APS October 2018 Meeting


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The outgoing President, Jeannie Ferrier on the left with the incoming President Barb Lenhardt

Another month, another meeting of the Austin Pond Society held at the usual place, the Zilker Botanical Gardens in Austin, Texas. As usual, we were treated to a meal provided by our Hospitality person, Steven. He is one of those who is giving up his volunteer position at the end of the year and we thank him for his contributions to the cause. Tonight, his offerings were corn dogs with  deserts provided by the members. As I am not into corn dogs, I made do with several cookies to satisfy my sweet tooth.

Due to the bad weather, our numbers were down by quite a bit and I counted only 22 people in attendance. We started off with Barb introducing our speaker, Alex Rabadan, a local pond builder whose company is named Oasis Water Features and Landscaping. He held a question and answer session which kept everyone occupied for 30 minutes or so.

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Alex Rabadan, Oasis Water Features and Landscaping.

This was followed by Steven Monfrini, acting in the absence of the chairperson Nancy Reinert and as one of the committee members, to announce the new Board members for 2019. All the positions were filled and required a vote from the Membership to appoint them which passed without dissent. To review the new Board who will take office January 1st, 2019, use this link.

This was the only major piece of business for this evening and with a little more discussion about other minor items, the meeting came to a close.

APS Speaker October Meeting 2018 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

October 2018 meeting Business from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

 

The next meeting to be held on November 19 at the same location, will be our Christmas End of the Year Party. Blue Santa will again be in attendance so we are asking all of our members to bring a small gift preferably in the 12-14 year age bracket for the kids in Austin who do not receive much on Christmas morning. The theme this year will be Mexican and the food will also reflect the theme. Members can still bring along desserts or their contribution to the Mexican main meal. We are hoping for a Mariachi Band from one of the local high schools but that is not yet confirmed. Keep looking for more on this and we hope to see you there.

This will be the last meeting for the year as we do not meet in December.

Written 10/18/2018

What Day is It?


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Today is Saturday.. I think! One day is pretty much the same as the next at this stage of my life. I no longer look forward to the weekends as they are pretty much  the same as any other day except there are more people out and about and any special events are usually held on the weekend.

Used to be, many years ago, that every weekend for me was taken up with soccer, football to the rest of the world. I was either coaching one of the several Youth teams assigned to me or was actively playing myself on a couple of different teams. Even in the summer, things didn’t change very much except the Youth teams were off and we older people didn’t run anywhere near as hard or as long and we drank a lot of beer.

Nowadays, when I get up, the first thing I have to remind myself is what day it is. Once I have that firmly fixed in my mind, I check the calendar on my computer to see if I have anything special lined up that I need to do like a trip to the Physiotherapist for my aching shoulder or my Doctor for a geriatric check up. If I didn’t keep track of things on my computer, I would miss half of the appointments at which my presence is expected.  Apart from any benefits those visits do provide, I see myself as a piggy bank for all of the Doctors, Dentists and such that I seem to need in my old age. Thank goodness that I had the foresight and was lucky enough to work at the University of Texas at Austin for 22 years prior to my retirement that resulted in a pension and excellent health care.

After I have figured out what day it is and what important things I need to do, I usually fill the rest of my day on several other and no less important things like checking the ponds and the health and welfare of the couple of hundred fish that reside in them. There is usually something that needs my attention like a filter or a pump or maybe an improvement on something that I felt needed working on. I should state here that I don’t do gardening. At least not in the accepted sense.  Of course I take care of the ponds and I do mow the outside strip alongside the road every couple of months and the area that grows wild at the very bottom of the lot as it is really a dry creek and only floods when we get the odd gullywasher. Other than that, all of the plantings not counting those in and  around the ponds are all native vegetation that I allow to run wild except in the several walkways which I keep trimmed for ease of access.

I also like to hike a lot except the weather has been so bloody hot that it made more sense to sit inside rather than to bake in the 100 degree heat. At least, I have that to look forward to and as I only occasionally hike on weekends, I can hike any other day of the week to avoid the crowds.

So you see, that even though the weekends are relatively unimportant and I never know what day it is when I wake up, there is always plenty to do to keep me occupied and being a creature of habit, nothing much changes from day to day. One of my habits is to go grocery shopping later in the day and at the same time, treat myself to a Grande Non Fat Decaf Latte from Starbucks. This is my one serious vice as it happens every day and is not cheap when totalled up for the year at $4:38 a cup. Still, the way I see it, everyone is entitled to one vice as long as it is not harmful to oneself or others. It could be worse as I could also smoke and drink but I have never smoked because of my athletic prowess and it has been 10 years since I have had any alcoholic drinks.

Lets see now, it is almost 4:00 o’clock and now it is raining again, almost time for that Latte. So goes another day in my life…

Written 9/29/2018

Texas Heat and Laziness?


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With the temperatures finally cooling down here in my part of Texas, you would think that I would be chomping at the bit to get out on the trails or outside in the garden. After all, the 100 degree heat lasted almost 3 months of which, I spent a great deal of time indoors in the air conditioning, only venturing out when the larder got low and needed restocking. I haven’t been out on the trails since my last hike at McKinney Roughs way back on June 8, 2018 and have only done enough in the yard and ponds to keep things running with the very occasional trimming to keep the paths clear.

Somehow though, I have gotten used to the lazy life of sitting around and even though the high temperature is only around 90 degrees on the hot days and getting cooler all of the time, I still find myself sitting in front of my computer looking out of the window at the yard instead of going out and getting stuck into all of the work that needs to be done. I suppose I can blame some of that on my increasing years but if I want to live for a few more of them, I need to bite the bullet and just go and get after it. I do have the excuse that my shoulder is sore, the one that I managed to wrench when I was loading the coins into the truck and I am going to Physical Therapy for it. I also joined a new gym just a couple of miles up the road from me but I am using the the same wrenched shoulder as an excuse for not working out. That’s even worse as the gym as you can imagine, has a brand new, state of the art cooling system.

What will it take for me to get of my arse, which, if I am not careful will start to grow to a much larger size unless I can convince my brain that I need the exercise. In truth, it is a mental problem more than a physical one as I feel fit enough. On the positive side, I know that I will overcome my mind and get outside and do what I do best and that is hard work as I have all of my life. As the temperature cools down even more, I will start working out and going on that hike? Honest, I will…

Such are the quandaries that I find myself in at this time of my life and what the Texas heat can do to a man…

Written 9/25/2018

APS September Meeting 2018.


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True to form as September 17th rolled around so did the Austin Pond Society monthly meeting held at the usual place, Zilker Botanical Gardens Clubhouse. There were about 34 people in attendance plus several of the Sponsors as this meeting was dedicated to them to give everyone a chance to meet them in person.

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The evening started with a light meal in the form of Pizza with all of the fixins delivered by the owner John. Member’s brought deserts as they usually do which I for one am very grateful. About the only time I eat deserts is once every month at the Austin Pond Society Meetings.

Following the meal, the Business section of the meeting started with the President Jeannie, going around the room and taking comments and questions. The high spot of the evening apart from the opportunity of meeting the Sponsors, was the announcement and presentation of a list of names compiled by the Nomination Committee ably led by Nancy Reinert for the 2019 Board of Directors. Much to everyone’s surprise, this Committee had managed to find willing people to serve in all of the vacant positions which included, President, Treasurer and Pond Tour Chairman, the three most difficult positions to fill. There was some shuffling around as  people switched positions but in the end, all of the Officers and Directors positions had nominees. These need to be ratified which will happen by the Membership at the next meeting in November. None of these nominees are cast in stone and if there are any other candidates willing to run at that meeting, then the positions will be decided by a vote of the membership. There are still two other outstanding positions that are classified as Volunteers meaning that they do not have to attend Board Meetings and neither do they get a vote if they do choose to attend. Those positions are Hospitality and Librarian. The Hospitality position is the most popular person in the Club as that person is the one that feeds us every month. The other vacant position is the Librarian who brings the books and maintains the records of those that are loaned out. If any of you are interested in either of these positions, contact Nancy Reinert at parliamentarian@austinpondsociety.org

Time was given to mix with the Sponsors to see what they had to offer and ask questions about their products. My favorite was Barb Lenhardt who is a Realtor as she had the best chocolates. Actually, the Sponsors who were in attendance or had representation at a table were as follows, the aforementioned Barb Lenhardt, Realtor, Water Garden Gems from Marion who brought several goodies that they offered for sale, Taylormade who builds ponds and Kirk Perry with Perry Aerial Photography.  Both Jet’s Pizza and Bamboo Bistro had tables but were not in attendance due to the calls of business.

The meeting finally came to a close with the business out of the way as it was time to turn attention to the other important part of the evening namely the judging of the pictures that will go into the Calendar. As Calendar sales have been dropping off with the advent of the internet and cell phones, this item will eventually go the way of the DoDo even though the Photo Contest will remain as an integral part of the organization with the pictures getting posted on the website, the modern way of showing off prints. There were a lot of pictures on display split into four different categories, fish, ponds and pond features, wildlife and pond plants. The participants were each given four stickies with a number that they affixed to each of their pictures. The voters wrote down their selection by number and the votes were tallied up and the winners announced. These winning pictures will all go into the Calendar and will be posted on the website usually as the heading picture for the month. This is always a very popular occurrence every year and regardless of the Calendar survival, will continue as an integral part of the Austin Pond Society.

Jeannie thanked everyone for attending including the Sponsors and for making the evening a huge success and called the meeting to a close. The next meeting is October 15 at the same place and the Speaker will be Alex Rabadan, Owner of Oasis Water Features & Landscaping (512-630-6786). Alex offers services such as Pond Installations & Monthly or Yearly pond & water garden maintenance.
This will be the last real meeting of the year as the November Meeting is dedicated to having fun and partying.

APS September Meeting 2018 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

APS September 2018 Meeting Video from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

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Sponsor Night from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo


APS September Photo Contest 2018 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo
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Hope to see everyone at the October Meeting.

Written 9/21/2018

Losing Pets


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Losing a much loved pet is very difficult for all of us and some of us grieve for a long time as we try to move on.  The same is not true, at least for me when I lose any of the big Koi that live in my ponds. Fish, by nature, are cold blooded things and don’t do well in the cuddle department. I know that some people do not share my views on fish but I find it hard to even come close to any form of grief when a fish dies as they are sometimes apt to do.

A couple of days ago, I lost a big white Koi which was the biggest fish I have ever had. She was one of the originals so probably close to 38 years old which is pretty good for a fish in an unprotected pond. She was well over three feet long and probably weighed close to twenty pounds. I suspected that she was  going to that big Koi pond up in the sky as she had been acting very lethargic the past few days and did not appear to be eating and sure enough, when I came out to feed them the other morning, I could see her laying on the bottom of the pond. It is my experience that these large Koi don’t float immediately and it usually takes a couple of days for them to get up off the bottom of the pond, I suppose as they start to decay and the gasses start to form.

After a real struggle on my part due to her size and weight as my net was hardly big enough,  I managed to get her out of the pond.  Close inspection did not reveal any outwardly visible signs of damage or disease so it must have been an internal problem of some sort. Anyway, dead is dead and after pulling on a pair of long sleeved rubber gloves, I carried her to the bottom of the garden and with some effort, tossed her over the fence for the vultures or other wild things to clean up. She was heavy enough that I managed to wrench the muscles in my left upper arm in the process causing me to light up the air with a few well chosen cuss words.

I have at least fifty or sixty Koi in three of the five ponds some of which are almost as large as the one we just lost. These are the second batch of Koi bought way back in 1980 following a refilling tap water incident which wiped out the original stock purchased in 1977.  I have one surviving Koi from that original 1977 group and he is definitely the oldest and is at least 41 years old but being a male, is not among the very largest ones. There are also a couple of hundred or so Goldfish in three of the ponds and it is hard to stop them from breeding especially in the ponds that are populated by Goldfish only. Koi do a good job of keeping the population down as do a couple of turtles that are in the other ponds as they eat the eggs and  young fry.

The occasional fish die off is not always a bad thing as it keeps the population manageable. I am glad though that I don’t have to make the choice  of who lives and who dies. I’ll leave that to Mother Nature…

Here come the buzzards,  Mother Nature’s cleanup crew and so the pendulum swings as it always does, in the grand scheme of things.

Written 8/9/2018

 

Austin Pond Society August 2018 Meeting


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After being away from our home location for the past two meetings, the Austin Pond Society was very happy to return to what we consider to be our home base, Zilker Botanical Gardens in Austin, Texas. The first things I noticed upon our return was the Photographic Art that adorned the walls, showings from one our local Photographic Artists,

This was our monthly meeting for August. We had originally lined up a Speaker but he had to cancel at not quite the last minute as we had time to line up a different event. This time, we held our Swap, Buy and Sell meeting where the owners brought in their used equipment in the hope of moving it along to others who may have the need. There were also many plants both for sale and free and one Member brought in a bunch of baby Koi that he was giving away.

For the first time, there was quite a bit of duplicate pond equipment such as skimmer boxes, filter boxes and such with no less than three owners having similar items on their tables. Some of the equipment was brand new and still in the box as in the case of Member Mike Peppar who purchased the items with a view of DIY pond and then ended up contracting it out to one of the many reputable pond builders in the area.

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I counted thirty four members at the meeting all who appeared to enjoy themselves. The meal was the good old American standby, namely hot dogs with all of the fixins and there was plenty to go round including deserts brought in by the members.

The Business section of the meeting comprised of two major items. Ellen Filtness has come up with the idea that has been named Pondsitters. Basically what it is is a service provided by the current members to help one another out on a volunteer basis either in Emergencies or when the owner want or needs to go away for a few days and the volunteer would act as the Pond sitter in the time the owner is gone. She explained the idea to everyone and it is currently posted in a lot more detail on the APS Website. Great idea for those of us that do not have anyone to look after our ponds and need to take that trip. If you are interested either as a volunteer to Pondsitters or have the need for such a service down the road use this link for more information.

The second item was the presentation of the revised bylaws after a couple of months of hard work by Margaret, Jeannie, Julie and Frank working on the Revisions with Nancy Reinhardt as Chair of this project. Nancy presented it to the floor for it to be voted on as the new APS Bylaws. There was some discussion over one item to do with the number of Directors but Julie suggested a simple change of verbiage which was accepted by the Members who then proceeded to pass both measures. We should be good for at least 4-5 years without having to make further revisions. That was the last of the major business and the Swap and Sell opened to the floor. I would like to say it was a roaring success but I don’t believe it was. I sold some small items and made the grand total of $27 but there did not seem to be anyone with a pond building project in their futures so none of the major equipment that was offered by three of us, sold.

The plants and fish went well and their seemed to be a steady stream of buyers for the plants which were located outside because many of them are water plants and we did not want to mess up the floors.

The evening finally wound down and by 8:00 pm. nearly everybody had left. The next meeting is on September 17th and will be our Sponsors Night when we dedicate the entire evening to our wonderful Sponsors. Hope to see you there.

APS August Meeting 2018 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Written 8/20/2018

This and That…


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I commented in the last couple of blogs just how hot it is here in my part of  Central Texas. It is like this every year with some years worse than others. The record was set in 2011 when Austin at Camp Mabry, one of the weather recording centers, registered 83 consecutive days with the temperatures 100 degrees or more. It doesn’t matter what way you look at it, that was a bloody hot summer. Luckily, the humidity was low which made it a little more bearable.

We have just had our first 100 degree days this past week with the thermometer reaching 100 on three consecutive days. There are thunderstorms forecast for the next couple of days which will bring some welcome relief. Along with the high temperatures there are all sort of bye products caused by the heat. Things like high electric bills with the A/C units at full blast and in many cases, replacement units due to the older models breaking down. Try to imagine what the inside of a house is like with no A/C when the outside temperature is 100 degrees or higher. Fans are a big help but they only move the hot air around as they don’t cool it.

If you are an avid gardener, it is a heartbreaking struggle to keep your precious plants alive especially if you are on city water and there are watering restrictions. Austin gets most of its water from the Highland Lakes which is a chain of six freshwater lakes in Central Texas formed by six dams on the lower Colorado River. A heat wave like the one in 2011 actually lowered the lake water quite considerably as the water evaporates along with the demands from all of the Municipalities downstream. It took several years for the lake levels to return to normal after that and it was officially declared a drought.

In my younger days, thirty or so years ago, I was still an avid soccer player at the top Amateur level. The teams I played with would often go away to Tournaments in Dallas or Houston or sometimes even further afield to New Orleans or Florida. These Tournaments were nearly always in the summer, again the hottest time of the year but although they were competitive, it was only for fun. Apart from getting to play several games over a weekend, we went for the company and camaraderie that belonging to a team brings. And the beer of course, lots of beer. I remember on two separate occasions, one in Dallas and the other in Houston when the heat got to us more than usual.

The Dallas Tournament was played on a large soccer complex which like all such complexes was built with very little shade around the fields. Our particular field had Flood Lights surrounding the field mounted on six, sixty foot metal poles. This was the only shade close to the field and spectators and players not in the game were all standing in a line in the shadow of the poles with a larger group at the end where the bank of lights projected a bigger shadow. It was pretty funny. The actual temperature that day was 108 degrees, the hottest that I have ever played in. The game itself was played in slow motion with the players trying to conserve as much energy as possible and when they wanted to sub out, they had the greatest difficulty in finding someone to take their place.  Usually, subs are lined up just waiting to get into the game but not on that particular day. I can’t remember much about the game or even if we won as the heat was the overriding factor for all of us.

The Tournament in Houston was very much the same with very high temperatures. The difference was that in Houston, being close to the sea, the humidity was through the roof which made it appear to be much hotter than it really was. Humidity saps the strength right out of you whether you are used to it or not. The same thing happened as in the Dallas Tournament except there were no floodlights to provide shade. In the second half players were subbing in and out at a tremendous rate as in these Amateur games, subs are unlimited. In the end, it got to where you couldn’t find anyone willing to go back in which meant that you had to stay on the field or if you came off anyway, the team had to play short. That game was truly a miserable experience for both teams. I can’t remember who won and in truth, really didn’t care.

On the home front with all of my ponds, I have to be very careful to make sure that there is no water wastage from anywhere. As it is, keeping the water cool enough for the Koi and Goldfish during these periods of high temperatures is a difficult task. The only real way is to keep the water moving with waterfalls and water features and plant lots of Lilies and water shading plants. The other big problem it to maintain the oxygen levels in the water as the heat tends to deplete the amount of oxygen. I have separate bubblers in all of my ponds which this time of the year are running non stop and even with these precautions, it not a bit unusual to find fish floating on the top.

I have all native plants in my garden which I tend to let grow wild only trimming them where my pathways are or maybe to keep them from crowding out the other growth. If I  have to water them to keep them alive I have installed an underground soaker hose system which if absolutely necessary, will run at night on timers. This is enough to keep the plants alive without wasting too much water in overspill. My garden is really a jungle in disguise which makes it much easier to maintain.

The one redeeming factor is that we can look forward to the Hurricane Season and since 80% of the North Atlantic Hurricanes form from June through October, hurricane season is declared from June 1 to November 30. The months when storms are most frequent on the Texas coast are August and September. If we do get any at all and that is not a certainty, we will probably get cooler temperatures and rain which if it is in excessive amounts will bring its own problems.

Texas has a saying, “If you don’t like the Texas weather, just wait five minutes and it will change”. This saying is also credited to many other States to which it can apply.

Written on another hot day in Texas.
7/3/2018