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 .
I tidied up my truck today cleaning behind where the back seats are usually folded up to make storage space as no passengers ride in this place very rarely do I fold down the seats as passengers I rarely carry just me alone with the occasional dog unless a neighbor is in a hurry to get somewhere and hasn’t a ride which is when I usually decide to fold down a seat so that they may get to where they are going today behind the seats was a proper mess of storage boxes and camera gear there for when I hit the trails which I do many times a year although lately it has been too damn hot for me to safely get out and walk and so I am forced to stay indoors and write poetry as my way to talk to the rest of the world that I usually see out on the trails people walking like me I found some interesting stuff in that space behind the seats I even found an old kerchief used to wrap around my brow to stop the sweat from running into my eyes from the way it smelt I don’t know how I had not noticed it before probably because it was on the floor hidden under a couple of bags small enough to be hidden from view dried out and ready to be used anew although along with a few other things into the washer to make it clean I found a lens that I had missed rolling around on the floor I had wondered what had happened to it a wonder it didn’t roll out the door I packed everything away and tidied and swept the space between now it is clean for a little while although that is really not my style I lean towards an organized mess to make life challenging and a test what fun is there in having things clean and tidy and no dirt to be seen.
Life is on hold while the weather is hot as to be outside I do not, wish to be and instead stay indoors where it’s cool and my head can work on things I like to do like reading and writing and listening to Audiobooks with stories so fine written by Authors whose words are divine as the plots unfold one by one leaving me guessing right up to the end who was the bad guy and who the friend and then when I am really bored I jump in my truck and take a drive with no particular place in mind just out in the beautiful countryside the forecast shows we have one more week of one hundred degree weather to bear and then hopefully we will have our share of cooler weather and then life unfolds as back out on the trails will be my goal walking in places so lovely to see taking pictures of things so beautiful to me and then coming home to write some more about what I saw on the trails before along with the pictures I took today to share on my blog in a positive way so that others may view the beautiful scenes while I am happy fulfilling my dreams.
I was looking hard for something to do to pass the time on this day it was way too hot to go outside or take a hike in my usual way I’m already blogged out for a month ahead at two a week which is my goal so what is it I can do instead to keep me busy and fill the hole I could clean house but that is a chore not something that is my usual way no interest in that sort of thing guess I’m not the housework king a typical batchelor you might say I could go to the gym but that sounds like work this time of a different kind to push and shove and grunt and groan I think I’ll leave that for a different time I’m running out of ideas fast can’t think of anything that will last long enough to pass the day until this evening when it is time to turn on the Tele and watch a match between the English football teams to cheer on my favorites of which there are two sometimes they win and sometimes they lose and I really have to pick and choose to see which game that I need to watch first and at the end of the day it makes no difference who beats who I spent an hour this afternoon listening to 2Cellos as they played sometimes they play with a wonderful sound easy to lose oneself in this way and others they lose control on the stage and the noise they produce stimulates the soul and gets to the very depths of the mind fast and furious of the rock and roll kind for the purists definitely way overboard for those of us with an itch in our pants going crazy with them with hardly a glance at anyone else watching them perform knowing full well it is only an act and the next time you see them they will be back to playing straight in a beautiful way and listening to them will make my day well I managed to fill an hour writing this poem so what to do next I guess I’ll just have to jump in my truck and go for a drive a very long way listening to Audiobooks as I drive in awe of the authors whose stories I buy and wonder how they can write what they do such talent and such wonderful minds me I do not have a clue as poetry is the best I can do I do not have a devious mind and can only think in the usual way and so without a story of any kind reporting the facts is how I pass my day.
Looking for something to do just what it is I haven’t a clue as my eye has not yet perceived the task and nothing springs to mind that lasts the weather is too damn hot for work with the temperatures at one hundred degrees and everything outside working fine with nothing pressing my time to assign I feed the fish in the early morn and check that everything works fine and if it isn’t I add the task to fix whatever is well-worn the problem is there is too much heat and has been like this for way too long and all of the things that need repair cannot keep as their need is strong it seems to me I have little choice but to go outside even though it is hot to work as quickly as I can and when I am finished I’m a happy man.
Once again, on the third Monday of the month, regular as clockwork, the Austin Pond Society held it’s monthly meeting at the usual place, Zilker Botanical Gardens Meeting room.
The meeting was attended by 40 members all of whom enjoyed Chinese from one of our Sponsors, Bamboo Bistro. The food was delicious made even more so for me that I am currently on a Chinese Food kick, eating it at home on a regular basis. Members brought in other foods including salads and deserts.
The evenings meeting comprised of two separate parts although they were intermingled together and happening at the same time. Indoors, there was the Annual Calendar Photo contest which always raises a lot of interest with the Members putting some pretty spectacular photos on display in the hope of having them placed in next years Calendar. Not only that, this year the winners were awarded cash prizes which by mutual agreement of the Board Members was not only reinstated but the actual prizes were increased with the winners in each bracket getting $50.00, second place $30.00 and third place $20.00. There are four separate brackets, fish, pond plants, pond creatures and ponds and/or water features.
There was also some time spent by the Nomination Committee on announcing the proposed upcoming Board Members at least to this point. The actual voting will occur at the next meeting in October but Margaret as head of this committee wanted to show the members what the line up currently looks like and to try to persuade the Members to volunteer for the remaining positions, the biggest of these in terms of importance being that of the Pond Tour Chairman. There is some discussion of splitting these duties and two people combining to fill this very important post without whom, there will be no Pond Tour. Cat Bilbrey has volunteered to be one of these people but we still need one more. We are still lacking a Hospitality person and Barb added that to her duties for this year but only out of necessity. Actually, it automatically makes whoever fills the role, the most popular person in the club.
The other part of the meeting was our Annual Swap and Sell where the Members bring in anything pond or garden related to swap or sell. This included plants and even a few fish although they usually have their own meeting earlier in the year entitled Plant Swap. There were not too many items on display although Darren had brought in a good supply of used pumps. BJ, as she usually does, brought in a whole bunch of different and unusual things which if nothing else, created some interest. The only large item equipment wise, was a Pond-O-Vac but it remained unsold at the end of the evening. This part of the meeting was not a qualified success and has not been for the past couple of years. I would not be a bit surprised if this is the last of the Annual Swap and Sell
The judging for the Picture contest took a bit longer than anticipated and because of the lack of interest in the Swap and Sell, resulted in the Members having to find items to talk about to fill in the time. It was a bit of a struggle but eventually, the winners were announced and received the applause and cash prizes to the delight of the Members.
The evening closed with the drawing of the door prizes with the usual catcalls and remarks of “fixed”, “draw again” as some popular member walked up to claim the prize.
The next meeting will be October 21. The Speaker will be from Bastrop Gardens which is an all Natives Nursery. It will be about culinary plants that can be grown as companions to Pond and bog plants. Some of these plants are edible and the discussion will include this. Hope to see you there
I have several Skippy Filters located around the different ponds in an attempt to keep the water clean. Fish are notorious for making the water dirty, they eat and therefore they poop. Add to that the fact that they are always poking around on the bottom of the pond and stirring up the dirt plus the natural phenomenon called algae and rotting leaves from the overhanging trees and at times, the ponds are so dirty that you can’t see anything.
Ponders have learned several different ways to help combat these natural processes most of which are of a mechanical nature involving pumps and filters. Of course, this being America, land of opportunity, there are manufacturers out there willing to sell you the latest and greatest in the form of expensive equipment to help the Pond Owners combat any of the problems that they may have.
I use a combination of manufactured items which includes the pumps and skimmer boxes and I do have one bio filter that I described in a previous blog and several homemade ones that emulate the commercial model. One of these is a 100 gallon rubber farm trough purchased from our local Tractor Supply, and is on the 6000 gallon pond and has been there since I built the pond around ten years ago. They are known as Skippy Filters and I had 3 large ones on different ponds plus 3 of the smaller size. Incidentally, I have never cleaned this particular filter in all of that time.
This one started leaking and as had happened on a previous occasion on a different Skippy on the 5000 gallon pond, the internal weight of the water caused the hard rubber container to crack. This was probably caused by a shifting of the concrete blocks that I used for the tubs to sit on as both tubs have split in the same place, close to where the drain valve is located. I was able to repair the first one and it has been back in operation for a couple of years and hopefully, so far is trouble free.
I turned off the flow to the filter in the 6000 gallon pond and let it sit for a week or so before attempting a repair. This was to allow it to dry out which would make it easier to tear apart. After I deemed it had sat long enough, I bit the bullet, and making a big effort to get up early to beat the heat, proceeded to tear into the vegetation growing out of the thing. I had planted the Iris and Lizards Ear as the roots all help with the filtration but as they had totally taken over the unit, it took a while to get it all out. Interestingly enough, the dirt from the filtered water was all pretty much collected on the top of the filter material in a solid layer several inches thick showing that the unit was more than doing it’s job. The actual filter material is comprised of the pads used by floor buffers, in my case new ones cut up into smaller pieces. It’s pretty much the same as the regular filter material which could be used instead. I sometimes use Lava Rock either in small mesh bags or loose. It also works well but is harder to shovel out and clean.
The filter unit has a chamber space under the filters of about nine inches deep and the inlet pipe is plumbed to empty its contents into this space. I placed a piece of fluorescent light grid on concrete bricks to make this chamber but commercially manufactured grid is available and is stronger.
I finished cleaning out the entire unit and was surprised just how clean the bottom half of the filter material was, more evidence that the unit was working as planned.
With the entire unit free, I pulled it off to an area so that I could work on it and hosed the whole thing out to clean it of any surplus material and then let it dry in the hot Texas sun, which didn’t take too long. I discovered a long crack of about 12 or so inches that had opened up right where the outlet hole is on this tank. This was exactly the same as what happened to the other tank so I had high hopes that I could repair it as I had managed to repair the first one.
By now, it was 98 degrees and way too hot to do any more outside work. I took the time to go to my local Lowe’s so that I could purchase the material I needed to make the repair. This comprised of a small spray can of Flexseal which is a rubberized material that will get right into the cracks and then Flextape which is also rubberized, to cover the entire repair.
When I returned and even though it was by now 100 degrees, I bit the bullet and took time to wire brush and clean the area before applying the contents of the spray can of Flexseal. Deeming that it needed to dry, left it for another go at it the next day which saw me up bright and early again busy applying the Flextape over the affected areas. It was not a straightforward job as there were many changing shapes and contours so I had to cut the tape in strips to cover them all. To test it, I put enough water back into the tank just to cover the affected areas and it immediately began to leak which left me more than a little upset. The air turned blue as I vented my frustration using words that I didn’t know existed. The dogs immediately bolted indoors.
I emptied the remaining water and left the unit to dry and spent that time with yet another trip to Lowe’s this time for a larger can of the spray as I had used up the small one on the initial repair. Luckily for me, Lowe’s is only 4 miles up Hwy 71, just a short drive and I am always listening to an Audiobook as I drive and if the timing is right (late afternoon), a stop at Starbucks. When I returned, I sprayed a large amount onto the cracks in the bottom of the unit and then waited (indoors) for that to dry before turning the unit over to respray the inside. With that complete, I let the entire thing dry out overnight before testing it with water again.
Next day, I was out bright and early eager to check the repair to see if it held up. Needless to say, it didn’t although the water flow has been reduced to just a few drops. So, I did more work on the unit and resprayed with the Flexseal. While I was working on it and upon further inspection, I discovered that the tub has several other cracks in it that I had not noticed before. I decided that as I am unable to fix the original leaks, that tub will be relegated to a flower planter.
All is not lost though as among my many ponding treasures picked up over the years, I have a filter unit that I got from Emerald Garden Water Gardens and Nursery when they were going out of the Pond business and transforming to Leaf Landscape Supply. I spent a couple of days preparing and replumbing it so that I can use it instead. It is not as big as the unit that it is replacing but as the secret is in keeping a constant flow of water moving through the filter material, then it will work just fine. It has a metal base which is quite heavy but the unit itself is easy enough to handle.
Incidentally, I intermixed working on this filter unit with another project. I already had a spare 30 gallon Skippy from the 350 gallon pond that I closed down earlier this year so I added it to the 2500 gallon pond that I just trimmed back as that water is also very dirty. It already has one 30 gallon Skippy and the one I added is the same size. This was an easy job and I had it in place and working within the hour. Now, all we got to do is wait for it to do its work. These small Skippies are not permanent unless I want them to be and so are handy to help clean up a dirty pond.
The Savio Filter unit that I recently installed on the Goldfish pond is doing a wonderful job. I can actually see the fish and it is cleaning up the water at a rapid pace.
The next day, I decided that I would make a big effort to re-plumb the “new” unit. I wanted to try to use some of the bits and pieces of pre-plumbed pipe, stuff that has a valve or an elbow and such that I have accumulated over the years and was able to incorporate a couple in the project. I still had to make a couple of trips to Lowe’s for last minute items. I eventually completed the plumbing including the outlet pipes which were both of recycled goodies hence the difference in shape with one elbow a 45 degree and the other a 90.
Then came the fun part of reinstalling the filter material and I carefully placed it piece by piece to get a nice level finish. I still need to cut a couple of pieces of filter that will cover the entire unit and sit on top of the other filter material to hold them in place. All that remained to do was to turn on the water at the pump installed at the far end of the pond and hope that nothing leaks. It didn’t and before long, there was a nice steady flow of water flowing through the filter and back into the pond. After tidying up the dirt around the unit and clearing everything away, all I have to do now is wait for the plants to re-grow up and around the unit to hide it from sight. That probably will not happen this year with the 100 degree heat but maybe in the Fall, there may be some growth. Definitely in the Spring.
Another successful project. Let’s hope that it lasts long enough until either I am too old to care or ten years like the original Skippy, whichever comes first…Wait a minute, in ten years I will be 93 and too old to care anyway.
Here in Texas, we expect it to be hot. It is a part of who we are and has a lot to say for how tough Texans are. As with Nature, no two summers are alike and this one, for us so far, has been pretty good. It’s been hot but nothing that that we cannot put up with.
However and finally, the really hot weather is upon us as here in Austin, we have reached the 100 degree mark. It’s been close a few times over the past couple of months but has not quite reached that “magic” number. The day before yesterday was different as we breached that with the temperature at my house at 101 degrees. Add in the humidity and were looking at 104-105 degrees, hot enough to fry the proverbial egg on the sidewalk.
That has continued and is forecast to hang around even longer and to go as high as 104-105 which by anyone’s standards, even ours, is bloody hot. Even though we say we are used to it that is not really true as though the body may tolerate the heat, one is never really comfortable in it.
I had an incident a month or so ago hiking at McKinney Roughs when the heat gave me some pretty serious problems. That is all I can think of as the reason that I came light headed and a bit disoriented on a walk that I had done a couple of times before and had not been affected then.
When I first arrived in Texas in 1977, I came down from New York State where it was hot when it reached 85 degrees, with the explicit purpose of working construction as a Project Manager building new schools in the Round Rock School District in a time of real productivity for the area. The first summer nearly did me in but I stuck it out working alongside the men who had no options other than to brave the heat. We covered our skins, put on suntan lotion, wore hats and sunglasses and drank a lot of water and although I would not like to say we got used to it, we were able to tolerate it. One thing you learn to do in these hot conditions is to keep an eye on your workmates not to see if they were working hard but to see how the heat was affecting them. Those that showed signs of faintness or dizziness were immediately attended to and sent to rest until they could continue.
After nearly four years of that job and three schools later, I was hired on at the University of Texas as a Planner and eventually as the Planning and Scheduling Manager out of the sun for the rest of my working life. I retired from there twenty two years later.
That is not to say that I never went out in the sun again as I can remember playing soccer in Dallas at a Tournament with the temperature at 108 degrees and another time in Houston where it was equally as hot. Normally, players can’t wait to get in the game but in both of those tournaments, when anyone came off needing a sub, the chances were the team would be playing short as no one wanted to take their place. Those were the good old days.
Nowadays, I have the luxury of picking and choosing if and when I go out in the heat other than appointments and such. I try to get any outside work done early and then spend the rest of the time writing stories for my blog. Needless to say, hiking has been put on a back burner until it starts to cool down. I like to listen to Audiobooks and usually spend the afternoon driving around enthralled by some story or another written by Authors that really know how to write and keep me in suspense.
My truck stays very cool and comfortable although the miles are mounting up and I know every square inch of all of the local roads and lanes….
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