Cleaning the Converted Pool to Fish Pond September 2016


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I got up early, at least for me, so that I could film the volunteers from the Austin Pond Society as they worked on Nancy and Jake’s pond. This particular pond is actually a converted swimming pool and at least one member had asked the question, “How can I convert my pool” at the last meeting. This blog will show the process in reverse.

This was another example of how the Austin Pond Society by means of a show and tell with members physically joining in with the work, have them  performing  such tasks so that they have the knowledge and ability when the time comes, to perform the work on their own ponds. It was also an opportunity for those members that needed pond plants, to get some for free in return for their help.

When I arrived about 9:30 am, there were several people already hard at work. This included Jeannie and Steve, Jeannie’s son, Cory and of course Nancy and Jake. They had already lowered the water by a couple of feet and both Steve and Cory were in the pond removing the plants. Steven had on waders and Cory was in with just his bathing trunks. The pond/pool is about 30 feet long and 18 feet wide and like most swimming pools had a shallow and deep end. The shallow end is where most of the plants were standing on metal glass topped tables that Jake had especially adapted for this use.

It took a good hour and a half to get all of the plants out of the water and during this time, several other people showed up to help including Alex and David and a little later on, BJ, Ann and Betty. With all of these helpers, the work on the deck was quickly divided into groups as plants were separated and re-potted. Plants that were not going to be re-planted and all of the sundry dirt and roots from the rest was taken to the trash heap some little distance from the deck. Ted, our Pond Tour Chairman showed and he helped Jake get the inlet pipe ready to be reconnected. During this process, Jake’s new electric drill fell into the pond and was eventually fished out by Alex using a long handled net. It remains to be seen if it will dry out enough to work.

While this was going on, the pond boys, Steven and Cory had been replacing the newly re potted plants onto the glass topped tables within the pond locating them in their new homes. For them, this was a much simpler job than their previous one of taking the plants out of the ponds. Even though the plants originally had been planted in pots, Nature being what it is, does not contain itself within these limitations and many of the plants had not only outgrown their pots but had been growing in wild abandon without the pots constrictions. Consequently, when it was time to get them out, they were way too big and too heavy and had to be cut down into smaller chunks. The Umbrella plant in particular, which looked very spectacular, took Steve and Cory probably a good fifteen minutes before they could manhandle it out of the pond and not before they had cut it into several more manageable sized pieces.

While others were working in and around the pond, BJ was working on the bog which is an above deck structure and is probably about fifteen feet by six feet and about 3 feet high. She spent her time pulling plants out of the bog around the edges and thinning out others towards the middle. She looked a fine sight as she was mud spattered from head to toe.dsc_3988

As soon as Jake and Ted had the inlet pipe hooked back together, Jake turned on the water to the bog which in turn, provided some circulation within the pond. They have a 9500 gph pump which is pushing a lot of water which showed with the amount that flowed out of the bog. About this time, hot dogs were served and the pond crew took a hard earned rest. As it happened, they also had to leave and so Alex volunteered to get into the pond to complete the remaining work. Some of the other helpers had left as most of the work was complete.

I said my goodbyes and Nancy walked me back to my car. While we were there talking, two more members showed, Cynthia and Barb both of whom had previous engagements that had kept them away, full of apologies for their lateness. Both were surprised that the work was complete.

It was a very interesting experience and even though I had to put up with a lot of joking remarks about my role as photographer, followed by dire threats of being plastered in mud, I managed to get out of there unscathed. All in all, a very interesting morning.

I took a lot of film and have turned them into videos.
The first and longest shows the work involved in clearing the pond.
The second shows the plants as they are cut up into smaller and more manageable pieces to be re-potted and then the re-potting itself.
The third is very short and shows the inlet pipe that was already assembled and being put back into the pond.
The next video is of BJ  and others cleaning some of the plants out of the bog.
The last video is of the plants being replaced into the pond.

Cleaning the Pond Pool September 2016 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Re-potting the plants 9-24-2016 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Re-assembling the inlet pipe. from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Cleaning the Bog from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Replacing the plants from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

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A Walk at Milton Reimers Ranch 9-28-2016.


dsc_3999-panoWith the temperature dropping to a bearable level, I decided to take a walk at Milton Reimers Ranch. This is  operated by Travis County who have this great rule that people over 65 get to use the Park for free although I don’t mind paying my $3:00 at the State Parks which is almost free.

dsc_4024I wanted to hike the new trails that are on the East side of the existing trails known as the Hogge Trails. I have hiked them once before just after they opened and had an idea of the degree of difficulty the trails presented.

I pulled into the  Mountain Bike Parking Lot as I could get to the trail that lead on the far side of the Multi Use Circuit which goes all around the Main Park. This trail starts off as a bike trail but quickly opens up into a full width trail big enough for the Travis County vehicles. This brought me to the far side of the Multi Use Trail along where Johnny’s Homestead used to stand from where I turned East and headed along the trail that would lead me to the Hogge Trails.

I had asked at the Pay Booth if the stream that I knew I would have to cross had any water in it and the Booth Attendant mentioned that they had over an inch of rain in the last couple of days and was not sure if it had affected the low water crossing. The answer to that when I arrived at the crossing was a definitive “No”. There was no water in the stream at all. It was totally dried up. So much for thinking of wet feet. The part of the trail leading away from the stream is a steady up hill climb with steep grade in a few places. It is almost a mile long and you know you have been walking by the time the top is reached.dsc_4007

The Travis Park property ends and you walk through a five bar gate which is permanently open.  The sign indicates the trails of which there are two. The Inner Loop is 1.3 miles and the Outer Loop is 2 miles. By going in a figure of eight, it is possible to cover all of the trails by double tracking on the center trail twice which is what I planned to do. I took the right hand trail until it came to the spot where if I had taken the left trail, would have considered that the Inner Loop. There are some picnic benches located under a shade tree where I enjoyed a fifteen minute break eating one of my apples.dsc_4019

When I started back walking, I took the center trail, the aforementioned Inner Loop except that when I got to where it merged with the Outer Loop Trail, I turned right and followed it back around to where I had started under the shade trees. I then followed the center trail again except this time, I turned left where the trails merged all of the way back to the five bar gate. This way, I was able to cover both the Inner and Outer Loops.

The trek back down the long hill was no easier than when I came up due to the rough trail and loose stones and having this ongoing balance problem, I had to be really careful not to stumble any more than could be helped. I finally reached the low water crossing and took pictures of it and then made my way around the Multi Use Trail to Johnny’s Homestead. From there, I took the trail that intersects the Multi Use Trail back towards the Mountain Bike Parking Lot.

Just as I had started along this trail, I heard the sound of one of the park vehicles which pulled up alongside of me. We chatted for a bit with the Ranger wanting to know if it was my vehicle in the Mountain Bike Parking Lot. He was out checking the trails to make sure that no one was in trouble. We chatted for a bit and he asked if I was OK. I’m sure he would have given me a ride if I had wanted it but although I was tempted, I told him I was fine and had to finish what I had started.

I turned back up the trail and finished the walk back to my car where I sat for a while eating my last apple and resting my weary bones. Altogether, I walked 9.1 miles and felt re-markedly good. It is amazing what having lower temperatures and a cloudy day can do for the body. I only finished one flask of water and half of the other.

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Altogether, a good day on the trails. I managed to find a few flowers and a couple of other things to take pictures and on the way back, found the Starbucks at Bee Cave to complete my day.

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

Thoughts on Texas


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At last, I thought, the heat has gone
finally Summer is cooling down
time to get back on the trails again
and walk and walk without feeling so hot
and having to drink so much water a lot
but then this week the heat returned
and yesterday was one hundred degrees
and although it is starting to cool
I’m feeling more like a bit of a fool
again and once more Mother Nature played tricks
lulling us to think the heat was gone
and this year at least it had sung its swansong
where other parts of the country are cool
and already their leaves are starting to turn
in Texas our climate here is such
that another month will go by without much
change or cooling down that we note
and even longer before a coat
the beauty of living in this hot State
with its blistering temperatures that we hate
is that winters are mild as compared with elsewhere
and we play outside for all of the year
with only the very occasional day
when the weather is too cold outside to play.

I love living in Texas hot weather and all…

 

McKinney Again…


dsc_3889-panoI just had to get out and exercise so I chose to take a short walk at McKinney Roughs. I figured that the paths would have dried up after the last time I was there as it had been several days. I chose a route that I knew would not be muddy except maybe in one place close to the river.

I arrived around 10:00 am with the weather still cool. There were only a few cars in the lot for a Saturday and I would have expected more especially now that the weather is beginning to cool down at least, comparatively speaking. Believe me, ten degrees cooler is a lot in Texas.

I went through my usual preparations, boots, walking poles, hat, water and set off taking Riverside which I knew to be a long wide open trail which as the name suggests, leads down to the river. The top portion of this trail is pretty level before it turns and takes a fairly steep downhill grade towards the river. While the upper trail is very easy walking underfoot, the downhill part is made up of loose stones that tend to roll under your feet making for tricky walking. At one point, a female runner and her dog passed me and it didn’t appear that either of them had any problems with their footing. Oh to be young again… I also met another couple each with a dog as they walked towards me on Riverside. They were heading back in and when I asked them, replied they had had a very good walk.

 

There is still a major trail washout where Riverside joins with Bluestein but it is still possible to take Cypress which also goes  close by the river. I took the walking trail which is kind of narrow and not too well used as there is now a much wider trail that leads to the River. As I was taking pictures, a whole group of horses and riders came down the wider trail and we exchanged greetings as they walked their horses into the river and then down stream for a little bit. The riders were all ladies. I took a few pictures of them before moving on. I could hear them for several minutes as they were obviously enjoying themselves. Not sure about the horses though…

I followed Cyprus with the intention of crossing over onto Pine Ridge and then to Bobcat Ridge. Somewhere, at the intersection, I took the wrong trail and ended up following the dreaded Pine Ridge Trail which would take me up and down many steps built into the trail. I purposely had tried to avoid this part but through my own stupidity, ended up taking it anyway. Oh well, at least I got much more of a workout climbing up and down those dreaded steps.

I had the opportunity to take a closer look at the Zip Lining Project that is currently ongoing in the Park. It looks to me that there will be several towers and several different lines and not all are interconnected. It will be interesting to see the finished product. Not sure if I will be brave enough to try it unless it is a quick way to get from one trail to another.

I managed to find a surprising number of flowers that are still in bloom compared to the last time I was here. Maybe that last shower had something to do with it.

I continued along Pine Ridge which is actually a nice walk as long as you are not climbing steps until I connected with Bobcat Ridge which I knew would pass close to the Parking Lot where my car was parked. All in all, it was a very enjoyable walk, much better than the last time when I had 20 pounds of mud on each boot. Below are pictures of the trails and other interesting things that I observed on this trip.

I covered almost six miles and as I usually do when I am at the Roughs, finished the day with a quick drive into Bastrop for a Grande Latte to help me while away the time as I listened to Stephen King’s  “The Talisman” on the long trip home.

The panorama at the top is made up of five different pictures. As with all of these groups, if you click  on any one of them, they will enlarge and you can move along by using the side arrows. Use the “Escape” button to return to normal.

 

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…


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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”.