Reimer’s Ranch 10-28-2018


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Now that the weather has calmed down a bit first with our dreadfully hot summer followed by non stop rain, I was able to get out to take the first serious walk of the Fall season. I opted for Reimer’s Ranch as the walking is fairly easy and I wanted to work my way back into it. After such a long lay off, this old body needs some time to gradually get acclimatized to extra effort.

There were a lot of cars in all of the parking lots as others chose to enjoy the mild weather and get outdoors. The Horse Parking area had 5-6 trailers in it and I did see a couple of horse and riders as I drove to the very last parking area that is called River View Parking #2. This lot is the main one for the second of the two Rock Climbing Areas. It took me a while to get ready as I did a complete change of clothes putting on older shorts and tee shirt and of course, my boots. I tend to sweat a lot and generally get back in totally saturated requiring that I change again this time into dry clothes for the trip home. Gotta keep my truck as clean as possible and sure don’t want sweaty seats. It also took me a little while to sort out my camera gear as apart from the short walk a week or so ago, hasn’t been used for several months. Not so much the cameras as they are always in use but the belts and my Cotton Camera carrying systems have kinda sat idle for a few months.

Finally satisfied that everything was in place and opting to carry just the one camera with the 18-400 mm lens, leaving the heavy long lens behind, I set off. I was going to walk the Turkey Trail and follow it to the very end of the Park. On the way, I came across an Oriental family of Husband, Wife and a small child. After saying hello, they asked for directions on how to get back to the Parking Area and I was very happy to oblige them.

Pressing on, I came to end of the Park and chose to take the Lower Trail which would take me past the Rock Climbing Areas. It was very quiet as far as wildlife was concerned and the only thing I saw were several Buzzards floating in the sky. I didn’t see any other birds of any type nor did I hear any. As I neared the Rock Faces, I could hear the chatter and laughter of the climbers and it wasn’t long before two groups walked past me on the way out. I also passed a young lady with a large puppy which looked like a pointer. She was having trouble with it as it was still learning how to behave. I always step aside for these young people as they all walk faster than me and I don’t want to get in the way of the enthusiasm of youth.

I managed to miss the exit from the gorge and found myself walking further than I had intended eventually climbing out at Parking Lot #1. This meant that I had to walk the gravel path that connects all four parking areas adding a mile or so to my original distance that I had planned. I eventually arrived back to my truck and sat for a while before driving home. Altogether, I covered a little over 5 miles, a bit more than I had planned but I felt OK which was the main thing. Altogether, a very enjoyable walk and it was good to be back on the trails again.

The video is of the Park as I saw it thru the camera lens.

RR 10-28-18 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

 

Written 11-5-2018

A Blank Screen…


beeStaring here at an empty screen
desperately searching for a theme
of something to interest my empty thoughts
something to write where their currently is nought
I really should be working outside
but the temperature is way to high
to spend time on just the trivial things
the important ones have already been seen
done early in the morning before it’s too hot
before the thermometer has climbed a lot
close to one hundred degrees in the sun
and the work outside has been done
Texas summers are a brutal thing
and go on forever or so it seems
and for those that spend their days outside
their work goes on just as decried
me, I am no longer in demand
retired from work just as I had planned.

Written 8/15/2018

Is It Over?


beeWho would believe that to write about the weather other than any extremes, is blogworthy. Yet, here I am just picking away with my superfast two finger typing, what we in Texas decide is really newsworthy and that is that it has gotten a little cooler.

With any luck, we may be over our hot weather for the year. These past few days, the temperature has failed to reach the 100 degree mark albeit only by a couple of degrees but at least psychologically, it feels cooler. And, today, it is raining. Not a fully socked in real gully washer but at least an odd cloud here and there that is dumping rain on us in a steady drizzle. We’ll take it any way we can. What is more, the temperature has only reached 80 degrees and that’s at 2:00 pm in the afternoon. It is forecast to reach 97 degrees but it may not get anywhere near that high especially if it continues to rain.

As tough as we claim to be, eventually continuous 100 degree weather gets to even the most hardened of us. Even the native Texans, the ones who wear those big hats, get more than a little tired of the heat and are glad to see it cool down. I for one am especially glad as I have done very little outdoors over these past two months. My garden needs trimming and I have a couple of projects that I want to complete this fall. Nothing major but still needing my attention and not to mention that I haven’t been on a hike in two and a half months at least. If the Parks and the Trails have not missed me, I sure as heck have missed them.

I did get in the big pond the other day to join the fish in their habitat, not for their company but because I needed to work on a couple of the installations like a fish fountain and an in-pond filter system. I finished the fish fountain and it is working just fine but the filter system still needs some work. Still, I don’t mind that work as I am standing in the pond where it is pretty cool at least compared to the outside temperatures.

The only good thing that has come out of all of this heat and me staying indoors is that I have written enough blogs to take me through mid October at three a week and I know of at least two more that I will need to fit in with the Austin Pond Society meetings for October and November. Hopefully, I have not bored my few readers too much with my odd selection of subjects over these past couple of months.

Well, it has stopped raining, with any luck only temporarily, as we could sure use a lot more. As I have written in previous blogs, my garden is pretty much all native plants. I have not watered it at all this summer and although some of the plants are looking a bit heat weary, most of them are holding up well. When our one or two day winter arrives, the frost will knock down all of the remaining growth and I will have to spend a couple of days cleaning it up ready for the start of the new season. But that is next year…

Written 9/3/2018

Cleaning the Ponds at Mayfield Park, May 2018


 

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Julie Smith and hers Husband Phillip, along with Cory Ferrier, snuck out as I was getting ready to take the picture of all of them together. Their prerogative of course.

The Austin Pond Society has an ongoing project at Mayfield Park located in the center of Austin. The Park has six large ponds that were in woeful need of a little TLC and the Society decided that it was going to be our project at least for this year to provide a little love and care. Incidentally, note that the center circular pond is surrounded by 4 oval shaped ponds (the petals) along with one hourglass pond that contains a small waterfall (the stem).

Consequently, in cooperation with the City of Austin and with help and advice provided by Shane of Water Garden Gems, members of the Austin Pond Society have met several times to clean the ponds and the City has gone forward and provided additional electricity to operate the new filtering system and additional air systems that are now in all of the ponds.

This past Thursday, May 24 was deemed a pond clean up day or rather evening as several members of the Society showed up to get themselves wet and dirty. Altogether, there were fourteen people providing assistance and doing the grunt work from cleaning the ponds of leaves and debris, to repotting lilies and in the case of Steven, Jeff and Ruben, installing a new floating filtering system in the big pond and getting the pumps to work. To Steven, who is a Master Electrician during the day, this was just up his alley. The rest had different duties spread around the other five ponds. Glen was stuck in the last pond (the stem) for most of the evening, this one having the most leaves and debris in it. He seemed quite happy to be working the pond until he came across a water snake that was nestled in the Iris plants. From that point on, he was shall we say, a little cautious. Says he doesn’t like snakes but there again, not many people do.

As is usual at Mayfield Park, the work was accompanied by both the company and the very loud and raucous cries from the twenty odd Peafowls that reside there. One of them grew very attached to Jeannie’s Lexus and was very busy pecking the bugs off the front of the vehicle. It stayed there for the entire time we were at the Park and no amount of shooing would get it to move.

The APS would like to thank the following members for showing up and giving of their time and efforts. Jeff and Ellen Bennett, Mary Ward, Barbara Lenhardt, Nancy Reinert, Charlie McLear, Cat Bilberry, Anne Clarke, Cory Ferrier, Julie and Phillip Smith and finally Jeannie Ferrier and Steven Monfrini and Ruben Angeles. Me, I was there strictly to record the efforts and almost broke into a sweat a few times as I hustled to record what was going on. Ruben is a City of Austin Employee who is at Mayfield Park full time. Really nice guy to work with.

Jets_BizCard_Austin The evening ended with a veritable feast of Pizza from one of our sponsors. That make for me, six large slices of Pizza in three days which is more than I have eaten in the last ten years although I have to say, it was very enjoyable.

There is still some work to be done both by the City and our volunteers but it will not be until next month. Again, thanks to our members without whom, we could not perform these sort of tasks.

I recorded a movie of the different members all performing their tasks and also put together a slideshow of the still pictures that I took.

Cleaning the Ponds at Mayfield Park May 2018 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Mayfield Park Pond Cleanup May 2018 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Written 5/29/2018

The Snakes are on the Move…


I recently wrote a blog outlining the steps that I have taken to keep the dogs out from under the shed. I continued with that by sealing off the underside of the main deck to keep the dogs out of there as well.

One reason was because of the loud barking of the, “We found an animal/snake kind” which I determined to be coming from a corner under the deck by the house where I happened to have installed a trapdoor to get to the septic system drains. I pulled it up and below me was the usual scene. The snake backed into a corner rearing and striking at anything that came within range and two little dogs screaming their fool heads off in a vain attempt to get at the snake. Theirs was a lot of barking but not really trying too hard to actually make contact.

This corner just happened to have a water faucet and hose pipe within very easy reach which I turned on the dogs first to get them to quit and then on the snake in an attempt to drive it off in the opposite direction which appeared to succeed on both counts as the snake disappeared from view and the dogs were busy trying to shake themselves dry. This episode did it for me and a quick trip to Lowes to buy the material I needed and then back to work sealing off the far side of the deck. The work was not very difficult and I had it finished in a couple of hours.

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The snake under the deck was a Texas Rat Snake that can grow to be six feet long, The are relatively harmless and very useful for keeping the rat and mice population down. They would bite if attacked or harassed but are non poisonous. This particular one was about four feet long and beautifully marked and colored.

Thinking that I could relax a bit as far as the snakes go, I turned my attention to cleaning up the mess that I created the other day when I cleaned the ponds of leaves and debris and thinned out some of the many plants growing in them. I moved an existing tub that was on the walkway which contained a large growth of Lizards Tail, to the other side to make more room on the path and then decided to pull the weeds by hand that had accumulated in that area.

I was working away and not paying much attention to what I was doing and I nearly grabbed a handful of a very large snake that was already coiled and had its mouth open in a very threatening posture. This quickly brought me back into focus as I slowly stood up with no sudden movements. The snake was within easy striking distance of originally my face and then as I stood, my bare legs. I looked at it trying to determine just what type it was and although it looked for all the world like a rattlesnake with the right size, markings and color, apart from the aggressive posture, it made no attempt to strike me which it could easily have done as I was well within its range. I could not see a rattle on the tail neither did I hear anything vaguely familiar. Not wanting to take any chances as two of the dogs were on the deck and had not realized what was going on, I called them to come indoors, grabbed my camera and stepped back out. I was too late as the snake had already disappeared and although I searched around, came to the conclusion that it was probably under the deck which at the time was only a couple of feet away. The more I think about it, I think it too was a Rat snake even though it was not as brightly marked at the other one. This one was probably longer then the other and looked like it had recently consumed a Dove as there were a lot of new dove feathers littered about. It was also much bigger around the girth than the first one which may have been due to its recent meal.

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I considered this to be getting a bit much with two different and very large snakes in two days but the story is not over yet as far as snakes go. It is a bit anticlimactic as the next snake that I saw as I went out to check on the dogs who again were doing there barking routine, was a two feet long either Western Coachwhip or a Texas Brown Snake. I was very brave confronting this one as I shooed it away where it disappeared into the underbrush.

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Texas Brown Snake
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Western Coachwhip

I decided that this was all too much of a coincidence and the next day, I took Mikey into the vets to get a anti rattlesnake shot and then Gizmo in to have his follow up shot. Turns out that Ginnie had a rattlesnake shot and booster last year and is not due for another until August. After losing Richie, I can’t afford to take chances.

In retrospect, maybe I am the one that needs the shot as I couldn’t have gotten much closer to the one yesterday and if it had been so inclined and was a Rattler, could have easily bit me. One thing for sure, no more hand pulling the weeds. I’ll use a hoe in the future. If I had recognized it as a Rattlesnake, would I have killed it if I had something available? I honestly don’t believe that I would have unless it was in self defence prefering to try to drive them away back out of the yard. After all, they can’t help what they are and as frightening as they may be, it’s man’s inherent fear of snakes that makes the situation worse than what it really is.

Written 5/14/2018

Rattlesnake Deterrent

Austin Pond Society Meeting March 2018


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The third Monday of the month rolled around as it does on a regular basis which is also the day, actually evening, that the Austin Pond Society hold their monthly meeting. There were about forty two people that showed up and they were treated to a Chinese meal from one of our Sponsors, Bamboo Bistro. The food was absolutely delicious and there was none left at the end of the night. Thank You Bamboo Bistro. BTW, as a sponsor, they offer a 10% discount on all of their food by showing your APS Membership card.

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With the meal out of the way, the Speaker for the evening was Dr Geigel who spoke to us a couple of years ago. Dr Geigel is a travelling fish doctor although he treats any and all animals and birds no matter what type they are. For the evenings lecture, he focused on fish and fish ailments. At the end of his presentation he took many questions from the floor all related to fish illnesses.

Dr Geigel Video March Meeting 2018 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Following the Speaker, Jeannie, our President took over. There was very little official business, just a lot of general discussion. The evening ended with the drawing for the door prizes which always leads to much mirth and laughter as different and various people win the prizes. My apologies for the quality of this video. My original video camera that I had setup, the battery went dead so I grabbed a second camera and shot this without the use of a tripod. Again, my apologies.

APS Meeting March 2018 – Business from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

The next meeting will be on April 16, Income Tax Deadline Day. Hope you have filed yours in time. This meeting is our Annual Plant Swap when members bring in their surplus fish, garden and pond plants to swap or giveaway to anyone that either wants them or is willing to take them. However, at the end of the evening, any unswapped plants are the responsibility of the original owner who must take them home. If you are looking for plants (or fish) bargains, this meeting is for you. This is not restricted to just pond plants. Any form of garden plant can also be swapped, The one exception are any invasive species which also applies to pond plants. This is not to be confused with the Annual Swap and Sell Meeting held later in the year which is more about material items such as used pond and garden equipment. Hope to see you there.

This is the view through the windows of the Garden outside.

Written 3/22/2018

Day 4 – Harvey


Today is Day 4 of the Hurricane Harvey Saga in my part of Texas. The storm as predicted, moved back towards the cost and is still pummelling Houston and the surrounding area as it slowly makes its way down the coast towards Louisiana. Compared to what those guys have had to put up with, Austin has got off very light. All we had was about 7 inches of heavy rain causing low water crossing closures and some minor flooding.

For myself, very little damage from the strong winds. Lots of leaves and small branches down but no major tree limbs on the ground. A lot of the plants are laying a bit sideways and I will have to wait and see how many straighten back up before chopping them down.

The 5000 gallon pond had one pump that quit working and I replaced it this morning. I also cleaned out the other 4 pumps on this pond as the water has turned a real muddy color. There is probably at least one upturned pot that has dumped its clay into the water and it will take a few days for it to settle out.

I already mentioned the cypress tree that has blown over in the 6000 gallon pond in the last blog but as far as I can see that is all of the damage that we sustained. I plan on getting into the ponds tomorrow and cleaning out the leaves and cutting back the damaged vegetation. As I write this, the sun is shining brightly and there is hardly a cloud in the sky. Nature is such an amazing thing how the weather can change in the blink of an eye.

Oh yes, the stained glass window made it through OK and now I will take it down out of its tree and find a more stable place for it so I don’t have to worry when the next storm hits.

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