Too Hot to Take a Walk but not Too Hot to Mow the Grass…


DSC_3831Every time I leave the house and drive past the area that the County owns outside of my fence, I think to myself that I really need to get after it and mow it down. I haven’t mowed at all this year mainly due to the fact that just as the grass started to grow this past Spring, Google had a crew come in to install the fiber cable directly in the area outside of my fence. At the time I thought it was great and was looking forward to a very fast internet but sad to say, they are not hooking up in my area yet but that is a whole separate story.

This gave me a much welcomed excuse to not even get close to the grass and totally ignore it even after they had finished, I kept ignoring the fact that the remaining grass that they had not run over with their heavy equipment was now two feet high especially with all of the recent rain we have had. I know just what I was thinking preferring to hike rather than mow the grass and maybe I was just being a little bit lazy. OK, I just hate to mow…

The mower in the garage

The mower in the garage, stupid thing…

In my defense, I have a mower and it sits in my garage most of the time. The reason for this is that when I had it out in one of the sheds with a cover over it, the rats built a nest in the motor and chewed all of the electrical lines which I was able to replace myself.

The only place I get to use the mower is, you guessed it, the side of the house alongside the road. I bought it several years ago when most of the backyard was a sort of lawn. I jokingly referred to it as a lawn but in truth, the grass didn’t grow very well under the trees, which incidentally, is why I built five ponds. I used the mower as a tractor pulling a cart when I built the ponds. I hauled rocks and gravel and even used it to tow several rail ties that I used at the bottom of the fence. I used the mower  a couple of times to cut the grass last year and that was after spending a couple of hundred dollars on it to get it to run properly. It sat in my garage all winter and I started it up a couple of times and it seemed to be OK. So, when I thought I would bite the bullet and mow the grass, I backed my car out so that I could get the mower out. I couldn’t even get the mower to turn over so I jerked the battery out and took it to the Parts store to get it tested which it did just fine. They put it on a quick charge and I took it home, put it back in and tried it again. Success, it fired up and ran like a charm for all of one minute and then it died. That is how it has been acting every time I have tried it since. There is obviously a blockage in the carburetor  as I have checked the lines and gas flows where it should. I can’t for the life of me figure how to get into the carburetor to clean it out and so now, the mower is just sitting there. I think the manufacturers have built it so that DIY fellows like myself can’t do our own repairs.

The old self driving mower

The old self driving mower

Not to be outdone by one stupid mower, I have two more. One is as old as the hills and is a self driving hand mower. I must have had it 30 years and yet it starts every time and usually on the first pull. I hit a rock with it years ago and bent the crankshaft  causing the mower to vibrate pretty badly but it still runs. I got it out of the shed, gassed it up and sure enough, it fired right up. I took it out to the street and started to mow and it died after about ten minutes. It would not start again so I took it back to the shed and got out my final mower which is actually a string mower on wheels. It too usually starts on the second or third pull and it fired up and continued to run. I changed out the plastic cutting strings which I cut to length off a big roll of the stuff and took it outside and started cutting the grass.

String Mower

String Mower

It worked just fine and I spent a busy two hours chopping down the grass. To say that I was mowing brings visions of the mower putt-putting along in neat straight lines cutting the grass to a couple of inches high and leaving a nice lawn effect. I have to tell you, that is not the case with a string mower. It does a great job of cutting down whatever is in the way including any flowers and small trees that might be foolish enough to wave their pretty heads and leaving everything in one disorganized chaos of cut grass laying in every which direction. I would need a hay baler if I had any thoughts of picking it up or clearing it away. Regular mowers can usually give a much better mulching effect because they will cut the grass several times as they pass over it. Definitely not the case with a string mower.  Cut it down once and push on.

The strings on the drum

The strings on the drum

Not only that, the mower is not self driven. All the motor does is to turn the head that the string is attached to and me and my poor body and arms and legs provided the traction. By now of course, this being Texas, the temperature had now reached the ninety degree mark and the sweat just poured off me. I have to explain that even on the riding mower and wearing shorts, the poison ivy of which there is quite a bit growing in this area tended to float around a bit after it was cut and did a number on me. This time, I dressed for it and had on blue jeans and a long sleeved shirt. No wonder I was hot and sweaty.  The going was not very even and I was fighting the terrain and getting jerked around all over the bloody place. This is why I hate mowing.

And then there is the string itself. The “string” is made of plastic and is probably .155 inch thick. You have to cut it off to length and follow the directions to thread it through the holders a special way. When it breaks, which it invariably does, you have to take out whatever is left and place a new piece in. I bet I replaced at least ten strings today because the grass was so long and  did I mention the rocks that the construction crew had not bothered to clean up? I either ran into them and had to jerk the mower around them or the “string” whacked one of the rocks causing it to break.

I finally got it all done and about the only thing that you can see is that the grass has been cut. It doesn’t look pretty but the weather forecast has some rain in it and knowing Mother Nature, it won’t be long before we have to do it again,  maybe next year I will have the mower repaired…In the meantime, a long soak in the hot tub to relieve my aching muscles.

Now should I bite the bullet and get the damn mower fixed? I swear it is a vicious circle, get it fixed, it stands all winter in the garage, spring comes, try to start it up and back to the repair shop….
Maybe I will wait until next Spring for the mower.

 

It’s Raining at McKinney 9-2-2016


DSC_3780I drove to McKinney Roughs, a distance of about 40 miles from my house under cloudy skies. it didn’t really look like rain but when I arrived at McKinney main entrance, the skies opened up and it rained for a good twenty minutes.  I had my newspaper with me having to forego my usual breakfast routines in order to get to the park earlier as I wanted to hike while it was still somewhat cool, for Texas. In my case this morning, it was breakfast to go as I ate it in the car on my way to the Park and read the paper while I waited for  it to stop raining.

The couple parked in the car next to me, acted brave as they got out of their car when it first started to rain and started walking. Less than three minutes later when the skies opened up, they came running back, hopped into the car and then drove off. So much for their walk this morning.

As soon as it stopped, I got out and strolled over to the Office to pay my $2.00 and chatted to the lady behind the window. As they still haven’t fixed the flood damaged trails down by the river, I had to come up with a different plan. Did I mention that I have bought a new pair of hiking boots? The old ones, which I had already glued together several times,  are just about worn out and are getting uncomfortable on the right foot so I thought it time for a change. I bought a pair of Keen’s Dark Earth that happened to be on sale at $110.00  from Whole Earth Provision Company. I swear my feet are growing as I get older and everything else is shrinking, except my weight that is and it’s a struggle to keep that where I want it. I am already an inch shorter and my muscles, the ones that are still visible that is, are much smaller than when I was younger. In those days playing soccer, I wore a 9 1/2 as I wanted them snug so I could feel the ball. Probably they should have been a size 10. The boots I just bought are size 11 1/2 and have removable inserts. Go figure…In my defense, I do have a wide foot, a whopping 6E almost the widest that is made. Today was going to be the first day that I got to use them on the trail although I have been wearing them out and about just to help break them in.

I set out to walk along Coyote Road and first, I had to get onto Bobcat Ridge. I knew I was in trouble the minute I stepped onto the trails as the rain had turned everything into thick gooey clay which just built up on my new boots in the first ten steps. So much for newness! My feet felt like they had 20 pound weights on each one and as soon as I kicked off the mud, it was right back on there again. I kinda walked in slow motion not making any time at all and felt like I was back in soccer training again, trying to build up my leg muscles with weights attached to my ankles.DSC_3765

A mile or so onto Coyote Road, I contemplated turning back but figured that I might as well press on as going back would be just as miserable. I reached the area where the trails are blocked off and  Coyote Road meets with Riverside and had no choice but to continue along Riverside. Normally, I like hiking close to the river as it gives a nice change of view with the off chance of seeing more wildlife like Blue Herons, Egrets and maybe even ducks. The water was up a bit and flowing fast and was a dirty brown color. I didn’t get to see anything in the way of wildlife and the trails were extremely muddy. I did manage to find several flowers throughout the Park that were not there a little  over a week ago, the last time I was at this Park which included moss in one tree that I had never seen before.

Another young lady hiker caught up with me on this  part of the trail and we chatted a bit before she moved on. I stopped and motioned for her to pass me and mentioned that I was a very slow walker and EVERYONE passes me. She was very diplomatic and said that she had a hard time to catch up with me. She let me take her picture, for which I am grateful as we both continued on our way. Riverside, at this point is a steep uphill climb but the footing had improved and was no longer anywhere near as muddy. In fact, a lot of it is loose pebbles which although sometimes tricky to walk on are a lot better then the goo I had covered earlier. I met another older couple walking down the hill and we stopped and chatted for a bit. I told them they should avoid the Lower Riverside and Coyote Road due to the muddy conditions and to stick with the tight cluster of trails in the center of the Park. We both continued on our separate ways with me going up and them going down. The uphill climb lasts almost a mile and is steep in a couple of places. Eventually, it levels out and is decent walking on the trail back to the Parking Lot.

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On the way back along Riverside, I walked in every puddle I could find and even tried walking in the wet grass in an effort to clean some of the mud off my boots. It helped a bit but they were due for a good cleaning when I got home. I am in the habit of changing into my hiking boots when I arrive at the Park so at least I did not have to drive and put mud all over the car. I met another older couple who were just leaving the office and stopped to chat with them and told them which trails to stay away from.

Altogether I covered about four and a half very long and difficult miles and have to say, that is the most miserable I have ever felt while out hiking due to the muddy conditions. My usually slow pace was reduced to a crawl. This was worse than being lost and in the dark at Pedernales Falls.

Being close to Bastrop, I drove in for my usual Latte and at the same time, stopped by the Tractor Supply Store and picked up their last two bags of Koi food. Nothing like taking advantage of the location.

Below are pictures of the trails and the river. It is easy to tell the upper section of Riverside as it is so much dryer and a different color.

As with all of these picture displays, if you click on anyone of them it will enlarge and you can use the side arrows to move along. Use the “Escape” key to get back to normal.

A Few Thoughts…


Life-Love-Quotes-Time-Has-A-Wonderful

The temperature has dropped. We are probably through with the 100 degree plus days for this year. Now it is only 90 degrees but the humidity is high making it feel much warmer and very uncomfortable. I only have to walk around and I start to sweat. Heaven forbid that I do any actual work out in the garden other than the necessities to keep the ponds operating smoothly.

I planned on getting up early to go for a hike but instead, stayed in bed trying to sleep while the dogs were play wrestling all around and all over me. In the end, I gave up and got up. Maybe, I’ll hike tomorrow as it is forecast to be a bit cooler. Maybe…

I had a fish die and following my usual practice, tossed it over the fence into the woods behind my property for any of the carrion type predators to feed on. Natural re-cycling I call it. Needless to say, the buzzards moved in as they usually do, several of them at a time, perching in the trees awaiting their turn. This drove my little dogs nuts with those big black things perched up there and totally ignoring their frustrated barking from on the ground. The buzzards sense of smell and keen eyesight must be really phenomenal for them to locate a dead fish that is in a wood and hidden from their view a hundred feet below them. Plus, it’s not like they hover to locate anything. No, they are swooping around on the spirals and probably flying at a good rate of speed and yet they zoom in with unerring accuracy.

I spent some time reviewing the posts and bloggers that I follow on my own blog site,  http://pondblog2011.mlblogs.com/. There are nearly 500 of them and the list was becoming unmanageable as I could not read them all every day. So, I began to click the “reject” button on a few of them which included those that posted more than a couple of blogs a day or had subject matter that I was just not interested in. I had one blogger that posted 31 times today and have several that post anywhere from 4-6 times a day. Go figure…I felt a bit hypocritical “Liking” a post just in the hope they would “Like” mine especially when the subject matter was not something I was interested in, Religion for example.

Like all bloggers, I desperately need everyone to “Like” my site to increase the number of followers. We judge how good our writing is or how well our pictures have turned out by that magic number of “Likes”. We might even conclude that a particular post was successful because of the “Likes”. The problem is that it is sort of a self fulfilling prophesy as regardless of what the content of the others persons blog and whether we have a real interest in the subject, we automatically click the “Like” button in the hope that the blogger will reciprocate in kind. Most of our “Likes” are from other bloggers.

The same can be said about “Comments”which is another way of letting the Author know that you like (or dislike) the subject matter and that you have taken the time to comment. So, ideally, bloggers want lots of likes and lots of comments to make them feel good.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a few sites that I am interested in and really follow them but for the rest, it is a two hour daily exercise in futility clicking their”Like” buttons, in the hopes they will reciprocate just to push up my own magic number.

It’s interesting what people like to read. Stuff I write that I think is pretty good is often ignored by my readers and yet, other posts which to me are rather ordinary or run of the mill get good reviews (Likes). I think it’s a visual thing as the posts with lots of pictures gets good and are well liked while the poems and other writing about various and different subjects are only treated as so-so.

As I mentioned many times in the past, I like to listen to Audiobooks. I find it very relaxing to hear a good story especially if the storyteller is talented with many voices to change the characters. My main interest is in the writing of the story itself and how the different authors are able to take something and turn it into a story with plots and sub plots, life and death and drama beyond belief with his or her well thought out words. My mind is just not devious enough to put together anything more than a straightforward story or a reporting of something that I attended and/or filmed or took pictures of.

That doesn’t mean I should stop trying. Who knows, one of these days I might get it right and end up with hundreds of “Likes”.

McKinney Roughs 8-13-2016


DSC_3660After walking at McKinney yesterday with my good friend BJ, I really had the urge to get back out on the trails again. I was not feeling any effects from yesterdays hike so physically, there were no reasons not to go. I went thru my usual routines when I leave the house, putting the two cats in their own room so that Richie, the male Dachshund doesn’t tear them up which he has done a few years ago. He may be alright with them now but better safe than sorry both for the cat’s sake and my pocketbook. I filled my water bottles and grabbed a couple of apples, picked up my camera and was ready to go.

Then I noticed that the Chihuahua, Pete, our newest addition was giving me “the look” as though to say, “Haven’t you forgotten something”? They know that they don’t get to come with me on these hikes as I have enough trouble with my 80 year old legs without having to worry about two Dachshunds and a Chihuahua with their little legs, out on the trail. It would be very difficult to carry them all when they got tired especially with me being already tired by then. Then it clicked. Pete was looking for a handout which they usually get when I leave the house. I gave all three of them a chewy to keep them occupied, patted them all on the head and closed the door.

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The drive from my house to McKinney Roughs usually takes me 40 minutes but there were major holdups with road construction just outside of Austin Bergstrom International Airport as they were doing a road changeover. The forty mile trip ended up taking 75 minutes. Even with stopped or snail pace bumper to bumper traffic, there are always some jerks that want to disrupt things. In this case, it was a black Dodge that wanted to drive on the left hand shoulder to beat the line. Needless to say, everyone and I mean everyone closed up nose to tail shutting him out completely until he came to an obstruction which forced him to jump the traffic into the opposite lane. I am normally a very considerate driver and allow people in when they are doing it legally but this particular idiot surely did not fall into that category. I never understand the thinking of these sort of drivers. They obviously do not care about others or even what others think about their actions and yet you see it all of the time. There is nothing worse than an idiot behind the wheel of a car. It can be a lethal combination.

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We got through the road changeover and continued on with the traffic thinning quite considerably and I arrived at the McKinney Roughs Main Entrance. There were a lot of cars in the Parking Lot as they had another one of their weekend seminars ongoing but there was still plenty of places to park. I paid my $2:00 entrance fee, signed in and went back to the car to put on my hiking boots and went through my usual preparations. Five minutes later and I was on my way taking the Bobcat Ridge Trail to get me to Yaupon. My plan was to Hike Yaupon to the end where it meets the Pace Bend Trailhead and then turn around to retrace my steps along the same trail. There is still a major washout where Roadrunner meets Coyote Road and there is no way through so I could not complete the loop even if I wanted to. The road delay had cost me some time and subsequently, the cloud cover was burning off and it was warming up. I could feel that the heat was beginning to affect me even though I was drinking a large amount of water to stay hydrated so I had to make a choice of whether to persevere or to do the smart thing and turn back. I opted to do the latter swallowing my pride for not achieving my original goals. On the walk back, a young couple passed me and asked if they were on the right trail to the Resort. I set them right and they continued on their way as did I.

As with all of these slides, if you click on any one of them, it will enlarge and you can move them by using the side arrows. Use the “Escape Key” to get back to normal.

I arrived back at my car without any further incidents just as the seminar was turning out. The Parking lot was busy for fifteen or so minutes so I had to sit around until it cleared so that I could change into dry clothes. It was after 5:00 pm and the Office was closed so I couldn’t use the bathrooms which is what I normally do. No big deal.

I covered 6.2 miles by my pedometer with the temperatures hovering around the 95 degree mark. Cooler than the day before when it reached 102 but still very hot for hiking. I am really glad that I erred on the side of safety and turned back even though it hurt my pride to do so. Better safe than sorry.

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McKinney Roughs with BJ, 8-12-2016


DSC_3634-PanoBJ and I went for another walk at McKinney Roughs. This time we got there at 8:00 am in an attempt to beat the heat as today was forecast to be 103 degrees, feeling like 108. We were walking the toughest trail in the park, namely Pine Ridge. It’s not that Pine Ridge is long and arduous but it is strenuous due to the steep climbs on both sides of the valley and the many steps carved out of the hillside which are not in the best of repair and make for difficult climbing. We were both breathing heavy by the time we had reconnoitered both sets of steps. Except for the very stony and pebbly walking, the rest of the trail was relatively normal. By the amount of grass growing on and around the steps, it looks like the Pine Ridge Trails have not been used that much lately.

We passed the construction that is going on with the zip lines, walking by a couple of the towers. The workers were busy doing their thing as we passed. It looks like they are still several weeks away from opening. BJ says that she is definitely going to try it. I have some reservations and will have to see what inherent dangers it might present to my 80 year old body.

Pine Ridge turns into Bobcat Ridge which in turn, changes to Riverside which is the really wide trail in the picture below. Great walking. It finally turns back into Pine Ridge which brought us back to where we started. Altogether, we covered almost 5 miles. Even though we started early, it was already in the high 80’s and as usual, I was totally soaked by the time we were through.

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As we walked, we were looking for any sort of flowers or unusual cactus that I could take pictures of and we managed to find a few. We have walked these trails so often that it is getting difficult to find something new to photograph.

The pine trees are looking very green and spectacular.

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The trails look cool and inviting.

Another great view from the top of Bobcat Ridge.

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I also took several pictures of the wonderful skyline and views from the trails and put them into two panoramic pictures. The one at the top of the page is of three combined pictures and the one below is of four.

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As with all of these grouped pictures, if you click on anyone of them, it will enlarge and you can use the side arrows to move them along.. Use the “Escape” key to get back to normal.

Texas Heat


sunny-day-in-cheshire

Another 100 degree day
no wonder I don’t want to play
outside or work on the ponds
or hike the trails where it is hot
too hot for comfort.

I get out early but by eleven o’clock
it is already 90 degrees
and I am soaked with sweat
and my body is telling me
to quit.

I have two choices that I can see,
the first is to drive around in my air conditioned car
listening to stories written
by authors much more skilled
than me.

The second is to stay indoors
trying to write
bad poetry about the Texas heat.

Another Wet Day…


wet hiking tail

Another wet day in my home town
it has been like this for more than a week
the days before this were a hundred and three
and now it feels much cooler to me
it’s not unusual in Texas for such extremes
as we generally get a cooling trend
with the temperature dropping a few degrees
instead it has gone to eighty three
we can always use the rain
even when the streams are full
and flooding the banks and onto the fields
and washing away the man made shields.
the trails are much too to wet to hike
and with the chance of a lot more rain
out on the trails and under the trees
and walking in mud up to my knees
is not something that I want to do
these very wet days are very few
for not getting out is not overdue.

mudphoto