A Beautiful Day


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It’s going to be a beautiful day
the sun is shining along the way
the rain has gone to a different place
and the day is now too good to waste.

I have sat indoors these past few days
watching it rain at a furious pace
but now the sun shines and there’s work to be done
to clean up the garden which sounds like fun.

Cut down the plants too damaged to live
clear the space new life to give
to the plants that remain behind
they will recover all in good time.

Storms and wind are Nature’s way
of changing things and have her say
the way she wants the world to look
as she turns the page of her open book.

We do not understand her ways
so powerful and violent on these days
and yet today there is just a faint breeze
rustling the leaves up in the trees.

And the sun is shining to greet the day
the warm breeze is blowing as if to say
come out and play with me for a while
and I’ll tickle your face and make you smile.

I open the door to venture outside
and breathe the fresh air no need to hide
for Nature has come through once again
the clouds blown away for me to begin.

Thoughts….


DSC_5112I have not walked much in a while in the Parks and special places that I choose to lose myself in nature. Instead, for the past couple of months I have been communing at home, mostly out in the garden and in and around the ponds.

Cleaning up the winter mess left over from the couple of frosts that we had and trimming back those remaining plants that the frost did not damage. Repotting the water lilies and other pond plants to give them a fresh new start in this cycle of their life. Working on the filter systems on the two big ponds to improve their capacity to clean the water.

The two sheds and the greenhouse that have not been cleaned in twenty years need work. Tidying up the Yellow Shed, the one that contains the mechanical tools used around the yard. Starting the mowers and discovering that only one out of the three that I have will work. Turning the greenhouse into a storage area for all of the pond tools and equipment including all of the various and many plastic fitting accumulated over the years and the odd sections of pipe with bends and valves and other sundry parts that have been changed out in the past. Parts kept in the off chance they can be reused in the future.

And finally, working on the big workshop. Finding tools that I thought were long gone, lost in the very jumble that happens after twenty years of neglect. Rearranging the shelves and adding new places to store things. Putting things on the walls until there is no space unused. Sweeping the floor and removing years of accumulated dirt.

Wondering what to do with the huge pile of junk that for me,  no longer has a use. Maybe a trip to the dump and another to the junkyard to recycle that which is old and worn out.

Just like me…Where do I get recycled.

Looking forward to cleaning out the sheds in another twenty years…

I do not want to play, today


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The weather is very grey today
and I do not feel that I want to play
out in the garden not at this time
as I will wait for the sun to shine.

When things are gloomy no sun to shine
I do not feel that I have the time
to work outside and in the yard
working  in gloom is very hard.

For I am a sun loving person at heart
I love the warmth and brightness it imparts
and when it is hidden behind the clouds
I feel the gloom like burial shrouds.

The sun gives me the energy
to do the work that’s a part of me
as tending the yard is one of my joys
being close to Nature as she deploys.

Just as she does every year
fighting her battles to make things appear
young and green and ready to grow
bright and cheerful as she does sow.

I guess I’ll stay inside and write
at least for today until it gets bright
and the sun shines down upon the ground
and the warmth it spreads is all around.

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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.

 

Austin Pond Society 2016 August Meeting


DSC_3675The Austin Pond Society held their August Meeting at the Zilker Gardens Botanical Center this past Monday, August 15, 2016. There was a very light turnout of membership with about 25 or so showing up which included three new members. Welcome to you all.

As usual, the meeting started with a very light meal of sandwiches with a choice of ham or beef and all of the trimmings followed by cookies for desert.

The video below is the presentation by Douglas Soltan.

APS August Meeting 8-15-2016 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

At 7:00 pm, Jeannie introduced our speaker, Douglas Soltan and his topic was going to be Native Plantings with emphasis on the Texas wildflowers. Barb Lenhardt, our Special Events Coordinator usually makes the introductions but she unfortunately was held up with a flat tire. Douglas told us a little about himself and the role he plays with the Wildflower Center. He is one of the many Docents assigned to educating the public about the wildflowers of Texas.

He handed out copies of his slideshow so that the members could follow along and take notes if they wanted. His slideshow had 41 slides of both the plants and the butterflies that are attracted to each one. He had a picture of a Horned Owl which along with its mate, had a nest at the Wildflower Center and he stimulated much discussion over this pair and their young. His presentation was very informative and he closed by taking questions from the floor.

Following his presentation, Jeannie led us through several items that are coming up at the next meeting. Prior to that she had all of the Board Members who were present make a brief summary of their duties as several of them are stepping down and we are badly in need of replacements. Those that are definitely not serving again include, Darren Bayhi as Membership,  BJ Jenkins as Publicity, Cynthia Bennett as Parliamentarian and Nancy Reinert as Treasurer. All positions are up for grabs but several of the Board have indicated a willingness to continue. These include, Jeannie Ferrier as President, Julienne Smith as Secretary, Ted Paone as Pond Tour Director, Glen Hubenthal as Photographer and  Historian, Barbara Lenhardt as Programs and Special Events although she has not positively decided that she can continue,  Betty Blackson as Librarian and yours truly as Webmaster. If any of you have a desire to volunteer your time on the Board, please be at the next meeting on September 19 or contact Jeannie at president@austinpondsociety.org.

Following the Board positions discussion, Darren gave an outline of the upcoming Photo Competition which will be held at the September Meeting, details of which can be found on the website at  Austin Pond Society Photo Contest

The meeting closed with the usual drawing for the door prizes one of which was won by one of the new members. How’s that for a welcome.

The video below is the business part of the meeting.

APS August Meeting – Business 8-15-2016 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

In the Ponds…


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View of the 5000 gallon pond. The plant on  the right is a Thalia.

I had reason to get into two of my ponds a couple of days ago. In one, the pipe that connects to the fish fountain had come disconnected probably because I had installed a 6000 gph pump greatly increasing the water pressure. The only way to reconnect was to literally get in the water as the fountain stands in the middle of the pond.

The ponds plants have taken over because nothing died back following our frost free winter and also helped by the fact that I decided to let things grow. I have not done any pruning or cutting back, this year at all. The entry into the pond that I specifically built is so full of Taro leaves and other plants that there is no way into the water without tearing the place up. I didn’t want to do that so had to devise another way to get in.

I went to the opposite end where the skimmer and pump are located and figured that if I put a couple of boards over the skimmer box, I could use it to gain entry into the pond. This I did and hooked the pipe back up to the fish fountain, this time wiring it together in the hope of it staying there longer.  While I was in the pond and as is my usual practice, I cleaned the pond bottom of as much junk and leaves that I could find. When I turned the water back on (I always shut off the pumps when I get into the ponds as a safety precaution) , the water streamed out a good three feet in front of the fountain, something it has never done before. As I mentioned, the new pump was putting out a lot of water and this was the first time it had been hooked to the fountain. Very impressive.

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The frog statue showing how far the new pump can throw the water.

I went over to the first pond by the deck and tried to think of everything I needed to do in this pond and before I got into it, had all of the pots and tools lined up.  My reason for getting into it in the first place was to try to upright a Taro plant that had slipped over. This one had grown very tall, taller than me which is not saying much, probably close to six feet. I also wanted to take the opportunity to clean out the pond which I always do if I have to get in them.

Compared to the first pond I had been in, this one turned into a comedy of errors. I didn’t have any trouble getting in and out of this pond as it is not so deep as the first one except in the middle. I walked over to the Taro plant wondering what on earth I was walking on. Instead of a hard surface under my feet, it was soft and mushy and all kinds of thoughts started racing through my head. Dead fish, dead plants, mud, pea gravel, maybe even a dead Heron as I had not seen my visitor from another world for several months.

I dipped my cleaning net into the water and brought up the first net full which turned out to be nothing worse than mud and pea gravel from the pots that the big Koi had managed to tip over or washed out with their tails. I had originally built  a couple of “tables” in the pond comprising of concrete blocks stacked three high with a weighted plastic shelf made out of garage storage shelves. The “tables” have been in the pond for probably twenty years or even longer and normally have pond plants in pots standing on them, the Taro plant being one of them. One table was still intact but the one that had the Taro standing on it had collapsed which is of course why the Taro had fallen over.

In my efforts to clean the muck and get the blocks and pots out of the pond, I managed to stumble over yet another concrete block and before I knew it, had joined the fish swimming in the water falling over backwards with a considerable splash. I quickly scrambled to my feet none the worse except maybe a little cooler and a lot wetter and wondered how many fish germs I had swallowed. After all, fish poop in the water. Where else are they going to go?

Interestingly enough, The big Koi and I am talking about fish well over two feet long and longer, were not a bit disturbed by my joining them in the water. Not even when I fell over. As I worked, they swam lazily around me and I even reached out and stroked several of them on the side and they still didn’t panic. I am not suggesting that they recognize me after twenty five years plus of me attending to them but they definitely did not consider me a threat.

I had planted in pots at least three lotus and a couple of lily plants this season but if they had come up at all, the Koi had quickly managed to destroy them. All that remained were the pots some still full of clay and stones, other completely cleaned out. I lifted these out along with the concrete blocks and continued with the chore of cleaning the pond. While I was at it, I cut back the overhanging growth around the outside of the pond. Then I turned my attention to the reason I was in the pond in the first place, the tall  Taro plant. I discovered that it had grown out of its pot which is the reason it had tipped over. I could not get it back into the pot and the only recourse was to drag it over to the side and scramble it up onto the bank.

I have it sitting in a large pot now and will keep it alive. The original leaves have already died but it will grow more. Maybe, I will put it back into the pond, this time in a much larger pot weighted down with rocks to keep it steady. Or not….

 

Austin Pond Society 22nd Annual Tour – N13, N14


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N13 Michele and Steve

In the shade of gorgeous oak trees, the 8-year-old pond is the highlight of this comfy backyard retreat, which has earned a designation of Certified Wildlife Habitat. The 5,500-gallon pond is home to koi, comets, a giant albino catfish, leopard frogs and the occasional water snake. The yard also has two mini ponds with happy purple, yellow and multicolor lilies. Walk around the pond and notice the attention to detail that has been taken to make it look natural—hard surfaces covered with weeping fig, meandering pathways and varied elevations. Also found here: a grill pavilion with an ingenious bottle wall, fairy gardens, whimsical yard art (can you find the Elvis gnome?), a fire pit and a beautiful large purple wisteria.


N14 Betty and Ralph – Leander

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The backyard is a wonderful outdoor living room, complete with ceiling fans hanging from the trees above the dining table and bar. Soothing sounds emanate from the tall waterfall as it tumbles into the 12 x 9 ft rubber-lined pond nestled in the rock patio. The huge old oak tree has been identified as an Indian Marker tree used by Native Americans to mark the way and is estimated to be between 125 and 200 years old. Plants throughout the yard attract birds and butterflies. On the left a curved white stone greenhouse/potting shed (affectionately called “The Alamo”) was carefully built around the oak tree as a place to store garden supplies and protect tender plants in the winter. Ask Betty how she got the materials for the greenhouse to her home. Landscape lighting front and back allow enjoyment of the area after dark. Lots to see here, so spend the time to take it all in.

As with all of these slides, if you click on any one of them it will enlarge and then use the side arrows to move the pictures along. Press  “Escape” to get back to normal.