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.

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My Latest Project.


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The Skippy Filter on the Goldfish Pond.

I have three large “Skippy” filters on three different ponds and a couple of smaller ones on the goldfish ponds. They are simple to construct and do a very good job of helping to clean the water. Basically, water is pumped into the tank through a system that feeds through the bottom allowing the water to rise up through the filter material and flows out through a 4 inch pipe back into the pond either directly or through a waterfall.. I use 1 1/2 inch pipe to  pump the water in and in my case, a 1200 gph pump located in the skimmer box.

Basically, mine are built using a 100 gallon Rubbermaid tank that I buy from the Tractor Supply store, one of my most favorite places to visit. I have mentioned before that in real life, I missed out and should have been something related to the land like a Farmer or Wildlife Warden hence my liking for Tractor Supply. I guess I am compensating in a different way. Anyway, Tractor Supply carries these Rubbermaid tanks in different sizes and I have found that the 100 gallon size is just right for my purposes. I also have three of the 80 gallon size that I use to keep pond plants in as I am getting them ready to put into the ponds or to over winter them.

The tank on the 5000 gallon pond developed a leak very close to the drain plug that is built into the tank. It was only the very faintest of cracks but enough that it was constantly dripping. Over time, this would amount to a lot of wasted water (and money) so I decided that I would do a repair job on it.

I shut it down and drained the water back into the pond  and disconnected the plumbing. I then emptied the filter material which in this case was Lava Rock loosely stacked inside of the tank.I was surprised how clean the rock was as I expected it to be pretty muddy considering that the system had been in place for at least 10 years. Turns out that most of the mud was in the bottom water chamber built into the system. I finished cleaning out the muck and put it on the garden as it is basically fish poop and full of good garden nutrients. After washing out the tank, I turned my attention to finding the leak from the inside as I already knew where it was generally located from the dripping water on the outside.

I found what I thought was the crack. It was about 3 inches long and in a difficult place to repair. Being a Rubbermaid tank and with the basic material rubber, I opted for a tire repair kit to see if it would seal the leak. I have a small electric hand sander which I used to prepare the area, cleaning and roughing up the rubber tank material and after cutting a patch from a small piece of pond liner (another rubber material), I carefully applied the adhesive and after waiting the appropriate time for the glue to dry, applied the patch over the crack.

The repair was as good as I could get it and I went about the task of putting the filter back together. I like to build a chamber where the inlet pipes are located to give the water a chance to flow freely before it rises up into the filter material. The old material that I had used for this chamber (a wire shelf cut to size) was not in very good shape after many years under water so I decided that I would replace it with better and stronger stuff. This meant a trip to Cedar park, around 30 miles one way, to visit one of the Pond Society sponsors, Hill Country Water Gardens, to purchase the proper material. I needed a 2 by 4 piece of plastic grating and a 4 by 4 piece of plastic mesh to put on top of the grating to stop smaller pieces of the lava rock from filling the chamber below. Even though it is a long way to go, I really like visiting this place as it has so much cool stuff. I should mention that prior to making the trip, I put enough water into the tank to cover the repair to test the leak and it seemed to be holding up.

The next day, I carefully cut the grate to size followed by a piece of mesh also cut to size and after replacing the fill pipe from the original setup, installed the grate and mesh into the tank on strategically placed bricks for support after making sure that the tank was level and well supported although I had not moved if from its original place. I opted to buy some mesh Laundry bags from a couple of the local stores and to load them with the lava material as it it had been a real bitch to dig out this time around. As I filled the bags, I placed them onto the grating inside the tank until I had enough for my purpose. I used loose lava rock to fill in any holes between the bags. After reconnecting the original plumbing, I turned the pump back on to see if everything was working  as it should and that it was not leaking . It appeared to be OK so I left it running overnight.

The next day, to my dismay, I discovered that there was a second leak that had not been visible the first time around. I figured that probably loading the tank with the lava rock and with its additional weight, had distorted the tank enough for the second leak to show up. I left it for a couple of days but it was only getting worse and was really bothering me to waste that water, even small drops at a time. I decided that I would do the job over this time with a new tank but that is a different story. You could say, part two…

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.

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.

Thanks for Sharing


100_0229I lost another fish today but this one didn’t catch me by surprise. She had been moping around for several days and not moving much. She would not eat any of the food that I put in the pond which was very unusual as she being one of the biggest fish, was always at the head of the food line.

I decided to treat the pond with Broad Spectrum Disease Treatment in the hope of a kill or cure. Unfortunately, it was the latter although I have no idea if the treatment hastened her death. She was a very big fish, measuring 30 inches from nose to tail with an 8 inch girth and weighed in at 12 pounds. Life does not go on forever and even in these Koi that are reputed to live as long as 100 years or more (in perfect conditions) mine lasted 26 years which is no mean feat.

Fish, to me,  are not like dogs or cats and I have no special affinity for any of them. I have only one fish out of the 40-50 large Koi that has a name and that is only because she is the biggest fish in all of the ponds. Her name is “Big Bertha”. Not very original but aptly fitting for such a large fish. The responsibility of having such a big fish is a bit overwhelming as other than keeping the water and the pond in good condition, I have very little control of her environment.

This fish is now food for the buzzards and coons that haunt the woods behind my house. The cycle of Nature goes on.

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The Heron, the problem for all pond owners.


dsc_0620I have had run ins with Herons for the past several years. Anyone that has a backyard pond will get a visit from these very large and beautiful birds usually to the detriment of the fish in their pond, sooner or later. The Heron is only doing what Nature has equipped it to do and that is to catch fish either to feed its young or to feed itself to stay alive. They are huge or at least they have a huge wing span of close to six feet and they also stand around four and half feet tall.

After several visits over the years, it became a contest between me and the Herons. In my case to prevent them from eating my fish and in their case, the ever ongoing challenge of feeding babies and themselves. I devised a method of fences around four of my ponds each powered by an electric doggie shocker. I even had to put crosswires up over the top of the pond as they would land on anything that stood out of the water such as a turtle sunning spot, a fish fountain and even an urn bubbler, in an effort to get close to the fish. The fifth pond is very small, only 350 gallons and I completely covered it with a wire mesh hinged cover.

I also invested in a four camera video system that each are activated by movement. The problem with this system which is still very much in place today is that any movement activates it. The wind blowing the branches or even a fountain splashing the water and it turns on and runs for two minutes meaning that there is a lot of wasted footage. Even if I suspect there has been a visit, I have to run through a lot of images just to check. Luckily it is all digital so it is no big deal to re-format and use the same storage card over and over.

One of my friends who also happens to be the President of the Austin Pond Society, lives about a mile from me as the Heron flies so we usually compare notes or send text messages if either of us gets a visit. We had a meeting just last evening and the subject of Herons came up. We both commented on the fact that neither of us had seen or been visited by the Heron(s) for several months. Just goes to show that you should never talk about anything that you don’t want to happen. It’s just tempting fate.

Heron on the shed roofI recently rebuilt the goldfish pond and took down all of the fencing around and over that pond. I had intended to leave it down in the mistaken belief that the pond was now sufficiently deep enough that the Heron would not attempt to jump into it as it had on previous occasions. I have that on video also from a couple of years back which dispels the theory that the Heron likes to walk into the water. One of the earlier videos shows the Heron jumping into the water after very carefully slipping between the wire fences around that pond and then standing and fishing after getting in. The pond was much shallower then only around two feet deep. After I finished the most recent rebuilding, the pond is now almost four feet deep in some places and well over three feet for the rest.

The only thing I can think of is that this is probably the same Heron returning after several months or so away and remembering that it was able to jump into this pond before I rebuilt it. The water is still a little cloudy and I can’t see the bottom but maybe the Heron can. If it had come last week, it certainly would not have seen the bottom as I had a severe case of algae bloom which totally turned the water green. I’m hoping that it is probably a little too deep for comfort and it will not try it again. Interesting that even though it was stumbling around in the water, it still managed to catch a fish. Natural instinct, I guess.

Two of the ponds which are also the largest, one at 5000 gallons and the other at 6000 gallons have very large Koi in them some more than 24 inches long and weighing in at well over twenty pounds. The Heron would probably not bother with them for two reasons. One they are too heavy for the Heron to lift out of the water and secondly, they are too big for the Heron to swallow. That leaves the two goldfish ponds one of which still has the wire fences around and over it and also a “Scarecrow” which is activated by movement and sends a strong jet of water across an area in front of it, enough to scare the birds and animals. I have a second “Scarecrow” which I will re-install back onto the rebuilt pond and hope that it will keep the Heron from trying to repeat this mornings little adventure. I really don’t want to put the fences back up and will only do so as a last resort.

I hate to lose fish, any fish even the goldfish of which I probably have well over one hundred. I also have around sixty large Koi and with the exception of the very biggest of them all who I have named “Big Bertha” none of the others have names or numbers. They are not like dogs and cats that you can make a fuss over or give them lots of love and get a lot back in return. After all, they are cold blooded and have no feelings to reciprocate. A fish is a fish is a fish…

This is the latest video

This is one of the earlier videos

The Uncooperative Weather


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Rainy and Foggy Day

I wonder why it is that my mood and my energy level are both affected by the weather. When I wake up and the sun is shining, I am fired up and ready to do something, anything and preferably, outdoors.

When it is a dull, miserable, rainy and cloudy day like it is this morning, I am sorely tempted just to stay in bed with the covers over my head snuggled up next to my two Dachshunds who just love it if I have one of those lazy days. For them, it’s a way to spend quality time with me albeit that they will spend it sleeping and will only move when they get hungry. Then I know that it is time to get up and get the day moving regardless of how gloomy the day may be.

I am such an outdoorsy person that I find that I am a little lost with myself if I can’t get out and do something either in the garden or around the ponds or take a hike at one of the local parks. Sure, I can spend time in front of the computer and write in my blog or mess around with some of the many pictures that I have taken but this is secondary to my first love, the great outdoors. If I could spend my time over again, I would become a Biologist or Naturalist or even work at the State or County Parks as a Park Ranger. Instead, I did the next best thing and spent many years in the Construction and Pipeline Industry both of which gave me my share of spending time outdoors both living and working.

Alas, as I can’t live my life over again, as much as I would like to as long as I could make a few changes, I settle for gardening, tending my ponds and hiking the local parks. Staying indoors because the weather’s not cooperating only frustrates me.

Come on sun, show yourself. Cheer me up….please.

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A Beautiful Sunny Day.