More Thoughts on Life…


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When I was young I never thought
that time was passing by
and that at the speed of light
I never wondered why
I took for granted that every day
even though time did fly
would go on forever and would always be
there until I died.

Now on the other end of life
time has passed me by
more days are gone behind me now
than the future can supply
how much longer that I have
before the call from high
to end this life here on this earth
and I say goodbye.

 

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McKinney Roughs 4-26-2017


DSC_5195Finally after a couple of months away from the trails due to suddenly getting very ambitious around the garden even to the extent of cleaning out the three sheds which haven’t been cleaned in 20 years, my friend BJ and I were able to hit the trails at McKinney Roughs for the first time since January of this year. We chose McKinney because we knew that the flowers would be out and everything would be so green and I am very happy to say, we were not a bit disappointed.

We arranged to meet around 1:00 pm and the trip to Bastrop usually takes me 45 minutes but for some reason, the traffic was very heavy even at this time of the day and it took me 30 minutes just to get out of Austin. The 45 minute trip this time took me a good hour to complete. Very frustrating. I needed the walk just to calm my frazzled nerves down after dealing with the usual frustrated and frustrating idiots on the road.

We chose the Yaupon trail which I knew from previous walks would give us a good challenge as it has many ups and downs. The map claims that it is only 2.7 miles long but both BJ’s phone App and my Pedometer showed it to be closer to 4 miles and we still had another 4 miles on the return trip. Yaupon was designed to hook up to with Roadrunner and then Coyote Road to make a complete loop but somewhere along the way, floods have washed out a part of the trail alongside of the river and the trails do not connect so there is no alternative other than to backtrack. Even though under normal circumstances, I do not like backtracking, being the first time out for a while, I was perfectly happy just to be walking and didn’t mind covering the same trail in reverse. You do get a different perspective in the reverse direction and the uphills are now downhills. Of course the downhills also get reversed so you don’t gain anything on Yaupon. On a couple of the other trails, you can choose the direction to walk and make sure to walk downhill wherever possible.

Trails at Yaupon, McKinney Roughs 4-26-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

As you can imagine, everything is beautifully green, the sort of bright and fresh green that has not yet weathered in. Everywhere we looked there was fresh growth as Mother Nature performed her annual miracle of Spring. The flowers were out in abundance and we spent a lot of time just clicking away with our respective cameras, BJ with her Iphone and me with the fancy Nikon D7200 that I take all of my pictures with. Her pictures were equally as good as the ones I was taking as the cameras in the Iphones are really top notch plus the Iphone is a lot lighter than my camera. BJ tells me she even has a telephoto lens to fit her phone. Amazing…

Along the way, we came across an Oak tree that had very interesting bark to it that seemed to spiral around the tree although the pictures that I took do not really show it very well.  We also saw a couple of Buzzards perched on an electric pole. Other than keeping a close eye on us, they ignored us walking directly beneath them. Other birds were full of song and we could hear them all around us but as usual, hardly any were visible.

As we hadn’t seen each other for a while, we had a lot of catching up to do and I swear, we chatted the entire 8 mile hike about this and that and everything else although neither of us mentioned Trump  once. We arrived back at the parking lot at the main office and spent some time taking pictures of the flowers that are planted in the flower gardens that surround this beautiful place. There were not very many butterflies out, not like it will be later in the season but the flowers were a sight to behold.

Flowers at McKinney Roughs Spring 4-26-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

After comparing our respective devices both of which had different numbers on just how far we had walked and how many calories we had burned, we agreed that we had covered 8 miles, not bad for a “first time in a while” hike.

Next up, Pedernales Falls, next week.

An Easy Fish Rescue.


goldfish2 (002)This past week, I visited two different locations to rescue the fish and plants that the owners no longer wanted. That sounds a bit harsh and in both cases, they had very legitimate reasons for giving up their water hobbies. In the first case on Monday, the owner, Renee, was selling the property and she did not have the room to re-locate the fish. In the second instance, Sonja, the lady who contacted me stated that the pond was getting to be too much work for her.

I made arrangements with Renee to visit them in Georgetown on Monday. It was a bit of a problem finding her house as the GPS would not show her address. I even stopped to talk to the mailman but his directions were not that clear. I finally pulled into another guy’s driveway and he was able to point me in the right direction.

As it happens, Renee had been on the lookout for me and she was waiting at the top of her driveway. We chatted for a bit and she then redirected me around the back of her house to an 8 foot circular barn trough that had a couple of straggly looking plants growing out of it but was full of goldfish. They ranged in size from very small to about 6 inches.

It was a comparatively easy to catch them although not the cleanest of jobs as the tank had a lot of sediment in the bottom. I pumped it down as far as I could which left about 3 inches of water in the bottom and then went about netting the fish. Renee helped with her own net and between us we caught around 50-60 fish.

When that tank was emptied, she directed me to the side of the house where she had yet another small trough that held another 50 or so fish of which she had already caught 35  or so and had them in a 5 gallon bucket ready to transfer them to my tanks. Altogether, there must have been close to a 100 goldfish in my containers.

I packed up my trailer and after bidding goodbye, set off for Mayfield Park where I planned to populate a couple of the ponds. The journey to the Park was uneventful and I pulled in and began to unload the containers that held the fish. The Park was really busy and I got a lot of questions especially from the younger generation as they watched me rehome the fish into their new surroundings in two different ponds accompanied by the raucous racket of the Peacocks.

After emptying the containers, I repacked the trailer and made my way back home. The traffic was light making for all in all, a good rescue day.

A Walk at Reimers Ranch 11-20-2016


The Pedernales River

The Pedernales River

The weather had a nip in the air as we finally had our first taste of cooler temperatures. I wanted to go for a walk and thought that if I wore a heavy shirt, I would be OK as long as I kept moving. So, I loaded up the car and set out for Reimers Ranch. This is not one of my most favorite places to walk mainly because it has a lot of open trails with not too much shade cover. I thought that it would work out just fine as today, I wanted to be out in the sun as much as possible just to keep warm.

Reimers Ranch is about 30 minutes from my house so it didn’t take very long to get there. Being a County Park, old codgers like myself get in for free not that I have to pay very much at any of the Parks that I visit. Age does have it’s advantages in some things. The same female Park Ranger greeted me as I pulled up and we chatted for a bit before I drove on to the first parking lot. It was pretty full with cars as people were making the most of the wonderful weather.

My plan was to hike the main Multi Use trail that encircles the entire park mostly because it is easy walking. I started off going North on the Multi Use trail following  it all the way to Turkey Roost trail. I was hoping that maybe I would get a visual and some pictures of any stray turkeys that might be around but no such luck. I probably need to find a quiet place and sit still for a while and hope that the turkeys would walk into view. Actually, I never got to see anything alive other than a few birds and of course people and their dogs.

I made it all the way to the furthermost point of the trail where there are two creeks that flow into the Pedernales River. Before I got that far, I had to stop and take off the heavy shirt as I had worked up enough body heat without it. The river was flowing serenely along and was pretty dirty, reflections of the recent rains that we had. This end of the Park is very pretty as it has many trees. I took several pictures and then thought about where I wanted to go next. My original plan had been to hike the entire trail that encircles the Park but as I was not tied to any particular plan I decided that I would take the lower primitive trail that would take me back to the North Shore Climbing Area. I have walked this trail before and it gets a bit difficult in a few places. From my previous hike, I knew that after about 400 yards of actual trail, I would be making my own trail through an area that although marked, had not been cleared. I managed to get a bit scratched up as I pushed through the undergrowth, climbing over fallen trees and walking through long grass. I passed a couple of caves that invited me to explore but decided against it as you never know what of natures creations may have already claimed it as home for the winter.

The flowers are just about finished for the year and I only came across these two.

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dsc_4501I could hear the Rock Climbers  as I walked along and knew that I would come on to a better marked and more trodden trail pretty soon and sure enough, I was on the trail that leads the climbers to their beloved rock formations. I followed this to where I had a choice of climbing up and out onto the upper paved trails or to continue on the lower primitive trail. I chose the latter as I continued on my way. As we neared the swimming area of the Park, the trail broadened out to where a truck could drive along it. I had the opportunity in a couple of places of taking the trails upwards to the Upper Trail but chose to ignore those “easy” trails in favor of the primitive trail I was on. The trails followed the river with some wonderful views of the expensive looking houses on the opposite side of the river. Must be a great place to live way up on top of the bluffs and well out of any flood zone.

I came to another choice either up or continue and I chose the latter on a trail called the Upper River Trail. I had walked this one before and knew that it would bring me to the South Rock Climbing Area and a way back to the top of the gorge. This part of the trail entails a lot of scrambling over rocks of different sizes some of which are huge. I came face to face with a younger couple carrying fishing poles and we passed comments as they answered my questions of what they had caught. I found a park bench in the shade and stopped for a while to consume half of the walnut and raisin bread roll I had brought with me and just sit and enjoy the solitude. When I started out again,  I met a group of 6 adults and 2  dogs as I stood to one side to let them through. All of these people were going in the opposite direction to me. Further along, I came across a family whose white long haired dog had gotten into the river and had gone swimming and was a total brown color all over and matted with burrs. I heard them say they would comb it out when they got home and I remarked, “Good luck with that” as I passed for the dog was truly a mess. Not sure where the dog was going to sit on the way home in the car?

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I finally made it to the South Climbing Area where several people were just finishing up their climbing and putting their gear away. I asked them the way out as the trail appeared to have died under the rocks and they pointed to a huge rock and said, “Up and over that”. Nothing for it but to scramble up and over this huge rock and I could see the worried looks on the faces of these young men and women as I tackled this task. I made it up without any accidents and continued along the trail leading to the parking lot. The last 100 yards of this trail was one big rock climbing scramble which didn’t get any easier. What I did not notice was that a couple of the younger male climbers were trailing very close behind me in case I should slip. One of them advised me to “take this trail” pointing to a different rock face which had a small stream running down it. “That one is not safe with wet boots”. I did as he suggested and the last step up was a vertical step of about 3 feet. Another of the young climbers was standing and waiting on the top and offered me his hand and pulled me up for which I was very grateful. Who said the young don’t care anymore. I could not have asked for more consideration than I got today. Thank you climbers.

I made my way back to the car and changed out of my tee shirt and boots. I no longer have to do a complete change as the weather is cool enough not to totally soak me with sweat like a month or so ago. If  I didn’t wear a backpack, I would probably get away with not having to change at all. I sat there for a while and finished off the bread roll along with an apple before starting the car to make my way home.

Altogether, I covered 6.9 miles and was very happy that I had gotten to take yet another walk. The drive home was uneventful except for a couple of deer that dashed across the road in front of me. As is usually the case, they were long gone before I could get the camera up. I made up for that disappointment by stopping at Starbucks which just happened to be on my way home. When I got there, I scrambled into the hot tub and pretty soon, the aches and pains of walking at a very old age, were pretty much all gone.

I did not take very many pictures as apart from the scenery, there was not too much else worth taking pictures of.

Reimers Ranch 11-20-2016 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Another Pond Closing…


dsc_4169I received a call from a gentleman who asked if I knew of anyone that would be interested in the two Koi that were in his pond. He explained that he was calling for his Mother who wanted to close the pond down as it was too much work for her and was willing to give away the fish and the pond equipment to a good home.

I told him that I could take care of that for him and made arrangements to visit with him on a Thursday evening. I thought about hooking up my trailer but he didn’t think there was enough stuff to warrant it so I drove up to Round Rock with my fish net, a pump, a container to hold the rescued fish. Even though I thought I was early enough to beat the traffic, that was not the case as we moved along at a slow crawl all the way up Mopac.

James met me at the curb and took me back to the pond which was located in the rear corner of the yard. I met his Mother who was an elderly lady but very bright and talkative. I had brought a 3600 gallon pump and hose with  me and set the pump to lowering the water level as I looked at the rest of the pond. There were several large containers of Iris both yellow and purple, a large Horsetail and Pickerel. There was also a faux rock waterfall actually made out of fiberglass, which as I learned a little later on as we tried to move it, was very heavy. The pump was a little 800 gallon waterfall pump which might come in useful when I repair my Little Old Man Fountain.dsc_4339-1024x683

This project was not like the last one and the son, James was not inclined to do anymore than necessary so I quickly figured out that it was not going to be a breeze like the last one where Jim did most of the work. I put on my rubber boots and jumped into the pond and immediately realized it had not been cleaned in a while and there was probably 6-8 inches of leaves and debris on the bottom. These hampered my fish catching operation as every time I chased a fish, I came up with a net full of rotting leaves. I managed to catch both fish, one of which I had to catch twice as it jumped out of the bucket the first time  and flopped around for a bit before jumping back into the water. From the bucket, they were placed in the container ready for transport. The fish, both Koi were a good size with one at about 24 inch and the other a little smaller. I am surprised that with all of the silt and rotting leaves in the bottom of the pond, the fish had made it this far as I would imagine that the nitrogen level in the water must have been pretty high.

Together, we worked the containers of Iris and Horsetail onto the lawn along with the faux stone waterfall. James, helped me struggle the thing from where it was set up on the back side of the pond onto the lawn not without a few missteps from me resulting with me falling onto my back into the pool of water collected onto the lawn that we had already pumped out of the pond and banging my head on the stupid thing.With cries of “I’m OK, I’m OK”, I scrambled to my feet much to the amusement  of James and his mother, we got the thing out of the pond and onto the lawn.dsc_4340-1024x683-1

We bagged up the Horsetail and the 3 lilies that I had recovered and placed them and a few other things into my car and I took off for home. I planned on coming back the next day with the trailer for the remaining plants and the faux fountain. It was almost dark when I arrived back home but I knew that I had to get the 2 fish into one of the ponds before it got completely dark. I pulled the container that was now much heavier with the fish and the water in it, over to the 6000 gallon pond and placed the fish very carefully into the water. Both appeared OK and none the worse for the transfer.

True to my word, the next day  I drove what was now a very smelly car due to the previous evenings exertions  and now with the trailer hitched to it, back to Round Rock to be met by James’ Mother who opened the gate for me. I loaded out the remaining Iris and other plants and then  covering everything with a tarp which I lashed down and then put my dolly on to hold the tarp down. I struggled the waterfall onto the trailer placing it on the tarp as well.

I took one last look around making sure that I had everything there was to be had before closing the gate after saying good by to the lady of the house. I provided her with the name of a Handyman who could complete the task of leveling the rocks around the pond and generally tidying up the area.The drive home was uneventful and the traffic was not too bad. Everything is in the timing…

Next time, I will go with my gut instincts and hook up the trailer and save myself an extra trip.

 

Austin Pond Society September Meeting 2016


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Door Prizes

The Austin Pond Society held it’s September meeting at the usual location, Zilker Botanical Garden on Monday, September 19, 2016. This time, the Society was trying something different and instead of opening the meeting with the usual meal, they held a Swap or Sell meeting. Members who had items of Pond or Garden Equipment were encouraged to bring their wares and put them on display. As some of the items were fairly large, it was decided to hold that part of the meeting outdoors on the side of the building which meant that it had to be over by 7:00 pm as it was beginning to get dark. There were some interesting items on display, a push lawn mower, an electric train set, a pond filter and lots of miscellaneous stuff like plant pots, screening material and many different types of plants and many other things too numerous to list.

Following the Swap and Sell meet in which it appears that the plants were the most popular items, the meeting moved back indoors to enjoy Pizza and Salads and deserts brought by the Members before the start of business.

The main order of business for the evening was the participation and voting for the Calendar which is a very popular event for the year. Prior to that was a brief discussion by Jeannie, the President and Nancy Reinert about the invitation to all interested members to participate in converting a Pool to Pond seminar at Nancy’s house on Saturday. It was going to be a working event with the members quite literally getting their hands dirty as they helped to clean out Nancy’s existing Pool/Pond. Hers has been set up for four years and was in need of a plant clean-out and replacement and would show the interested  members just what it takes to make the conversion. You can read about that event at this link.Cleaning the Pool/Pond Conversion

The next order of business was given by Laura who outlined the vacancies on the Board and at the same time went around the room asking for volunteers. As with most small organizations, it is usually the same people that run the show and we are desperately looking for some new blood. The elections will be held at the October meeting. This meeting was looking for nominations. Following this, was the drawing for the door prizes.

The final event of the evening was the announcement of the different winners for the Calendar in which members had voted earlier in the evening. Their were four categories,
1) Ponds and pond features
2) Fish
3) Wildlife (“any insects, amphibians, birds, critters, etc. found around or in our ponds,” except fish)
4) Pond Plants
with a first, second and third place winners and the one with the most votes goes on the front page. This is always a popular event and there were some truly amazing pictures.dsc_3941

This was the final event of the evening and all that remained was for the members who had brought items which had not been sold having to re-load them into their cars to take them home. All in all, another popular meeting with about 45 members enjoying good company and good food.

As with all of these pictures, if you click on one it will enlarge and you can use the side arrows to move along. Use the “Escape” key to get back to normal.
Below is the video of the inside events.

APS September Meeting 2016 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.