Retired from the University of Texas and too old to play soccer anymore. Now, in the twilight of his years, time is spent writing in this blog, hiking and exploring Texas Parks, photography, working out, gardening and tending to the five ponds he built .
The Austin Pond Society held its final meeting of the year on November 18 in the form of a Christmas Party which was attended by around 45 members and guests. The entire evening was devoted to eating, mixing and mingling, Blue Santa and a presentation of checks to four different organizations. This was a marked change from previous parties when we have had some other entertainment in the form of contests, music, dancing and other such fun and games. As far as the food, what better way to celebrate Christmas in Texas than Rudy’s Barbecue with all of the fixin’s including pumpkin and apple pies. This was all delicious and very much enjoyed by the members.
The Austin Pond Society made four donations to charitable causes this year. They included Austin Pets Alive, KLRU for Central Texas Gardener, McBee Elementary School and Overton Elementary School for their programs of Hands on Gardening.
This year, as they have done for the past couple of years, Santa and Mrs Klaus attended in full costume along with a couple of helpers. They mixed and mingled and enjoyed the food and the company and made a presentation outlining what it is that Blue Santa brings to 4500 families in Austin that otherwise would be lacking gifts and food at Christmas. As per previous years, the APS members had brought in a whole tables worth of presents for the kids. One of the high points of the evening was when one of our Sponsors, Matt Boring of Texas Ponds and Water Features and two of his people, one dressed as a giant frog, brought in two large sacks of toys to add to the collection. A very nice gesture from Matt and thank you.
The evening closed with a small bit of business and discussion. We are still lacking a nominee for the position of Pond Tour Director which is a bit of a worry. We still have a some time but if any of you are interested, please contact our President, Barb Lenhardt at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hope to see you all next year at out first meeting which will be held at the usual place, Zilker Botanical Gardens on Monday, January 20, 2020. The Speaker will be from Travis County Master Gardeners and the subject will be Drip Irrigation. By the way, I can’t believe that we are looking at 2020 already. It seems like something out of a science fiction movie…
Thank you to everyone that makes Austin Pond Society such a great group to work with and for being such a fun bunch of crazy fish and pond enthusiasts. Welcome to the start of a brand new year…
Once again my heart is heavy with grief. Not for any of my human friends or acquaintances but for another of my furry buddies.
This time my oldest living dog and the one remaining survivor from the original pack of eight, a female mini dachshund by the name of Ginnie, has joined Big Girl, Manley, Mini, Abigail, BeBe, Richie, Pete and Gizmo at the Rainbow Bridge where one day, we will all be reunited, never to be apart from each other again. Ginnie was with me for twelve wonderful years and was a couple of years old when she joined our family making her about fourteen or so.
I acquired her from a Veterinary friend who knew that I was looking for another dog at the time. She moulded into the household full of dogs and cats and although a bit standoffish, more than held her own when she needed to. Ginnie remained a bit of a standout her whole life never really making friends with any of the other dogs. Because she was the smallest, more than once she had to stand up for herself and did so very well. She had this remarkably soft coat which felt like velvet when you stroked her. At night, she had this habit of sleeping with her back touching me and I was always aware of her presence besides feeling her warmth on cold nights. Even though she was small, she would not take any crap from any of the other dogs and could sound quite ferocious.
I will miss her as she was always glad to see me and always made a fuss of me whenever I came home. It’s so sad when we lose our pets and they are never with us for very long. Just when you are used to having them around, they up and die because their lives are so short. Ginnie died from complications with pulmonary lung illness within three days of the symptoms and did so in her own way. She had been on the bed, her usual spot, and I watched as she pushed her way through the doggy door as she had done thousands of times before. She went out onto the deck and barked a couple of times and sat there looking around. Then, she moved onto one of the lower flower beds by the two ponds and lay down and passed quietly away as I watched, with tears streaming down my face.
I buried her along with all of her other buddies next to the big pond where she will spend the rest of her days. There are now ten dogs and two cats in that area all sleeping their final sleep together.
I should point out that my most recent adoptee that I have had for almost a year is another dachshund by the name of Buddy Holly, shortened to Buddy who is half blind, mostly deaf, has no sense of smell and more than a little senile. But, he gets about just fine and takes walkabouts out in the garden and is living out his life with us. His estimated age is twelve but I believe that he is probably a couple of years older so he and Ginnie were about the same age. I was hoping when I got him that he and Ginnie would become best buds but Ginnie, being who she was, just wouldn’t be friends.
Will I ever get another dog not to replace her but to fill the void that is left? Probably another rescue is the answer…
My thanks go to Dr Donop and all of the staff members at Austin Veterinary Diagnostic Hospital who as usual, did all they could to help Ginnie. It was just destined not to be…
Along with my friend BJ, we decided to walk the other half of the trail between the LCRA parks, Lake Bastrop South and Lake Bastrop North. We had already covered almost half of the trail from the South end and we were left with about 3 miles of the trail to cover from the North end.
The weather had taken a decided change as it was no longer sunshine and a 100 degrees but rolling storm clouds with rain in the air and a temperature of around 75 degrees. We pulled up in front of the trailhead and sat in the truck debating as to whether it was going to rain and if so, should we continue with our plans to walk.
In the end, we both decided that as we were already there, it did not make sense to not walk and if we got wet, so be it. I hustled into my backpack and camera belt and checked to make sure that I had a poncho with me to cover the camera if it came on to rain and we set out along the trail. It was very overcast with the dark clouds piling up and as the lake water was warmer than the air temperature, there was a fog rising from the water giving the lake a very eerie effect. We were about halfway through the walk when it came on to rain, well a slight drizzle which continued pretty much through our entire walk.
It is really a great trail to walk on with only the occasional stoney conditions underfoot. Most of the way it is sand or dirt making for very pleasant walking and it was not raining hard enough to turn things muddy.
We crossed a couple of small bridges that spanned ditches that in rainy times would hold water and then we came to the Floating Bridge. This is a bit of a novelty as it moved up and down as we walked across. It really is a floating bridge and is built to rise and fall with the level of the water in the lake. It even has small, for want of a better word, alcoves with benches installed for people to sit and admire the view.
We continued walking and came to yet another bridge with signs that indicated we were 1.5 miles from our starting point or 3.0 miles from the South Shore entrance. We were still about 1.5 miles from where we hiked the other time out and as the weather was getting quite miserable with the rain and wind, we decided that we had walked far enough for one day and did a smart about face walking back the way we had come.
We ended up in the parking lot with the truck immediately in front of us and we were still the only people in view with the exception of one of the park employees who was busy emptying the trash bins. The season must really be over but in all fairness, it was a weekday… Altogether, we covered 4.5 miles of very enjoyable hiking rain and all. I plan on going back to hike the bit we missed to complete the entire trail.
My very good friend BJ came up with a new place for us to walk within her hometown of Bastrop. This time, it was another LCRA Park and is named Lake Bastrop South as there is also a Lake Bastrop North which, depending on what we thought of this hike, will be our next one.
In actuality, there is just one long trail of about 4.5 miles that connects the North and South locations of this lake and as we parked in the closest one, decided the we would walk about halfway leaving the other half for another time and from the opposite end, the North location.
There was no one else around that we could see as the parking areas were empty of any cars and people. We parked right next to the trailhead and after our usual preparations started along the trail. Turns out that this is a great trail to walk with only a few hills and very easy going with mostly sand underfoot. It has a lot of shade of Oak trees intermixed with the Pines. In some places, we walked on a carpet of pine needles making for a very pleasant odor as we moved them around.
There are several bridges along this trail all having there own names. The ones that we crossed were named Twin Bridges and yes, there are two bridges side by side, Big Oak Bridge although we could not decide which was the Big Oak and Thrill Creek Bridge which was as far as we went for this hike. None of them had any water flowing in the gullies beneath the bridges as we have not had any real rain in almost 3 months. This started a conversation about the Grand Canyon and how deep it was so out came BJ’s cell phone and she discovered that it was almost 6000 feet deep at its deepest point. That is a little over a mile. Absolutely amazing when you stop to consider that most of that depth is caused by the erosion of the soil by the Colorado River over millions of years. Nature sure is a wonderful thing. Pity that mankind is doing its very best to make sure there is no tomorrow for this wonderful and amazing planet.
We turned back and retraced out footsteps for the return journey having solved most of the worlds problems in about a two hour time span. We got back to the parking lot and this time, there were three Bluebonnet Electric trucks parked in the lot. Whether they were on lunch break or official business, it was completed when we walked up as they all drove off. I didn’t realize it until I went in the Men’s room to change but they are set up for the campers to shower which I could have done had I been so inclined. Maybe next time now that I know.
All in all, we covered 5 miles of very easy hiking with the added bonus of it being shady for most of the way. Next time, we will park in the North Lot and walk the trail from the opposite end to where we ended this time around.
With the weather finally cooling down albeit, not by a lot as it is still in the mid 90’s in the afternoons, I decided to get up early and drive the hour that it takes to get to Buescher State Park located in Smithville which is 55 miles from my house. I grabbed breakfast to go at the first Starbucks that I came to and listened to Audiobooks for the hour spent in the truck, on the road.
I planned to walk the rest of the trails that BJ and I hadn’t covered a couple of days previously and pulled up into the trail parking area on Park Road 1C which was my starting point. I crossed the road to get onto the Pine Gulch Trail and was immediately inundated with a large number of wildflowers of several different varieties. Absolutely beautiful and so unexpected as we had not seen any on the other side of the road or on the other trail.
A young lady passed me going in the opposite direction only she was running and I could tell it was a part of her workout routine. Hers must have been the other car in the Parking Area when I left. She was the only person that I saw on the trails. This side of the road was just as burned as was the other side although, Nature is pushing hard and there is a lot of new growth. Shade was hard to come by except here and there, where the Oak trees were growing. It looks like they had not been affected by the fire as everything around them had been burned. The Pine trees that had been replanted were growing well and in 10 years time, should become just as tall as the ones that are now just tree skeletons and strong reminders of the past. Hope I am around to see that and still walking.
There is a small pond on this trail but it too is low as it lacks water because of the drought. I remember it from a few years ago before the fire when I walked this trail. At that time I took a picture of the trees reflecting in the water. This time, not only is the water low but the trees are no longer there having burned in the fire.
Following the trail, I had to cross the Old Antioch Road for the last mile or so and then eventually meeting up with Park Road 1C where the trail ended. At one point, I came across a brand new bridge that crosses one of the many streams in the area and the construction person in me could only think of the logistics in getting the material to build this bridge to this particular area, as the trail is not very wide for any sort of vehicle. This last part of the trail is not used much and is heavily overgrown although somebody had been working recently with a weed wacker to trim a lot of the growth. I had the option of turning back and covering my tracks or stay on Park Road 1C back to where the truck was parked. Either way, the distance was the same so I opted to stay on the road for the easier walking. Several vehicles and motorcycles passed me and we exchanged waves as they sped on by.
I arrived back in the parking area and sat for a while just relaxing and cooling down. It was a beautiful day and I felt so happy just to be out in it. Altogether, I covered 5 miles of walking. On the way back, I stopped at the lake although it is showing signs of feeling the drought that we have been having this summer as the water level was down a bit. I took pictures of the Oak trees with the Spanish Moss hanging from them, not something you see every day.
The drive home was uneventful as I happily drank my Starbucks Latte and listened to Audiobooks to be welcomed at the door by four small and very excited dogs. At least somebody loves and misses me…
These past few days have seen some interesting encounters with the snakes in my yard and either in or around my ponds. It started when I heard the high pitched cry of some sort of animal or bird and not knowing just what it was, I set out to discover what was causing the sound.
It was coming from the direction of the large pond and it took some time for me to locate the source which was a partially swallowed frog in the jaws of one of the non poisonous Diamond Backed Water snakes that inhabits the area. This particular snake is all of 4 ft long. The frog was still alive with only the head and shoulders showing, the rest already in the snakes throat. There was nothing I could do for this frog even if I could have caught the snake as there was too much already down the snakes gullett. Even as I watched, the snake slid into the water and was gone as were the cries of the poor frog. I wonder how long they take to die inside of the snakes digestive system? Incidentally, as we usually associate frogs with croaking and grunting, hearing their high pitched cry of anguish is somewhat disturbing.
Then yesterday when I was outside, I again heard the cry of an animal in distress and followed the sound to the same large pond. It took awhile for me to locate the snake as it was hidden in the plants growing there but I finally spotted it. It may well have been the same snake as there are at least two maybe even three of them. This one was within reach of my long handled hoe and I was able to slip it under the snakes head and shake it about for a bit causing the snake to release its hold on the frog. This one was only held by one back leg and the snake chose to release the frog who quickly scampered away I am sure, much to the snakes disgust. The snake was gone in an instant sliding into the waters of the pond.
Today was even more bizarre as again, as I was out with the dogs just walking around, we heard the same familiar cry of an animal in distress, another frog as it turned out. This one was on dry land next to the Aqua Filter unit and was held by one leg by a much smaller Garter snake that was about 18 inches long. Even as I watched from a couple of feet away, a Diamond Backed Water snake came out of nowhere and made a grab for the frog. The Garter Snake immediately released its hold on the frog and rapidly disappeared leaving it’s prey to the Diamond Backed Water snake. The frog, realizing that it was free, smartly hopped off taking giant 4 feet leaps to get away leaving a very frustrated Diamond Backed Water snake who immediately turned its attention to me making several threatening advances before slithering under the base of the Aqua Filter unit with just its head sticking out. I made a couple of movements towards it and it withdrew its head each time.
Figuring that the excitement and that my lesson with Mother Nature was over for the day, I called the dogs, who had been very warily watching this whole series of events, and we went back indoors.
In retrospect, this was just Nature acting as Nature always acts with the different pecking orders in the food chain. In this case, the frog(s) were the original victim(s) followed by the large snake versus the smaller snake with the frog, a by product of this encounter, all acting just like Humans, the strong over the weak. I felt that I was intruding on this scenario as it was as Nature intended it to be but the anguished high pitched cries of the frogs was more than I could stand without at least trying to rescue them.
Just when I thought I had finished with this post, I was out in the yard this morning and thought I heard the familiar frog cry of anguish, this time, coming from the direction of the 100 gallon tub that contains a water lily. I grow the lilies in separate containers as the Koi tear them up when they are in the ponds. I went over to take a look and sure enough, there was a large frog in the jaws of very long, probably 3 feet of Garter Snake. This one was easy to deal with and I quickly “persuaded” the snake to drop the frog with a short length of hose pipe and then chased the snake out of that particular container where it quickly slithered away about as fast as it could go. I caught the frog and transferred it to another container and thought that was that until a little later, I noticed a frog back in the same 100 gallon tub. Whether it was the same one, who knows. They all look alike to me. I added extra water to the container so that the frog has a sporting chance to hop out when and if the snake(s) return. Frog paradise has now the added excitement of getting eaten by snakes. I wonder if there will be other additions to this story?
Such is the Law of the Wild… Note: The pictures of the snakes are not mine but are downloads from the internet. I don’t have any pictures of them coiled.
This was the last of the instruction meetings that the Austin Pond Society held for this year 2019. There is one more meeting in November but it is devoted entirely to our end of year celebrations and Christmas Party.
There were around 35 members and guests that attended and they were welcomed to a dinner of Fried Chicken with the Members providing all of the fixins and deserts. This was held at the usual place, Austin Botanical Gardens Clubhouse.
The Speaker for the evening was Deena Spelman, owner of Bastrop Botanical Gardens which is located at 316 Old 71, Cedar Creek, Texas.. She gave a very interesting lecture on Culinary Herbs and plants and provided hands on or rather nose on as she passed around samples of the herbs and plants she was discussing. Hers was a very enjoyable presentation and was warmly applauded by the Members.
From listening to the Speaker, the Members then got down to the serious business of nominating and electing the Members of the Board that will operate next year. The final grouping is listed below with the position of Pond Tour Chairman still open. If anyone is interested in this position, please contact either the President at email@example.com Margaret at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a very important position as without the Pond Tour Director, in all probability, the chances of there being a Pond Tour this year is greatly diminished.
The Officers for the upcoming year of 2020 are: President – Barbara Lenhardt Treasurer – Mike Peppers Secretary – Gwenn Goulet
The Board of Directors are: Programs and Special Events – BJ Jenkins Publicity – Nancy Hall Membership – Margaret Boeneke Historian/Photographer – Glen Hubenthal Member at Large – Cat Bilbrey Pond Tour Chairman – Open
The Non Voting Members are: Hospitality – Ted Paone Librarian – Max Rice Webmaster – Francis Allcorn AAGC Rep – Jullienne Smith AKCA Rep – Glen Hubenthal
Many thanks were given to the Officers that were stepping down including Julie who had been Secretary for 9 years although she is still involved as the AAGC Representative.
The rest of the meeting was taken up with items like a discussion on upcoming events followed by the drawing for the door prizes. The meeting was adjourned with Nancy offering some pond plants that she had brought in for the Members to share.
The next meeting is on November 17 and will be the final meeting of the year. It will be our Holiday Party. Members are encouraged to bring a gift for the needy kids in Austin that will be distributed by Blue Santa.
The dinner will be supplied by APS. Members will not need to bring in any pot lucks or deserts. We thank all of you for being so generous this past year with your food contributions. Hope to see you there.
Stories about family, faith, friends and funnies. Pull up a chair. Grab a cup of coffee and laugh, cry, ponder and inspire about ordinary events of this wonderful, ever changing, bubbling pot that we call "every day life".