Texas Heat 2018


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I just want to be very clear
that the Texas Summer is really here
with temperatures over one hundred degrees
and getting hotter with each passing day
with a forecast high of one hundred and eight
before this front will go away.

Heat does not come as a surprise
as it happens to us every year
generally though one hundred is high
with a blazing sun and no clouds in the sky
but to get up to be one hundred and eight
is hot even in this Lone Star State.

Thank goodness for A/C in both car and home
without it we would be cooked to the bone
like a roast well done and cooked thru and thru
our bodies absorbing the sun’s powerful rays
the heat going on for days and days
until it breaks and the weather subdues.

What brought on this bout of heat
or is it just an abnormal year
is Global Warming a part of the mix
or is Nature just playing us tricks
something we shall never know
as our understanding is way too slow.

In the forty years I have been in this State
only once has it reached one hundred and eight
in Dallas probably thirty years ago
at a soccer tournament in which I played
the hottest I have ever been
but I survived ready to do it again.

Too old to play and too feeble in mind
this time around I’ll stay indoors
and wait out the heat until it cools
back to one hundred at which we fools
go on hikes or work out in the yard
and kid ourselves it’s not so hard.

Seriously though it is very hot
living in Texas it’s part of our lot
the summer is hot and we all complain
as the heat every year is the same
it gets to one hundred at least on one day
but one hundred and eight we view with dismay.

Written 7/20/2018
High Temperature was xxx

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

 

Austin Pond Society Meeting June 6-18-2018


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The third Monday of the month rolled around just as it is supposed to and with it, the Austin Pond Society held their monthly meeting at the usual place, Zilker Botanical Gardens. This meeting was just a little different as instead of a Speaker, we opted to take a Tour of the beautiful facilities that we call home.

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We met as we usually do in the Zilker Meeting Room and were treated to Fried Chicken with all of the fixin’s accompanied with sides and deserts supplied by the members which everyone thoroughly enjoyed. Following the meal, Barb Reinhardt,  who was filling in for Jeannie Ferrier, the President who was away on personal business, introduced four new members and then held a brief Q and A prior to everyone joining the three Docents who had so very kindly volunteered to show us around.

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There were around 30 members in attendance including the 4 new ones and we split into three groups each accompanied by a Docent and started on the walking tour of this wonderful place. Austin is so lucky to have these beautiful gardens for all to see.  Having visited many times before, I took off on my own so that I could take as many pictures as possible which I have turned into a video set to music.  Many of our Members have not visited the Gardens before and I am quite sure that it was an eye opener for them.

The Business section of the meeting on video.

APS Business Meeting June 2018 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

The video of Zilker Botanical Gardens.

Zilker Botanical Gardens 6-18-2018 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

The next meeting of the Austin Pond Society is on July 16 and will be held off site at Mayfield Park. Check the Website and Facebook for further details.

Written 6/20/2018

Reimer’s Ranch 11-19-2017


I went for another walk at Reimer’s Ranch and although I walked by the river, I did not expect to see the Osprey in action. Nevertheless, I was fully prepared with both cameras at the ready.

The plan was to park in the furthermost Parking Area known as River View No 2 and take the precarious entrance down the rocky stairway and then walk the lower trail in a North Easterly direction to the end of the Park. This time, I was kinda doing the last walk in reverse to the way I normally do it just to get a different perspective. Needless to say, I did not see the Osprey or any other birdlife to talk of or at least, take pictures of. As it was the middle of the week, there were no rock climbers on any of the faces that I passed.

I walked to the end of the Lower Trail where it connected with the Multi Purpose Trail and then turned South and followed it back towards the main Multi Purpose Trail. I passed the area where I had previously seen the deer but again, nothing was stirring. I took several pictures and the Park is already taking on it’s Fall and Winter coat as things change colors and the grasses turn brown. This has it’s own form of beauty as the pictures show.

I came to the intersection of the Multi Purpose Trail that I was on where it connected to the main Multi Purpose Trail that encircles the entire park. I thought about which way to go taking into consideration the distance and my own tiredness as I had no real plan in mind. I decided to head right taking the section of trail that leads past the Trailheads. I came across an area that had recently has a “Controlled Burn” where the Parks people burn off the undergrowth.

As I walked along, a couple on horseback approached me and they stopped when they drew opposite. The lady, who just happened to be the lead rider, stopped to say hello in the thickest British accent that I have heard in a long time. We chatted a bit about the old country and she told me that they lived in Dripping Springs. I took a couple of pictures and we bade farewell as we each went on our respective ways in opposite directions.

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As I continued along the trail, I came across a young lady who had stopped to take a picture. I waited for her to complete her work as I thought she might be taking a picture of a bird and didn’t want to spoil her shot before continuing on until I came level with her. She told me she was taking a picture of the grass which immediately lead into other questions, Grass? Really. Turns out, she described herself as a Farmer which led to more conversations as she told me that she and her husband farm acreage at Pedernales and work on a rotating system of moving the stock every couple of weeks which allows the grass time to recover and regrow. I had read previously about this type of farming so had an idea of what she was talking about. She introduced herself as Carina and I gave her one of my cards. We walked the trail together as she told me all about her farming and the meat they sell at the local Farmers Market. She reached the turnoff to the last exit River View No 2 where she wanted to take the river trail back to her car in River View No 1. I warned her about being very careful climbing down both of these exits before I continued on the Multi Purpose Trail until I reached the River View No 1 and then followed the Top Trail back to my car. The Top Trail is a reconstituted granite path that runs on the top of the Bluff all the way between the first and last parking areas. I passed one other family on the Top Trail who were just heading out and stopped to chat to them for a bit before moving on to my car.

Reamer’s Ranch 11-19-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Altogether, I covered a little over 4 miles of very enjoyable walking with the weather cooling down a little and no crowds. Come to think about it, if you have been reading my previous posts, no young ladies in mini bikini’s either. Oh well…

Written 11/30/2017

Violet Crown Trail – 9-20-2017


DSC_1019-PanoAfter having located the 290 entrance to the Violet Crown Trail, I was eager to give it a shot and explore as much of it that I could. I parked in the Spec’s Parking Lot making sure not to park too close to the store so as not to impact the shoppers or the store’s business. After the usual preparation work of boots, harness, backpack and cameras, I was ready to go. A short walk from the parking lot brought me to the very nice entrance to the trail. A couple of bike’s came through and as I always do, I moved to one side to allow them to pass. Heck, I am so slow that I am constantly moving to one side to let others through.
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There are a couple of signs at the very beginning of the trail which warn people that the trail is sometimes very steep and is also very rocky in many places and to, “Take every precaution” whatever that means. True to the signs, especially on the way down the very first hill, the trail is very rocky and uneven coupled with the steepness so one has to be a little careful. In many places,the trail is nice easy walking and much of it is in the shade. The trail follows Gaines Creek pretty much all of the way to where it connects to Barton Creek and there are several low water crossings on the way. This time of the year is not a problem as most of the Creeks have long dried up awaiting the next rainy season but I imagine, during the wet season, the trail is prone to being closed after heavy rains. Not being the case today, I crossed Gaines Creek at least four times.

I headed in about 2 miles to where the cliff face trails are very interesting to walk. The trail is narrow and the cliffs overhang on one side and Barton Creek is on the other. I decided that I would turn around at this point and make my way back. This is just past the turn off for the existing greenbelt Trailhead at 360. I would like to hike all of the way to the Zilker Park Trailhead but would need a friend with a car to meet me there otherwise it would be a 10 mile round trip. Not sure I can do that anymore especially on a rough trail.

There were a few flowers but so much of the trail is in the shade, not too many are growing.

The return trip was uneventful as I made my way back to the 290 Trailhead. Several cyclists passed me in both directions and there were even a couple of runners and hikers who were also using the trail. It is probably a lot busier on the weekends. I found the trails to be a little tiring. It was probably a combination of the rocks underfoot and the changes and steepness of the terrain but I was glad to get back to my car. Altogether I covered 4.5 miles.

The first slideshow is of the trails which are pretty varied.

Violet Crown Trail from 290 9-20-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

This slideshow shows the rock face on one side of the trail and the creek on the other. In many places, the rocks overhang the trails. I wonder what the chances are of any of them coming down….

Violet Crown Trail Overhanging Rocks 9-20-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

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Written 9/21/2017

Circle C Trails 9-9-2017


I wanted to take a closer look at the Circle C Trails as the maps showed them to be much more extensive than I originally thought. I had noticed people walking the trails that ran alongside Escarpment Boulevard and for some reason never made the connection. That’s what comes from having an old brain. More than a little slow sometimes…I didn’t realize that there were trails on both sides of the Boulevard albeit many are narrow bike trails which are also used by hikers and runners. I drove over to Slaughter Lane and Escarpment Boulevard and parked in the cinema parking lot and just decided to take my camera and walk a bit down the gravel trail. I went through my usual ritual of changing into my hiking boots and grabbing all of the normal “stuff” I carry with me including both cameras mounted on my double carry harness.

I knew that if I went off to the right, I would come to the soccer fields so I went left, under Escarpment Boulevard and discovered a whole host of different trails in between Escarpment Boulevard and Loop 1. I followed a couple of them and wandered around for a couple of hours taking many pictures of the wildflowers that are currently in bloom.  I walked along and managed to cover around 3.5 miles. The trails are of the usual variety and the main trail follows Slaughter Creek which is dried up this time of the year. This area is also a part of the Edwards Aquifer Discharge Zone so I might well have been drinking some of the water that soaks down through the rocks from the creek.

A view of the dried up creek.

Pictured below are some of the trails. Obviously, the wide granite trails are the main walking ones. The rest are bike trails so are not very wide. They also tend to twist and wind about as the bikers try to add various degrees of difficulty to their rides.

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There are a bunch of wildflowers this time of the year.

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and one Monarch butterfly

I passed a couple of runners and one guy on a bike but as it was a weekday, I didn’t really expect to see many people. I should probably say that the runners and biker passed me as everyone and their brother walks quicker than me nowadays. I had a fine old time and was glad to be back out on the trails again slow pace and all.

Written 9/18/2017

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…