The Ponds at Mayfield Park


DSC_4969-PanoMayfield Park is a nice little city park located off 35th street and is the home of several peacocks (and peahens), ponds, gardens and Nature trails. The gardens are maintained by volunteers several of whom were working this Saturday morning. Many more people were hiking the Nature Trails. It is a popular place for weddings and as it happened,  one of which was due later in the afternoon meaning that we had a deadline to finish our work.  This is the link to the Mayfield Park website.

There are five large ponds and one smaller one. The volunteers from the Pond Society chose one that was obviously in need of cleaning as the project for Saturday, March 11th. Altogether, there were nine people that volunteered their time and braved a cold and pretty wet day. It rained that fine misty stuff that gets you wet without you being aware of it.

I got there around 9:00 am and there were several people already working. Steven had a pump set up and had his waders on and was in the pond lifting out the  heavy lily and iris pots. The first thing I did was to set up the pump that I had brought with me to help lower the water level. Charlie was moving the old pots over to the garage where Jeannie, Julie and BJ were busy emptying them so they could trim the lilies before repotting them. Phillip, Mike and Cory made themselves useful  wheeling barrows full of the waste dirt cut off from the plants and coming back with barrows of repotting dirt. I joined Charlie in dragging the repotted plants back to the pond on a skid contraption that actually worked pretty well on the flagstone. Not quite so good on the grass.

Steven found two turtles and a snake while he was in the pond and he commented that accidentally grabbing the snake gave him a bit of a start. Snakes tend to do that to most people especially when it is unexpected. The pond we were working on holds around 17000 gallons of water so it is pretty big. Mike put on his waders and  jumped into the pond to help Steven place the repotted plants and clean up the debris from the bottom of the pond. After the completion of repotting the lilies and placing them back into the ponds, the two of them spent time netting out the leaves and other trash during which they found six Perch that had been placed in there by persons unknown. They put them in one of the other ponds as the city water that we were using to refill the pond has chlorine in it which is a death sentence to any fish or other aquatics. The turtles were released into the stream that flows at the bottom of the hill and the snake had already made his own way to safety.

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There were a lot of visitors that were in the Park while we were there. The older people use the Park for exercise and whole families came out to enjoy Nature. The younger generation oohed and aahed over the two turtles that were temporarily in a container and the Peacocks were strutting their stuff and kicking up a god awful racket with their calls. They are pretty to look at but can be very annoying with their extremely loud and very unmusical voices. If it wasn’t for the rainy weather, it would have been a real pleasant place to work. We still have one more pond to go so hopefully, the sun will be shining when we get to that one. That is a story for another day…

Below is a slideshow of the some of the views within the Park.

Mayfield Park March 11, 2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

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My Latest Project – part two.


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The finished product. I still want to re-work the 4 inch outlet pipe.

Following my discovery of the ongoing leaks in the rebuilt 100 gallon Skippy Filter, I opted to replace this set up with a completely new one albeit basically the same system. This way, I could re-use some of the parts I had purchased to rebuild the original one.

My first item on the agenda was a trip to Dripping Springs and Tractor Supply to purchase a new 100 gallon Rubbermaid tank. Amazingly enough, the price had not gone up from the last one I bought which had to be at least 5 years ago. I brought it home and prepared to start work on the new project.

First thing was to unload all of the lava rock which I had bagged up and then shovel out the small amount of loose stuff from the original rebuilt filter. I removed the grate and the plumbing bringing me back to just the tank and the outlet pipe. My original intent was to remove the 4 inch outlet pipe from this tank and reuse it on the new one but when I tried to unbolt it, the bolts were so corroded they would not budge. This got me looking at the new tank and I discovered that the manufacturers had changed their design and there was not a single flat area I could use to install the 4 inch outlet pipe. The only alternative was to install two 2 inch outlet pipes and either run them into a 4 inch pipe or have two separate 2 inch outlet pipes.

I opted for the first idea and made a trip to Lowes to purchase the necessary plumbing materials. I laid everything out prior to starting work on the new tank to  make sure that my ideas would work but something about the project really bothered me. I was concerned that the new tank did not have the really flat areas to install the outlet pipes and that it would lead to more leaks without a flat surface. I was also bothered by the fact that I was getting ready to spend and maybe waste, around $200 on a new tank and plumbing materials just for the sake of a very small leak in the original setup. The last thought really made up my mind so I loaded up the car with the new tank and the recently purchased plumbing materials and returned both to their respective stores.

Feeling better about myself and the project as a whole, I decided that I would once again try to patch the leaky tank. I also reasoned that if I rebuilt the base on which the original tank was sitting, the tank would have a much better chance with the patches as it would not be subject to the additional stresses caused by the settlement of the original four concrete blocks which probably not only caused the cracks but also created a situation where bye they were forced open by the stress. Not being able to remove the 4 inch outlet without a lot of work, I opted to cut the pipe to just a small piece extending from the tank. This way, I was able to move the tank completely out of the way while I went about the task of rebuilding the base. First though, it required another trip to Lowes to get the concrete blocks for the rebuild. I use a lot of blocks as support for the pond plants and they also make good safety tunnels for the fish to hide out in case of a Heron attack. The only drawback with the blocks is as I grow older, they are getting much heavier…Hard to believe that at one time in my life, I laid bricks and blocks for a living as I was trained as a Bricklayer in my youth. They weren’t that heavy back then.

I built the base by digging out the dirt and placing the blocks next to each other so that it was level all the way around. I made it just a little bigger than the bottom of the tank and ended up with a solid block slab. Then I turned my attention to the tank and spent some time in making another repair using the same rubber adhesive and liner patch as before. Satisfied with that part of the project, I moved the tank back onto the new concrete base and positioned it where I needed it which was in a different position and on a different angle than before.

The next part of the project was really straightforward as I had already bagged up the Lava Rock and cut the grate to size and it only took a few minutes to reinstall the materials back into the tank. Because of the new location, I had to do some work on the inlet but that was straightforward plumbing. I temporarily hooked up the 4 inch outlet as I have plans to change that just a little but I wanted to turn it on and test it out. It performs perfectly and as far as I can see, there are no leaks. Now all that is left is to re-work the 4 inch outlet pipe and add a few rocks to make it less obtrusive.

It was a good decision on my part to re-work and repair the old tank and save myself $200. For once in my long life, I used my brain instead of just tearing ahead as I have so many times in the past. Must be getting smarter (and definitely weaker) in my old age…

 

Fifty Years and Counting…


dsc_4586It is fifty years since I set sail
far away from that distant shore
leaving behind all I had known
hoping my dream was not alone.

I had no reason that I should leave
away from the land that I called home
but given the chance for a future untold
a new land to visit and behold.

My Mother was there to welcome me
along with those of my family
pleased that we had decided to come
to make our American family as one.

Fifty years have passed since that day
my Mother has also passed away
the family has grown and to pastures new
all that remains are memories so few.

As I look back to that day
when a new life before us lay
I think how different if we had stayed
what other games we might have played.

The past is something come and gone
and we have to keep moving on
decisions made are there to stay
as time marches along the way.

If I could do it over again
would I still have travelled all this way
to spend my life in a country so new
the answer to that is I haven’t a clue.

 

 

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.

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…

My 50th Anniversary.


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Queen Mary

Today, March 13th,  is another one of those special days and this one can only happen once in my lifetime. On this day, fifty years ago, I and my family like so many others before us, set foot on American soil for the very first time.

We left England in the grand old ship, the Queen Mary who herself was reaching the end of her active life.  After seven days at sea and  like so many before us, we sailed past the Statue of Liberty into New York. We docked at the famous Pier 22 to be met by my Mother who I hadn’t seen since 1946, twenty one years before.

That marked the beginning of my life here in America which has had its ups and downs as most people’s lives do. I have never been back to England but have wished that I had, many times but it seemed that there was always something that prevented my return. Maybe there is still time…

Life in America has generally been very good to me. I did not do so well on the marital and family side of things having been married and divorced three times and have lived a single life for the past twenty one years. That is one of my regrets but it is water under the bridge as I can’t change the past.

On the other hand, I did well in my working life and am comfortably off and most of all, am still in very good health able to go on long hikes and work around the ponds and in my garden.

Would I do it all again if I could wind back the clock? I’m talking about the decision to emigrate to the USA. The answer is probably yes. I still miss a lot about the English lifestyle although my memories are fifty years old and things have changed considerably. The one thing that has not changed is the constant rain as almost every time that I watch the English Premier League on the television, the crowd has on heavy coats and it is always raining. That I do not miss.

I became a citizen ten years after I landed mostly for the work opportunity but I am still very British at heart. A part of me will always belong in England and there is still time for me to go back to visit one last time. For now. I’m looking forward to the next 50 years.

One thing I do know,  the Texas sun beats the English rain…

Dripping Springs Farmers Market 2-1-2017


dsc_4906I was in Dripping Springs the other day to shop at Tractor Supply where I get my fish food and anything else that appeals to the country boy in me. I swear that I should have been born a farmer as I have such an attraction for the country life. This time around, I bought a couple of heavy duty tee shirts to add to my collection and wandered around looking at all of the neat stuff and wishing I was 50 years younger. Hell, I would settle for just 20 years younger.

On the way back out, I pulled into a Farmers market that is held every Wednesday in the middle of the small town. I had noticed it before but had never bothered to stop but this time, as I had my camera with me, pulled into the parking lot.

There were around twenty or so vendors set up each doing their best to sell their wares. I stopped at a tent that sold Empanadas and couldn’t resist the temptation of buying one of them. It was nicely hot and as soon as I got back to the car, I ate it enjoying every bite of the tangy taste of Mexican cooking. I could easily have gobbled down another two or three.

Music was provided by a guitar player who was very good. There were the usual merchants selling fresh garden produce. Another was selling fresh meat and many more specializing in a large variety of goods.

Well worth the stop if you are in Dripping Springs on a Wednesday afternoon.