Current State of the Yard and Plans for Next Year

It has been a long, hard and extremely hot summer even by Texas standards. We had a total of ninety, one hundred plus degree days, setting a new all time record at least since records for this sort of thing have been kept. The hottest day recorded was one hundred and twelve degrees and that is bloody hot. I went out in if for very short periods just to do my normal check of the ponds but didn’t stay out in it for too long.

One time in upper New York, I went snow skiing at night which most  of the time was a lot of fun. On this particular night it was so cold, that even with the proper cold weather gear and a facemask I was so cold going up in the lift that when I reached the top, I took my ski’s off and walked back down the mountain. Even with the face protection, my ears got minor frostbite. Turns out that with the windchill, the temperature at the top of the mountain was minus 56 below freezing. The hot toddies served at the bar, never tasted so good.

So, with the -56 to the plus 112 I have managed to cover a temperature range of 168 degrees in my lifetime. Luckily, not at the same time as I am not sure that the human body could take that sort of temperature span at one time. BTW, I moved out of New York State to get away from such temperature’s as I didn’t like the long winters and I have to say that I can tolerate the heat much more than the cold.

I digress (as I sometimes do).  I forgot to add in the fact that we have been under a several month drought period that has been so severe that the amount of water left in the ground is down to something like 2%.

I have made a major effort, as I recounted in an earlier blog, of watering the yard by hand, every two days and have managed to keep most of the greenery alive at least around the ponds. But, I have other areas that have died or at least turned brown mostly where I have not watered. I even have a couple of trees that have also dropped their leaves. We will have to see if they come back next Spring. Ground cover which in my case was Ivy and Vinca mixed is totally dead. Looking around, if in fact not much of this brown stuff comes back, I am going to be spending a lot of time on clean up and many trips to the dump in the Spring.

It is amazing the huge amounts of waste “stuff” that gets generated just in the normal course of the year with the plants and trees, life cycles. I generally rake up leaves and periodically trim back the plants as they need it and then add it to the huge compost pile that I have off to one side. If we get a three-day sub temperature frost as we did this past winter, then it is a question of cleaning out everything above ground and making a clean start which also gets added to the pile.

The problem arises with tree branches and such that are too thick to add to the pile as it would take at least a lifetime to rot out. Unfortunately, I don’t have that sort of time. So, the branches big enough for firewood gets sawn up and if I already have enough, gets stacked on the side of the road to be shared with neighbours who very quickly clean it up. It looks like this year, so many of the young trees have died that they will need to be loaded into my trailer and taken to the dump. I am fortunate that not too far from my house, there is a dump that actually specializes in natural waste material like trees, shrubs and general yard materials. They are relatively cheap and all of the material gets put through a huge chipper and then buried to be dug up at a later date and sold as mulch. At least, this way, nothing is destroyed or wasted nor left in a landfill to create a problem for our future generations.

The water evaporation as you can imagine has been very high this summer. I am constantly topping up the ponds every few days. Some of the water is used by the pond plants as they maintain their growth but a lot is lost to evaporation. I sometimes wonder if there is not a leak in the double pond as it appears to lose water faster than the other ponds. It there is, it will have to wait until the winter when the vegetation is down before I can check and see.

I did lose two big Koi and one goldfish this summer, one from each of the ponds. I have no idea why as the water quality has remained pretty good. I installed extra pumps and pond features to add extra oxydation to the water and to keep it moving and it appeared to do the trick. I noticed that there are three very small goldfish in the pond with the streams. These are the only young fish that I can see, thank goodness as more fish I don’t need. I suppose that when there are any amount of fish (in numbers) loss is normal. Why does it have to be the biggest fish though?

One thing I have not seen for a couple of years are the herons. I would have thought that with pond and river water drying up at an alarming rate, backyard ponds would have been prime targets for the herons. Maybe, the electric fences powered by a doggie shocker have kept them away. Or maybe it’s the noisy dogs. I have no idea but am grateful that as beautiful a bird as they are, they have stayed away

With the leaves dropping early from the live oaks this year, I will need to schedule a pond cleaning, water changing day or day’s in the near future. I will wait a bit as the leaves are still falling and I don’t want to do this twice. Such activity disturbs the fish. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, water changes are not only stressful for the fish, they are also a time of worry for me. I hate chlorine…

I have had some very interesting run-ins with the coons, squirrels and rats this summer. I have a lot of bird feeders which I fill up on a regular basis and a lot of the seed is eaten by the birds. The finch seed is so small that the other critters’ don’t bother with it but sunflower seeds and regular bird seed are prime targets. I wouldn’t mind the sharing if the critters’ weren’t so darn wasteful. I sometimes wonder if half of what they do is more mischievous than hunger as so much ends up on the ground. Not to be outdone, the coon’s are strong enough that they pull the hanging feeders up into the trees to work on them especially the slab feed. The biggest problem I have is with the rats. They live under and in my sheds and come out at night to wreak their havoc. My three dachshunds are forever chasing them but they don’t catch very many. I am afraid to poison them as they dogs might find and eat them and I really don’t want to trap them as that would mean either killing them which is not my thing, or trucking them off and releasing them away from my property. If I had any enemies, and I can’t think of any at this time, I suppose that I could always leave the rats with them to create their havoc. Let me see, who don’t I like or who has crossed me lately. Darn, can’t think of anyone so there goes that idea. Oh well, maybe I’ll just pay my friend from ABC to catch them.

I opened one of the sheds the other day and then watched a mother rat move her entire nest of babies from one nest to another. I have no idea why in her mind this was a necessity but as she didn’t consult with me, I guess she had her reasons. I counted five trips in all as she disappeared into the hole and then reappeared with a very young baby in her mouth trucking across the ceiling joist before disappearing into the new nest.  What I found very interesting is that she knew I was watching her but she had made up her mind and continued on with the task despite me. In mine and other people’s minds, rats are a nuisance but when I see such acts of nature, I sometimes have a hard time in believing they are all bad.

Now where’s that rat trap…

I will need to give the yard some serious thought for next year. I read in the Statesman only this morning, that the sort of dry and hot weather we experienced this past summer may well continue for several years. If this is the case, I will need a new approach to the plants. I have already started switching to Texas natives but even some of them died this summer. Going to all cactus and succulents is out as some of them can’t take frost or cold weather and it is just not possible to cover them all. Maybe more Texas style bushes and Lantana’s. Can’t seem to kill those things no matter what. Something for me to be thinking about as I make my plans for next years yard. There is a Plant Sale coming up on October 14 at the Ladybird Center which is next Friday so I had better start thinking pretty quick.

I also need to think about next year’s Pond Show. I takes such a lot of preparation and with the already additional spring clean up work, I’m not at all sure that I want to make that sort of effort. It’s fun to have all of the people come and visit as they all seem so nice and are always complementary but is that worth it? Guess I’ll leave that decision until next year.

Looking out of the window, it is a very grey day, the sort that we don’t get too may of here in Texas. With last nights rain, I won’t need to worry about watering for a few days. On the other hand, don’t want too many grey days. No pleasing some of us…

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