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 .
With the weather as mild as it is here in Texas, it is hard to believe that technically, it is still winter. The outside temperature is at 65 plus degrees and true to form, Mother Nature is hurrying all of her charges along in an attempt to put on a show. Luckily for me, I managed to get ahead of the game and cut down all of the dead and decaying material giving the new growth plenty of room to succeed.
The Knockout Rose is really excelling and has some beautiful blooms and lots of them. Years ago, I planted a bunch of bulbs and some of them, mainly Narcissus, are flowering like crazy. I also discovered several clumps of Violets except they are of the white variety. One plant is in the waterfall on one of the ponds.
I also spotted my resident garden snake that seems to have found a permanent home here. I have watched him (or her) grow from about two feet long to almost four feet long today. He has also increased his size around the girth and is now a very plump specimen. Probably due to his frog and the occasional fish diet. This time, he was sunning on one of the pond plants in the 6000 gallon pond and when he did eventually spot me, all he did was disappear back under the cover of that plant. Below are three more pictures of him.
Since taking these pictures, the weather has got a little cooler with chances of overnight frosts. Hopefully, we will get lucky and if there is a drop in temperature it will not go below freezing. We are almost halfway through February and winter officially ends on March 21 although for us, it will be much sooner than that. It is worthwhile putting up with the summer heat and 100 plus degrees just to not have winter. I hate being cold…
The third Monday of the month rolled around as it always does bringing with it the Austin Pond Society monthly meeting. Although we are still missing a Hospitality Person on the Board, Barb Lenhardt, our new President, stopped by her local HEB SuperMarket and ordered a bunch of sandwiches of different varieties and flavors. This coupled with the deserts brought by the members made for an adequate meal to start off the proceedings.
There were around 32 members in attendance to hear the speaker, Cindy Cassidy talk about Night Skies and Light Pollution, a subject that not too many of us ever think about. It was a very interesting presentation as she described the way that light from various sources is wasted by poor planning and the use of the proper shading. When you consider that wasted light is wasted money, then things take on a different perspective. She also spent some time talking about the effects that lighting has on wildlife especially birds that are known to crash into buildings by the hundreds. She also discussed how plant life is affected when the proper hours of darkness are not sufficient to stimulate growth. All in all, very much food for thought.
Following her talk, we had a discussion on String Algae hosted by BJ Jenkins which the Members joined in with their opinions and questions. This is an idea that BJ has come up with to hold at every meeting based on whatever subject is important at the time. If you have something that you would like discussed, contact BJ Jenkins at this link.
The last item of the meeting was the business section when several items were covered including the upcoming 25th Annual Pond Tour. Ted Paone, the Pond Tour Chairman, outlined the plans for this event including the fact that several more ponds are still needed. This year’s event will not be as big as previous Tours and will host anywhere from 6-8 ponds on either day, the idea being that guests can spend more time at each pond and have more time to travel between the ponds. Volunteers are still needed to welcome the guests and sell the tickets. If you are interested in helping out, contact Ted Paone at this email address.
The meeting ended with the Raffle, always a popular event as three lucky Members won a gift chosen by Barb, our President. The next meeting is on March 18th, same time, same place. The scheduled Speaker is Reeve Hobbie from Travis County Master Gardeners and he will be speaking about “If Plants Could Talk “ – unusual facts about native plants. Hope to see you there. BTW, if you are interested in the Hospitality position on the Board, contact Barb at this link.
Below are the three videos of the evening. The first is the full coverage of the talk given by Cindy Cassidy.
The second video is of the Business part of the meeting and is broken into two separate videos. The first video is of half of the business discussion. The second video is of very poor quality and sound due to not using a tripod and not hooking up the microphone. This was unfortunately brought about by no break between the Speaker and her presentation and the Business section as I had no time to replace the battery and had to switch cameras. My apologies for the very poor content of the second video.
If you have been following my blogs, you will be familiar with the Brown Snake, an addition to my garden last Spring. He has been living close to the ponds sometimes varying which pond that he hangs out. I guess that is something to do with his hunger as two of the ponds contain Koi which are all much larger than he can eat. The other three ponds contain Goldfish which are much smaller fish and one time, I watched him slither out of the middle pond with a six inch goldfish in his mouth. I don’t mind him helping to keep my Goldfish population within reasonable limits as there are way to many of them with new ones hatching what seems like, all of the time.
Anyway, the last blog that contained information about this snake was entitled Texas Winter when I was wandering the garden taking pictures of the few flowers still brave enough to flower and came across the snake sunning himself. Most unusual as I thought that snakes denned up for the winter and semi hibernated. They probably do in places that have much colder winters than my part of Texas does.
A couple of days ago, I discovered where this particular snake has chosen to hang out. Like many Pond Owners, I have aerators on my ponds more to provide oxygen in the summer than this time of the year. The units are housed in small plastic boxes that used to have attached doors to keep the the rain off the pumps but due to the nature of plastic, it deteriorates very quickly when left out in the open and the first thing to go are the doors. So, the snake has discovered a very nice resting place that will also keep him warm when the aerator motors are running which is probably one hour out of every four at this time of the year as I have them on timers. This is a four foot snake curled up inside of this box. Hard to imagine…
I wonder if he knows that his tail is outside of the box? He stayed in the box for a couple of days and now has moved on. I wonder where this time. I will probably come across him in the unlikeliest of places and jump out of my skin at his discovery. Ah, the wonders of Nature.
The Austin Pond Society held their first meeting of the year this past Monday Jan 21, 2019 at the usual place, Zilker Botanical Gardens here in Austin, Texas. This Society has been in existence since 1993 catering to the interests of many of the Pond enthusiasts in the Austin area..
The one position that is still vacant after the recent Board changes is that of Hospitality which is responsible for providing the group with the light meal at the start the meeting. In lieu of this, we settled for pizza from one of our Sponsors, Jet’s Pizza with the membership providing salads and deserts. As usual, the pizza was delicious and although I don’t eat pizza very often, I grabbed two large slices this time around.
I counted 28 members there which included the new Board, a little less than what we hoped for. Some of this was due to our scheduled Speaker, Katie Boyer from the US Fish and Wildlife Services unable to show due to the Government shutdown. In her place, BJ Jenkins, our Programs and Special Events Coordinator put together a contest. This consisted of the logos from the different Pond Tours for the past 16 years each sub titled with the year which in turn had to be linked to specific statements. At the end of the contest, the winners were Glen Hubenthal and Mary Word who had paired up to work together as the contest was designed for pairs.
Thanks to BJ and all of the other people involved for all of their work on gathering together these 16 Logos. Many are from actual tee shirts, 2008 for example.
Having fun at the Logo Contest. The entry screen should read 2019….
Following the contest, there was a short Q&A from members who had a couple of pond questions. Many people had differing views on advice offered to resolve the questions which made for interesting listening. We heard the sad story of a member who left the hose running while topping up his pond resulting in the death of all of his fish due to the chlorine in the water. This sparked off a discussion regarding the varying amounts of chlorine that the City uses especially during times of drought. Unfortunately, almost everyone early in their ponding careers learns this lesson the hard way. I suggested that pond owners should attach a water timer between the faucet and the hose as they are reasonably cheap at Home Depot or Lowes generally costing less than $20.00.
Ted Paone and BJ Jenkins with Andy Filtness
Ted Paone is the Pond Tour Chairman for this years Tour. He graciously offered to perform this duty for a third time having had this role for both the 2016 and 2017 Tours. He outlined the need for additional volunteers on the Pond Tour Committee. The plan is to have 6-7 ponds each day, North and South and he is still looking for ponds to show.
There was no real business other than the urgent need for a Hospitality volunteer. There was a brief discussion of the upcoming meetings and then Madam President, Barb Lenhardt called the meeting to a close.
The Business section of the meeting.
Pictures of the meeting to music
The next meeting will be on Monday February 18 at the usual place and time, Zilker Botanical Gardens at 6:30. The scheduled Speaker is Cindy Cassidy from the Texas Night Sky Festival and her subject will be Night Skies and Light Pollution. Hope to see you there.
I decided it was time for a change from my regular haunts at McKinney Roughs in Bastrop and Reamers Ranch in Dripping Springs so I chose to go back to Pedernales Falls State Park that actually has a Johnson City address. I haven’t been there for a while and wanted a change of scenery.
The Park is located about 35 miles from my house and is at the beginning of the Texas Hill Country as that area is known. This is a State Park so it cost me $6:00 to get in, always well worth it from my perspective. The line at the counter was short but the guy in the front would not stop talking and asking what I considered to be dumb questions of the lone Park Officer that was manning the desk. She was very patient with him, much more than I would have been. Guess it takes all kinds to make up this world that we live in.
I finally got to pay my $6:00 and hopped back into my truck and drove to the Parking Area for the Duckpond Loop. I have made this walk before and the last time, managed to take pictures of an Egret and a couple of wild boars so I was hopeful that I would get something today. I went through my usual routine but as the weather is now a lot cooler at around 65 degrees, only needed to change into my boots. I elected to carry two cameras, one with the 150-600 long lens and the other has the 18-400 lens on it. Both are telescopic. The 150-600 is very heavy at around 5 pounds and really needs a tripod but I can generally get some decent long distance pictures without one.
The Duckpond is about a half mile from where I parked the truck and I took a couple of pictures of the trail in this part of the Park. The Duckpond is really two separate ponds, one of which dries up in the long hot Texas summers. It was the first one I came to walking from my direction and I approached very slowly and as quietly as I could possibly be. I managed get a couple of pictures of the ducks on this pond before they took off and flew around in circles before heading off. Walking to the second pond was much easier as the pond was hidden from view by the trees. Along the way is a Duck blind only this one is for taking pictures and not for shooting the ducks. I hung around inside for 15 minutes but the main body of ducks did not re-appear but I got some pictures of the few that were left on this pond.
I moved on along the trail and opted to follow the Duckpond Loop which I knew would bring me back out onto the opposite side of the field from where I had parked the truck. The trail follows the West side border of the Park and the boundary is a marked by a six strand barbed wire fence. This fence line is remarkably straight and this border stretches for a little over 3 miles.
On the neighbors property, there were two deer feeders set up about a half mile apart with the deer blind set equidistant between them, obviously getting ready for the deer season which is only a few days away. Seems a little unfair to me to treat the deer so nicely by enticing them with food and then only to shoot them. Barbaric is probably a better word and personally, I can’t see the sport in that. When I lived up North in New York State many years ago, I and my friends would hunt deer in the Adirondacks. The difference was that we would follow them to hunt them and might end up walking several miles through rocky terrain, sometimes through the snow in the hope of spotting one. Then, if you were lucky, you had to drag it back out of the woods to wherever you were parked. At least, there was effort put into the hunt. I only ever had one deer in my sights and when it turned and looked at me, deliberately shot wide to frighten it off. I didn’t have the heart to kill such beautiful animal. I think I enjoyed the camaraderie of the guys more than the killing although most of them would shoot at a deer and anything else that moved.
Continuing on the walk, I managed to take some nice pictures of that part of the Park and eventually came out into the field where the truck was parked. The grass in the field was very long as it had not been mowed until I got closer to where all of the buildings are situated and that had been taken care of.
On the way back out, I stopped at the Bird Blind that is located there. It has an interesting warning notice stating to be very careful to check that there are no snakes in the buildings, under the seats or in any of the storage containers. Such is Nature.
I wanted to get more pictures of the river so I drove off towards that parking lot. I parked the truck and walked down towards the river and met a lot of people along the way, most greeting me as we passed, some with comments. I arrived at the overlook that also has steps leading all the way down to the river itself but I didn’t want to make that trip. Instead, I opted to stay at the Overlook and take more pictures. It sure is a beautiful Park and the Pedernales when it is not in flood, is pretty to look at especially at the Falls. The rocks are very impressive. The pictures in the video are all panoramas and are made up of three or more pictures joined together.
This Park does not have a large variety of trees, mostly it is all Cedar but occasionally you come across something different as with the pictures below. These trees are showing off their Fall colors.
I made a slow drive back and detoured into Dripping Springs for a Starbucks stop before making my way home. Another great hike of a little over 4 miles and it was good to have a change of scenery.
The Austin Pond Society held their last meeting of the year in the form of a Christmas Party. The theme this year was Mexican and the food and decorations reflected that. Members came dressed in gay colors, some wearing hats and the main dish for the food was Tamales along with all of the fixins’. Members provided more Mexican dishes plus a myriad of deserts.
For the second meeting in a row, attendance was down. The weather had taken a turn for the worse with a cold front so maybe that kept some people away. Altogether, I counted twenty seven members present. Blue Santa and Mrs Klaus had to drop out at the very last minute due to being stuck in Chicago so a couple of other gentlemen, David and Scott filled in, making speeches and receiving all of the donated toys of which there were two very large sacks.
There was no business to conduct so the entire evening was focused on food and good company. This was Jeannie’s last meeting as El Presidente and I and the Membership would like to take this opportunity to thank her for her past five years of serving the Members of the Austin Pond Society.
So the curtain drops on another fun year. I wonder what is in store for 2019?
The outgoing President, Jeannie Ferrier on the left with the incoming President Barb Lenhardt
Another month, another meeting of the Austin Pond Society held at the usual place, the Zilker Botanical Gardens in Austin, Texas. As usual, we were treated to a meal provided by our Hospitality person, Steven. He is one of those who is giving up his volunteer position at the end of the year and we thank him for his contributions to the cause. Tonight, his offerings were corn dogs with deserts provided by the members. As I am not into corn dogs, I made do with several cookies to satisfy my sweet tooth.
Due to the bad weather, our numbers were down by quite a bit and I counted only 22 people in attendance. We started off with Barb introducing our speaker, Alex Rabadan, a local pond builder whose company is named Oasis Water Features and Landscaping. He held a question and answer session which kept everyone occupied for 30 minutes or so.
Alex Rabadan, Oasis Water Features and Landscaping.
This was followed by Steven Monfrini, acting in the absence of the chairperson Nancy Reinert and as one of the committee members, to announce the new Board members for 2019. All the positions were filled and required a vote from the Membership to appoint them which passed without dissent. To review the new Board who will take office January 1st, 2019, use this link.
This was the only major piece of business for this evening and with a little more discussion about other minor items, the meeting came to a close.
The next meeting to be held on November 19 at the same location, will be our Christmas End of the Year Party. Blue Santa will again be in attendance so we are asking all of our members to bring a small gift preferably in the 12-14 year age bracket for the kids in Austin who do not receive much on Christmas morning. The theme this year will be Mexican and the food will also reflect the theme. Members can still bring along desserts or their contribution to the Mexican main meal. We are hoping for a Mariachi Band from one of the local high schools but that is not yet confirmed. Keep looking for more on this and we hope to see you there.
This will be the last meeting for the year as we do not meet in December.
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".