Work on the Ponds-Part 2


Before. The overgrown pond before the cutting back.

The fourth pond that I have is only around 1500 gallons and is only two feet deep. This shallow depth is a problem for both regulating the water temperature and keeping the fish safe from the predatory Heron that comes sneaking around occasionally.

After the episodes with this beautiful bird way back in the early part of the year, I finally resolved the issue with the use of a Scarecrow. This gadget has an electric eye that activates it to spray water very noisily resulting in scaring the Heron away. Of course, the Scarecrow is not selective and sprays anything in range that activates it, including me and the dogs. The other problem is that any vegetation that blows in the wind in range of the electric eye, also sets it off. The two that I had installed and activated back earlier in the year added $25.00 a month to my water bill due to their indiscriminate actions. With the water color on the 3000 gallon pond so cloudy, see the earlier blog, I had shut down that Scarecrow and as the vegetation grew in the 1500 gallon pond, shut down that Scarecrow also.

In this case, the vegetation, mainly made up of green and black Taro and Iris had taken over the pond and it was almost impossible to see the water. It was fine when the Taro, which are both fast growing and very tall stood upright but as is often the case with tall plants, as they age they begin to droop and before long, the surface of the pond was just a mass of stalks and leaves. This did help to keep the water cooler and hide the fish from the Heron but was taking oxygen from the water at an alarming rate. Coupled with the tell tale signs of methane and ammonia gasses bubbling to the surface and the loss of five 12 inch Koi and two Goldfish convinced me that I needed to do something and do it fast.

The completed and cleaned pond taken from the same spot as the picture of “Before”.

I opted to change into a pair of my old soccer shorts and put on a pair of water shoes that I use in the ponds. I had kicked around the idea of putting on my waders because of the possibility of meeting the Brown Snake but decided against it as it would have been way too hot and uncomfortable. I was also relying the the common sense of the snake to get out of the pond knowing there was a human in it. As it happened, the snake spent his time in his usual spot on the wall between the two ponds sunning himself not more than 5 feet from me at times. It is not a poisonous snake but all snakes will bite when cornered.

It was slow and steady work as I cut back plant after plant. Some I was able to pull up by the roots which was a good thing as I would not have to deal with them again. Others, I just cut back knowing that they would probably regrow and I would have to do this down the road.

Picture taken from the opposite side of the pond after the cleaning.

After finishing with this part of the job, I had the task of removing the dead material from the bottom of the pond which was much less that I initially figured. Even though I have a Pond-o-Vac vacuum cleaner built especially for ponds, it is usually quicker to get in and physically remove the dead muck and debris using a net. After completing all of the heavy work, I cleaned the skimmer and the filters and checked the pump which is working just fine. I then reactivated another Skippy Filter to help clean the water and finally ended by turning on one of the oxygenators. Now all we have to do is wait for the water to clear.

The next day I worked on cleaning up all of the material that I had cut back and cleared out of the pond and there was a lot of it. I have found that it is easier to use a pitchfork that I happen to own that I know for a fact is almost 100 years old having belonged to Clark, my Stepfather’s brother at the old farm back in New York State. It still works well and is ideal for picking up the long stalks of the Taro. I don’t know how many trips I made to the compost pile but it was a lot. I was a lot cooler the day before when I was working in the pond itself but cleaning up the mess was very hot work in the 90 plus degree weather.

I finally finished the work at least for a while. Things won’t grow as fast during the really hot weather and it won’t be long before it is Fall, only another month. As with the small pond, I had to reactivate another one of the scarecrows with the vegetation out of the way, the few remaining fish that are still alive, are possible food for the ever present threat of the Heron.

This pond is the next on the list to permanently close down in the next year or so mainly because of the shallow depth. I am getting old whether I like it or not and need to start thinking of the future which eventually includes selling this house and moving elsewhere, probably in an assisted living complex. I know that I cannot keep working on things as I presently do and must plan accordingly. It’s hell growing old…

Written 8/5/2019

Work On The Ponds-Part 1


The 3000 gallon pond showing the newly installed unit on the far side.

Those of you that regularly follow my blogs are aware that I have four ponds ranging in size by gallons of 6000, 5000, 3000 and 1500. The two large ponds are pretty much established both mechanically in the equipment that is hooked up to keep the water clear and also in skimmers and waterfalls. Both have Aquadyne Filtering systems which are top of the line when it comes to this type of equipment.

The 3000 gallon pond was the last one that I “remodelled” making it deeper by raising the exterior walls by 3 feet or so above ground. Incidentally, the rocky ground in my part of Texas is only a foot or so below the ground level hence the need to go upwards. The water depth is a little over 4-1/2 feet. This is the home to a lot of goldfish probably a hundred or more who have the run of the pond. They do share it with a turtle and a very large 4 feet long Brown Snake that uses this pond as his very own smorgasbord although as far as I can tell, is not making any dent in the number of goldfish that the pond contains. I often see him resting up and sunning himself on the wall dividing the two ponds usually after having caught a meal. All a part of nature. This is also the pond that the Heron busied himself with at the start of the year although I haven’t seen it in several months. This could be due to the fact that the water in this pond with the current filtering system is pretty dirty, hence this blog.

The Savio Unit

The problem originally started when a hose failed overnight resulting in the loss of a couple of thousand gallons of water, which lowered the level of the pond considerably. All I could see was a mass of goldfish of all shapes, colors and sizes in what remained of the water in the bottom of the pond which was less than a foot deep. I was in immediate trouble to keep enough oxygen in what little water remained in order for the fish to survive and rushed to pull a couple of oxygenators from the other ponds which I knew would be good for a few hours overnight. Placing them in the water immediately stirred up the residue of dirt, leaves and fish droppings turning the water into a not so lovely shade of brown. At least it had oxygen for the fish to breathe. At the same time, I had turned on the system that I use to keep the ponds topped up so that fresh clean water was getting added. As that increased in volume I had to contend with the chlorine in the City tap water and was adding dechlorinator as the pond filled. It took several hours and finally we had the pond water level to where it belonged. The problem now was the quality of the water which was a dirty muddy brown color. The oxygenators did not help as they constantly kept the water stirred up not giving the residue a chance to settle but I had no choice with them. They had to stay in there at least for a couple of days to bring the oxygen levels back up.

Two days later, I took a chance even with the dirty water and removed the oxygenators and returned them to their ponds and installed a smaller and less powerful one. I was hoping that the pond filtering system that was already installed would, over time, take care of the problem of the dirty water and by the number of times a day that I had to clean the filters, it is working. With the big oxygenators off, the water also had the chance for the sediment to settle. However, it was way too slow and after a week, the water was still pretty dirty. I did not lose any fish except one that had jumped out of the pond overnight probably to escape the attentions of the Brown Snake and I found it the next day.

A different view. I could not find any other place to install it and have no way of hiding it from view so I chose water quality over aesthetics.

I had in my possession from one of the Fish Rescues that I had been on, a Savio Filtering System which consists of a large 60 gallon barrel that contains filtering material and a couple of different type filters that sit on the top. Quite a simple system really and I have six others around on the other ponds that I have built. We call them Skippy Filters and they do exactly the same thing as the commercialized model does. Three of mine are in 20 gallon containers and the other three are in 100 gallon tubs. I spent some time hooking up this system using an existing pump that had come with the unit when I acquired it. It was pumping too strong and I had to make some modifications by adding a valve to check back the flow otherwise more water was coming in than was getting pushed out. Needless to say, the pump lasted overnight and quit so I had to buy a new one adding to my frustration. I bought a less powerful pump requiring more work on the piping but do not have to regulate the flow of water with the valve. Good job I am handy with tools and know how and after 30 years of since I built the first pond, one would hope to have learned something.

The system works fine and although it has only been installed a couple of days, the water is starting to clear up and I have already had to wash the filters in the unit. I had to reinstall the Scarecrow just in case the Heron decides to pay a visit as with the water much clearer, the fish are visible to him (or her).

For Part 2, read about where I turn my attention to the smallest pond (in volume) to clean it up.

Written 8/5/2019

Return of Winter


Springtime

Isn’t it ironic that on the day I post a poem heralding the return of Spring to my part of Texas, that same night we get temperatures below freezing that lasted for three days. It was mostly overnight temperatures that were freezing as during the daytime, the thermometer went up to around 40 degrees which by itself is way too cool for us warm blooded Texans. Just like our women, we like the weather to also be hot although to be fair, you will hear us grumble about continuous 100 degree days in the Summer. Given the choice, most of us will take the heat anytime.

For someone who moved down from New York State 42 years ago, these cold days are nothing compared with some of the horrendous winters that I endured in my 10 years in that State, resulting in my fleeing as fast as I could and as far south as I could in double quick time. When I very occasionally go back for a visit, I make sure it is in the Summertime.

That being said, the frost damage to the new vegetation was not as bad as I thought it might be but will still require some clean up work on my part, darn it. Dare I hope that this is the last of the freezing weather for us. I really want it to be as I can’t remember having frosts this late in the season. Normally, ours is over by the end of January. The forecast is for it to be back up in the 70’s by Thursday with overnights in the 50’s. Makes me wonder if the weather patterns are really changing or is it just some freak act of Nature. I’m waiting to see if the Brown Snake made it through OK as I have kinda got used to having him make me jump out of my skin when I come across him unexpectedly. Good job he is harmless. I wonder what it is about snakes that makes man fear them so much. BTW, I say he but it could be a female. I wonder how you tell the difference?

Talking of ponds, the frost has done a job on the some of the pond vegetation which means that I will need to get into the ponds in order to clean it up. I will put that off as long as I can as the water is freezing cold. Not literally of course but figuratively speaking.

Let’s see where we go from here temperature wise…

Written 3/5/2019

The Ponds at Mayfield Park


DSC_4969-PanoMayfield Park is a nice little city park located off 35th street and is the home of several peacocks (and peahens), ponds, gardens and Nature trails. The gardens are maintained by volunteers several of whom were working this Saturday morning. Many more people were hiking the Nature Trails. It is a popular place for weddings and as it happened,  one of which was due later in the afternoon meaning that we had a deadline to finish our work.  This is the link to the Mayfield Park website.

There are five large ponds and one smaller one. The volunteers from the Pond Society chose one that was obviously in need of cleaning as the project for Saturday, March 11th. Altogether, there were nine people that volunteered their time and braved a cold and pretty wet day. It rained that fine misty stuff that gets you wet without you being aware of it.

I got there around 9:00 am and there were several people already working. Steven had a pump set up and had his waders on and was in the pond lifting out the  heavy lily and iris pots. The first thing I did was to set up the pump that I had brought with me to help lower the water level. Charlie was moving the old pots over to the garage where Jeannie, Julie and BJ were busy emptying them so they could trim the lilies before repotting them. Phillip, Mike and Cory made themselves useful  wheeling barrows full of the waste dirt cut off from the plants and coming back with barrows of repotting dirt. I joined Charlie in dragging the repotted plants back to the pond on a skid contraption that actually worked pretty well on the flagstone. Not quite so good on the grass.

Steven found two turtles and a snake while he was in the pond and he commented that accidentally grabbing the snake gave him a bit of a start. Snakes tend to do that to most people especially when it is unexpected. The pond we were working on holds around 17000 gallons of water so it is pretty big. Mike put on his waders and  jumped into the pond to help Steven place the repotted plants and clean up the debris from the bottom of the pond. After the completion of repotting the lilies and placing them back into the ponds, the two of them spent time netting out the leaves and other trash during which they found six Perch that had been placed in there by persons unknown. They put them in one of the other ponds as the city water that we were using to refill the pond has chlorine in it which is a death sentence to any fish or other aquatics. The turtles were released into the stream that flows at the bottom of the hill and the snake had already made his own way to safety.

DSC_4959

There were a lot of visitors that were in the Park while we were there. The older people use the Park for exercise and whole families came out to enjoy Nature. The younger generation oohed and aahed over the two turtles that were temporarily in a container and the Peacocks were strutting their stuff and kicking up a god awful racket with their calls. They are pretty to look at but can be very annoying with their extremely loud and very unmusical voices. If it wasn’t for the rainy weather, it would have been a real pleasant place to work. We still have one more pond to go so hopefully, the sun will be shining when we get to that one. That is a story for another day…

Below is a slideshow of the some of the views within the Park.

Mayfield Park March 11, 2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Zilker Botanical Gardens March 2015


I was at Zilker Botanical Gardens filming the cleaning of the Willie Birge Memorial Pond along with a couple of others by volunteers from the Austin Pond Society and in between shots, wandered around a part of the grounds taking some pictures. Nature is just beginning to wake up for our enjoyment.
I have assembled them in a slide show below. Enjoy…

Zilker Gardens in March 2015 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.