Cleaning the Ponds


The jungle that is my backyard
The jungle that is my backyard

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.

You can see the extensive root systems of these Spruce trees

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 blown over Spruce
The uprighted tree.

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.

Shallow Pond

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….

Written 5/20/2019

It’s Raining Again


The 5000 gallon pond.

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.

Written 5/11/2019


Thoughts on a Cloudy Day



Spring is in full swing in my part of Central Texas. The trees are busting out with new growth and many of the flowers are showing their pretty heads to this brand new season. Things that I had given up for dead following the week long freeze that we had, have surprised me by coming back to life. There are a few casualties as there always are some of which are easily replaced, others not so much.

Over the years, I have gone more and more to Native plants which true to form, come back year after year. One of their problems is the tendency to want to take over different parts of the garden, crowding out the smaller plants. I also allow them to grow pretty much uncontrolled only cutting them back when they start to encroach on the gravel paths that intertwine throughout the yard.

Consequently, the open view that I have immediately following the winter freeze clean up only lasts for a couple of months before Nature has regrown everything and it becomes difficult to see from one side of the yard to the other.

The ponds are a different story. The frost killed almost everything above the water line and because the water is constantly on the move, we did not have any ice build up to affect the tubers and such at the actual water line itself. What few lilies that may be left after receiving up close and personal attention from the big Koi, were all below water level. One is already showing leaves but they all need to be taken out and re-potted and fertilized before returning them back to the ponds. I do this Spring after Spring and regardless of how much growth or how many lily pads, the Koi will invariably tear them to pieces and uproot the tubers. I have tried several different methods including placing larger rocks or pebbles on the top but the Koi so far have outwitted me in their endeavors. I have watched them as they either use their nose to push stuff out of the way or they will park their large bodies on the top of the pot and use their tail to wash out the dirt and stones. They can be very ingenious and industrious in the way they go about this.

Years ago, I tried planting flowers every Spring and for a while, things would look pretty but I am basically a lazy gardener and replanting every year quickly became a lot of work that didn’t interest me enough to continue. Hence the Native Plant route many of which do flower and put on a pretty display.

Pretty much most of the heavy work is already done. The cutting back and raking the leaves and such. I still need to get in the ponds to clean them out but I want to have the lilies re-potted and ready to go before I take the pond route. The only real project that needs to be done this year is to straighten up one of the fences where it has developed a lean. It is not a major project requiring the digging out around the posts, straightening to an upright position and then concreting the posts back to their new upright positions. I usually put permanent 2×6 braces to hold everything in place. The fencing is 6 feet high wood slats and the original parts are more than 34 years old. Needless to say, many of the slats have been replaced and this time around, I need to work on 4 different posts. Other than that, I can’t think of anything major that I need to work on meaning that I should have a lot more time to go hiking.

I can’t wait…

Written 3/23/2018

Live Oaks in my Yard


 

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I have many Texas Live Oaks in my yard both front and back. The Latin name for this magnificent tree is Quercus fusiformis. I had to look that up as I haven’t a clue when it comes to the Latin names of anything. Just recently, I wrote a blog about the efforts by a company of  tree trimmers that I had hired to cut back all of the dead limbs, and there were plenty.

Live Oaks tend to be very late with shedding their leaves or probably I should say, very early as where most trees  lose their leaves in the Fall, the Live Oak sheds its leaves in the early Spring as the weather starts to warm up. This is followed immediately by a growth of new leaves to replace those that have fallen. Then the “Flowers” start to fall. which are pods about 1- 3 inches long that get into everything. These are pretty messy as they are usually accompanied by a whole herd of caterpillars which eat all of the new growth forcing it to start all over again. . The entire thing lasts for about a month.   This is all perfectly normal for this particular tree.

However, this year it is different as the leaves are coming down much earlier than usual. This is because the very heavy frost and ice rain that we had that lasted for five days and nights, froze many of the leaves before their normal time. Consequently, we are suffering through an abnormal amount of leaves that are falling off the trees.  Upon checking the trees themselves, there is a lot of brown up there still waiting to fall. My guess is that it won’t be finished until the new leaves grow late February and early March just as soon as the weather warms up.  Then in the Fall, the acorns come tumbling down and they too, have to be swept up. This past year there were more acorns than I have ever seen before and if they were a forerunner of a bad winter, then that is true as what we have had so far, is the worst I have seen in my forty years of living in this State.

You know all of those leaves that I raked up in the Fall? Well now I can do it all again this Spring. Lucky me.

Written 1/26/2018

I Sat…


 

 

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I sat at the kitchen table looking out through the glass
at the garden that now has been cut back because of the frost
it was a dull and grey day with the sun hidden behind the clouds
and I wondered what I could do the time to pass.

I sat watching the birds as they squabbled over the seed
even though there are many feeders for them to choose
they all had to have the same one who knows why
maybe it was special and satisfied their need.

I sat and watched the dogs as they wandered the yard
one slim and lithe as she scampered around
nose to the ground checking for every smell
she found nothing or she was not trying very hard.

I sat and watched other dog who did not have the nose to smell
instead content to bark at the squirrel in the trees
and sit and look out onto the yard
checking to see that all was well.

I sat and thought about what needed to be done
to clear the remaining plants killed by the frost
and who should take on this task
I guess it’s me, I am the only one.

Written 1/26/2018

 

Brain Dead


DSC_1512-Pano

I sat here looking at a blank screen
and looked outside at the scene
what I saw was dull and grey
as it was kind of a cloudy day
and although the temperature had risen
I sat and tried to make a decision
do I want to go outside
and cut back the plants that have all died
or rake the leaves fallen off the trees
those that have died and come down with ease
with many more ready to fall
I may be raking at Nature’s call
but as my brain is not functioning well
and the call from Nature is almost a yell
I think outside is where I will go
and me and my rake will put on a show. 

Written 1/21/2018

A Beautiful Day


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It’s going to be a beautiful day
the sun is shining along the way
the rain has gone to a different place
and the day is now too good to waste.

I have sat indoors these past few days
watching it rain at a furious pace
but now the sun shines and there’s work to be done
to clean up the garden which sounds like fun.

Cut down the plants too damaged to live
clear the space new life to give
to the plants that remain behind
they will recover all in good time.

Storms and wind are Nature’s way
of changing things and have her say
the way she wants the world to look
as she turns the page of her open book.

We do not understand her ways
so powerful and violent on these days
and yet today there is just a faint breeze
rustling the leaves up in the trees.

And the sun is shining to greet the day
the warm breeze is blowing as if to say
come out and play with me for a while
and I’ll tickle your face and make you smile.

I open the door to venture outside
and breathe the fresh air no need to hide
for Nature has come through once again
the clouds blown away for me to begin.