What Day is It?


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Today is Saturday.. I think! One day is pretty much the same as the next at this stage of my life. I no longer look forward to the weekends as they are pretty much  the same as any other day except there are more people out and about and any special events are usually held on the weekend.

Used to be, many years ago, that every weekend for me was taken up with soccer, football to the rest of the world. I was either coaching one of the several Youth teams assigned to me or was actively playing myself on a couple of different teams. Even in the summer, things didn’t change very much except the Youth teams were off and we older people didn’t run anywhere near as hard or as long and we drank a lot of beer.

Nowadays, when I get up, the first thing I have to remind myself is what day it is. Once I have that firmly fixed in my mind, I check the calendar on my computer to see if I have anything special lined up that I need to do like a trip to the Physiotherapist for my aching shoulder or my Doctor for a geriatric check up. If I didn’t keep track of things on my computer, I would miss half of the appointments at which my presence is expected.  Apart from any benefits those visits do provide, I see myself as a piggy bank for all of the Doctors, Dentists and such that I seem to need in my old age. Thank goodness that I had the foresight and was lucky enough to work at the University of Texas at Austin for 22 years prior to my retirement that resulted in a pension and excellent health care.

After I have figured out what day it is and what important things I need to do, I usually fill the rest of my day on several other and no less important things like checking the ponds and the health and welfare of the couple of hundred fish that reside in them. There is usually something that needs my attention like a filter or a pump or maybe an improvement on something that I felt needed working on. I should state here that I don’t do gardening. At least not in the accepted sense.  Of course I take care of the ponds and I do mow the outside strip alongside the road every couple of months and the area that grows wild at the very bottom of the lot as it is really a dry creek and only floods when we get the odd gullywasher. Other than that, all of the plantings not counting those in and  around the ponds are all native vegetation that I allow to run wild except in the several walkways which I keep trimmed for ease of access.

I also like to hike a lot except the weather has been so bloody hot that it made more sense to sit inside rather than to bake in the 100 degree heat. At least, I have that to look forward to and as I only occasionally hike on weekends, I can hike any other day of the week to avoid the crowds.

So you see, that even though the weekends are relatively unimportant and I never know what day it is when I wake up, there is always plenty to do to keep me occupied and being a creature of habit, nothing much changes from day to day. One of my habits is to go grocery shopping later in the day and at the same time, treat myself to a Grande Non Fat Decaf Latte from Starbucks. This is my one serious vice as it happens every day and is not cheap when totalled up for the year at $4:38 a cup. Still, the way I see it, everyone is entitled to one vice as long as it is not harmful to oneself or others. It could be worse as I could also smoke and drink but I have never smoked because of my athletic prowess and it has been 10 years since I have had any alcoholic drinks.

Lets see now, it is almost 4:00 o’clock and now it is raining again, almost time for that Latte. So goes another day in my life…

Written 9/29/2018

Losing Pets


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Losing a much loved pet is very difficult for all of us and some of us grieve for a long time as we try to move on.  The same is not true, at least for me when I lose any of the big Koi that live in my ponds. Fish, by nature, are cold blooded things and don’t do well in the cuddle department. I know that some people do not share my views on fish but I find it hard to even come close to any form of grief when a fish dies as they are sometimes apt to do.

A couple of days ago, I lost a big white Koi which was the biggest fish I have ever had. She was one of the originals so probably close to 38 years old which is pretty good for a fish in an unprotected pond. She was well over three feet long and probably weighed close to twenty pounds. I suspected that she was  going to that big Koi pond up in the sky as she had been acting very lethargic the past few days and did not appear to be eating and sure enough, when I came out to feed them the other morning, I could see her laying on the bottom of the pond. It is my experience that these large Koi don’t float immediately and it usually takes a couple of days for them to get up off the bottom of the pond, I suppose as they start to decay and the gasses start to form.

After a real struggle on my part due to her size and weight as my net was hardly big enough,  I managed to get her out of the pond.  Close inspection did not reveal any outwardly visible signs of damage or disease so it must have been an internal problem of some sort. Anyway, dead is dead and after pulling on a pair of long sleeved rubber gloves, I carried her to the bottom of the garden and with some effort, tossed her over the fence for the vultures or other wild things to clean up. She was heavy enough that I managed to wrench the muscles in my left upper arm in the process causing me to light up the air with a few well chosen cuss words.

I have at least fifty or sixty Koi in three of the five ponds some of which are almost as large as the one we just lost. These are the second batch of Koi bought way back in 1980 following a refilling tap water incident which wiped out the original stock purchased in 1977.  I have one surviving Koi from that original 1977 group and he is definitely the oldest and is at least 41 years old but being a male, is not among the very largest ones. There are also a couple of hundred or so Goldfish in three of the ponds and it is hard to stop them from breeding especially in the ponds that are populated by Goldfish only. Koi do a good job of keeping the population down as do a couple of turtles that are in the other ponds as they eat the eggs and  young fry.

The occasional fish die off is not always a bad thing as it keeps the population manageable. I am glad though that I don’t have to make the choice  of who lives and who dies. I’ll leave that to Mother Nature…

Here come the buzzards,  Mother Nature’s cleanup crew and so the pendulum swings as it always does, in the grand scheme of things.

Written 8/9/2018

 

Texas Heat


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I went outside to work today
having things to do in my own way
I had big plans for all to share
that needed all my tender care
I walked around and took a look
checking things off in my minds book
looking to work on important stuff
leaving till last anything tough
for I was not really in the mood
on this first day of Summer that I construed
would be another really hot day
and working hard is not how I play.

I started with filters on the ponds
changing them out as each corresponds
to the degree of clean water surrounding the fish
who like to stir up the dirt as is their wish
as they eat the algae on the sides of the pond
and grow big and fat and hopefully strong
enough to lay eggs when it comes the time
and hatch baby Koi to continue the line
the water must be clear to keep up their health
and for my pleasure as I watch their stealth
in avoiding the big fish who would them eat
and consider it to be a tasty treat.

From the ponds my attention turned
to cutting the plants for I was concerned
as over the walkways and paths they had grown
making it hard that even alone
it was difficult to walk without pushing through
lots of foliage and branches who hadn’t a clue
on how I expected them to grow
as Nature as usual was with her own flow
I trimmed them back so I could walk
between them in comfort without their stalks
whacking me in the face each time I passed
as I cut them back making it their last.

By now sweat was pouring off my face
and down my back and in every place
that the human body can find
to make it uncomfortable in body and mind
so I finished the work as far as I could
I decided to quit while I still felt good
pleased that I had done what I thought was enough
though the work I had done was a little tough
I made plans to work on the other chores
with an early start for working outdoors.

Written 6/21/2018

Austin Pond Society Meeting June 6-18-2018


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The third Monday of the month rolled around just as it is supposed to and with it, the Austin Pond Society held their monthly meeting at the usual place, Zilker Botanical Gardens. This meeting was just a little different as instead of a Speaker, we opted to take a Tour of the beautiful facilities that we call home.

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We met as we usually do in the Zilker Meeting Room and were treated to Fried Chicken with all of the fixin’s accompanied with sides and deserts supplied by the members which everyone thoroughly enjoyed. Following the meal, Barb Reinhardt,  who was filling in for Jeannie Ferrier, the President who was away on personal business, introduced four new members and then held a brief Q and A prior to everyone joining the three Docents who had so very kindly volunteered to show us around.

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There were around 30 members in attendance including the 4 new ones and we split into three groups each accompanied by a Docent and started on the walking tour of this wonderful place. Austin is so lucky to have these beautiful gardens for all to see.  Having visited many times before, I took off on my own so that I could take as many pictures as possible which I have turned into a video set to music.  Many of our Members have not visited the Gardens before and I am quite sure that it was an eye opener for them.

The Business section of the meeting on video.

APS Business Meeting June 2018 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

The video of Zilker Botanical Gardens.

Zilker Botanical Gardens 6-18-2018 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

The next meeting of the Austin Pond Society is on July 16 and will be held off site at Mayfield Park. Check the Website and Facebook for further details.

Written 6/20/2018

Brain Dead


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I sat here looking at a blank screen
and looked outside at the scene
what I saw was dull and grey
as it was kind of a cloudy day
and although the temperature had risen
I sat and tried to make a decision
do I want to go outside
and cut back the plants that have all died
or rake the leaves fallen off the trees
those that have died and come down with ease
with many more ready to fall
I may be raking at Nature’s call
but as my brain is not functioning well
and the call from Nature is almost a yell
I think outside is where I will go
and me and my rake will put on a show. 

Written 1/21/2018

APS Board Members Christmas Party 2017


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This past Sunday, the Board members and a few friends held their Christmas party at Jeannie Ferrier, the President’s house. Altogether there were 17 of us gathered together to enjoy each other’s company made all of the better for not having to be planning  or making decisions for something or another. There were a few members missing having already made other Christmas plans but those that did attend got to enjoy all manner of good food, good company and fun and games.

The first part of the time spent together was viewing the two ponds that Steve and Jeannie have in their back yard along with all of the other garden related items that are so tastefully displayed. As usual, being Pond Enthusiasts, we bombarded Steven with many questions about different aspects of his ponds which he was more than happy to answer. it is an interesting fact that nearly all pond enthusiasts are very happy to pass along any knowledge they may have regarding different aspects of their ponds and gardens.

APS Board Christmas Party Slideshow 2017.mpg from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

We all moved back indoors and I took a lot of pictures of the guests and the layout. The lighting was a real challenge with indoor lights, dark areas and then outdoor light coming through the windows. I was constantly having to make adjustments to the camera. There was a lot of food and people were wandering around from place to place with plates in their hands and happily munching away as they explored all of the different dishes that were available. People paired of in groups as different conversations were going on.

Jeannie called us all together as it was time to play our Annual Christmas game of swapping presents. This game is a little different as you were issued a number and when it was your turn, were able to go and pick out one of the wrapped gifts. You had to open it so that others could see what you had drawn as the next number was able to choose between taking a new unopened gift OR steal one from the gifts already opened and on display with the other guests around the room.  If you took one of the other persons gifts, then they had the chance to go again in the hope of being able to keep what they had this time. I think I set a new record as I lost 4 gifts that I had won finally ending up with a bottle of wine that no one could steal from me as I was the last person to draw. As I don’t drink, I was able to swap it with Steven for a cactus which was a part of the gifts he had won. It was a lot of fun and raised much laughter as the presents were unwrapped only to be stolen by others.

APS Board Christmas Party 2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

 
Following the game, Jeannie announced that next year’s Pond Tour would be a very small members only spread over 3 weekends with Nancy Reinert organizing the South side, Nancy Hall the North and B.J. Jenkins the East side of town. That is assuming that no one steps up to be the Pond Tour Chairperson.

The party broke up after a very nice afternoon’s entertainment of good cheer, good food and good company as we each made our way home. This was the last activity for this year for the Austin Pond Society.

This has been a good year for the group. We had several very good and entertaining speakers at our meetings, the Plant Swap was fun as was the Swap and Sell meeting. The Pond Tour was a smashing success thanks to Ted and his band of willing helpers and we raised $4000.00 dollars for a charitable cause. On the Fish Rescue side of things both Jeannie and Steven with help from others and Frank who worked mostly alone on the smaller rescues, were busy throughout the year. Membership hovers around the 100 mark with about half of that number attending the monthly meetings. As usual, Steven as the Hospitality Volunteer remains the most popular person in the club as the food provided was excellent. We look forward to the start of a new year and a new season for the Austin Pond Society. The first meeting will be held at the Zilker Gardens Clubhouse on Monday, January 15 2018. Hope to see you there.

Website: http://www.austinpondsociety.org
Membership: membership@austinpondsociety.org
Questions: president@austinpondsociety.org

Written 12/19/2017

 

More Fish Rescues of the Easy Kind.


This past week, I received calls from two different people and an email from a third person looking for help with their ponds. As I am the website contact person for the Austin Pond Society, I get the calls first and then make the decisions regarding the outcome of the various and different requests after I have followed through and obtained the details.

Usually, it is a simple decision regarding the type of action and if it is something that the Pond Society can handle. Then I decide if it is too big for me in which case I pass it along to Jeannie, our President who also handles all of the larger fish rescues.

What is a fish rescue, you ask? Simply put, it usually is a cry for help from the public to assist them find a new home for the fish they have in their garden pond which for any number of reasons, they are closing down. In many cases, the Husband has died and the pond is too much work for the remaining spouse or in the case of one of the calls I received, the owners had sold the house and the new owners wanted to keep the pond but did not want the fish. In nearly every case, the owners are closing down the pond.

With the three requests I received, I quickly determined that the first was too big for me and was one that required both help with the rescue and then the ability to house 10-20 medium sized Koi until permanent homes could be found for them. As I am not setup to house any fish other than my own, I passed this one along to Jeannie so that she and her merry band of Koi Rescue Enthusiasts could make the arrangements to handle. I should mention that we try to find good homes for any fish we rescue by offering them among our members first as they always get first dibs. Then we turn for help among the general public and finally, we donate them to Mayfield Park here in Austin. The Park has 5 ponds that are big enough to house a substantial number of Koi and Goldfish and this year, both Jeannie and I have placed a large number of Koi, Goldfish and Carp into these ponds. The Carp were in error and were mistaken for large black Goldfish but they seem very happy in their new environment.

The second and third calls were both in the range that I could handle and so I called the owners and set up dates to visit with them and make the rescues. The first house was located not too far from me in an estate where all of the homes were so big, my own house would probably fit in them at least twice and probably more. This house had already been sold and the ex-owners were just completing the final clean out and catching up on the odds and ends. When I got there, I could see the pond behind the fence with the gate open and “Jim”, the ex-owner was already standing in the pond with his net, splashing around in an attempt to catch the fish. I said hello and introduced myself. We chatted for a bit as he tried to catch the couple of fish left in the pond. I suggested that I would hook up my pump to lower the water level giving him a much better opportunity in his task.

The deal was that I was to take an 8 inch Koi and the two largest goldfish and he would keep the much smaller remaining goldfish for his new home. He proudly showed off the Koi that he had managed to catch which was in a 5 gallon bucket standing by the pond. As if on cue as we watched, the Koi jumped out of the bucket and back into the pond. After we both recovered from the fit of laughter that this caused, I hooked up my pump to help him by lowering the water level so that he could catch the Koi for a second time. In no time at all, he had caught all of the fish. I bid him farewell and then made my way back home where I put the Koi and Goldfish in different ponds at my house.

The next rescue, a couple of days later was also another easy one. The owner, a very friendly lady by the name of Debbie met me and showed me the pond which was a circular one of about six feet in diameter and only a couple of feet deep. It was real close to the driveway making it easy to load out the trailer. I set up my pump which quickly lowered the water and I pulled out seven water lilies in pots as it was pumping. It was very easy to catch the twelve small Koi and Goldfish and transfer them to my container ready for transport. Between us, we bagged up the lilies and reloaded my trailer and in thirty minutes, I was back on the road again.

This time, I headed to Mayfield Park where I planned to put the rescued fish. This went by without any problems despite notices spread around the ground warning the public, “To not disturb the Peacocks and Peahens as they incubate their eggs or they might attack you”. I repacked my trailer and made my way back home. The water lilies made it back to my house and into my containers that house my surplus plants which are free to anyone needing pond plants.

Interestingly enough, this last rescue was one street down from where I used to live out in the Pedernales area thirty two years ago. On my way back, I pulled into the street that was my old home and drove to the end just for old times sake. It brought back very happy memories of my time spent living out there on my five acres and rekindled in me, the old longing to turn back the clock. Of course that is not possible but a man can dream, can’t he? There was a Realtor’s Sign for the property next to the acreage I used to own so I took down the number and gave them a call. Turns out to be a 15 acre lot with an unfinished house and the asking price was $425,000. When I sold my 5 acres thirty two years ago with a house, a large horse barn and paddock, aviaries and sheds and fully fenced, it went for $120,000. Go figure…