Cleaning the Converted Pool to Fish Pond September 2016


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.


Barbara Hale’s Fish Story – Reposted

This story is a re-post of a story written by Barbara Hale.


          A few weeks after my husband put in a backyard pond, I was in the Walmart pet department looking at goldfish and Koi. As enthusiastic new pond-keepers, we were always looking for more fish.

While peering into aquariums at the limited selection of fish, I overheard a loud customer speaking to the store manager. “Why can’t you take it? It’s perfectly healthy. I’m giving it to you for free!” she said.  “I just want it to go to a good home.”

This exchange peaked my interest so I moved closer to listen. The manager told her that Walmart had strict health regulations and could not take in a donated fish. The woman looked devastated. I approached her saying, “Excuse me, but are you trying to find a home for a fish?”

She told me she had an eight-inch goldfish that was too large for her aquarium and no one she knew wanted it. She’d had it for many years, ever since it was tiny. Due to back problems, she could no longer clean such a large aquarium.

I told her about our new pond and that I’d be delighted to take the fish. What luck! We needed a large fish; she needed a home for her large fish. Her face lit up and she asked me to follow her home. Once there, she netted the fish into a bucket, and walked me with the fish to my car. I thanked her profusely insisting she come visit some time to see her fish in its new home. She told me she’d certainly do that so I gave her our address and said, “Drop by any time.”

Several months later, my husband found the fish belly-up in our pond. “This is horrible,” I said. “What if that nice woman shows up to see her fish? We’ve got to find one that looks just like it!” My husband was unable to talk me out of it, so we drove to a store  that sells fish and pond supplies. It was a pond owner’s dream. On the grounds were rows of pond plants and an enclosure for turtles. Under an arbor behind the building was a beautiful pond with lots of large koi and goldfish—a perfect model for those interested in building their own ponds. Inside it, I spotted a goldfish who looked almost identical to our dearly departed one. How perfect!

We told an employee we’d like to buy a goldfish from out back. He followed us out to the pond area which was flanked by several rectangular vats containing various types and sizes of goldfish and koi. When I pointed out the one I wanted in the pond, he said, “Oh, those aren’t for sale. They’re impossible to catch.” He directed me to a vat of goldfish I could choose from, but none were large enough.

So I told him my whole impassioned story about why we needed that particular fish, and how happy the woman at Walmart was that her fish would go to a good home, and how she could drop by any day to see her fish. He was shaking his head back and forth as he listened. Then, after a long sigh, he said, “Okay, I see what you mean. I’ll try.”

With his long-handled net, he scooped this way and that through the pond, stirring up sediment from the bottom as all the terrified fish darted in every direction. I did what I could to assist by continually pointing out the target fish, saying things like, “There he is—no, there. Oops! Oh, here he is. Oh wait—now he’s over there.”  This went on for a good twenty minutes but miracles do happen; he finally caught the fish! By that time the pond was a muddy mess and the exhausted employee was soaked. We were so grateful he didn’t give up.

We took the new fish (which looked almost the same) home and named it Replacement. Twelve years have passed and Replacement still thrives in our tranquil pond. His former owner, the woman I met in Walmart, has never come to visit.


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

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.




In the Ponds…


View of the 5000 gallon pond. The plant on  the right is a Thalia.

I had reason to get into two of my ponds a couple of days ago. In one, the pipe that connects to the fish fountain had come disconnected probably because I had installed a 6000 gph pump greatly increasing the water pressure. The only way to reconnect was to literally get in the water as the fountain stands in the middle of the pond.

The ponds plants have taken over because nothing died back following our frost free winter and also helped by the fact that I decided to let things grow. I have not done any pruning or cutting back, this year at all. The entry into the pond that I specifically built is so full of Taro leaves and other plants that there is no way into the water without tearing the place up. I didn’t want to do that so had to devise another way to get in.

I went to the opposite end where the skimmer and pump are located and figured that if I put a couple of boards over the skimmer box, I could use it to gain entry into the pond. This I did and hooked the pipe back up to the fish fountain, this time wiring it together in the hope of it staying there longer.  While I was in the pond and as is my usual practice, I cleaned the pond bottom of as much junk and leaves that I could find. When I turned the water back on (I always shut off the pumps when I get into the ponds as a safety precaution) , the water streamed out a good three feet in front of the fountain, something it has never done before. As I mentioned, the new pump was putting out a lot of water and this was the first time it had been hooked to the fountain. Very impressive.


The frog statue showing how far the new pump can throw the water.

I went over to the first pond by the deck and tried to think of everything I needed to do in this pond and before I got into it, had all of the pots and tools lined up.  My reason for getting into it in the first place was to try to upright a Taro plant that had slipped over. This one had grown very tall, taller than me which is not saying much, probably close to six feet. I also wanted to take the opportunity to clean out the pond which I always do if I have to get in them.

Compared to the first pond I had been in, this one turned into a comedy of errors. I didn’t have any trouble getting in and out of this pond as it is not so deep as the first one except in the middle. I walked over to the Taro plant wondering what on earth I was walking on. Instead of a hard surface under my feet, it was soft and mushy and all kinds of thoughts started racing through my head. Dead fish, dead plants, mud, pea gravel, maybe even a dead Heron as I had not seen my visitor from another world for several months.

I dipped my cleaning net into the water and brought up the first net full which turned out to be nothing worse than mud and pea gravel from the pots that the big Koi had managed to tip over or washed out with their tails. I had originally built  a couple of “tables” in the pond comprising of concrete blocks stacked three high with a weighted plastic shelf made out of garage storage shelves. The “tables” have been in the pond for probably twenty years or even longer and normally have pond plants in pots standing on them, the Taro plant being one of them. One table was still intact but the one that had the Taro standing on it had collapsed which is of course why the Taro had fallen over.

In my efforts to clean the muck and get the blocks and pots out of the pond, I managed to stumble over yet another concrete block and before I knew it, had joined the fish swimming in the water falling over backwards with a considerable splash. I quickly scrambled to my feet none the worse except maybe a little cooler and a lot wetter and wondered how many fish germs I had swallowed. After all, fish poop in the water. Where else are they going to go?

Interestingly enough, The big Koi and I am talking about fish well over two feet long and longer, were not a bit disturbed by my joining them in the water. Not even when I fell over. As I worked, they swam lazily around me and I even reached out and stroked several of them on the side and they still didn’t panic. I am not suggesting that they recognize me after twenty five years plus of me attending to them but they definitely did not consider me a threat.

I had planted in pots at least three lotus and a couple of lily plants this season but if they had come up at all, the Koi had quickly managed to destroy them. All that remained were the pots some still full of clay and stones, other completely cleaned out. I lifted these out along with the concrete blocks and continued with the chore of cleaning the pond. While I was at it, I cut back the overhanging growth around the outside of the pond. Then I turned my attention to the reason I was in the pond in the first place, the tall  Taro plant. I discovered that it had grown out of its pot which is the reason it had tipped over. I could not get it back into the pot and the only recourse was to drag it over to the side and scramble it up onto the bank.

I have it sitting in a large pot now and will keep it alive. The original leaves have already died but it will grow more. Maybe, I will put it back into the pond, this time in a much larger pot weighted down with rocks to keep it steady. Or not….


Austin Pond Society July Meeting 2016

DSC_3385The Austin Pond Society held their monthly meeting for July this past Monday, July 18 at the usual meeting place, Zilker Botanical Gardens in Austin. As is usual, the thirty five members were treated to a light meal of Hot Dogs with all of the fixin’s followed by several kinds of appetizing desserts. The half hour from 6:30 pm to 7:00 pm is always used as a social half hour giving the members time to both enjoy the meal and the company.

Following the meal, at 7:00 pm, Barb Lenhardt who is in charge of Programs and Special Events for the Society, introduced our speaker for the evening, Mark Klym and his topic would be “Texas Amphibian Watch”. He spoke mainly about the frogs and toads that inhabit our ponds and how beneficial they are in keeping the pond life adjusted. He was a very entertaining speaker and following his presentation, he answered many questions from the floor. Below is a video of him speaking.

APS Mark Klym July 2016 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Following Mark, Jeannie, our President brought the meeting to order to discuss the next upcoming meeting and passed along general information to us all. We are attempting to break new ground with a table sale of anything pond or garden related that any member may bring to sell for the cost of “renting” a $10:00 table. This does not include Plants as we have already had that at the Plant Swap Meeting. It will be interesting to see how many members will try to sell off their unwanted pond and garden equipment.

The main piece of business was to have an open discussion on the duties that each Board Member performs as we have a couple who would like to or in fact are stepping down. Each of us was asked to give a brief description of what we do as theoretically, all of the positions are up for grabs. For those that do want to continue, their jobs are pretty secure as historically, there has never been a mad rush of people from the floor wanting to volunteer their time.

APS July Meeting – Business 2016 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

To close out the evening, there was a door prize drawing which always evolves a lot of laughs and cries of “cheater” and “favoritism”, not to mention “rigged” and my favorite “draw again”. The meeting ended at 8:30 pm.


Austin Pond Society May Meeting 5-16-2016

DSC_2123As usual, on the third Monday of the month at the Zilker Botanical Gardens, the Austin Pond Society held it’s May Meeting. This one was entitled Sponsor Night when many of our sponsors attend to introduce themselves and tell a little bit about their product. Many bring items for sale especially if they are in the retail business and are not pond builders and such.

Following our normal practice, we opened with a meal. This time we had chicken along with the many side dishes brought by the members and again was enjoyed by everyone. Jeannie, our President, brought the meeting to order and introduced a couple of new members. This was followed by the business section which was entirely made up of discussion about the upcoming Pond Tour. BJ made a plea for Volunteers to man the ponds as we are still at least 25 or so people short. Anyone that may be interested can check out the website at and register on line or email Mary at For a four hour shift, you get a free tee shirt and a ticket to visit the rest of the ponds on the tour plus all you can eat at the SPLASH party.

With the business out of the way, the mike was handed over to Barb to introduced the sponsors who each spoke about the business they own and the work they perform. Unfortunately, I developed camera problems as this part of the meeting was going on and do not have them on video. My apologies.

Following their spiel, the meeting was opened for the members and sponsors to get together during which, Jeannie announced the winners of the door prizes many of which had been donated by the sponsors.

The meeting came to a close around 8:30 pm.

Below is the video of the meeting and below that, a bunch of pictures. If you click on any picture, it will enlarge them and you can use the side arrows to move the pictures along. Use the “Escape” key to get back to normal.

APS May Meeting 5-16-2016 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.