Doggie Escape Fixes…


viewThe weather has warmed up enough to where it is comfortable to work outside and I have been taking full advantage of it. You could say that it is a race against time as Mother Nature has already started her regrowth project for this year and new foliage is springing up wherever I look. This means I have to be extra careful where I plonk down my big feet if I happen to be working in the garden area.

To date, I have cleared up all of the “frozen” plant growth and the garden looks quite barren in some respects. On the plus side, I can see from one end to the other and can even spot the dogs when they are doing their doggy thing way down in the “Murmuring Creek” area. In Richie’s case, that is sniffing around to see what latest animal smell remains or in case the black Manx cat from next door has been visiting again. Sometimes he is barking wildly and racing around from one end of the garden to the other at an overhead and far distant buzzard who in its swoops and spirals, sends Richie into all kinds of doggie fits. Pete, on the other hand, ignores the buzzards and usually barks in the general direction of the latest squirrel. Ginnie just barks just because the other two are making a noise.

looking-down-the-gardenI have also been working on a fence project that I have been putting off for a couple of years which comprises of trying to make the below fence area more secure just in case Richie decides that he doesn’t like living here anymore and tries to dig out from under the fence. Years ago, to combat this problem, I installed an electric doggie fence all around the perimeter of the yard. It seemed to have worked at least when the electricity was flowing through it as Richie makes a point of staying away from it. The problem is that Richie being a Dachshund, stands just six or seven inches off the ground meaning that the fence is also down that low and any vegetation that grows up around it, quickly grounds out the electric current making the fence useless. I try to keep the plant growth mowed with my weed wacker but it is still a worry. He must have touched it at least once when it was working as he still steers pretty clear of it.

So, my latest attempt to make the yard doggie escape proof is made up of several different factors. On the inside of the road side fence, years ago, I installed railroad ties to keep the garden dirt away from rotting out the bottom of the fence  and kept them a foot away from the fence to allow water to flow when Murmuring Creek overflows which is does when we have a real gully washer. Since I built a berm on the outside, that particular problem no longer exists so what I have just done is to remove the electric fence and moved the rail ties up against the foot of the fence and then filled in the space on the garden side with regular dirt. That has eliminated all possibility of Richie digging out on the road side.

garden-viewWhat I have  done on the bottom side is to replace around fifty or so of the fence pickets that were showing signs of disintegrating and if needed, the two by fours to which they are attached. I plan on putting a layer of riprap rocks stacked against the bottom of the fence for its full length to act as a barrier to prevent Richie from digging. I can’t use rail ties here in case it does flood and they float out of position and trying to anchor them to the rocky ground is almost impossible.  I also reattached the electric fence and made sure that it is working properly. The fence on the neighbor’s side still has the electric fence on it and I will  keep it to safeguard that side from my escape artist. Hopefully, when I am through, I will have eliminated the constant worry when Richie is too quiet or I have not seen him for a while.

The outside of the road side fence is more than thirty years old and it shows in many of the pickets.  I kept this side of the fence  more for show as it has pickets on the inside as well as the outside in essence making it a double fence. It was looking so ratty that I spent some time re-attaching the loose boards and where the fence is opposite the 24 inch rain water drain, I straightened it up and then braced it to help it when we do get the very occasional gully washer. The finished product looks much better even with the very old pickets.  Sort of has an “antique” look.

Now, all I have to do is to place the riprap rocks to finish off this project and hopefully eliminate the worries of my little breakout artist.

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My Latest Project.


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The Skippy Filter on the Goldfish Pond.

I have three large “Skippy” filters on three different ponds and a couple of smaller ones on the goldfish ponds. They are simple to construct and do a very good job of helping to clean the water. Basically, water is pumped into the tank through a system that feeds through the bottom allowing the water to rise up through the filter material and flows out through a 4 inch pipe back into the pond either directly or through a waterfall.. I use 1 1/2 inch pipe to  pump the water in and in my case, a 1200 gph pump located in the skimmer box.

Basically, mine are built using a 100 gallon Rubbermaid tank that I buy from the Tractor Supply store, one of my most favorite places to visit. I have mentioned before that in real life, I missed out and should have been something related to the land like a Farmer or Wildlife Warden hence my liking for Tractor Supply. I guess I am compensating in a different way. Anyway, Tractor Supply carries these Rubbermaid tanks in different sizes and I have found that the 100 gallon size is just right for my purposes. I also have three of the 80 gallon size that I use to keep pond plants in as I am getting them ready to put into the ponds or to over winter them.

The tank on the 5000 gallon pond developed a leak very close to the drain plug that is built into the tank. It was only the very faintest of cracks but enough that it was constantly dripping. Over time, this would amount to a lot of wasted water (and money) so I decided that I would do a repair job on it.

I shut it down and drained the water back into the pond  and disconnected the plumbing. I then emptied the filter material which in this case was Lava Rock loosely stacked inside of the tank.I was surprised how clean the rock was as I expected it to be pretty muddy considering that the system had been in place for at least 10 years. Turns out that most of the mud was in the bottom water chamber built into the system. I finished cleaning out the muck and put it on the garden as it is basically fish poop and full of good garden nutrients. After washing out the tank, I turned my attention to finding the leak from the inside as I already knew where it was generally located from the dripping water on the outside.

I found what I thought was the crack. It was about 3 inches long and in a difficult place to repair. Being a Rubbermaid tank and with the basic material rubber, I opted for a tire repair kit to see if it would seal the leak. I have a small electric hand sander which I used to prepare the area, cleaning and roughing up the rubber tank material and after cutting a patch from a small piece of pond liner (another rubber material), I carefully applied the adhesive and after waiting the appropriate time for the glue to dry, applied the patch over the crack.

The repair was as good as I could get it and I went about the task of putting the filter back together. I like to build a chamber where the inlet pipes are located to give the water a chance to flow freely before it rises up into the filter material. The old material that I had used for this chamber (a wire shelf cut to size) was not in very good shape after many years under water so I decided that I would replace it with better and stronger stuff. This meant a trip to Cedar park, around 30 miles one way, to visit one of the Pond Society sponsors, Hill Country Water Gardens, to purchase the proper material. I needed a 2 by 4 piece of plastic grating and a 4 by 4 piece of plastic mesh to put on top of the grating to stop smaller pieces of the lava rock from filling the chamber below. Even though it is a long way to go, I really like visiting this place as it has so much cool stuff. I should mention that prior to making the trip, I put enough water into the tank to cover the repair to test the leak and it seemed to be holding up.

The next day, I carefully cut the grate to size followed by a piece of mesh also cut to size and after replacing the fill pipe from the original setup, installed the grate and mesh into the tank on strategically placed bricks for support after making sure that the tank was level and well supported although I had not moved if from its original place. I opted to buy some mesh Laundry bags from a couple of the local stores and to load them with the lava material as it it had been a real bitch to dig out this time around. As I filled the bags, I placed them onto the grating inside the tank until I had enough for my purpose. I used loose lava rock to fill in any holes between the bags. After reconnecting the original plumbing, I turned the pump back on to see if everything was working  as it should and that it was not leaking . It appeared to be OK so I left it running overnight.

The next day, to my dismay, I discovered that there was a second leak that had not been visible the first time around. I figured that probably loading the tank with the lava rock and with its additional weight, had distorted the tank enough for the second leak to show up. I left it for a couple of days but it was only getting worse and was really bothering me to waste that water, even small drops at a time. I decided that I would do the job over this time with a new tank but that is a different story. You could say, part two…

Austin Pond Society February 2017 Meeting.


dsc_4930The Austin Pond Society held its February 2017 meeting at the usual place, the Zilker Botanical Garden clubhouse this past Monday. It was well attended with close to 50 members and guests showing up.

The meal served was Pizza provided by Jet’s Pizza who has also opted to become a sponsor for the Society. Thank you Jet’s Pizza and incidentally, the pizza was pretty darn good. It was hard to not keep going back for more. Desert’s were provided by the members and we can always use more at any of the meetings.

After the delicious meal, the speaker for the evening, Linda Wall, was introduced by Barb Lenhardt, Program Director. Linda is from the Natural Gardener located at 8648 Old Bee Caves Road, Austin and her subject was New Ideas and Designs for your Bog.
Here is her introduction, “I’m expanding the talk to native Texas bog plants and marginals, many of which we sell. I’ll be bringing the ones we have in stock for a bit of “show and tell” along with some non-natives that we sell that do well in bogs, things like mint and gotu kola (one y’all may not have heard of! Fun!).”

Her talk was very interesting and she introduced us to a whole bunch of new plants that do well in our bog, some we have never even heard of and others that we did not realize we could use in and around out ponds and bogs. Hers was a show and tell as she had brought many plants with her to accompany her slide show. Below is a video of her presentation.

APS Meeting Feb 2017 Linda Wall from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Following Linda, Jeannie stepped up to the mic to conduct the small amount of business that we had to take care of. One by one, the Board Members gave their spiel on the given subjects. Jack Marshall, our new Treasurer presented the budget for the year, Margaret Boeneke, our new Librarian pointed out that there are several books out on loan, some of which for more than a couple of years and she asked for the members to get them turned back in, Barb Lenhardt, Publicity discussed the speakers for the upcoming meetings, I talked about the Marketplace on the website, xxxxx filling in for Rodney Lewis who is recovering from surgery, discussed the number of registered members, Ted Paone, Pond Tour Director talked about the upcoming Tour and the fact that he needs another 8 ponds to fill out this year’s Tour and last but not least, our most favorite and popular Board Member, Steven Monfrini, Hospitality pleaded for us to “Eat more Pizza”. We all wish Rodney our best wishes and to “Get Well Soon.”

The meeting closed following the drawing for the door prizes. The next meeting is on March 20 at the same place with the Speaker to be announced.

Below is a video of the Business part of the meeting.

APS Meeting Feb 2017 Business. from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Another Fish Rescue 2-3-2017


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The peacocks at Mayfield Park

Alex, Jeannie and myself participated in yet another fish rescue yesterday. This one had been in the works for a couple of weeks when I received the original phone contact from the owners. The problem we had was finding a home for the fourteen or so Koi that lived in the pond. I had pretty much as many as I could house in my ponds and we needed to find homes for the others.

Jeannie Ferrier is President of the Pond Society and she and her husband Steven Monfrini, have worked several rescues this year. She has a rescue tank set up  in her backyard next to her 10,000 gallon Koi pond and has a very interesting arrangement for changing out the rescue tank water as she replenishes it with water from her pond. Depending on the number of Koi in the rescue tank  at any given time, dictates how often the rescue tank water has to be changed.

We had to hold off on the rescue until the new rescue tank  was completed and ready to take more fish and yesterday, everything was a go.

I arrived early at the rescue pond and set up my pump to lower the water. Turns out that the electrical outlets by the pond were not working which accounted for the water being so dirty. I had brought a 100 foot cable with me so in next to no time, my pump working on the water level. While that was happening, I filled the three transport containers that I have with pond water ready to put in the fish. The existing pond water was very dirty and we had had to wait until the water was low enough to even see the fish. I caught the Koi, a couple of which were of  a good size and handed them to Alex who transferred them to tanks in his truck and my trailer. We were lucky that we were able to drive up right next to the pond making it really easy to transfer the fish. We chatted to the owners, Dave Phelps and his Mother, who had lost their Husband and Father which was the reason for closing down the pond. They also made a small donation to the Pond Society for our efforts in rescuing the fish.  We also rescued several pots of water lilies and they went into my trailer as we planned to drop them off at Mayfield Park to donate them and in the meantime, store them in their ponds to overwinter.

We left the rescue site although I planned to be back to pick up the rocks that surround the pond and made our way to Mayfield Park. I had only been there once before and although I had an idea of its location, had to use my GPS system to get directions. Jeannie and Alex beat me to it and were waiting for my arrival. We loaded the lilies onto my dolly and dragged them to the first pond where Alex dropped them into the water.

Next stop was at Jeannie’s house and the rescue tank. Even though originally, I had decided that I didn’t need any more Koi, the color and beauty of some of these helped me to change my mind and I ended up taking four of them home. Alex took a couple and Nancy Reinert, alerted by a call from Jeannie, met us and took a couple more. The rest were transferred into the rescue tank awaiting their turn to find new homes at any of our members ponds.

I drove back to my house and carefully placed my four Koi into the 6000 gallon pond where they quickly assimilated in with the others. I unloaded my trailer and backed it into my garage ready for any other task that may come up. I noticed that the lights on the trailer need some work so that will be my next project, when it warms up.

The pictures are by Jeannie taken with her cell phone.

A Follow Up to “Who Says Things Don’t Grow in Texas”.


freezeWhen I originally posted this blog, I had every intention of following up IF when and after we got any frosts this year here in my part of Texas. Well, to date, we have had two serious cold spells resulting in freezes that completely wiped out  everything to ground level both in and out of the water so I have gone ahead and added a second video of what the yard and ponds look like as of today, Sunday, January 22, 2017.


This is what I originally posted.

I am just so impressed with the amount of growth this year here in Texas that I have made a video of my backyard showing all of the ponds and the amount of vegetation that has grown up in and around them. We never had a single frost this past winter which normally knocks all of the vegetation down resulting in new growth each Spring. This year, as nothing had died, it just kept on growing. The Canas and Iris in the ponds are well over six feet tall and the Esperanza’s are double in size and reaching way up to the skies. I have plants that normally get to be about four feet tall and this year, the are well over twice that size.

Garden Video 11-2-2016 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

One thing is for sure. If it freezes, then I will have a huge cleanup job. On the other side, if it doesn’t freeze I will need to start cutting back and will still have a huge cleanup job.

Such is life as a gardener in Texas.


Here is a video of what the yard looks like after I cleaned up all of the frozen vegetation both on land and in the water.

Garden Video 01-22-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Now it doesn’t matter if we have anymore freezes as I am way ahead of the game. The only problem might be that there is already new growth on some of the plants. Maybe I will follow up later this summer and show just how much things have grown back up.

Austin Pond Society – January 2017


dsc_4783This evening, we held the first Austin Pond Society meeting of the new year at the usual place, Zilker Botanical Gardens Clubhouse. The meeting was attended by around 40 or so of its members who were treated to a light meal of Tacos and all of the trimmings followed by a very large assortment of desserts brought in by the members. Our thanks to Steven Monfrini for preparing the delicious spread. To be the most popular person in the entire organization is no mean feat and all you have to do is to feed us to attain that rank as Steven does every month.

Prior to the start of the main meeting, Ted Paone, Chairman of this year’s Pond Tour, held the first introductory meeting of the Pond Tour Committee off to one side, finishing up in time to join the rest of the group for the meal.

dsc_4788At 7:00 pm, the Speaker for the evening,  Jody from Bloomers Garden Center along with her husband Marcus, talked to us about Building a Faerie Garden. She accompanied her talk with slides from the Faerie Garden that she and her family have built at her Garden Center which is located at 507 N. Highway 95, Elgin. See the video below of her presentation.

Faery Garden Meeting Jan 16, 2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Following the Speaker, President Jeannie Ferrier presented the new 2017 Board and asked each to introduce themselves. As Webmaster, I was asked to make a presentation about the website and I put together a 15 minute video on it which unfortunately was unable to show due to technical difficulties with the sound. While fussing with this problem, I missed out on filming some of Jeannie introducing the Board Members including the four new ones. Consequently, the video is mostly all audio with a picture of the back wall as the video. Apologies all around.

APS Business Jan 16, 2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Hopefully, I will show the video of the website at the next meeting. The meeting closed following the drawing for the door prizes.

The next meeting will be held at the same place on Monday, February 20 starting at 6:30 pm. Hope to see you there.

Another Fish Rescue…


DSC_3433On Tuesday, I stopped by two different places, one to give advice and the other to review rescuing the Koi and helping to shut down the pond. The first one the lady that called me had 5 butterfly Koi she wanted to find a home for as she was moving and was closing down her very small pond. She also had a couple of water lilies and a lotus that she was willing to give up. The only equipment was a small pump that she wanted to hang on to. I checked things out and made arrangements to come back the next day.

The next place that I visited had a very nice pond that really required a lot of work to clean up the water. It was really very dirty and the Koi that it contained were doing a good job of keeping it stirred up. What was surprising was that it had an Aquadyne Filtering system which he showed me and gave it a quick flush to show me what he did to keep it clean. He explained that he had larva rock inside and not the “Beads” that it really requires which probably accounts for it not working properly. I gave him the Aquadyne address so he could look them up.

I suggested that if he joined the Pond Society for $30.00, he could rent the pond vac and storage tank but he had to be a member in order to do so. I also gave him the name of a couple of our Sponsors that do this sort of work as he really needs to drain the pond, scrub it clean and then refill in order to get it back to where the filtering system could hold its own.

I showed him what he had to do on his computer and went on my way. Later that day, I had confirmation come through that he had joined the Society.

I went back to the first place the following day, this time with my trailer and all of the things i would require to rescue the fish and collect the lilies and lotus. The first thing I started when I arrived was to put my pump into the water to lower the level so that I could catch the fish. While that was going on, I carried two 5 gallon buckets of the pond water back out to my trailer and placed one in each of the two coolers I had brought with me. getting them ready for the fish. It was a pretty straight forward job to catch the fish although I was sure that Beth, the lady who was closing the pond, told me there were only 4 of the Koi and I found 5, the last one I spotted when I went back to pick up the plants which I had bagged up on plastic bags. Lucky for the fish. I rescued as much of the lilies as I could dig up from the bottom muck as they had grown out of their pots and were growing wild. The Lotus and yet another Lily were in pots in a separate tank which was easy to lift them out.

I carefully wrapped things up in a tarpaulin and lashed everything down for the drive home which was very uneventful. My timing was good as I didn’t hit any of the rush hour traffic. When I arrived home, I quickly wheeled the coolers to the 5000 gallon pond and one by one, introduced the new fish to the mess of fish that already calls that pond, home. The lilies were placed into containers and  added to the many plants that I am trying desperately hard to give away, preferably before any frost we may get, although if this winter is anything like the last one, we won’t have any frost.

So ended another successful fish rescue.