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 Austin Pond Society held its final meeting of the year on November 18 in the form of a Christmas Party which was attended by around 45 members and guests. The entire evening was devoted to eating, mixing and mingling, Blue Santa and a presentation of checks to four different organizations. This was a marked change from previous parties when we have had some other entertainment in the form of contests, music, dancing and other such fun and games. As far as the food, what better way to celebrate Christmas in Texas than Rudy’s Barbecue with all of the fixin’s including pumpkin and apple pies. This was all delicious and very much enjoyed by the members.
The Austin Pond Society made four donations to charitable causes this year. They included Austin Pets Alive, KLRU for Central Texas Gardener, McBee Elementary School and Overton Elementary School for their programs of Hands on Gardening.
This year, as they have done for the past couple of years, Santa and Mrs Klaus attended in full costume along with a couple of helpers. They mixed and mingled and enjoyed the food and the company and made a presentation outlining what it is that Blue Santa brings to 4500 families in Austin that otherwise would be lacking gifts and food at Christmas. As per previous years, the APS members had brought in a whole tables worth of presents for the kids. One of the high points of the evening was when one of our Sponsors, Matt Boring of Texas Ponds and Water Features and two of his people, one dressed as a giant frog, brought in two large sacks of toys to add to the collection. A very nice gesture from Matt and thank you.
The evening closed with a small bit of business and discussion. We are still lacking a nominee for the position of Pond Tour Director which is a bit of a worry. We still have a some time but if any of you are interested, please contact our President, Barb Lenhardt at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hope to see you all next year at out first meeting which will be held at the usual place, Zilker Botanical Gardens on Monday, January 20, 2020. The Speaker will be from Travis County Master Gardeners and the subject will be Drip Irrigation. By the way, I can’t believe that we are looking at 2020 already. It seems like something out of a science fiction movie…
Thank you to everyone that makes Austin Pond Society such a great group to work with and for being such a fun bunch of crazy fish and pond enthusiasts. Welcome to the start of a brand new year…
These past few days have seen some interesting encounters with the snakes in my yard and either in or around my ponds. It started when I heard the high pitched cry of some sort of animal or bird and not knowing just what it was, I set out to discover what was causing the sound.
It was coming from the direction of the large pond and it took some time for me to locate the source which was a partially swallowed frog in the jaws of one of the non poisonous Diamond Backed Water snakes that inhabits the area. This particular snake is all of 4 ft long. The frog was still alive with only the head and shoulders showing, the rest already in the snakes throat. There was nothing I could do for this frog even if I could have caught the snake as there was too much already down the snakes gullett. Even as I watched, the snake slid into the water and was gone as were the cries of the poor frog. I wonder how long they take to die inside of the snakes digestive system? Incidentally, as we usually associate frogs with croaking and grunting, hearing their high pitched cry of anguish is somewhat disturbing.
Then yesterday when I was outside, I again heard the cry of an animal in distress and followed the sound to the same large pond. It took awhile for me to locate the snake as it was hidden in the plants growing there but I finally spotted it. It may well have been the same snake as there are at least two maybe even three of them. This one was within reach of my long handled hoe and I was able to slip it under the snakes head and shake it about for a bit causing the snake to release its hold on the frog. This one was only held by one back leg and the snake chose to release the frog who quickly scampered away I am sure, much to the snakes disgust. The snake was gone in an instant sliding into the waters of the pond.
Today was even more bizarre as again, as I was out with the dogs just walking around, we heard the same familiar cry of an animal in distress, another frog as it turned out. This one was on dry land next to the Aqua Filter unit and was held by one leg by a much smaller Garter snake that was about 18 inches long. Even as I watched from a couple of feet away, a Diamond Backed Water snake came out of nowhere and made a grab for the frog. The Garter Snake immediately released its hold on the frog and rapidly disappeared leaving it’s prey to the Diamond Backed Water snake. The frog, realizing that it was free, smartly hopped off taking giant 4 feet leaps to get away leaving a very frustrated Diamond Backed Water snake who immediately turned its attention to me making several threatening advances before slithering under the base of the Aqua Filter unit with just its head sticking out. I made a couple of movements towards it and it withdrew its head each time.
Figuring that the excitement and that my lesson with Mother Nature was over for the day, I called the dogs, who had been very warily watching this whole series of events, and we went back indoors.
In retrospect, this was just Nature acting as Nature always acts with the different pecking orders in the food chain. In this case, the frog(s) were the original victim(s) followed by the large snake versus the smaller snake with the frog, a by product of this encounter, all acting just like Humans, the strong over the weak. I felt that I was intruding on this scenario as it was as Nature intended it to be but the anguished high pitched cries of the frogs was more than I could stand without at least trying to rescue them.
Just when I thought I had finished with this post, I was out in the yard this morning and thought I heard the familiar frog cry of anguish, this time, coming from the direction of the 100 gallon tub that contains a water lily. I grow the lilies in separate containers as the Koi tear them up when they are in the ponds. I went over to take a look and sure enough, there was a large frog in the jaws of very long, probably 3 feet of Garter Snake. This one was easy to deal with and I quickly “persuaded” the snake to drop the frog with a short length of hose pipe and then chased the snake out of that particular container where it quickly slithered away about as fast as it could go. I caught the frog and transferred it to another container and thought that was that until a little later, I noticed a frog back in the same 100 gallon tub. Whether it was the same one, who knows. They all look alike to me. I added extra water to the container so that the frog has a sporting chance to hop out when and if the snake(s) return. Frog paradise has now the added excitement of getting eaten by snakes. I wonder if there will be other additions to this story?
Such is the Law of the Wild… Note: The pictures of the snakes are not mine but are downloads from the internet. I don’t have any pictures of them coiled.
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 email@example.com Margaret at firstname.lastname@example.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.
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.
Two weeks ago, we were still at 100 degrees, last week it dropped to 80 and overnight it dropped to 35 degrees with a high forecast for today of 45.
We did get about 2 inches of rain but that is far short of what we need. Creeks and ponds are totally dried up and it will take a lot of water to bring everything back up to normal levels. Even the Pedernales River at Reimers Ranch is just a trickle.
At least I haven’t come across any sun bleached bones of human or animal skeletons on the trails… yet.
Well we finally got some very welcome rain last night. Actually a lot of rain, at least two inches at my house accompanied by high winds. Lucky for me, the Spruce tree that is in one of the ponds did not blow over as it has done in previous high winds. We have not had any significant rain in over three months prior to this and on my drives around the countryside, stock ponds, small creeks and such are bone dry. It is going to take significant rain to bring everything back to normal.
It has been so dry that I have recently cut down almost all of the greenery in my garden, something I normally do following any frost that we may get in the winter. This year, it will not matter how hard it freezes as the only thing that will be affected are the plants in and around the ponds, at least from my perspective.
I even had to turn on the heat inside the house as the temperature indoors had dropped to 65 degrees, a little too low for comfort. Obviously, we are through with the air conditioning for this year. This is typical Texas weather where we go from 100 degrees to 90 degrees and then to 65 degrees all in the space of a couple of weeks. At least it is now great trail hiking weather although I don’t like hiking immediately following heavy rains as the trails are usually pretty muddy and tend to build up on the boots. I have enough problems in just carrying my body weight around without the addition of several pounds of wet dirt.
Maybe I’ll take that walk tomorrow or the next day and give the ground time to dry out a bit…
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
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".