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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My 81st Birthday…


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As many of you know, I celebrated my 81st birthday on January 20th. By itself, there is nothing earth shattering about that except many people are surprised that I am still very much alive but no longer kicking as I gave up playing soccer at the ripe young age of 72.

Nowadays, my main form of exercise is to take long hikes as often as I can and when the weather is compatible for being outside. In between, I work on the 5 ponds that are in my backyard.

A lot of people offered congratulations and asked me to have a great and enjoyable day. Last year for my 8oth birthday, members of the women’s soccer team that I coached for many years, threw me a big party which was a lot of fun. This year, my celebrations consisted of buying a cheesecake in my local HEB store and gobbling down half of it at one sitting. I figured I would save the other half for the next day and therefore carry over my birthday celebration to an extra day. In my defence, I compensated yesterday by taking a 6 mile hike at Reimer’s Ranch.

By an odd quirk of fate, my birthday falls on the same day that the American Presidents are sworn into office. Yesterday was no exception and I had the dubious honor of having a birthday on a day when this Nation swore in a man of very questionable character to be the 45th President. I swear to all of you reading this that I had absolutely nothing to do with it and it is just sheer coincidence as I never voted for him.

Now that the birthday celebrations have settled down, it’s time to get back to work. If this past year is anything to go by, as fast as time is passing, I’ll be celebrating my 82nd in about 6 months time…

Time is Wearing Things Out…Part 4 – Microwave Oven.


dsc_4353Just when I was congratulating myself that we had survived the 3 things that have recently gone wrong at my house, along comes number 4.

When we (I was still married at the time) moved into this house, 31 years ago, one of the first things that I had to do was to install a microwave over the electric oven. The house had been designed for it and there was a recessed space already built into the cabinets. There was no outlet close by but the house had been wired for one. It was a bit awkward because of the tight working space but I managed to install an outlet box in one of the overhead cabinets. These type of hanging microwaves have a frame attached to the wall and then the oven sits in that frame and is secured by a couple of long bolts from the top.

For 30 years, the old GE microwave has given me very good service over its long life. That is until Friday evening when I was warming my dinner and all of a sudden, smoke began pouring out all over the place. I quickly turned off the oven and opened the backdoor to let the smoke out. I expected any minute that the smoke alarms would go off but with the help of a fan, I cleared it all out.

Quite obviously, the microwave had reached the end of its useful life and I would have to replace it and I had to resort to the stove top and a frying pan to warm up my food.

The next day, I was in luck as The Home Depot was holding a special sale on appliances which included microwaves. I wandered up and down the aisles finally settling on another GE that had a recessed turntable AND two different shelf spacings and was on sale for $148.00. I really liked that idea as in the old one, if I placed something like a cup on the turntable, I had to take the shelf out to give enough height.  Turns out that the one I had chosen was the only one they had and it was a display model. It didn’t have any nicks or dents so I decided I could do without the box as long as everything else was there. The clerk summoned help and another guy came over and unscrewed the oven from its place on the stand and put it in my cart. I paid for my new oven and made my way home all prepared to install the thing.

As I mentioned, it had been 30 years when I installed the last one and I couldn’t for the life of me remember what I had done way back then. So I made a cup of coffee and sat down and read the instructions just to refresh my memory. That helped a lot and it all came back to me of what I had done to install the original oven. I scouted around and found the two screws that were holding the old oven in place and also located the vent hood behind a panel and undid all of the duct tape that covered the joins to the oven. I found the electric outlet I had installed in one of the cabinets and unplugged the old oven.

At that point, I really could have used some help in getting the old oven down. It is not that it is that heavy but it is off balanced with most of the weight on one end and it was in an awkward place with me working off a step ladder. Not only that, it was right over top of my electric oven which has a glass top or whatever that material is and if I dropped it, there really would be a mess. I put some heavy covers over the oven top to cushion the weight of the microwave and without giving it any more thought, took out the screws, leaned the oven forward, lifted it off of the holding track and lowered it onto the top of the covers. That was the worst part as it was comparatively easy to lift it off the oven top and onto my dolly to take it outside.

It turns out that the track for the new oven is almost identical to the old one so I was saved one step of the process by not having to exchange the two. The next thing was to make sure that all of the existing holes would all line up and after some measuring and remeasuring, decided that I needed to do some work on the lead cord outlet hole in order to not pinch it when the new oven is screwed in tight. Luckily, I have all kinds of tools including several keyhole bits that can drill large holes through wood. It took a while to drill the hole where I needed it. At one time, the drill bit came loose and fell out of the drill and I still haven’t been able to find it several days later. I switched to a different one to finish the job.

Satisfied that all of the holes would line up when needed, I turned my thoughts to the oven itself thinking about the steps involved in lifting it into place. It would have been a simple job with two people but as there was only me, I had to get ingenious. The new oven is not quite as heavy as the old one. Whether that is because of a change of materials or different design, who knows but I was grateful for the few less pounds. My problem was that I had to lift the oven up fairly evenly so that I could hook the bottom of the back over the clips in the already attached frame and that is with one foot on a step ladder and the other on the counter top. I gave it some considerable thought and wandered out to the workshop for some ideas. I spotted an older cooler that I use to transport fish when I do fish rescues. This one is old enough that it made of metal unlike the modern ones that are made of plastic. It had a perfectly flat top and was almost the exact height from the top of the electric stove to the frame. If I could first lift the oven onto the cooler which was already placed on top of the electric range, I knew I could reposition myself to put the new microwave in place.

I must have wasted 10 minutes re-thinking and worrying about my plan until I said to myself,”What the hell” grabbed a hold of the microwave, lifted it and placed it on top of the cooler. It was lined up perfectly so I lifted it again and it slipped over the frame exactly in the right place. I pushed back hard against the wall making sure that the electric chord was not getting pinched and put the first bolt into the top with a few turns of the screw to make it safe before turning my attention to the other bolt. With it secured, I tightened them both down so that the microwave now fit snugly against the cabinets. I stepped down and admired my work and it fit to my satisfaction.

All that remained was to  align the oven top to the ductwork and screw them together followed by duct taping the joints to complete the seal. I replaced the panels off the cabinets that I had unscrewed, plugged in the new oven and reset the time. I had to try it out so I heated a cup of water with an English Breakfast tea bag and it worked perfectly. I sat and looked at my work as I enjoyed my English cuppa.

Clean up was a cinch as I collected all of my tools and bits and pieces as I took them all, along with the cooler that had proved to be such a godsend back out to my workshop real pleased that it had gone so smoothly. It was not the installation that I had been worried about but I was concerned that I might not have been able to lift it into place by myself due mainly to the awkwardness of the situation There is still hope in the old dog yet…

Let’s hope this is the last thing for a while. This is getting expensive….

 

Time is Wearing Things Out…Part 3- New Printer


dsc_4354As I said in the last blog, these things always come in three’s. The third part of this story is related to my printer. I have had a Canon Pixma printer for about the last 8 years and it has always given me good service. It was a bit frustrating way back then as I tried to hook it up so that it could receive signals by Wireless. It involved using a cable first and then fiddling around a bit before removing the cable and hoping that the wireless signal would hook up.Things have changed a lot since then as I discovered with this new printer.

Apart from the initial setup, the old printer has always worked just fine until yesterday. I tried to print something and the printer displayed a message to the effect there was a problem and to contact the service center which I did but to no avail. They could not help me and suggested that I needed to return it to a repair facility.

I loaded the printer into my car and drove a couple of miles to the Best Buy store where they had repaired my computer when it crashed a couple of years ago. The gentleman behind the counter explained to me that if the printer was under a Best Buy extended warranty, they would replace it for a brand new one. I told him the age of the printer and we both knew it was not under any sort of warranty. He did mention that if I bought a new Epsom or HP, they would give me a further 15% off the price and they would re-cycle the old printer. Apparently, printers are so cheap, they are not worth repairing. I thanked him and returned the printer to my car and then decided that I should at least take a look at the new printers.

I wanted to get a new Canon as I print a lot of pictures and Canon does a good job on them. I saw plenty of Epsom’s and HP’s and had to ask the sales clerk where the Canon printers were. He directed me and they had several different ones all with the prices marked down by some considerable amount. They even had one that was as cheap as $54.00 but I was afraid that the print quality would not be very good. I settled for a Canon Pixma MG7720 for which I paid $120.00 down from $210.00 and added a two year warranty for good measure.

I drove home with my new printer after asking the sales clerk who had carried the new one to my car if he wouldn’t mind taking the old one back in to be re-cycled. He willingly obliged and I drove home with my goodies.

Setting up the new printer still took a couple of hours. Transferring the contents of the supplied disk took 20 minutes alone. I worked through the process following the supplied instructions and the first problem I ran into was not getting the ink tanks to light up after they were installed. I eventually managed it but it took a while even over something as simple as that. The rest of the work was plain sailing, after the disk installed the drivers. The WiFi hooked up quickly and we were in business. As with all new things, the panel is different and of course, the ink tank numbers are also different so the 4 brand new tanks I have for the old printer wont fit. Maybe I can find someone on my Neighborhood watch who will take them.

The trouble with a printer is that it only gets used very occasionally but you can’t not have one for those times when you do have something to print or scan.

That makes the 3 incidents. Wonder if there is a 4th?

Time is Wearing Things Out…Part 2 – Garage Door Opener.


dsc_4357In Part 1, we talked about the motor and pump going out on the hot tub. It must be that all things with electric motors have all decided to quit at the same time in my house. First was the hot tub and now the garage door opener is playing around. I installed the current opener about 2 years ago to replace one that I had installed probably 10 or so years before that. I will not mess with changing out the broken springs on the door. A man could get seriously hurt with one of those but there is not a lot of speciality work involved in changing out the openers.

I went into the garage with the intentions of going to the store and as I normally do, pushed the open button before getting in my car. Luckily, I happened to watch the door go up instead of just backing out as the door had stopped at halfway. Repeated attempts at pushing the button only brought about more frustration with the door not opening more than half up.

As with all motorized garage doors, there is a built in safety that always makes it possible to open the door manually as long as neither of the springs are broken. It just take a pull on the release rope to disconnect the door from the motor and the door can be pushed up so I was not really stuck and not able to get the car out.

I went to work on the door adjustments which is where I figured the problem had to be as the tracks were not broken or misaligned. Repeated fiddling with the adjustments only brought about more frustration on my part as the door would either go up with a crash or only go up a little bit or go down and immediately bounce back up. I decided to unhook it and use it manually and leave the thing while I went to Starbucks for a favorite brew. I figured that I needed to get away from it for a bit to lose my frustrations.

I kept it on the manual lifting for a few days and then decided to have another go at adjusting it. This time, I went to a different adjustment panel for the adjustments and lo and behold, got it working properly. A few more tweaks and the door is just like new again. Maybe that’s a bit of a stretch as it is at least a 30 year old door but at least the mechanical door opener is now working properly. I have a button I can push on the visor of my car and I spent several happy minutes just pushing it to make the door go all the way up and then all the way down.

I wonder what is next as these things always come in three’s?

Time is Wearing Things Out…Part 1 – Hot Tub Pump and Motor.


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The pump is behind the blue box.

I have had a hot tub for the past 25 years. Not the same one of course as the original one collapsed as I was moving it to a different site. This forced me to buy a new one which I have had since 2002. I find hot tubs to be very soothing and relaxing after either working hard at something in the yard or ponds or after covering several miles on a hike. Tends to help the old aches and pains in muscles that I never knew I had.

One day a couple of weeks ago, the pump in the hot tub developed a real screeching sound so it didn’t take an Albert Einstein to figure out that the bearings had gone and either needed a repair job or at the worst, a new pump. Previously, on any hot tub work, I have always contacted a couple of gentlemen who made a living by repairing hot tubs but neither of them did that sort of work anymore. I am not surprised as it is not easy working on these things as it requires having to kneel down and stick your head under the rim of the tub in a very limited space enclosure which made it extremely difficult to perform the work. I thought about for a bit and decided that there was nothing magic about this particular job and that apart from the difficulties of getting at it, the work should not be beyond anything that I could do. So, off came the cover panel, on went my knee pads along with a cushion to kneel on and I went to work. It turns out, that apart from the location and the difficulties that created, the work to remove the pump was comparatively easy. I took the pump to an Electrical repair shop here in Austin only for them to contact me a few days later to tell me that it was beyond repair and that I needed to purchase a new pump and no, “They did not deal in Spa pumps”.

In this modern day and age of the internet, I got on line and located a couple of Spa repair/suppliers and found just the right pump for a little over $200.00 with no shipping costs so I went ahead and ordered it. A week or so later, it was delivered to my garage door and I went back to work on re-installing the new pump. As with anything that you haven’t got a clue in what you are doing, there are right ways and wrong ways to do those things. I probably chose the wrong way and even when I reversed myself, it was still the wrong way. Actually, apart from the difficulties made by the location, reinstalling the pump went very smoothly. I had not shut one of the valves properly and had to refill the tub before I could test it out which took about 20 or so minutes. Then came the moment of truth as I switched on the power and lo and behold the pump started to spin very quietly with no screeching. I adjusted the thermostat to 102 degrees and then waited for the hot tub to warm up which would take several hours.

The pump is a 2 speed and when the heater is on, it runs at low speed. The high speed is for someone who is using the tub to help provide the therapeutic movement of the water. It is also programed to turn on the high speed blowers for about a minute once every 12 hours to purge the system of air. Did I mention that even a hot tub has a motherboard in it that tells it when to go through the various cycles? Ah, the miracles of modern science.

Turns out, that even though I rewired the motor exactly the same as the one I took out, the new one is just a little different and the low and high speeds are reversed. Instead of the motor coming on to bring the water back up to the chosen temperature, which only happens at low speed, the pump kicked in on the high speed cycle. I went back online and looked at the specs and there is a statement that says, “If the high speed comes on first reverse the white and green wire” or something like that. Trouble is, you can only find that out by hooking everything up and running it to make sure it was correct.

Today, 2 weeks after completing the first motor change out, I am back under the tub again getting ready to reverse the wires. The weather here in Texas has not been kind in terms of me getting out to work on this little project. It has rained for more than a week and this project wasn’t that pressing but today, the sun came out and I decided that I had waited long enough.

Although the main gist of the job was to reverse two wires, unfortunately, I had to retrace my steps almost exactly to get at the wiring meaning a complete removal of the pump. This time though, I had a much better idea of what I was doing and I had it all done, the hot tub filled with water and back running again in about an hour.

Can’t wait to get back in it again and soak my tired muscles and aching back. It will take about 6 hours to properly warm up to 102 degrees. I don’t mind waiting….

Post Script. Just to report that reversing the wires did the trick. Everything is working just fine…

Thoughts about bloggin’


dsc_4183I have been thinking about this for the past few days and decided to write something to share with the rest of you.

We all know that there is nothing nicer than to get a “Like” from one of the many bloggers that take the time to at least do a quick check of our blogs. Just as we all do with all of the blogs that arrive in our inbox every day. I recognize most of them but occasionally, a new name pops up requiring additional time in checking them out to see if they are of interest to me.

I have been blogging since 2011 and it took me a while to figure out the system, probably 3 years at least. I have posted over 600 blogs mostly about the great outdoors or things closely related. These are things I enjoy and like to share both my pictures and experiences with the rest of you. For a long time, I couldn’t understand how anybody could get 50, 100, 500 and even thousands of followers and “Likes” until I realized that other readers are only going to “Like” you as long as you “Like” them in return.

So, like many of you, I spend 2-3 hours every day going through my e-mails and checking out all of the blogs that many of you have put up. I do not have time to read them all so I list all of the “Unread” emails and then sort them using “From”and then I usually click on the “Like” button for each one. When the page opens, I do a quick scan to see if I really want to read the article. If at first glance it appears interesting then I spend the time in reading and commenting. If not, I quickly move on to the next one, all this after having pushed the “Like” button on the first one posted. Any other posts by the same person are ignored after opening them.

Now I am quite sure that many of you are doing the same thing, that is if you are having to check 200 plus e-mails every day and pushing the “Like” button more than 200 times in the vain hope that in return, others are doing the same thing. Sort of patting each other on the back.

The problem that I have is that many of you either have too much time on your hands or nothing better to do or, heaven forbid, think that your readers cannot do without hearing from you and are posting more than once a day, sometimes several times a day. Quite honestly, I do not read anything from anybody after the first posting of the day. After that, I just click to open the message without a “Like” and then quickly move on. I try to post 3 times a week but am satisfied if it is only 2 times. I realize that my blogs are usually after a hike or a pond event and occasionally a poem or words of wisdom (like this one) and therefore require time and physical effort before posting but for those of you out there, many of whom are my blogger “friends” I am appealing to you all to lower your output just a little and try to keep your blogs to one a day. I am quite sure that I am not alone in feeling this way and that many of you do exactly the same as I do on a daily basis.

The alternative for me is that I end up having to unsubscribe in order to control the amount of stuff coming into my mail box and in many cases, I don’t really want to do that because I find the blogs interesting and want to read them.

Sorry for the rant but I have been thinking about this for a while before deciding to blog about it. In no way am I trying to offend anybody, just making a point. And of course, you may not even read this if like me, you just push the “Like” button.

See you all tomorrow….