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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
It stays airborne longer. Someone can sneeze in the grocery store, then minutes later, you might walk through and contract the virus.
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.
Like I said in a previous blog, all you have to do here in Texas is wait for a bit and the weather will change. Yesterday’s high was a nice balmy 70 degrees and I worked out in the yard moving the brush from the bottom of the garden that was the subject of a previous blog. Today, the high was 40 degrees with the forecast to get down to freezing overnight. Realizing this, I went outside and covered all of the outdoor faucets of which there are four dotted around the different ponds. Incidentally, my neighbor across the street is away for this week and I am feeding their kitty so on my trip over to do that, I took the time to cover their outside faucets as well. Hate for them to come home to either a flood or a large water bill or both if their pipes were to freeze.
The problem that geographically Texas has is that there is not a mountain range or even any high ground in its Northern borders with Colorado, Oklahoma and Arkansas and any bad weather that central USA gets invariably blows south and into Texas. Usually, if we are very lucky, the bad weather fizzles out before it reaches my part of the state which is central Texas and only 223 miles from the Mexican border. Tomorrow the temperature is supposed to get back up to 53 degrees and by Friday, back to 72 and either hiking or finish clearing the brush weather .
As many of you who read my blogs know that I am a fish and pond enthusiast having built and maintain four ponds in my backyard. The largest is around 6000 gallons and I named it the Big Pond for obvious reasons. The next at 5000 gallons I named the First Pond. It is located off the deck and was the first one built about 30 years ago. Then there are two smaller ponds, one at 3000 gallons that I call the Round Pond and one at 2000 gallons named the Small Pond. These two smaller ponds used to be joined by a weir and the water from the Small Pond used to flow directly into the Round Pond. I had problems in balancing the water and went ahead and separated the ponds by rebuilding the Round Pond to make it twice as deep. They basically are still connected except that the water no longer flows from one to the other. The two large ponds contain Koi some of which are almost 30 inches long and several are between 25 and 30 years old being some of the first inhabitants to the 5000 gallon pond First Pond.
This rambling is leading up, albeit very slowly, to the subject of today’s blog which is actually about the Big Blue Heron that over the years has, at times, helped himself to a free meal at my fish’s expense. We have constantly had run ins with my goal to keep the bird away or at the very least make it difficult to get close to the ponds and it has become a real battle of wits. Whether it is the same bird or a constant stream of them, I am not to know. Wonder what the average life of a heron is?
Years ago when I first started having the Heron problem, I tried all kinds of things to make it difficult for the Heron to fish. I always understood that the birds would walk up to the water and then step in to do their fishing. Some people install trip wires located a few inches off the ground. I don’t know if they work as I have never tried them. Instead, I put 4 ft high wire fences around all of the ponds and then electrified them with a doggy shocker that would make the heron wary and hopefully deter it. This worked for a while until the heron figured that it could fly over the fence and land directly in the shallow water, totally contrary to my earlier beliefs. Of course, it couldn’t do that to the deeper ponds and I do have a video of a heron, who must have visited the Round Pond the year before when it was shallow. Now, a year later, not realizing that it is almost 4 feet deep after I had rebuilt it, struggled mightily to get up and out of the water. He still had enough wits to grab a fish as he flew up
Finally, I added water powered Scarecrows that are activated by motion detectors and placed one on the Round Pond and the other on the Small Pond. These things work very well and are noisy besides sending out a strong jet of water, enough to frighten the bird. The downside to them is that they go off at the slightest movement, whether it be the wind blowing the vegetation or me or the dogs passing in front of them. Consequently, my water bill goes up to $40.00 a month or more from the usual $17.00 when I have them activated. So, I only use the scarecrows when I know that there is a Heron Alert in our neighborhood. I have friends who very kindly alert me when the heron is around.
Based on my previous experience, the Heron usually is the most active in February and March probably because it has a nest with young that need feeding. This year, with so many of the ponds in the area dried up from the lack of rain, I was constantly on the lookout just in case. My neighbors from around me in the area usually text each other when they spot the big bird which was exactly the case this time around. My immediate next door neighbor did just that but the problem was that I was driving and was 20 miles from home and didn’t read the text until I arrived back. By then, the heron had come and gone. I forgot to mention that I have video cameras up in the trees focused on each of the ponds and the heron activated them. Well, the truth is that everything activates them including the wind making the vegetation sway, rippling water, birds and even the fish as they swim around and not forgetting myself and the dogs as we get wet as they go off. This means that I have to scroll through a lot of these two minute downloads on the disk in order to locate any big bird activity. One reason that I knew the Heron had visited was the fact that the goldfish in the Round Pond were not visible and would not come up to feed. They usually only go down and stay down when something spooks them.
Sure enough, when I went back indoors and started reviewing the memory card from the camera system, up popped my friendly Heron in all of his glory busy with a smorgasbord of Goldfish and Koi. He first tried to catch a goldfish by leaning over the Round Pond wall but it gets away. His next move is to hop up onto the wall of the Round Pond trying to catch a fish before eventually walking around the pond and then hopping down into the shallow water of the Small Pond where he managed to catch at least two fish. The last one being one of the bigger ones in that pond of at least 12 inches in length. He really struggled to turn and swallow that fish as the video shows close up and you can see the bulge in his neck where it has lodged. Whether that is its way of carrying the fish back to the nest to regurgitate or is the natural way for its own consumption, I wouldn’t know. Bottom line was that big fish was enough for the bird to complete its meal as it took off almost directly after swallowing its prize.
Needless to say, I have now activated the Scarecrows in the hope of deterring the Heron from making future visits. I plan on closing down the shallow pond and putting it out of commission, filling it in and turning it into a lawn. I will keep just the waterfall activated as a pretty water feature. In the meantime, I will catch the Koi and Goldfish and distribute them between the other 3 ponds so at least hopefully, no more of them will be Heron food in the future.
The Heron really is a beautiful bird and is very impressive with its almost 5 feet wingspan. Kinda reminds me of a Pterodactyl of yesteryear and from the fish perspective, just as dangerous. By the way, there is a Heron statue on the Round Pond so don’t confuse that with the real bird.
One of my little dogs, Buddy, short for Buddy Holly, who was almost blind, deaf as a post, no sense of smell, very senile and almost 14 years old, took a turn for the worse. I had taken him to the vets a week before as he was not eating and they ran a whole bunch of tests, kept him for a week and then sent him home with a stack of pills that I had to administer on a daily basis. The little bugger fought me all the way as I literally forced the bloody things down his throat. He seemed to be doing much better until Thursday when he was more confused than ever and would walk his way into a corner or up against furniture and would just stand there for 10 minutes or so before moving again. He could still figure out the doggy door and when he did go outside on a walkabout, I had to go with him to be sure he didn’t fall into any of the ponds as he would get very confused and rush around from place to place unable to figure things out. On Friday, I had to go to pick up my truck that just had the on board computer replaced and when I came home, Buddy was in a terrible muddle. He had walked under a chair and could not figure how to get out. He had peed everywhere and could not stand on all 4 legs and no matter how hard he tried, he could not do it. So, with a very heavy heart, I took him to the Vets for one last trip and they put him to sleep. I brought him home and buried him alongside of all of the other dogs where he will rest forevermore. So now, our little pack is down to 2 dogs, Mikey and Sandy.
I am not sure if I will find another dog to fill the void left by Buddy but maybe if the right one comes along and gives me that special look, we will bring another one or two, home. Both Mikey and Sandy are acting really quiet as if they know that Buddy has crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. My Sister passed on the same day and I will miss them both. Maybe it is because I have a guilty conscience for having to put Buddy to sleep something that I hated to do especially with the memory of Ginnie still very fresh in my mind.
I have lost six dogs, Pete, Richie, BB, Gizmo, Ginnie and now Buddy these past couple of years albeit that most of them were growing old but it is still hard to handle and I miss them all.
What is life you might well ask as it assumes it’s normal task of keeping each one of us alive although we know not the reason why what is that spark that makes us live and just as quickly can see us die with a body adapted well as we grow and returns to the earth when our last breath shows
What is it that the Maker creates that spark of life to set us free with only a few short years to our name instead of living for eternity and while alive we are at risk of anyone of a number of things sickness being the most common of all many of the sort that our lives will fall.
We each have a limited amount of time as the body grows old and gives up that spark hoping to die a natural death right up to our final breath while we are alive and in our prime there is an awful lot of living to do as we progress our lives through the years with laughter and happiness sorrow and tears.
Most of us as we go through life are only concerned to lessen the strife that impacts our lives and the ones that are dear not giving a thought to those others out there who each have their lives doing exactly the same trying to live to the best of the game and keep their families safe and sound as time marches on and consequences abound.
In the end we will all die no matter how hard we try keeping fit and eating the right things not taking risks as if we had wings keeping our feet firmly on the ground facing life whose troubles abound and finally coming to the end to return to the earth which is now our friend.
I am not afraid to die yet I want to know the reason why I did not last a few more years going through life which I hold dear leaving friends and pets behind saying goodbye for that one last time to return to the earth from where life began gone forever from this land.
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".