I couldn’t have gotten much closer to the one yesterday and if it had been so inclined and was a Rattler, could have easily bit me. One thing for sure, no more hand pulling the weeds. I’ll use a hoe in the future. If I had recognized it as a Rattlesnake, would I have killed it if I had something available? I honestly don’t believe that I would have unless it was in self defence prefering to try to drive them away back out of the yard. After all, they can’t help what they are and as frightening as they may be, it’s man’s inherent fear of snakes that makes the situation worse than what it really is.

Written 5/14/2018

Rattlesnake Deterrent

Rattlesnake Deterrent?



Mikey in front and Gizmo behind.

I had reason to take one of my latest adoptees, Gizmo, to the vets both as an introductory event and also to treat him for what appeared to be blindness in his left eye. He had woken up that morning with the eye totally covered just as though he had cataracts which immediately had me hit the panic button.

A quick phone call and I was on my way to the Vet’s fearing the worst. My particular Vet is a younger guy who has been attending to my animals ever since he joined the Clinic several years ago. We have developed a good relationship and he is never too busy to chat to me about this and that regarding the pets. He has also been the bearer of bad news several times over these past few years when when one or the other has passed on, usually overnight. He is well used to my crying into the phone as I always get upset. The last of these was Petey who died of Heartworm that affected his heart.

The last addition, Pete

On this particular occasion he did not think it a very big deal and explained that for some reason, Gizzy had a pus build up in his eye. He ran a few tests and came back and explained to me what he thought it was and then disappeared to complete his diagnosis. Before he went, I talked to him about an Anti Rattlesnake Injection and he reappeared with the required syringe and phial and proceeded to give Gizzy a shot. I paid for the visit and the prescribed medicines and was reminded to bring Gizzy back in five weeks for a Anti Rattlesnake booster shot.

This was one of the nicer times when I came home with the dog I took in, alive and kicking but it got me thinking about Rattlesnakes. Those of you that follow my stories are well aware of how we lost Richie to a Rattlesnake in my own backyard and worse yet, from under the workshop, last August. I blamed myself following that incident for not cleaning out all of the junk that had accumulated under the shed or at the very least blocking it off to prevent the dogs from getting under there. As usual hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Time passed and being the great healer that it is, plus acquiring two more dogs to keep Ginnie company, blocking off the shed sort of slipped to a back burner and was added to the never ending list of projects, real or imagined. However, it was brought back into focus really quickly when I went out to investigate what all of the ruckus was about with Gizmo and Mikey both under the shed and barking up a storm. Their barks however, were not of the panicky kind that Richie displayed whenever he accosted an animal or snake in his backyard and was hell bent on eradicating them from his world. These were the sort of barks reserved for the discovery usually by scent, of a mouse or a rat that they knew were there but were out of reach. When I lay on the ground to take a look for myself, I could not see anything that was cause for alarm.

However, that did remind me that I needed to make that area more secure and prevent the dogs from getting under the shed. I knew I could not stop the snakes or any other small wildlife from doing whatever they wanted to do and going wherever they could get and my easiest course of action was to prevent the dogs from getting where I did not want them.

I really didn’t want to enclose all around the entire shed as it was a lot of work. I know as I had just replaced the skirt boards on three sides. I got me thinking about the best way to handle the situation and then it occurred to me that I already had the sides blocked off and all I had to do was block off the front area under the small deck. On the left facing the shed, I already have a pair of wooden doors that shuts off that side of the shed completely. On the right, I have the fenced in area that I use for storage and the compost heap. Both of these are absolutely small dog proof and even Mikey who is a prodigious jumper can’t clear the fence or gate to get in.

Without further ado, I unscrewed several of the deck boards attached to the workshop so that I could get to the area and proceeded to get to work. I had several pieces of the plastic lattice which is easy to work and cut and fitted the stuff in and around the different obstructions that always seem to be in the way on any of these sort of projects. I was in no hurry and spread the work out over a couple of days stopping for a cuppa when I felt like it or even making a fuss of the dogs as they came by. Mikey likes to help which mostly consists of just getting in the way but I do relish his company. Gives me someone to talk to and reminds me a little of Richie.

I finished the project and feel much better that we have shut off one of the several different areas around the garden that snakes and such can crawl (or is the word slither?). That does give the dogs a fighting chance of at least sighting the snake before it strikes which was not the case with Richie. Whether they will run away or stand and bark remains to be seen and of course, it all depends on the snakes. A hot dry summer and they may well be in because of the proximity of the water in the ponds. BTW, I do not kill the snakes but try to “persuade” them to leave usually with the use of a water hose. Whether I would have killed the snake that got Richie, I don’t know how to answer that as I don’t know what my reactions would have been. As it was, I was more concerned in getting him to the Vet’s. I didn’t see that Rattler and to date have yet to see one either in the garden or in the wild even on all of the hikes that I do. Plenty of Tree snakes and Water snakes but no Rattlers or any others of the poisonous variety.

Oh yes, when I take Gizzie back for the booster shot, the other two dogs will also go with him to start their Anti Rattlesnake Series. Such is the life of a dog owner in Texas.

Written 5/9/2018

Working on the shed
Richie and the Snake.
More Sadness

 

Austin Pond Society May 2018 Meeting


The Austin Pond Society tried something different with this May Meeting and held it at one of our Sponsors Store, namely Aqua-Dome located just off Ben White in Austin, Texas.

Aqua-Dome Meeting May 2018 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

The meeting was held outdoors with the weather cooperating, a nice breeze and not too hot. The first part of the meeting was as usual the Business Section and although the idea was unique, the soundtrack left a lot to be desired due to external traffic sounds. The second part of the meeting in which the owner, Gary Coffman, gave a demonstration on repotting water lilies was held in a different part of the large yard and the sound is much better.

Another of our Sponsors, Jet’s Pizza located in Brodie Lane, supplied the hungry group with a grand selection of different pizzas for us to devour which we proceeded to do at a rapid rate. There were about 40 members that had showed up and they listened intently as Gary showed us how he repots his water lilies. He also discussed Lotus and all of the other freshwater bog plants that he has for sale.

The meeting was over by 7:45 pm and I am quite sure that many of the members learned a bit about repotting water lilies. Thanks to Gary Coffman and Aqua-Dome for giving us something different.

This is the Business part of the meeting.

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

Gary Coffman demonstrating on “How to repot Water Lilies”.

Austin Aqua-Dome 2018 Repotting from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Written 5/22/2018