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 received a phone call today from a lady who was wanting to give away her turtle that had been her friend for many long years until in the end that although much love he received it was not fair she believed that the only thing in his life was a large glass tank and without a mate or even another turtle to spend time which would have made life much more sublime instead just him in his lonely life a perfect home for him with no strife a peaceful life to be sure but lonely with no company to endure and for twelve and a half years he lived in his tank when his caregiver called looking for a place that he could spend the rest of his days as nature intended in natural ways in a pond that he could swim and be free with other turtles for company she brought him over to take a look as I showed her around like an open book and even though it would be the very last game that she and Herbert for that was his name would spend together for in his new life Herbert could go and search for a wife she kissed his head and said so long and placed him on the bank of the pond where he slipped into the water and was gone but before he disappeared away he turned and looked as if to say thank you for the years that you cared and of the life that together we shared then slipped below the surface of the pond to explore his new home and he was gone I’m sure that Herbert and I will become friends although it has to be said that in the end I will not see Herbert an awful lot as with the others will be hard to spot unless he may bask in the sun on the bank of the pond where this new life begun and if Herbert was able to speak I’m sure his thanks to Alisa would be deep especially as she gave up her pet for the wild life of a turtle he will now get.
The Austin Pond Society held their annual pond tour over the weekend of June 1-2 returning after missing out on having a tour last year, 2018. The size of the tour was also cut back to a more manageable number easily covered on each day, Saturday for the South Side of the Colorado River and Sunday for the north side.
The tour had a few of the spectacular favorites plus several new ponds which have never been on the tour before. All, regardless of the size, had something to offer in the way of beauty and in some cases, originality. One of the highlights included a nest of Yellow Crowned Night Herons complete with three babies that appeared to almost be ready to fly the roost. Ironic that one of the pond owners natural enemies could hold so much fascination when babies are involved.The night pond that has been on the tour several times before was just as spectacular as it has always been.
If you click on a picture, it will enlarge and you can use the side arrows to move along. Use the “escape” key to return to normal size.
I have put together two slideshows which takes about twenty minutes to view but is well worth it as it shows the spectacular beauty of ponds of different sizes and types and all of the accompanying work that has gone into the landscaping and plants and flowers that make up the whole garden. One pond even had three live donkeys which attracted as much attention as the ponds for the younger members on the tour.
All in all, the tour was a resounding success and even though smaller than previous tours, has probably set a new standard in both number of ponds and quality.
The Austin Pond Society held their May Meeting this past Monday which was attended by around 40 of its Members. This meeting was a combination of Speaker Presentation and as it is also the last meeting before the Tour, a lot of time was dedicated to wrapping up the final details which included handing out the packages to the Owners and Volunteers.
The Members were treated to fried chicken with the fixins brought in by the members as were the deserts. Incidentally, none of the chicken remained at the end of the meal.
Prior to the Speaker’s Presentation, Barb, our President, went around the room asking if we had any new members and for them to say a bit about themselves. As it happened, at least four of the people and maybe more, were not pond people but were there to listen to the Speaker, Katie Boyer who is the Monarch Conservation Coordinator for the Southeast Region of the US Fish and Wildlife Services. Monarchs, it appears, are a popular subject. Our meetings are open to all and we welcomed them with open arms.
Following Barbs introduction, Ted, our Pond Tour Director had some words of wisdom to impart about the upcoming Tour. At this point it was time for the Speaker and she kept us interested for the next hour talking about a subject which is obviously her passion. The video below is of her entire presentation.
After Katie had finished, we carried on with our normal business most of which was Pond Tour related. BJ made a brief presentation on when and how to fertilize water lilies which of course opened up a discussion on the subject. Ted had more to say about the upcoming Tour and presented the Owners and Volunteers that were in attendance with their packages.
The evening closed with the drawing for the raffle which is always a lot of fun. The next meeting will be June 17 and it will be dedicated to the Pond Owners who had put their ponds on the Tour each of whom will be given the opportunity to discuss their experiences.
Following the last wind/rain storm that we had a couple of weeks ago, the Spruce tree that I have in the 6000 gallon pond blew over. This is not really that surprising as it stands about fifteen tall and it’s roots are in an eighteen inch diameter shallow container weighted down with a couple of heavy rocks. For those of you that are unaware, pots and such when placed in the water are very easy to move around as the water makes them feel lighter and more buoyant. With this top heavy tree and the weightlessness (almost) of its base, it doesn’t take a lot of wind for it to topple. Spruce trees in the wild have a very extensive shallow root system that spread out in all directions with a lot of those same roots above ground.
Yesterday, I resolved that I would make the effort to upright the tree. This required that I get into the pond along with the fish and the turtles. I kicked around whether to wear my waders or to strip down to a pair of shorts and chose the latter. Actually, the water was not a bit cold and as I had just finished moving and stacking the rocks to stop Sandy from digging her way out, was a very welcome way to cool down.
The tree uprighting went very well and I managed to swing it back into place and retie the supporting cords. I found the rocks that had fallen off when it went over and replaced them. I could feel as I walked around that the amount of leaves and debris was more than I should allow as when that stuff rots, it tends to give off methane and ammonia which are toxic to the fish. So, I figured that as I was already in the pond, why not go ahead and clean out as much of the junk that I could. At the same time, I was able to reach in the bog and clean it of some of the very abundant plants growing there.
By this time, I was really in the swing of things and after completing the 6000 gallon pond, I moved over to the 5000 gallon one that is just off the deck and proceeded to jump into it. As well as cleaning the muck out of the bottom, I needed to trim the Umbrella plant and take out other excessive growth. The urn that is in the middle of this pond had stopped working and I surmised that the hose had broke and needed to be replaced but when I turned it over, it was just totally blocked up. A few pushes with the drain cleaning snake and it was free and clear which was a pleasant surprise. I needed to rebuild the base as I wanted to put a shelf above the water line for the many turtles in the pond to have a place to sun themselves. I bought that urn thirty years ago and installed it on the very first pond that I built and subsequently moved it to the rebuild of that same pond later years.
There was a nest of fire ants at the exact spot that I used to get in and out and they managed to bite me a few times even when I was in the water. Nasty little buggers, fire ants. I don’t like them one little bit. I finally finished all of work inside these two ponds. I didn’t realize how sore I was with all of the exertion until I jumped in the hot tub.
I need to get in the shallow pond and clean it out and cut back all of the growth as I can hardly see the water. I haven’t seen anything of out friendly Heron but that is probably that he can’t even see the fish it is so grown over. That and the two Scarecrows. This is the pond that the two Brown Snakes do all of their fishing so it will be interesting when that time comes. I also spotted a Whip Snake yesterday so we may have at least three of them living here. Probably wear the waders for this one…
Footnote. We had very heavy winds overnight and needless to say, the tree has blown over again. Oh well….
It’s been raining at my house for a few days preventing me from going out to play and any work around the ponds has to be done with a raincoat on and even after the rain has stopped everything has turned to slop and being outside is just not fun as the dripping trees continue to run I’ve spent time indoors sitting around not wasting it as I have found that time on the website that I maintain is put to good use as I make it the same as I picture exactly what I want it to be and then write the code so that others can see the pictures and words of upcoming things they can see for themselves my offerings in an attempt to show them what is in store including the fabulous Austin Pond Tour with fifteen ponds spread over two days all different kinds and so many ways to make a back yard a beautiful thing so that others can see and their praises will sing not knowing the time and the effort it takes to turn it into a beautiful place the rain has stopped and I venture outside to look at my ponds that Nature does hide from view as I sit writing these words with growth so thick that even the birds have trouble in finding the seeds that I spread as I welcome their presence and they’re not underfed birds of all colors some big and some small jostling to get to their share of it all the yard I have is a beautiful place everything so green filling a space in between the ponds of which there are four filled with Goldfish and Koi and plants galore with pathways between leading around and around until back at the start you can be found ready to do it over again to see what you missed as its never the same to maintain the ponds is a lot of work which in the past I did not shirk but as I now am eighty three the work is catching up with me and I’m no longer sure for how long I can last as I do not work like in the past and things are much harder than before as old age is knocking at my door and with it the loss of strength that I had especially when I was a much younger lad and what I will need to do is close down the ponds before I am through and still have the strength to perform this task just a few more years is all I ask as I live out my remaining days just me and the dogs very set in our ways.
I was out doing my usual thing of driving and listening to Audiobooks and noticed that the sky was getting very overcast and that the wind was getting up. Before I had driven much further, the sky opened up and the rain quite literally came down in the proverbial buckets being driven sideways by the very strong wind.
I and many of my fellow drivers slowed down to a crawl with our four way flashers going. Of course, there is always the idiot that thinks he/she knows better or does not recognize the dangers and continues to drive at a high rate of speed and we had a couple of them. As I got closer to home, the rain had tapered off to just a steady downpour but on my street, it was covered in leaves and broken branches a sure indicator of the high winds.
Fearing the worst, I pulled into my driveway with no visible problems at least in the front of the house, to be met at the door by four very excited little dogs all pleased to see me. Whether it was their natural enthusiasm or the after effects of the strong wind and rain, I am not to know.
We walked out into the back yard where it was very visible that the winds had been very strong with a multitude of leaves and small twigs interspersed with the occasional larger branch littering the grounds and floating on top of the ponds. Other than that and the fact that a lot of the vegetation was beaten down things didn’t look too bad. I noticed that many of the large leafed plants like the Lilies, Tara and Canna, their leaves were badly damaged full of holes and splits showing the intensity of the rain and the power of the wind. I have a Spruce tree that stands in a pot in one of the ponds and it had blown over. When I checked the rain gauges, they showed that six inches of rain had dropped in probably a little over ten minutes.
Oh yes, the famous Murmuring Creek that my street is named after and that runs through the bottom of my garden was actually flowing just a bit. It never has any water in it at any other time except when we get a gully washer. All in all, considering the power of the wind and the intensity of the rain, we got off very light. Just Mother Nature doing her thing…
Every year around about this time, the Koi in my ponds decide that it is time to go through the annual mating ritual which is pretty dramatic to watch and for the fish involved. My little dogs obviously thought so as they barked very excitedly at the spectacle.
There is nothing gentle about it especially to the females and it is made worse by more than one suitor at a time. In fact, it is not a bit uncommon to see a single female being chased by a half dozen of the opposite sex all pushing and shoving and literally bumping the female in an effort to induce her to drop her eggs which they will then fight over to fertilize. Once dropped, the eggs, of which there are several hundred, can be fertilized by several different males and only in the case of selective breeding under controlled conditions by Fish Breeders are there any choices made.
The movie shows just how aggressive the males become and there is always an element of risk involved for the females. A few years ago, I had one female jump clean out of the pond and before I could get to her, Richie, one of my dogs had grabbed her and ran off down the garden. By the time I reached them, the dog had taken a large chunk out of the fish’s head. This year, I did not have anything quite so dramatic but did have two of the large Koi die, one in each of the big ponds probably due to egg binding or some other related problem. The big female Koi in the video are all of 24 – 36 inches long so are pretty big.
When all of the eggs are laid and fertilized, some semblance of peace returns to the otherwise tranquil ponds. The eggs themselves are at risk from getting eaten by the Koi themselves or by any turtles that may live in the pond. Even after the remaining eggs hatch out, the fingerlings are still subject to getting eaten by their elders and by the same turtles and in my case, Brown Snakes of which there are two that live in the ponds. So, for all of the hundred of eggs that get laid and are successfully fertilized, very few will ever make it to grow into larger Koi. This is not a bad thing as there is such a thing as too many fish in one pond.
Now it is a game of wait to see if any of the fingerlings survive. Next year, we will do it all over again as such are the ways of Nature.
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