Thoughts on Life – June 13, 2017


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It seems that when I choose to write
unless it is about a hike
or maybe something in the yard
or in the ponds which is not hard
as Nature is a willing guide
showing more than what she hides
and everywhere I choose to look
is another page from her open book
as beauty all around me grows
as the flowers are putting on a show.

What really bothers me
are the things that shape our destiny
as many things we can’t control
are forced upon our very soul
as we have very little say
in the things that happen day to day
as others the decisions make
they claim doing it for our sake
even in this Democracy
it is plain for all to see
that only one percent are doing fine
while the rest of us can only whine
and wait for the next election day
when we hope we have our say
and ours are the guys that make the rules
and we the ones who voted them in
will still be taking it on the chin
as our guys will no better be
than the ones already history.

Now let me see where was I now
as I turn on my computer to read the show
trying to stay abreast of things
looking to see what this day will bring
and reading about the same old stuff
just as though there isn’t enough
of pain and suffering and shootings too
why act this way I haven’t a clue
and Trump and his group more rules rescind
and Nature is taking it on the chin
and the Rich get richer with no help from us
and the sick get sicker with no one to trust
or to give them a helping hand
and the same is true all over the land.

I have stopped looking at the news
it is such a depressing view
to read all about such terrible waste
and Global Warming can’t make a case
the birds and animals and Parks and States
all are starting lose this race
as the idiots in charge keep tearing things down
all because of a billionaire clown
whose only interest is money and fame
and is playing a dangerous game
and has no thought for this Earth
and the damage which can’t be undone
remembered most as the one
The Man Who Let in the Sun.

I refuse to let this bother me
as outside of the window I see
plants and flowers putting on a show
and birds and squirrels some I know
as repeat visitors come to eat seed
at the feeders put out for their needs
and the Koi in the ponds are looking good
and the water is clear just as it should
and my pets are fine and in good health
and I feel good not acting my age
not ready to turn that final page
enjoying my life as best I can
without reading about that horrible man.

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A Wonderful Stroke of Luck…


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The one from BJ on the 5000 gallon pond.

For those of you who have been following my blogs might remember that I managed to acquire two separate Aquadyne Filter Systems, These systems are top of the line as far as having an outdoor pond and eliminate the need to frequently wash filters. I bought one from my good friend BJ who had not installed it on her own ponds and this one, I installed on the 5000 gallon pond. I used a 3500 gph submerged pump on it but was not very happy with the amount of water it was putting out so as I just happened to have one,  I added another 1200 gph pump to the system to make a combined total of 4700 gph.  This was an improvement.

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The one from Jim on the 6000 gallon pond.

The second system,  I acquired from a Fish Rescue from an older gentleman named Jim. This one came with a 4700 gph above ground pump. I installed this setup on the 6000 gallon pond. after a few trial and errors, managed to get it up and running.  This pump seemed to put out a lot more water than the combined pumps on the 5000 gallon pond. This was the first time that I have used a pump of this type (above ground) as prior to this, all of my pumps have been submerged. I was really happy with the entire set up as it moved a lot of water through the system.

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Sea Horse (new)

Unfortunately, the pump went bad as they usually do especially as it was an older pump in the first place and it would have cost more to repair than to buy a new one. So, I bit the bullet and went on line and purchased a Sea Horse 1 HP pump that came with a leaf pot already attached, was self priming and moves 4700 gph. I installed it, which was pretty simple although it did require a few modifications to the inlet pipe as I couldn’t get it to prime. Eventually, I got it worked out and it puts out more water than the other older pump did. In fact, it is flowing at full 1-1/2 inch  pipe except when it starts to accumulate dirt inside the filters. Then it cuts back a little on the output until I manipulate the valve to clean it. That’s the beauty of the Aquadyne System, there are no filters to wash out manually and all of the cleaning is done by manipulating the lever built into the head of the tank.

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I was so pleased with this pump, that I decided that I needed to install something similar on the 5000 gallon pond which had the first Aquadyne System installed on it. As I mentioned before, this was powered by two submersible pumps one that put out 3600 gph and the other was only a small one at 1200 gph. So between them, in theory, they were pumping 4700 gph. I could never get a very strong flow of water out of this set up and after seeing what the above ground pump was doing on the 6000 gallon pond just knew what the answer was. Even though my intentions were good, for some reason, I kept putting off buying another Sea Horse pump which as it happens, turned out to be a stroke of good luck on my part.

Thirty odd years ago before I moved into this house, I had 5 acres way out in the country. It had a creek running through it with a small pond although it was prone to getting low on water by the end of summer. I had a garden and I bought a 1/2 hp pump to irrigate it by pumping the water out of the pond. When we moved to this house, I brought it with me and over the course of time, it got buried behind a pile of junk in one of my sheds. The other day, I decided to clean out that particular shed and came across the pump which quite honestly, I had forgotten that I had. The brain started clicking as I looked at it to see if I could adapt it for the present purpose which was to attach it to the Aquadyne System on the 5000 gallon pond.  First of all, I was surprised just how heavy the pump was but then I realized that it is made of all metal and has no plastic anywhere in it. After all, it is 34 years old and is labelled as a Sears Pump. You remember them, Sears and Roebucks or maybe my age is showing?

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Sears (very old) showing the Leaf Pot that I installed.

I plugged it in and it fired right up with the motor spinning away very smoothly. No grinding or strange noises.The next thing was to hook up a temporary inlet and outlet line and try it in some water to see if the pump part still worked. The plate only said it was 1/2 horsepower and nothing about how many gph it could put out. Watching the amount of water coming out under pressure at the end of a hose pipe, it just looked like it would work very well for what I had in mind.

The next thing was to plan on how I was going to hook it up. Out came the tape measure and I measured this and that and visualized all of the steps in my mind before deciding on a course of action. Even then, I was not 100 percent sure it would work and I kept going over the different steps in my head that it would take to hook it up. The next day, after a trip to Home Depot to buy the necessary fittings, I bit the bullet, turned off the other pumps and cut the pipe that connected those pumps leaving the smaller 1200 gph pump hooked up to an urn which has been on that pond ever since it was built more than 25 years ago.

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Note the non return valve installed in the line to help with the priming.

I turned my attention to hooking up the pump to the Aquadyne System and several hours later, had the thing connected. Then came the moment of truth as I prepared to test the new setup. The pump did not have a leaf pot attached to it and I just happened to have one that I got from some rescue or another. I had tried to give it away at the last swap but had no takers which turned out lucky for me as it was going to provide me with a self priming hook up for the “new” system. With everything in place, I filled the leaf pot for the first time and turned on the pump and all that happened was the water that I had put in came out of the temporary outlet I had rigged up. I had to take the temporary route as I didn’t want to pump any rust or 30 year old  gunk back into the pond. I would hook everything up permanently after the pump was clean. That was the theory anyway.

I tried it several times and it still wouldn’t prime enough to start pumping so I took a step back to consider my options. As I had similar problems when I installed the Sea Horse pump  on the other pond and I had got over it by taking a more direct line to the brass inlet foot which is under the water. So, I broke down a lot of the inlet pipe setup that I had just built, found a piece of 1-1/2 inch flexible  hose that just happened to have a part of the right coupling still attached to it and hooked everything back up together again. I repeated the process of filling the leaf pot to prime the pump, plugged it in and away it went. Water came out of the temporary 1-1/2 inch outlet at a tremendous rate so I waited for it to start running clear with no sign of rust and then shut everything down.

I re-hooked the line back to the Aquadyne System and turned it back on. I could hear the water within the tank just sloshing the beads around, which is a good sign and it just poured full pipe out onto the waterfall where I had placed the outlet end. I think the pump is putting out just as much as the 4700 gph Sea Horse or at least it appears so. I stood there for a while just marvelling that this 34 year old pump is still working after all of this time . In truth, it never got used very much at my old house and not at all here at this house so it has not had a lot of wear and tear but even so, it is amazing. Heck, I have to turn on my Dishwasher for a couple of seconds every day or that motor will just buzz and not run and freeze up and I have to get under it to give it a turn to start it again. So, to me, this pump is the cat’s miaow. Now all that remains is to see just how long it will last. After all, just like me, it is very old.

With the pump running at full tilt, the last part of the project was to make a basket that the brass foot sits in to shield it from the leaves and silt that tend to block things up. The bane of having ponds is the amount of dirt that the fish generate hence the need for cleaning the water in the first place and shielding the inlet in the second. Ponds, being what they are, also grow algae which also can block the inlet pipes and that is not counting the debris like leaves and such from the trees.

What I do is take two of the plant baskets, the sort that are perforated and place one on top of the other with zip ties, cut a hole the size of the brass inlet in the top and attach it with wire to the pipe that sticks out. This will slow down the amount of junk that attaches to the brass foot but will not stop it completely requiring that from time to time, I have to disconnect that section of pipe and take the whole thing out of the water to clean it. Small price to pay for having clean water. I include screw couplings just for that very reason in the inlet line.

You may notice the large 4 inch diameter pieces standing on the top of the vertical pipes. These are to place a leaf blower in that which when activated, stirs up the beads that are inside the Aquadyne tank. It only needs to happen about once a week. It is possible to buy the newer systems with a blower already permanently installed.

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Oh yes, it was a good job that I decided to clean the shed and to locate the pump after all of these years or maybe, if my memory wasn’t so bad, I would have remembered the pump and could have foregone the shed cleaning.

Next up is to clean out the greenhouse. Wonder what hidden goodies I might find there and I can’t wait to clean the workshop. I might even find my 3 pound club hammer that somehow has disappeared. Dream on, as it is probably buried out in the garden somewhere, victim of my forgetfulness. Anyway, if I ever get around to cleaning the workshop, I will need a dumpster to get rid of 30 years of surplus junk.

 

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.

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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