A Walk in Bastrop 3-25-2020


The Railroad Trestle Bridge

My walking buddy BJ, resides in the picturesque town of Bastrop which is located along the Colorado River. It has an LCRA Park, McKinney Roughs, that we often walk and a couple of State Parks and as it turns out, there are several other Parks that the city maintains and others that are maintained by volunteers including the one that we eventually followed which was named Dale’s Trail. It is situated right alongside the Colorado River and has at least three different parking areas one of which has a boat ramp.

The first part of the trail that we took is obviously not as well used as the continuation in the other direction of where we parked. It made a loop for about a half mile and we ended up back from where we started. We then pushed off in the other direction heading towards the railroad trestle bridge which was the end of the line as far as this park is concerned. The trail was well maintained and was very easy walking. There was no loop this time so we ended up back tracking to the lot where we had parked our vehicles.

There were a lot of people around mainly of the younger variety. Many were swimming or splashing about in the river in groups of a half dozen or so and quite obviously not a bit concerned with keeping any distance between themselves. Quite the opposite in fact as they romped in the water. A boat came up the river doing a pretty good speed. Either in a hurry or just liked to drive fast. When we met somebody on the trail, we each gave the other a lot of room to pass making sure there was not contact.

Actually, this was true of BJ and myself. She usually lets me walk ahead as I am the slower walker plus I am always stopping to take pictures and so I set the pace. Normally, she will walk alongside when the trail is wide enough for it but this time, throughout the entire time we were out, she tried and very successfully maintained a 6 foot gap between us at all times, not once walking alongside of me. Any other time, my feelings would be hurt but with the risk of getting too close, I made allowances.

At one point along the trail, we came across two trees growing side by side with the trail going between them. I took two pictures one of which has BJ standing in the middle to give a comparison of size. BJ is about five and a half feet tall.

When we reached the second parking lot, the trail became very well maintained and had timber edging. There was a sign stating that it was maintained by volunteers. We passed an interesting couple of rock formations that were thousands of years old and the kids of previous years had, as kids everywhere often do, left their initials carved for posterity.

The railroad trestle is still in use and in good repair. BJ, who lives no more than a mile or so from this park, told me that she hears the trains at night. There was a sign that stated it was Private Property beyond it but the trail continued on and looked well used.

We came across a group of five young people that were barbecuing. They had a couple of friendly dogs with them and we stopped and chatted for a bit before continuing on to our vehicles. BJ left to drive home and I was contemplating on whether I should go and change into drier clothes when a couple of young girls dressed only in their bikinis walked past me. I heard them shout back to a couple of others that they were not going to walk through the woods along the trail and would take the long way. Then I noticed that besides being clad in only the skimpiest of bikinis they also did not have shoes on. It had taken me awhile to get my eyes down to their feet. I watched them walk out of the rough stony parking lot and onto the road to take the long way back to their friends. I winced for them and it sent tingles up my back and feet as they carefully picked their way along. Oh the beauty of youth, able to walk barefoot on the rocks which is much more than I can do. I can barely walk from the bed to the bathroom without stubbing my foot or stepping on a doggie toy.

All in all, we walked a little under 4 miles, enough to work up a sweat and get some exercise. It felt great to be back out again in the fresh air and this time, fresh trails to discover.

Written 3/30/2020

Another Heron Visit


Just a single Heron in this picture.

The day started off badly when I was visited by a pair of Herons which by itself is very unusual as they are very territorial and usually fly alone. Only once before have I seen two of them together on the same pond and to have a pair visit me makes it special, sort of. I think that it was probably a parent and sibling with the parent showing the younger bird the ropes. Hope he learns quickly as I don’t need to be fighting off two of them at the same time. These two never got to fish because I was there. Sheer luck on my part. Then, early this Saturday morning, when I was sitting in the hot tub, there was one sitting in the trees looking all around. When I climbed out it flew off whether it was because of seeing my old and saggy body or more likely because I waved my arms, I am not to know. Hopefully, the water driven Scarecrows will scare them off if they do land to fish when I am not here.

Written 3/9/2020

Strange Times


How strange these current moments are in time as we collectively struggle with the Coronavirus. It’s almost like something out of a science fiction movie and the only thing lacking is for the dead to turn into zombies. Maybe that is still to come. Who knows.

Something to brighten our day.

In Austin, Texas, my home town, even though the virus has not really infected too many people yet, there is a surreal atmosphere about the place as though we are on hold waiting for something to happen. There is hardly any traffic on the road, which by itself is not such a bad thing. Rush hour traffic is temporarily a thing of the past, at least until this is all over. I spend a lot of time at home anyway so this staying in place is not a chore for me. If I choose to go out from my self imposed lock down, it is usually every afternoon for a Latte at Starbucks drive through and I no longer have to wait for a break in traffic in order to turn onto the main highway from my house. That is how slow the traffic is in these troubled times. I have even resorted to using the Starbucks App on my phone as opposed to using my Starbucks card so as to alleviate physical contact.

My local grocery store, known as HEB, has instituted a new procedure as you can no longer just walk into the store. Now, you have to grab a cart and wait in line 6 feet from the person in front of you as the store personnel allow people in 10 at a time. They give you a wipe for the cart as you enter the door which is a little late as you have probably been holding the cart while you are waiting which could be anything up to 20 minutes. I was going to stop in for a couple of things but when I saw the wait, I parked my cart and went home knowing that I can do without whatever I thought was important at the time.

Just for the heck of it, I drove to Dripping Springs to the HEB there and they had exactly the same thing going on. Needless to say, I just stopped at the Starbucks drive through and ordered my Latte to drink on the way back home. I know that sooner rather than later, I am going to have to bite the bullet and join that darn line. Maybe I can just use up all of the cans in the cupboard and frozen goods in my refrigerator until the milk runs out for my morning lattes. Then it will be an absolute necessity that I go shopping or learn to drink my coffee black. If the coffee beans or the dog food run out, then I really am in trouble.

I had to stop at the Home Depot as I needed to return a package that came via FedEx in a totally smashed up parcel with special order light bulbs inside which, needless to say, were also broken. Home Depot is also incorporating a line by numbers entrance to the store but I was lucky and walked right in. Once in the store, there was tape on the ground mandating where each person had to stand while waiting to be served and the only time you got closer was to sign the register. You have to admire the personnel that are working in the store albeit because they need to in order to survive. These are trying times for any that work in the retail industry as they have to come face to face with those they are trying to help.

In the same Shopping Center where Home Depot is located are several other large retailers all of whom have closed their doors. It is the first time ever that I have seen the particular parking lot completely empty. I wonder if these employees are getting paid or are on their own.

I was talking to my neighbor on this subject as we stood in her yard the mandatory 6 feet away from each other and the conversation turned to the other scares that we have had in the past few years and she mentioned that never before has there been a virus that has caused so much panic and so great a reaction around the world. I did some research and found the following online.

  1. It has a long incubation period, up to 14 days. Why does that matter? Well, take the flu, for instance. If you become infected with the flu virus you will begin to have symptoms within 4–24 hours. Therefore, there is a smaller window of time that you have the virus and do not know it or have symptoms. With the Coronavirus having an incubation period of 14 days, one person can literally spread the virus to thousands of people without even knowing they themselves have it!
  2. It can live on hard surfaces longer. While the flu virus has a very short life span outside the body, the CoVid19 has can live up to 9 days on a hard surface. That means that someone who has the virus can, let’s say for example, rent a car and drive it around town for an hour or a half hour and return it. The car can then sit there on the rental lot for a week or longer, and then someone else can rent that car and contract the virus! But, they may not show signs of having the virus for two weeks, and they too then may spread it to another thousand or more people.
  3. It causes pneumonia and respiratory failure, which is more difficult for people who already have medical conditions that may weaken their respiratory systems: bronchitis, asthma, COPD, overweight, smokers, vapors, etc. People who are already confined to bed, or who spend a lot of time in bed. People already prone to pneumonia.
  4. It stays airborne longer. Someone can sneeze in the grocery store, then minutes later, you might walk through and contract the virus.
  5. It has been found in human feces (poop). It has been theorized that it can live in the sewage systems and travel into your home through your public septic system.

This whole thing is totally depressing and if I was a drinking man, a good excuse to get drunk. As I am not, I will have to make do with the Latte’s at least until the milk runs out.

Written 3/23/2020.

My Final Words to my Sister


My Sister Peggy

I previously blogged about my Sister who was almost 10 years older than me. You can read those blogs here and here.

There were four of us in the family, my two brothers Norman, the oldest and Peter and then my Sister Peggy as she was known. (Her real name was Barbara Eileen and I have no idea where Peggy came from).They were all grouped closely together and then there was me, who arrived 10 years after them. Later on in life, I learned there was a lot of chatter about my Mum having an affair with a guy named Basil from Punnetts Town and the gossip goes that he was my real Father.

Anyway, the point is that I really didn’t know any of them very well until much later in life when we were all adults (sort of adult in my case). Back then, there was a war going on and all three of them enlisted. When they returned, they were all grown up and I was still just a kid and I never got to know them at all. Peter died of the after effects of rheumatic fever that he had contracted during his time in service and which left him with a very weak heart. That left Norman and Peggy who were busy getting on with their own lives. My Mother had met a GI and left us to come to the USA and my Father remarried which was followed by my stint at living with my Step Mother, whom I disliked intensely. I moved again to live first with my Aunt Elsie in Sandy Cross until she became too sick and then moved in with Peggy and Ron and her family in Hailsham for a couple of years as I moved around in my earlier troubled life. I remember that I was often called upon to be the babysitter for their two kids Jim and Sheila, a job that I thought of as unfair to keep me from being with my friends and kicking a football (soccer) ball around.

Both Norman and his second family, having divorced his Egyptian wife that he met during the war, and my Sister and her family followed me over here to America and we all settled in at Fort Plain, New York where our Mother lived with her husband Hermie. That was the closest that we had ever been as a collective family and it only lasted a few years as I moved out to Texas following my marital break up. I barely saw them much after that and then only on the very few trips that I made back to Fort Plain. I came back for Normans funeral when he died of Alzheimer’s and for my one last visit to my Step Father, Hermie prior to his death of lung cancer. Then our Mother died at the ripe old age of 94 and after that, I didn’t see Peggy again. She was the only one of the original family left. She lost her husband Ron and then moved to Florida to live with her Daughter and their family. I kept saying I would go visit but much to my regret, I never made that trip. That was all probably 15-20 years ago and although we stayed in touch we never physically made any more contact. We kept in touch either by letter or by the occasional phone call. One day, a couple of years ago, when I called to speak with her, Gary, Sheila’s husband and with whom Peggy was living, told me to say that she wasn’t mentally doing well and was in the first stages of Alzheimer’s and was very confused. This got progressively worse and when I called a couple of times after that and I tried to talk to her she just ranted on about where she used to live in Hailsham and had no clue to whom she was speaking. That was my last verbal contact with her. A couple of months ago, Gary and Sheila moved her into a special old folks home where she was living out her life and seemingly doing very well. On Friday last, I got a call from Gary telling me that my Sister was gone. She had died in her sleep at the age of 93.

All in all not a very good day all around. The truth is that we never grew up together and I was just a teenager when I lived with them and not really knowing which end was up. Now, as an old man I lack the compassion to feel much of a loss as time and lack of contact has eroded much of the sisterly or brotherly feelings between us. All I can say is that she was my Sister and in my own distant way, I loved her. Because of the Alzheimer’s we had stopped communicating a long time ago. Such a shame but that is the way of the world.

Now, I am the only original member left of this family…

Written 3/9/2020

My Ford Truck


Once again I find myself back at Covert Ford getting my truck serviced. This time for the 36000 mile service which is of course a big landmark in the lifetime of a Ford vehicle as this signifies the end of the factory warranty. So, unless the owner has purchased additional insurance that covers major repairs, then all repair costs become “out of pocket” to the owner.

Beautiful to look at…

It is hard to believe that I have put that many miles on the truck already. The truck is a 2017 model which I bought in 2018 brand new. Many of those miles are through just driving around listening to Audiobooks which is one of the things that I like to do. The truck is a very nice vehicle and really great to drive and very comfortable. The original intent way back then, was to buy a travel trailer and go camping but with four large Koi ponds that require almost daily supervision, it turned out to not be a very feasible idea. I could trade it in, I suppose, but have no idea what I would buy in its place as I like having the additional safety and protection of the larger vehicle especially with all of the idiot drivers who have very little concern for others on the road. I live in Austin in the great State of Texas and I swear there are some of the worst drivers in the world that live and drive here.

It is always an event to come here to Covert Ford. Firstly, it requires that I get up at some unearthly hour that I haven’t known existed since I retired. Then it takes a thirty to forty five minute drive, depending on the traffic, to get here as it is located way up North from my house. Of course, at that early hour, everyone else is driving like a madman or madwoman to get to their place of employment usually making for a very hazardous trip. The Service Center is always busy and by the time I get here around 7:00 o’clock, there is a long line of vehicles in front of me. Handing over my keys I then go to the very nice waiting room that Covert has provided and take the opportunity to grab a cup of free coffee and sit down with my computer and write a piece generally about this place when I am here.

The guy that checked me in told me it would be between three to four hours as there were a lot of people in front of me. I thought I was early at 7:00 am but apparently not early enough to beat the rush. I prepared myself for a long wait but in fact, they completed the work quicker than expected and I drove out of there at 10:00 am.

As a footnote, the fancy computer that regulates just about everything like Maps, Music and in my case Audiobooks is on the fritz, again. This is the second time this has happened and the only fix is to replace the unit in its entirety. They have to send away for the part so I set up an arrangement that when the part comes in, I will go back and do this all over again. Gotta get it fixed as I can’t listen to Audiobooks without rigging up a bluetooth speaker that I have as a temporary measure.

Here’s to the next trip…

Written 1/24/2020

More About Texas Weather, Again…


The cabin was taken from another picture and added to this one.

Living in Texas, one expects surprises from time to time and Texas weather is no exception. Less than 3 weeks after the last of our 100 degree weather, we are now experiencing ice rain and freezing temperatures at night with daytime highs in the low 40’s. We get a bit of a winter every year with at least one or two freezing nights and occasionally even a little snow that is generally gone by the next morning but never usually quite as early in the year as this. So, even for Texas, this cold snap is a bit of a phenomenon and I can only put it down to Global Warming which gets blamed for anything to do with abnormal weather.

I had been holding off getting into the ponds to cut back the vegetation which I normally do every winter hoping for it to correspond with cleaning out the leaves that have fallen and settled to the bottom. The frosts have completely knocked down the iris and taro plants but there are still a lot of leaves on the trees so it looks like I will need to hold off on my cleaning plans for a bit longer as I need to do both jobs at the same time. Not that I want to get outside at this time as the weather being as cold and wet as it is and there is no immediate hurry so these things can wait. Heck, I don’t even want to go hiking while it is like this. The fish have gone into semi dormancy but still show some signs of activity even if it is a bit sluggish so I have cut back on the feeding to once a day. The one good thing out of this cold weather is that most of the algae is gone as it does not like the cold water.

I have been spending some of my time working on the picture at the top of the page for a friend, taking a part of one picture and adding it to another one to combine the two. The program I used is called InPixio and it allowed me to make a lot of adjustments to reach the finished project. It took several iterations and changes of mind before we were both satisfied with the finished result. I took the cabin from one picture and added it to the main picture as you see it above even flipping it around so that it faced in the opposite direction. Oh yes, there were several different cabin pictures and lots of attempts before we arrived at the right one. Photographic software is pretty amazing.

With tongue in cheek, my friend suggested the following story about how she lived in that cabin and often sat on the porch shelling peas that she grew in the garden behind the cabin. The cow in the front is Bessie who she hand raised when her mother was killed by a mountain lion. After closer examination, she asked me to please explain that she also paid for the cow’s sex change operation.

My friend has a twisted sense of humor but then again, she is a Cajun from New Orleans…

I can’t remember what I would have been doing to keep myself occupied through an enforced indoor stay prior to 25 years ago, At that time and after computers came into general use, I worked a Home Business that was soccer related (what else) and utilized a lot of my free time working on it. That ended 15 or so years ago and then my interests changed and I started taking pictures and eventually, working on them to get a higher quality finished product. In 2011 I started this blog site and now I combine photography and writing a blog on days when the weather is too unpleasant to be outside. In the case of living in Texas that is either because it is way too hot at 100 degrees or like it is now at 41 degrees. I even discovered that I can write poetry although it has to be said, the quality is sometimes questionable.

If I really run out of ideas, I can complete Part 2 of the book I have been working on which is pretty much about my life story. The first part is of growing up in England during World War 2 through the move over to America and is already written and has been for some time. Part 2 entitled, My life in America, I have yet to start. In any case, it will be a story without an end unless someone else completes it after I am long gone from this earth. Maybe when I can no longer get out and about and have to lead a much more sedentary life, I will work on it assuming that I still have a functioning brain.

In the meantime, back to writing until the weather warms up. What will be the next subject you ask? Who knows as I haven’t got that far…

Written 11/14/2019

Austin Pond Society October Meeting 10-21-2019


Deena Spelman from Bastrop Botanical Gardens

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 president@austinpondsociety.org
Margaret at membership@austinpondsociety.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.

Mr and Mrs Blue Santa Klaus

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.

Written 10/23/2019