Busy in the Garden and the Ponds.


DSC_5129I have spent the last couple of months working either in the garden or in and around the ponds and have not had the time to go on any hikes at all. In between, I fitted in a couple of fish rescues and consequently have added to the plants that are surplus to my requirements.

Spring arrived early here in my part of Central Texas with only two days of freezing weather, which was enough to knock down almost every living plant in both the garden and the ponds. This required considerable effort to cut everything back and then move the cut material to the compost heap and took several days and much moaning and complaining on my part. Nothing new with that as I tend to moan and complain about everything especially if it is not going well. Luckily, I am the only one within earshot as usually, the dogs make a quick exit when I start cussing. Actually,I don’t rant and rave but generally just utter a quick “f” word and then go about my business figuring out how to get over whatever caused me to cuss in the first place.

I have already written a couple of blogs of some of my other escapades. Things like the Skippy Filters, part 1 and 2 and the Doggie Escape Fixes and the Ponds at Mayfield Park. I spent some time in reworking the plumbing inlet pipe to the pump on the Aquadyne system on the 6000 gallon pond and am much happier with the result. At least now, it sucks in water and does not keep blocking up although in fairness, this is a bad time of the year with the Live Oaks dropping all of their blooms most of which seem to go into the ponds. Thank goodness that this is nearly over as it is very messy, everywhere and not just in the water.

The pictures show the amount of new growth already in the ponds.

Altogether, I repotted a dozen or more lilies plus sundry other water plants and then, spent some time trimming the remaining lilies getting them ready for others to plant. I took a 5 gallon bucket full with about 30 or so plants to the Pond Meeting which happened to coincide with my planting efforts and they were all gone within minutes. I still have at least that number remaining in the tubs which I plan on taking to the next meeting which is our Annual Plant Swap. I also had a few other people stop bye to get some of the plants for their own ponds.

Potting lilies is not hard work although somewhat messy and the old potted material does not smell that great either.. First of all, it requires getting into all of the ponds and removing the pots to the side and then getting out of the pond to transport them to the table, upending the pot on its side to get the lily root (tuber) out of the pot, and then trimming it back to a more manageable size that has new growth that is already sprouting. These are then placed back into the pot on top of a layer of clay type dirt, adding fertilizer tablets and then covering it up with more dirt so that just the new growth is showing. I usually place pebbles on the top to try to discourage the big Koi from washing the lily out of the pot with their tails as they love to get at the roots. The whole pot is then submerged back into the water about a foot or more down.

Following all of the repotting efforts, it required that I get back into the ponds to place the pots which I did. This year, I am trying something different in an attempt to get some of the lilies to last long enough to flower and that is, to place anywhere from 6 to 10 lilies in each of the big ponds. Maybe, if there are so many, the Koi will leave them alone. In some cases, I had used the 18 inch tall pots which I just stood on the bottom of the pond and already, the ponds are covered with lily pads and I noticed that we already have a bloom. First lily bloom of the season.

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With everything growing so fast, it is hard to keep up with all of the trimming and raking but it is a labor of love and quite enjoyable. I need to get my riding mower repaired to cut the grass alongside of the road. Seems like every year, I have to have something done to that particular piece of machinery before it will start. I have other mowers so it not like I have to use the riding mower.

Darn, the pump on the stream has just stopped. I wonder what is wrong with it, Just blocked up or maybe worn out. Stay tuned for the next story…

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The Second Fish Rescue.


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Mayfield Park

As I mentioned in the previous blog, I worked two fish rescues this past week. The one in Georgetown is the subject of that blog. This one was in a place called Kempner which I have never heard of. When I first received the email from Sonja asking for help with her fish, I had no idea that eventually it would lead to a 75 mile one way trip.

She explained in her email that caring for the pond was getting too much for her so she was going to close it down completely and would like someone to come and rescue the fish and find them good homes. We conversed and I made arrangements that I would visit her on Saturday. She sent me a Google Map of where she lived and the shortest route to get there as I had never driven up to that part of the State  which is another reason I agreed to make the rescue.

Basically, the drive was up Hwy 183 North for most of the way towards Killeen and Copperas Cove with a couple of tricky turn offs onto Hwy 190 before taking FM 1630. My GPS was only good so far and in the end, I had to rely on the printed Google Map for the final directions. It was an interesting drive and it is only when you drive on the less travelled roads do you realize just how big and beautiful this Country really is especially with Spring just breaking out.

I pulled up to the house which was on a country road way out in nowhere although with houses all the way up and down the street to be met by the Man of the house who opened the gate for me. He directed me to the pond and I was able to drive right up next to it which is always a plus. Then Sonja came out and greeted me with a thick German accent pleased to see that I had arrived early. We chatted for a bit and exchanged histories of the why’s and when’s of out arrivals to the States. All of this while the pond was pumping out.

Sonja told me that she had built the pond 15 years ago by herself except for a couple of the big rocks that required help and had maintained it herself in the interim. It  was her hobby but for the last year, it had started to get more work than she could handle and she admitted that she had sadly neglected it. She had very recently changed out the pump, a 3600 gph unit and was looking to sell it as she had no more use for it with the pond closing down.

It was obvious that the pond had been neglected. The water was very cloudy and it was almost impossible to see the fish. There was a huge of cluster of water lily plants growing in the middle that upon inspection, turned out to be just one lily. It had long overgrown the pot and was firmly rooted into the sludge on the bottom of the pond.

I put on my wellie boots, rubber boots to you Americans, and carefully climbed into the pond. Sonja was fussing over me the whole time so worried that I would slip and fall and indeed, the bottom was really slick but I managed to stay on my feet the whole time. With the water going down, I could spot the fish and went about the business of netting some them and handing them up to Sonja who transferred them to the containers.

I started to cut back the lily plant so that we could get it out of the pond it was so big. It took quite a while but eventually, I had it into smaller and more manageable pieces all of which could be repotted and would probably regrow. While I was working on the lily, Sonja and her Husband were trying to catch the remaining fish which were proving to be very elusive.

Finally, with the water level down and the lily out of the way, we were able to be very positive that we had netted all of the fish. Altogether, there was one very large Koi and 15 what I thought were black goldfish, all in beautiful condition regardless of the water condition. Fish are so adaptable.

We collectively reloaded my trailer including all of the water lily pieces and I carefully strapped everything in place. I told Sonja that the fish would probably end up in Mayfield Park which seemed to please her that many others would get the same pleasure out of them that she had.

I said my farewells and drove off trying hard to remember which roads I took coming up. Needless to say, the GPS was not showing the way back that I used to come up and redirected me at least 20 miles out of my way so instead of going to Cedar Park, I ended up on IH 35 in Killeen. Mumbling under my breath, I headed for Mayfield Park in Austin.

Being a weekend, the Park was very busy but luckily, there is an unloading zone right next to the entrance with no one in it. I parked and uncovered the trailer and loaded one of the containers onto my dolly. As I wheeled it into the area where the ponds are located which is very rough stone, the container managed to slip off the dolly and it and fish were everywhere. A couple of people stopped and helped to pick them up so that I could get them to the pond we had worked on the previous Saturday. It was over a week and I figured that the chlorine in the water had already dissipated. The second trip was uneventful and just like the time before when I was unloading the goldfish, I had a lot of help and questions from the younger members watching the whole process. Altogether, I placed 13  fish into that pond.

I repacked my trailer and made my way home with the Koi and a couple of the black (Gold) fish which I put into the 5000 gallon pond where they happily mingled in with the other fish that already reside there. In the opinion of at least one member of the Pond Society, it might turn out that the black fish may not be goldfish after all but common carp although the previous owner stated that she bought a black goldfish way back and has no recollection of any carp added to her pond.  Regardless, they are still beautiful fish in very good condition and will make a good addition to my pond and Mayfield Park. Koi are very close members of the Carp family anyway.

All in all, another successful fish rescue and I got to meet some more very nice people plus enjoying a trip to a different part of the State. Altogether, I covered around 160 miles because of the redirect to Killeen.

Another Fish Rescue 2-3-2017


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The peacocks at Mayfield Park

Alex, Jeannie and myself participated in yet another fish rescue yesterday. This one had been in the works for a couple of weeks when I received the original phone contact from the owners. The problem we had was finding a home for the fourteen or so Koi that lived in the pond. I had pretty much as many as I could house in my ponds and we needed to find homes for the others.

Jeannie Ferrier is President of the Pond Society and she and her husband Steven Monfrini, have worked several rescues this year. She has a rescue tank set up  in her backyard next to her 10,000 gallon Koi pond and has a very interesting arrangement for changing out the rescue tank water as she replenishes it with water from her pond. Depending on the number of Koi in the rescue tank  at any given time, dictates how often the rescue tank water has to be changed.

We had to hold off on the rescue until the new rescue tank  was completed and ready to take more fish and yesterday, everything was a go.

I arrived early at the rescue pond and set up my pump to lower the water. Turns out that the electrical outlets by the pond were not working which accounted for the water being so dirty. I had brought a 100 foot cable with me so in next to no time, my pump working on the water level. While that was happening, I filled the three transport containers that I have with pond water ready to put in the fish. The existing pond water was very dirty and we had had to wait until the water was low enough to even see the fish. I caught the Koi, a couple of which were of  a good size and handed them to Alex who transferred them to tanks in his truck and my trailer. We were lucky that we were able to drive up right next to the pond making it really easy to transfer the fish. We chatted to the owners, Dave Phelps and his Mother, who had lost their Husband and Father which was the reason for closing down the pond. They also made a small donation to the Pond Society for our efforts in rescuing the fish.  We also rescued several pots of water lilies and they went into my trailer as we planned to drop them off at Mayfield Park to donate them and in the meantime, store them in their ponds to overwinter.

We left the rescue site although I planned to be back to pick up the rocks that surround the pond and made our way to Mayfield Park. I had only been there once before and although I had an idea of its location, had to use my GPS system to get directions. Jeannie and Alex beat me to it and were waiting for my arrival. We loaded the lilies onto my dolly and dragged them to the first pond where Alex dropped them into the water.

Next stop was at Jeannie’s house and the rescue tank. Even though originally, I had decided that I didn’t need any more Koi, the color and beauty of some of these helped me to change my mind and I ended up taking four of them home. Alex took a couple and Nancy Reinert, alerted by a call from Jeannie, met us and took a couple more. The rest were transferred into the rescue tank awaiting their turn to find new homes at any of our members ponds.

I drove back to my house and carefully placed my four Koi into the 6000 gallon pond where they quickly assimilated in with the others. I unloaded my trailer and backed it into my garage ready for any other task that may come up. I noticed that the lights on the trailer need some work so that will be my next project, when it warms up.

The pictures are by Jeannie taken with her cell phone.

A Follow Up to “Who Says Things Don’t Grow in Texas”.


freezeWhen I originally posted this blog, I had every intention of following up IF when and after we got any frosts this year here in my part of Texas. Well, to date, we have had two serious cold spells resulting in freezes that completely wiped out  everything to ground level both in and out of the water so I have gone ahead and added a second video of what the yard and ponds look like as of today, Sunday, January 22, 2017.


This is what I originally posted.

I am just so impressed with the amount of growth this year here in Texas that I have made a video of my backyard showing all of the ponds and the amount of vegetation that has grown up in and around them. We never had a single frost this past winter which normally knocks all of the vegetation down resulting in new growth each Spring. This year, as nothing had died, it just kept on growing. The Canas and Iris in the ponds are well over six feet tall and the Esperanza’s are double in size and reaching way up to the skies. I have plants that normally get to be about four feet tall and this year, the are well over twice that size.

Garden Video 11-2-2016 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

One thing is for sure. If it freezes, then I will have a huge cleanup job. On the other side, if it doesn’t freeze I will need to start cutting back and will still have a huge cleanup job.

Such is life as a gardener in Texas.


Here is a video of what the yard looks like after I cleaned up all of the frozen vegetation both on land and in the water.

Garden Video 01-22-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Now it doesn’t matter if we have anymore freezes as I am way ahead of the game. The only problem might be that there is already new growth on some of the plants. Maybe I will follow up later this summer and show just how much things have grown back up.

Another Fish Rescue…


DSC_3433On Tuesday, I stopped by two different places, one to give advice and the other to review rescuing the Koi and helping to shut down the pond. The first one the lady that called me had 5 butterfly Koi she wanted to find a home for as she was moving and was closing down her very small pond. She also had a couple of water lilies and a lotus that she was willing to give up. The only equipment was a small pump that she wanted to hang on to. I checked things out and made arrangements to come back the next day.

The next place that I visited had a very nice pond that really required a lot of work to clean up the water. It was really very dirty and the Koi that it contained were doing a good job of keeping it stirred up. What was surprising was that it had an Aquadyne Filtering system which he showed me and gave it a quick flush to show me what he did to keep it clean. He explained that he had larva rock inside and not the “Beads” that it really requires which probably accounts for it not working properly. I gave him the Aquadyne address so he could look them up.

I suggested that if he joined the Pond Society for $30.00, he could rent the pond vac and storage tank but he had to be a member in order to do so. I also gave him the name of a couple of our Sponsors that do this sort of work as he really needs to drain the pond, scrub it clean and then refill in order to get it back to where the filtering system could hold its own.

I showed him what he had to do on his computer and went on my way. Later that day, I had confirmation come through that he had joined the Society.

I went back to the first place the following day, this time with my trailer and all of the things i would require to rescue the fish and collect the lilies and lotus. The first thing I started when I arrived was to put my pump into the water to lower the level so that I could catch the fish. While that was going on, I carried two 5 gallon buckets of the pond water back out to my trailer and placed one in each of the two coolers I had brought with me. getting them ready for the fish. It was a pretty straight forward job to catch the fish although I was sure that Beth, the lady who was closing the pond, told me there were only 4 of the Koi and I found 5, the last one I spotted when I went back to pick up the plants which I had bagged up on plastic bags. Lucky for the fish. I rescued as much of the lilies as I could dig up from the bottom muck as they had grown out of their pots and were growing wild. The Lotus and yet another Lily were in pots in a separate tank which was easy to lift them out.

I carefully wrapped things up in a tarpaulin and lashed everything down for the drive home which was very uneventful. My timing was good as I didn’t hit any of the rush hour traffic. When I arrived home, I quickly wheeled the coolers to the 5000 gallon pond and one by one, introduced the new fish to the mess of fish that already calls that pond, home. The lilies were placed into containers and  added to the many plants that I am trying desperately hard to give away, preferably before any frost we may get, although if this winter is anything like the last one, we won’t have any frost.

So ended another successful fish rescue.

Todays Thoughts


dsc_4746I spent some time just looking out of the window
thinking mostly about the fact that I spent all day
in front of my computer fussing with a blog page
on the other website I maintain
for the Austin Pond Society.

I could not get the page to do what I wanted it to do
and I was getting frustrated
luckily, I am blessed with infinite patience
when it comes to working on a computer
so much different than when it comes to people
who can irritate me no end.

Not all people of course but just a few
those that support Trump for instance
or those whose ideas are really poor
and yet they will not listen
because they know it all and cannot be told.

I patted my dog on the head and talked to him
it was as though he knew that things were not going well
and he looked at me with his big brown eyes
as though to say, don’t worry
I am here for you.

One of the other dogs came over looking for attention
he licked my hand to tell me that everything is OK
I made a fuss of both of them and felt much better
all of my frustrations just disappearing
with their calming effect.

I had plans to do some work outside
but the computer problem took all of my time
and it was late before I had it solved
but I walked around the yard looking at the ponds
and figured that I could do the yard work tomorrow.

That is the beauty of being retired
there is no urgency to perform any task
as long as the task does not have a deadline
I can do it today or tomorrow
either day is just fine.

Most deadlines are self imposed
so even they can become flexible
depending on the time of day
and the urgency of the task
and the mood I am in.

Now that I have solved the computer problem
at least for this time around
I can turn my attention to the simpler things in my life
Like feeding the dogs and the cats
and then feeding myself.

Sometimes the most mundane of actions give the most pleasure.

 

 

 

Who Says Things Don’t Grow in Texas.


I am just so impressed with the amount of growth this year here in Texas that I have made a video of my backyard showing all of the ponds and the amount of vegetation that has grown up in and around them. We never had a single frost this past winter which normally knocks all of the vegetation down resulting in new growth each Spring. This year, as nothing had died, it just kept on growing. The Canas and Iris in the ponds are well over six feet tall and the Esperanza’s are double in size and reaching way up to the skies. I have plants that normally get to be about four feet tall and this year, the are well over twice that size.

Garden Video 11-2-2016 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

One thing is for sure. If it freezes, then I will have a huge cleanup job. On the other side, if it doesn’t freeze I will need to start cutting back and will still have a huge cleanup job.

Such is life as a gardener in Texas.