Austin Pond Society Meeting – January 2018


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So starts a New Year for the Austin Pond Society. What will it bring, I wonder? We usually follow the same pattern every year. All of our meetings are set up to incorporate different things and we pretty much stick to the same items year after year. The Speaker that Barb Lenhardt, our Programs and Special Events Board Member had originally set up for this meeting had to withdraw at the last minute. This meant that we had to improvise which, as it turned out was no problem as we spent nearly all of the meeting discussing our lack of a Pond Tour Director and what to do instead.

But, I am getting ahead of myself. The meeting was attended by thirty members and as usual, Steven Monfrini, our Hospitality Volunteer put on a spread for us to enjoy. This time, we had many choices in which to make our own sandwich or in some cases, sandwiches. Our members absolutely outdid themselves with the choices of deserts and there was a whole table just loaded with goodies. I was torn between a sandwich or desert and resolved the issue but having both.

Keith and Locations Jan 2018 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

As is normal for the start of a New Year, we had a couple of new faces in the Board positions. Actually, that is not exactly true as Margaret Boeneke is our Librarian and was temporarily sitting at the Welcome/Sign In table due to the untimely death of Keith Neuse and the resignation of his Partner Rodney Lewis. Both will be missed. The Austin Pond Society wants to install a permanent memorial to both of them in the form of each of them having an engraved brick in the walkway at Zilker Botanical Gardens. We passed the hat around at this meeting for which the Members donated $210.00, enough to purchase the two engraved bricks. Thank You Members, you always come through for us.

2018 Pond Tour Discussions from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

What this means is that we are short two Board Members as Margaret is only sitting in the Welcome chair temporarily, so if any of you are interested in joining the Board of the Austin Pond Society as either Secretary or Membership, please contact Jeannie, our President at this link. For information on the duties of each of these positions, use this link.

More Discussion Jan 2018 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

For not having a prepared agenda, we did really good at filling up the time that would normally have been taken up by a Speaker. We had several items of interest among them, Tribute to Keith and Rodney, major discussion about our lack of a Pond Tour Director, a discussion on cleaning out the ponds at the Hyatt Regency at Bastrop, our annual budget upon which we needed to vote and which incidentally without a Tour, will put us in the red for this year.

Finally as per usual, we ended with the drawing for two door prizes both of which were cute (if you like that sort of stuff), Fishy things to use to hold letters, pictures and other similar stuff. I was fortunate enough to win one of these “things” but turned it back for a redraw as I had no use for it. I already have enough stuff.

The meeting closed around 8:45 pm.

The next meeting will be on February 19, 2018 at Zilker Botanical Gardens starting at 6:30 pm. Check the website to see who the Speaker will be.

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The Hardworking Crew.


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See how much clearer it is through the trees

I had a knock on the door around 11:00 am which by itself is strange as I don’t usually get too many visitors. So, I used the peephole and saw a gentleman standing well back from the door and when I opened it, I was prepared to tell him “That I don’t need any” of whatever he was selling. I could see that his truck and trailer were parked on the street and figured that he was looking for work. I didn’t know what sort but it was probably tree trimming or yard work.

He introduced himself and very politely asked if he could give me a price for trimming the trees in the front which oddly enough, I had just been talking to my neighbor about all of the dead wood they contained. I am always a bit wary of strangers stopping by to try to talk me into letting them work around the place for obvious reasons but he offered me a good price and I haggled a bit just because and we finally agreed on a number which I thought was very reasonable. We shook hands on it and before I could get back indoors, he and and a couple of others were unloading their tools. I went back to what I was working on at that particular time and  I could hear the angry buzz of the chainsaws outside.

I got burned once before when a couple of white guys stopped by and asked if they could trim the trees. It didn’t take me very long to figure they didn’t have a clue and had to run them off which they didn’t take too well. So, I kept an eye on this group through the windows and it was very obvious they they knew exactly what needed to be done and they were going after it. I have about forty live oak trees in the front and about the same number in the back most of which are live oaks and all of them had a lot of dead wood in them. Two of these guys, all of whom were Hispanic were climbing the trees with a lot of agility with their chainsaws hanging from their waist belts. They used safety harness which they attached to the tree as they scrambled about. While they were doing the cutting, the third guy was loading the very large trailer which also included him jumping up onto the stack and using his chainsaw to consolidate and pack the load. I can’t believe how much stuff they packed onto that trailer.

I called to the bossman, whose name was Derek and took him to the backyard where the ponds are and we walked the garden with me pointing out some of the obvious deadwood and him telling me about what he perceived to be needing work.  He told me that a couple of the trees were Hackberries and needed to come down. We haggled for a bit and he came up with a satisfactory price which as I expected, was a little higher than the front because of the difficulty of working around the ponds and because the trees were much  bigger in diameter and took more time to cut down.

By now, it was getting dark and they stored their tools in my garage and said they would be back the next day. I paid Derek for the day’s work. When I inquired as to what time to expect them tomorrow, he said around 9:00 am or thereabouts.

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Day 2.
Well, 9:00 am turned into 11:00 am before they arrived back to work. This time there was a fourth man with them as they had to carry the material from the back out through the narrow paths and double gate to get to their trailer. They immediately picked up and carried on where they left off the day before. After about an hour or so working in the front, they went to the backyard and started work there.

I sat in front of my computer which also overlooks the entire backyard and it was very interesting to watch them work. They had evolved methods of doing things in order to make the work easier and to go along more smoothly. They worked on the Hackberry trees by cutting off the lower branches leaving enough for them to use as steps in order to climb higher up the tree cutting off more branches as they went. On the dead limbs that overhung the ponds, they attached a rope to them that had been slung over a higher branch and then one held the rope while the other cut the branch. They had to carry every bit of the material on their backs or in a wheelbarrow in order to get it to the trailer which by itself was a difficult task.  Even loading the trailer was an art as they had to keep using their chainsaws to be able to pack the material onto the trailer. They never stopped working. Very impressive.

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What is strange about all of this is the fact that I had been talking to my neighbor about the need to get this work done.  I had also been planning that yesterday, I would take a look at my own chainsaw to cut down one of the trees that was leaning over the workshop and had damaged the roof. For one thing, I can’t remember the last time I started my chainsaw and if it is anything like my lawnmowers,  it probably wouldn’t  start anyway. I have a riding mower that gets used twice a year and as I manage to forget to start it up through the winter, the seals dry out and I have to get it repaired every Spring, stupid thing or maybe it’s me that’s stupid for being so darn forgetful.  Some of the deadwood overhangs the ponds and I really didn’t want it to fall into the water for fear of it damaging the pond liners which would be really difficult to repair. They even took down the stained glass window for me as I was afraid that it was going to blow down in the last storm that we had saving me another yet job. I’m not so good at climbing ladders as I once was. Old age is really a bummer.

Postscript.
As can be expected, these men were all of Mexican descent and I have no idea if they are here illegally or not and I was not about to ask. I find it so difficult that the current administration wants to ban these people. They are extremely hard working and are doing a job that very few Americans want to do so they are hardly taking work away from any others who usually find this sort of heavy labor work too hard and too demeaning.

Written 12/14/2017

APS Board Members Christmas Party 2017


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This past Sunday, the Board members and a few friends held their Christmas party at Jeannie Ferrier, the President’s house. Altogether there were 17 of us gathered together to enjoy each other’s company made all of the better for not having to be planning  or making decisions for something or another. There were a few members missing having already made other Christmas plans but those that did attend got to enjoy all manner of good food, good company and fun and games.

The first part of the time spent together was viewing the two ponds that Steve and Jeannie have in their back yard along with all of the other garden related items that are so tastefully displayed. As usual, being Pond Enthusiasts, we bombarded Steven with many questions about different aspects of his ponds which he was more than happy to answer. it is an interesting fact that nearly all pond enthusiasts are very happy to pass along any knowledge they may have regarding different aspects of their ponds and gardens.

APS Board Christmas Party Slideshow 2017.mpg from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

We all moved back indoors and I took a lot of pictures of the guests and the layout. The lighting was a real challenge with indoor lights, dark areas and then outdoor light coming through the windows. I was constantly having to make adjustments to the camera. There was a lot of food and people were wandering around from place to place with plates in their hands and happily munching away as they explored all of the different dishes that were available. People paired of in groups as different conversations were going on.

Jeannie called us all together as it was time to play our Annual Christmas game of swapping presents. This game is a little different as you were issued a number and when it was your turn, were able to go and pick out one of the wrapped gifts. You had to open it so that others could see what you had drawn as the next number was able to choose between taking a new unopened gift OR steal one from the gifts already opened and on display with the other guests around the room.  If you took one of the other persons gifts, then they had the chance to go again in the hope of being able to keep what they had this time. I think I set a new record as I lost 4 gifts that I had won finally ending up with a bottle of wine that no one could steal from me as I was the last person to draw. As I don’t drink, I was able to swap it with Steven for a cactus which was a part of the gifts he had won. It was a lot of fun and raised much laughter as the presents were unwrapped only to be stolen by others.

APS Board Christmas Party 2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

 
Following the game, Jeannie announced that next year’s Pond Tour would be a very small members only spread over 3 weekends with Nancy Reinert organizing the South side, Nancy Hall the North and B.J. Jenkins the East side of town. That is assuming that no one steps up to be the Pond Tour Chairperson.

The party broke up after a very nice afternoon’s entertainment of good cheer, good food and good company as we each made our way home. This was the last activity for this year for the Austin Pond Society.

This has been a good year for the group. We had several very good and entertaining speakers at our meetings, the Plant Swap was fun as was the Swap and Sell meeting. The Pond Tour was a smashing success thanks to Ted and his band of willing helpers and we raised $4000.00 dollars for a charitable cause. On the Fish Rescue side of things both Jeannie and Steven with help from others and Frank who worked mostly alone on the smaller rescues, were busy throughout the year. Membership hovers around the 100 mark with about half of that number attending the monthly meetings. As usual, Steven as the Hospitality Volunteer remains the most popular person in the club as the food provided was excellent. We look forward to the start of a new year and a new season for the Austin Pond Society. The first meeting will be held at the Zilker Gardens Clubhouse on Monday, January 15 2018. Hope to see you there.

Website: http://www.austinpondsociety.org
Membership: membership@austinpondsociety.org
Questions: president@austinpondsociety.org

Written 12/19/2017

 

Austin Pond Society Christmas Party November 2017


The Members at the Party 2017

The Austin Pond Society held their Annual Christmas Party at the November Meeting which is the last meeting of the year. Around 55 members showed up, many of whom were dressed in their Christmas finery and with several wearing strange looking hats decorated in a Christmas motif. All the members were really getting into the swing of things as on Sunday afternoon, several of them had come in to set up the tables and decorate the room in the Christmas Spirit and the setting was very conducive for a Christmas Party.

Christmas Party 2017 Slide Show from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

The food comprised of Roast Beef and Ham provided by our very popular Steven Monfrini, with all of the fixings many of which were supplied by the members who also supplied the deserts and appetizers. There was a lot of food but by the end of the evening, it was all gone. There were several bowls of punch to drink, some with and some without so the members had a choice.

Christmas Party 2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

The guests of honor were Mr and Mrs Klause from the Austin Police Department who were here to pick up the many gifts that the members had each brought in for the kids in need so they would at least get a gift on that special day.

Among the several things available to the members were a Blackjack Table complete with a professional croupier the proceeds of which went towards the Mayfield Ponds Project. The players each donated $10:00 to the cause and played until they lost all of their money. There was another game in which the members had to do something with Candy Canes but I have no idea what that was.
There was also an area that was in the business of making funny hats complete with flashing lights for anyone brave enough to wear such a contraption and enter into the Funny Hat Contest to be held later in the evening.

Christmas Party 2017 food line from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

The first part of the evening was devoted to the very important business of feeding our faces which we all proceeded to do with much gusto. Following that, Jeannie our President took charge as she went through the very small amount of business that needed to be conducted. The main and very important part was the appeal for someone, anyone to step up to fill the vacancy for the Pond Tour Chairman without whom, we will not have a Pond Tour as we know it, next year. She then introduced the new Board all of whom with the exception of Keith as Secretary, are all returning members. The New Board officially takes over January 1 of next year. Following the announcements, Jeannie called upon Ted Paone as this past two year’s Pond Tour Chairman and presented him with an Honorarium for all of his efforts.

Christmas Party 2017 Business from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

With the business out of the way came the very difficult task of choosing the Tallest Hat Winner along with other members who were sporting all kinds of flashing and blinking contraptions on their heads. Everyone really got into the spirit of things.
The winner of the Tall Hat was Catherine Bilbrey with Nancy Reinert as the runner up.

Christmas Party 2017 Crazy Hats from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Another member, Karl Tinsley brought in his latest work of interest which is a Sand Table that he had constructed along with all of the programing that it takes to make it work. Basically, it is comprised of a flat box about 2 inches high and about 2 feet square with a glass cover sitting on a small table. In this box is a covering of sand on the bottom and a single large ball bearing. Karl has written software that drives the ball bearing into marking grooves in the sand in a designated pattern including his favorite Alpacas, of which he and his wife Linda own several. It is fascinating to watch as the bearing moves up and down creating pictures in the sand.

Quote from Karl
The sand table uses a magnet mounted on a computer-controlled mechanism to move a steel ball through sand, creating stunning designs. The table and the designs it draws were created by Karl Tinsley. You can see some videos of the table on my youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChLaaBO5pY1QpVtX9WOEYiw.

Here are some of the sand pictures that Karl has created


He has also put together a short movie showing the ball in action.

With the food and drink all gone and no more fun and games to play, the evening gradually wound down until the few remaining members stripped off the table cloths, straightened up the room and closed the doors on another fun and successful year for the Austin Pond Society. All that remains is to wish everyone out there, Happy Holidays and we hope to see you next year.

Our first meeting for 2018 will be on January 15 at the Zilker Gardens Botanical Center starting as 6:30 pm. Hope to see you there.

Don’t forget to keep checking the website especially in the MarketPlace section as the availability of used equipment and pond plants is always changing. If you have any of the aforementioned equipment or plants that you want to sell or give away, use this link to fill out the form.

More Fish Rescues of the Easy Kind.


This past week, I received calls from two different people and an email from a third person looking for help with their ponds. As I am the website contact person for the Austin Pond Society, I get the calls first and then make the decisions regarding the outcome of the various and different requests after I have followed through and obtained the details.

Usually, it is a simple decision regarding the type of action and if it is something that the Pond Society can handle. Then I decide if it is too big for me in which case I pass it along to Jeannie, our President who also handles all of the larger fish rescues.

What is a fish rescue, you ask? Simply put, it usually is a cry for help from the public to assist them find a new home for the fish they have in their garden pond which for any number of reasons, they are closing down. In many cases, the Husband has died and the pond is too much work for the remaining spouse or in the case of one of the calls I received, the owners had sold the house and the new owners wanted to keep the pond but did not want the fish. In nearly every case, the owners are closing down the pond.

With the three requests I received, I quickly determined that the first was too big for me and was one that required both help with the rescue and then the ability to house 10-20 medium sized Koi until permanent homes could be found for them. As I am not setup to house any fish other than my own, I passed this one along to Jeannie so that she and her merry band of Koi Rescue Enthusiasts could make the arrangements to handle. I should mention that we try to find good homes for any fish we rescue by offering them among our members first as they always get first dibs. Then we turn for help among the general public and finally, we donate them to Mayfield Park here in Austin. The Park has 5 ponds that are big enough to house a substantial number of Koi and Goldfish and this year, both Jeannie and I have placed a large number of Koi, Goldfish and Carp into these ponds. The Carp were in error and were mistaken for large black Goldfish but they seem very happy in their new environment.

The second and third calls were both in the range that I could handle and so I called the owners and set up dates to visit with them and make the rescues. The first house was located not too far from me in an estate where all of the homes were so big, my own house would probably fit in them at least twice and probably more. This house had already been sold and the ex-owners were just completing the final clean out and catching up on the odds and ends. When I got there, I could see the pond behind the fence with the gate open and “Jim”, the ex-owner was already standing in the pond with his net, splashing around in an attempt to catch the fish. I said hello and introduced myself. We chatted for a bit as he tried to catch the couple of fish left in the pond. I suggested that I would hook up my pump to lower the water level giving him a much better opportunity in his task.

The deal was that I was to take an 8 inch Koi and the two largest goldfish and he would keep the much smaller remaining goldfish for his new home. He proudly showed off the Koi that he had managed to catch which was in a 5 gallon bucket standing by the pond. As if on cue as we watched, the Koi jumped out of the bucket and back into the pond. After we both recovered from the fit of laughter that this caused, I hooked up my pump to help him by lowering the water level so that he could catch the Koi for a second time. In no time at all, he had caught all of the fish. I bid him farewell and then made my way back home where I put the Koi and Goldfish in different ponds at my house.

The next rescue, a couple of days later was also another easy one. The owner, a very friendly lady by the name of Debbie met me and showed me the pond which was a circular one of about six feet in diameter and only a couple of feet deep. It was real close to the driveway making it easy to load out the trailer. I set up my pump which quickly lowered the water and I pulled out seven water lilies in pots as it was pumping. It was very easy to catch the twelve small Koi and Goldfish and transfer them to my container ready for transport. Between us, we bagged up the lilies and reloaded my trailer and in thirty minutes, I was back on the road again.

This time, I headed to Mayfield Park where I planned to put the rescued fish. This went by without any problems despite notices spread around the ground warning the public, “To not disturb the Peacocks and Peahens as they incubate their eggs or they might attack you”. I repacked my trailer and made my way back home. The water lilies made it back to my house and into my containers that house my surplus plants which are free to anyone needing pond plants.

Interestingly enough, this last rescue was one street down from where I used to live out in the Pedernales area thirty two years ago. On my way back, I pulled into the street that was my old home and drove to the end just for old times sake. It brought back very happy memories of my time spent living out there on my five acres and rekindled in me, the old longing to turn back the clock. Of course that is not possible but a man can dream, can’t he? There was a Realtor’s Sign for the property next to the acreage I used to own so I took down the number and gave them a call. Turns out to be a 15 acre lot with an unfinished house and the asking price was $425,000. When I sold my 5 acres thirty two years ago with a house, a large horse barn and paddock, aviaries and sheds and fully fenced, it went for $120,000. Go figure…

 

Day 4 – Harvey


Today is Day 4 of the Hurricane Harvey Saga in my part of Texas. The storm as predicted, moved back towards the cost and is still pummelling Houston and the surrounding area as it slowly makes its way down the coast towards Louisiana. Compared to what those guys have had to put up with, Austin has got off very light. All we had was about 7 inches of heavy rain causing low water crossing closures and some minor flooding.

For myself, very little damage from the strong winds. Lots of leaves and small branches down but no major tree limbs on the ground. A lot of the plants are laying a bit sideways and I will have to wait and see how many straighten back up before chopping them down.

The 5000 gallon pond had one pump that quit working and I replaced it this morning. I also cleaned out the other 4 pumps on this pond as the water has turned a real muddy color. There is probably at least one upturned pot that has dumped its clay into the water and it will take a few days for it to settle out.

I already mentioned the cypress tree that has blown over in the 6000 gallon pond in the last blog but as far as I can see that is all of the damage that we sustained. I plan on getting into the ponds tomorrow and cleaning out the leaves and cutting back the damaged vegetation. As I write this, the sun is shining brightly and there is hardly a cloud in the sky. Nature is such an amazing thing how the weather can change in the blink of an eye.

Oh yes, the stained glass window made it through OK and now I will take it down out of its tree and find a more stable place for it so I don’t have to worry when the next storm hits.

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Too Much Rain?


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I was looking for something to do
my brain was acting without a clue
as the rain outside came teeming down
and the wind blew hard to add its sound
we were going through an unusual remake
of three days of rain without a break
as the hurricane moved way inland
and off to the East with its heavy rain bands
the weatherman says we are not through yet
as more of this wet stuff we will get.

Texans complain when they’re in a drought
things are dry and withered no water to spout
so a hurricane that brings lots of rain
to make things green and growing again
is a welcome site for those who hold dear
or live off the land the rain brings good cheer
usually one day is enough
two maybe and thats pushing your luck
get to three and then it is time
for rain to stop and for sun to shine.

Actually I kid a lot
as we will take any and all that you got
to fill up the lakes and rivers too
for when rain comes it’s something new
and we never know how long it will last
or how quickly it is a thing of the past
as the sun scorches down at one hundred degrees
baking the land and shading the trees
and before long you will hear people say
“Sure wish some rain was heading our way”.

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