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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Reimer’s Ranch Hogge Trails 5-12-2017


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This pano is of  made up of 10 separate pictures

After changing my mind so many times on the last hike here a few days ago, I finally did hike the Hogge Trails. These are the new trails at this park and as yet, do not show up on any of the maps. This can be a bit intimidating when there is no visual of what lies ahead but the Hogge Trails are essentially a figure eight with the choice of the short trail at around 2 miles and the longer trail which is closer to 3 miles. The Park signs tend to err on the short side and both of my pedometers show longer distances than those marked on the sign posts.  In order to cover the entire set of trails, one has to hike the middle trail twice to complete the figure eight. There is also the trail that leads to the Hogge trails and it adds another 2 miles if you park in the Mountain Bike Parking Lot. By the time I arrived back in the parking lot, I had covered almost 8 miles.

The pictures below are of the Hogge Trails.

Along the way, Mother Nature is celebrating the birth of another Spring with a grand display of flowers. Everywhere you looked, it seemed that it was the habitat for some flower or another. This truly is a wonderful time of the year to be out on the trails.

Flowers at Reimers Ranch 5-12-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Coming out of the Mountain Bike Parking Lot, I took the trail that would lead me to Johnny’s Homestead, named for a structure that once stood on this spot before it burned down. All that remains is the stone chimney and the electric power poles with the power lines still in place.  Then followed a short walk along the Multi Purpose Trail until it branches off to the Hogge Trails, the first part of which crosses the creek that may be called Pogue Creek. Not sure about that. Early in the year around Jan-Feb, this creek is flowing at a good pace but it is now completely dried up at least where the trail crosses it. We could sure use some rain…

DSC_5433From the creek, the trail is a steady uphill climb for over a mile which sure gets the heart pumping and the blood flowing. It levels off where the Hogge Trails begin on the other side of the original boundary fence on the recently donated land. The Hogge Trails are fairly level with just the occasional short hill. Like all hills, they always seem to go up. The pictures below are of the long upward climb to get to  the start of the Hogge Trails.

The last time I was here, a grey fox ran across the road in front of me. This time, a large deer broke cover and scampered off as I approached. As is usual in such circumstances, there is never time to get the camera off the belt and into shooting position. Because I like to use hiking poles to aid with balance and to help propel me along the way, I carry my camera on a Cotton Carrier single camera waist belt with a quick release. It works very well for me but I am never going to get it up in time to take those sort of shots.

I had the trails all to myself not passing or even seeing any other hikers or bikers. I really like the feeling of solitude that one gets from hiking these trails. It was not until I arrived back at the Trailhead did I see other people and most of them were mountain bikers. Another very enjoyable walk before the Texas Heat starts in earnest.

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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.

Thinking About Life and Death…


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How strange it is that truth be told
that when we grow so very old
our concepts and our outlooks change
just like we are playing out a game
there are no sides no choice to make
there are no winners for anyone’s sake
it matters not how you were born
man or woman rich or poor
or how you lived the life you had
whether good or sometimes bad
or if you had a God on high
somewhere up there in the sky
or if you ate the proper food
and exercised when in the mood
or took long walks to try to stay fit
even when you would rather sit
making the effort to prolong your life
staying clear of trouble and strife
and yet one day you will wake up dead
with nothing more that can be said
that you tried to beat impossible odds
that no one before even your God
has been able to do though many have tried
and history has proved and has not lied
that Man’s time on this earth is limited to
a few score years we know is true
and no one likes the bottom line
even over the course of time
our lives are over in the blink of an eye
we hardly have time to say goodbye
before a new life takes our place
joining as part of the human race
to lead the life that we once just lived
and in our hearts we must forgive
as the human life is a fragile thing
before our spirits start to sing
to live out our time within the wind
blown gently by Nature as she takes us in
the bottom line the truth be told
we are no different as we behold
we are a part of what Nature provides
no different than others who preside
here on this Earth that we call home
for a short while until we are done.

Walking at McKinney Roughs 6-5-2017


DSC_5375I was desperate to get out on the trails again and after careful consideration opted to hike at McKinney Roughs. I really like the place and the trails are interesting and most of them have a lot of shade. That is always a plus here in Texas when the temperature can be hovering around 100 degrees in the summer. It was only in the 80’s on Saturday and very comfortable for hiking.

The trails were well groomed and it appeared that they had both been mowed and/or levelled to make for good walking. There are some advantages to being older as I paid my $2:00 and chatted to the lady behind the desk for a bit before heading out onto Coyote Road which is pretty much all downhill towards the river. Coyote Road has a trail washout as it connects to Roadrunner so it is not possible to make that complete loop. Instead, I took Riverside and literally followed it all the way alongside the Colorado River.

Just before I hit Riverside, a whole bunch of horses came into view, all of the riders were ladies and all chatting up a storm. We exchanged pleasantries as we passed and I got a few pictures of them. I think we have crossed paths before.

That part of the trail on Riverside is very pleasant although there are not many clear views of the river. Instead of heading back up Riverside, I opted to take Cypress which also runs alongside of the river and again is a very pleasant trail. I found a lone fisherman and walked down to chat with him for a bit. We discussed the fishing and he volunteered he was from Houston on a day trip to Austin with his sons. He had caught two so far and had returned them to the water but was not having much luck at his present site. He bemoaned the fact that his boot had fallen apart and indeed it had as he showed me that the entire sole of the boot had come off. He had it with him and was going to attempt a repair when he got home. I bade him farewell and good luck with his fishing and his shoe repair and continued upwards on Cypress.

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Prior to turning away from the river, I took a few pictures of the river itself and discovered that there were livestock on the opposite bank who had come down to take their fill of the water. Pictures below are of both the river and the livestock.

The Cypress trail when it leaves the river is nothing but an uphill climb even when it branches onto Pine Ridge. In many places, one encounters the man made trail steps to help with the climb. Luckily, it was all under the shade of the trees and actually was very pleasant and not too difficult to manoeuvre.

I followed Pine Ridge until it joined Bobcat Ridge and took that all the way back to the Parking Lot. Again, a lot of it was uphill walking but not overly difficult. On the way back, I was on the side of the park that now has the Zip Line and took a picture of one of the Towers showing people waiting their turn to take the ride. I just missed taking a picture of a couple of them as they were just completing the run as I came into view, accompanied by their screams as they zoomed through the air. It sounded like they were having fun but I think I will leave that to the younger generation and keep my feet firmly on the ground.

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Leaving the Zip Liners behind, I continued along the trail and arrived back in the Parking Lot which was beginning to fill up. A couple of middle aged ladies parked next to me driving a big old truck and one of them got out. She was dressed very nicely and I asked her if she was going hiking dressed like that and with those shoes on. She doubled over laughing and told me she just had to give me a “big ole hug” for making her laugh. I pointed out I was hot and sweaty but she gave me a hug anyway. She said they were going to a wedding and I remembered seeing that one was scheduled when I had gone to the office to pay my fees. Anyway, she made my day. A perfect end to a great hike.

I took lots of pictures of the flowers and trails and have posted them in separate blogs.

Use this link for the Wildflowers https://wordpress.com/post/pondblog2011.mlblogs.com/34817

and this one for the Trails
https://wordpress.com/post/pondblog2011.mlblogs.com/34826

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?