Rain


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The sky grows very dark as the storm clouds roll in
it’s going to rain which is very welcome in Texas
as there are long spells without it
and sometimes it rains very hard
and floods the land and the streets
and fills the creeks.

At first the ground is very dry
and the rain soaks in
but as it continues to pour
the ground becomes saturated
no longer absorbing the rain
as it drains.

We can always use the rain
as it rolls over dirt and rocks
and disappears into the ground
into the aquifers of the world
sustaining the life above
supporting all life with love.

Written 9/28/2017

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.

It’s Raining at McKinney 9-2-2016


DSC_3780I drove to McKinney Roughs, a distance of about 40 miles from my house under cloudy skies. it didn’t really look like rain but when I arrived at McKinney main entrance, the skies opened up and it rained for a good twenty minutes.  I had my newspaper with me having to forego my usual breakfast routines in order to get to the park earlier as I wanted to hike while it was still somewhat cool, for Texas. In my case this morning, it was breakfast to go as I ate it in the car on my way to the Park and read the paper while I waited for  it to stop raining.

The couple parked in the car next to me, acted brave as they got out of their car when it first started to rain and started walking. Less than three minutes later when the skies opened up, they came running back, hopped into the car and then drove off. So much for their walk this morning.

As soon as it stopped, I got out and strolled over to the Office to pay my $2.00 and chatted to the lady behind the window. As they still haven’t fixed the flood damaged trails down by the river, I had to come up with a different plan. Did I mention that I have bought a new pair of hiking boots? The old ones, which I had already glued together several times,  are just about worn out and are getting uncomfortable on the right foot so I thought it time for a change. I bought a pair of Keen’s Dark Earth that happened to be on sale at $110.00  from Whole Earth Provision Company. I swear my feet are growing as I get older and everything else is shrinking, except my weight that is and it’s a struggle to keep that where I want it. I am already an inch shorter and my muscles, the ones that are still visible that is, are much smaller than when I was younger. In those days playing soccer, I wore a 9 1/2 as I wanted them snug so I could feel the ball. Probably they should have been a size 10. The boots I just bought are size 11 1/2 and have removable inserts. Go figure…In my defense, I do have a wide foot, a whopping 6E almost the widest that is made. Today was going to be the first day that I got to use them on the trail although I have been wearing them out and about just to help break them in.

I set out to walk along Coyote Road and first, I had to get onto Bobcat Ridge. I knew I was in trouble the minute I stepped onto the trails as the rain had turned everything into thick gooey clay which just built up on my new boots in the first ten steps. So much for newness! My feet felt like they had 20 pound weights on each one and as soon as I kicked off the mud, it was right back on there again. I kinda walked in slow motion not making any time at all and felt like I was back in soccer training again, trying to build up my leg muscles with weights attached to my ankles.DSC_3765

A mile or so onto Coyote Road, I contemplated turning back but figured that I might as well press on as going back would be just as miserable. I reached the area where the trails are blocked off and  Coyote Road meets with Riverside and had no choice but to continue along Riverside. Normally, I like hiking close to the river as it gives a nice change of view with the off chance of seeing more wildlife like Blue Herons, Egrets and maybe even ducks. The water was up a bit and flowing fast and was a dirty brown color. I didn’t get to see anything in the way of wildlife and the trails were extremely muddy. I did manage to find several flowers throughout the Park that were not there a little  over a week ago, the last time I was at this Park which included moss in one tree that I had never seen before.

Another young lady hiker caught up with me on this  part of the trail and we chatted a bit before she moved on. I stopped and motioned for her to pass me and mentioned that I was a very slow walker and EVERYONE passes me. She was very diplomatic and said that she had a hard time to catch up with me. She let me take her picture, for which I am grateful as we both continued on our way. Riverside, at this point is a steep uphill climb but the footing had improved and was no longer anywhere near as muddy. In fact, a lot of it is loose pebbles which although sometimes tricky to walk on are a lot better then the goo I had covered earlier. I met another older couple walking down the hill and we stopped and chatted for a bit. I told them they should avoid the Lower Riverside and Coyote Road due to the muddy conditions and to stick with the tight cluster of trails in the center of the Park. We both continued on our separate ways with me going up and them going down. The uphill climb lasts almost a mile and is steep in a couple of places. Eventually, it levels out and is decent walking on the trail back to the Parking Lot.

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On the way back along Riverside, I walked in every puddle I could find and even tried walking in the wet grass in an effort to clean some of the mud off my boots. It helped a bit but they were due for a good cleaning when I got home. I am in the habit of changing into my hiking boots when I arrive at the Park so at least I did not have to drive and put mud all over the car. I met another older couple who were just leaving the office and stopped to chat with them and told them which trails to stay away from.

Altogether I covered about four and a half very long and difficult miles and have to say, that is the most miserable I have ever felt while out hiking due to the muddy conditions. My usually slow pace was reduced to a crawl. This was worse than being lost and in the dark at Pedernales Falls.

Being close to Bastrop, I drove in for my usual Latte and at the same time, stopped by the Tractor Supply Store and picked up their last two bags of Koi food. Nothing like taking advantage of the location.

Below are pictures of the trails and the river. It is easy to tell the upper section of Riverside as it is so much dryer and a different color.

As with all of these picture displays, if you click on anyone of them it will enlarge and you can use the side arrows to move along. Use the “Escape” key to get back to normal.

Barbara Hale’s Fish Story – Reposted


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

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          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 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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In the Ponds…


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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.

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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….