What Day is It?


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Today is Saturday.. I think! One day is pretty much the same as the next at this stage of my life. I no longer look forward to the weekends as they are pretty much  the same as any other day except there are more people out and about and any special events are usually held on the weekend.

Used to be, many years ago, that every weekend for me was taken up with soccer, football to the rest of the world. I was either coaching one of the several Youth teams assigned to me or was actively playing myself on a couple of different teams. Even in the summer, things didn’t change very much except the Youth teams were off and we older people didn’t run anywhere near as hard or as long and we drank a lot of beer.

Nowadays, when I get up, the first thing I have to remind myself is what day it is. Once I have that firmly fixed in my mind, I check the calendar on my computer to see if I have anything special lined up that I need to do like a trip to the Physiotherapist for my aching shoulder or my Doctor for a geriatric check up. If I didn’t keep track of things on my computer, I would miss half of the appointments at which my presence is expected.  Apart from any benefits those visits do provide, I see myself as a piggy bank for all of the Doctors, Dentists and such that I seem to need in my old age. Thank goodness that I had the foresight and was lucky enough to work at the University of Texas at Austin for 22 years prior to my retirement that resulted in a pension and excellent health care.

After I have figured out what day it is and what important things I need to do, I usually fill the rest of my day on several other and no less important things like checking the ponds and the health and welfare of the couple of hundred fish that reside in them. There is usually something that needs my attention like a filter or a pump or maybe an improvement on something that I felt needed working on. I should state here that I don’t do gardening. At least not in the accepted sense.  Of course I take care of the ponds and I do mow the outside strip alongside the road every couple of months and the area that grows wild at the very bottom of the lot as it is really a dry creek and only floods when we get the odd gullywasher. Other than that, all of the plantings not counting those in and  around the ponds are all native vegetation that I allow to run wild except in the several walkways which I keep trimmed for ease of access.

I also like to hike a lot except the weather has been so bloody hot that it made more sense to sit inside rather than to bake in the 100 degree heat. At least, I have that to look forward to and as I only occasionally hike on weekends, I can hike any other day of the week to avoid the crowds.

So you see, that even though the weekends are relatively unimportant and I never know what day it is when I wake up, there is always plenty to do to keep me occupied and being a creature of habit, nothing much changes from day to day. One of my habits is to go grocery shopping later in the day and at the same time, treat myself to a Grande Non Fat Decaf Latte from Starbucks. This is my one serious vice as it happens every day and is not cheap when totalled up for the year at $4:38 a cup. Still, the way I see it, everyone is entitled to one vice as long as it is not harmful to oneself or others. It could be worse as I could also smoke and drink but I have never smoked because of my athletic prowess and it has been 10 years since I have had any alcoholic drinks.

Lets see now, it is almost 4:00 o’clock and now it is raining again, almost time for that Latte. So goes another day in my life…

Written 9/29/2018

Is It Over?


beeWho would believe that to write about the weather other than any extremes, is blogworthy. Yet, here I am just picking away with my superfast two finger typing, what we in Texas decide is really newsworthy and that is that it has gotten a little cooler.

With any luck, we may be over our hot weather for the year. These past few days, the temperature has failed to reach the 100 degree mark albeit only by a couple of degrees but at least psychologically, it feels cooler. And, today, it is raining. Not a fully socked in real gully washer but at least an odd cloud here and there that is dumping rain on us in a steady drizzle. We’ll take it any way we can. What is more, the temperature has only reached 80 degrees and that’s at 2:00 pm in the afternoon. It is forecast to reach 97 degrees but it may not get anywhere near that high especially if it continues to rain.

As tough as we claim to be, eventually continuous 100 degree weather gets to even the most hardened of us. Even the native Texans, the ones who wear those big hats, get more than a little tired of the heat and are glad to see it cool down. I for one am especially glad as I have done very little outdoors over these past two months. My garden needs trimming and I have a couple of projects that I want to complete this fall. Nothing major but still needing my attention and not to mention that I haven’t been on a hike in two and a half months at least. If the Parks and the Trails have not missed me, I sure as heck have missed them.

I did get in the big pond the other day to join the fish in their habitat, not for their company but because I needed to work on a couple of the installations like a fish fountain and an in-pond filter system. I finished the fish fountain and it is working just fine but the filter system still needs some work. Still, I don’t mind that work as I am standing in the pond where it is pretty cool at least compared to the outside temperatures.

The only good thing that has come out of all of this heat and me staying indoors is that I have written enough blogs to take me through mid October at three a week and I know of at least two more that I will need to fit in with the Austin Pond Society meetings for October and November. Hopefully, I have not bored my few readers too much with my odd selection of subjects over these past couple of months.

Well, it has stopped raining, with any luck only temporarily, as we could sure use a lot more. As I have written in previous blogs, my garden is pretty much all native plants. I have not watered it at all this summer and although some of the plants are looking a bit heat weary, most of them are holding up well. When our one or two day winter arrives, the frost will knock down all of the remaining growth and I will have to spend a couple of days cleaning it up ready for the start of the new season. But that is next year…

Written 9/3/2018

Finally, Rain…


Rainy Day on the Coast

Rainy Day on the Coast

Finally, we got some rain here in my part of Texas. A little more than 2 inches of a steady downpour. Not enough to flood but a nice gentle rain that the hungry soil greedily soaked up with very little run off.

I walked around the garden the next day and was totally amazed at how quickly everything that a couple of days ago was really sorry looking and drooping like it was on its last legs, had recovered. Nature is so amazing and so resilient and it helps that I have all native plants in my garden. The reason for the rain was the most recent Tropical Storm named Gordon off the coast of Mississippi that managed to dump enough rain to make it a very welcome guest. Today the high temperature so far has only reached 92 with yesterday’s high the same. Maybe, just maybe we are all through with the 100 degree days of the past few weeks. So far this year, 2018, Austin has seen 49 days of 100 degree heat a long cry from 2011 when there were 90 days of it. Incidentally, this is the first year that I did not hook up the soaker hose system mainly to see what the end result would be without it. The only watering was to the plants in containers on the deck.

As you can imagine, not only is 100 degrees bloody hot, it is also very tiring and difficult to work outside especially for us older folks. Back in the day, when I was a lot younger, I worked Construction  when I first arrived in Texas and even though it was very hot, it didn’t bother me as much as it does now I am an old fart. I have spent these past few weeks indoors working on my blogs and a couple of other indoor projects and attending to the ponds early in the mornings. I have managed to put together a whole list of projects that I need to do and would normally have been done if not for the heat. These I will work on as soon as it cools to around 90 degrees and lower. Needless to say, I have not even thought about going hiking and as tough of an old bird that I am, even I would probably pass out in the heat.

These are the joys of living in the Lone Star State. At least we don’t get much of a winter which almost makes up for the heat.

Written 9/5/2018

Grocery Shopping…


Ford Truck

I went out today to the grocery store
as I have many times before
but before I got into my truck
I started the engine and with any luck
the A/C would cool the inside down
comfortable for me to drive downtown.

When I jumped in it was nice and cool
and my Audiobook is my favorite tool
to listen to stories as I drive along
much better to me than to hear a song
which is so much more noise so I prefer
the narrator telling stories that I hear.

Getting out of the truck to go in the store
the temperature was not like before
no portable A/C to keep me cool
hot air blasting from the sun is cruel
to walk as fast as I can to the store
and feel the cool air as I close the door.

I stay in the store as long as I can
walk around buying stuff as the prices I scan
then to the check out I wheel my cart
and chat with the lady as she does her part
as she loads my bags and on my way
I head for the door not pausing to stray.

I walk back out into the heat
a blast from a furnace as I hit the street
and pushed the button to start my truck
so it would cool down and with any luck
would not be as hot inside
instead of feeling like a hundred and five.

I loaded my stuff into the cab
and stashed the cart and quickly grabbed
the handle to the drivers door
to get in the A/C just like before
stop for a latte before driving home
in for the evening no more to roam.

Written 7/21/2018

This and That…


child_games_in_wonderful_soccer_dreams

I commented in the last couple of blogs just how hot it is here in my part of  Central Texas. It is like this every year with some years worse than others. The record was set in 2011 when Austin at Camp Mabry, one of the weather recording centers, registered 83 consecutive days with the temperatures 100 degrees or more. It doesn’t matter what way you look at it, that was a bloody hot summer. Luckily, the humidity was low which made it a little more bearable.

We have just had our first 100 degree days this past week with the thermometer reaching 100 on three consecutive days. There are thunderstorms forecast for the next couple of days which will bring some welcome relief. Along with the high temperatures there are all sort of bye products caused by the heat. Things like high electric bills with the A/C units at full blast and in many cases, replacement units due to the older models breaking down. Try to imagine what the inside of a house is like with no A/C when the outside temperature is 100 degrees or higher. Fans are a big help but they only move the hot air around as they don’t cool it.

If you are an avid gardener, it is a heartbreaking struggle to keep your precious plants alive especially if you are on city water and there are watering restrictions. Austin gets most of its water from the Highland Lakes which is a chain of six freshwater lakes in Central Texas formed by six dams on the lower Colorado River. A heat wave like the one in 2011 actually lowered the lake water quite considerably as the water evaporates along with the demands from all of the Municipalities downstream. It took several years for the lake levels to return to normal after that and it was officially declared a drought.

In my younger days, thirty or so years ago, I was still an avid soccer player at the top Amateur level. The teams I played with would often go away to Tournaments in Dallas or Houston or sometimes even further afield to New Orleans or Florida. These Tournaments were nearly always in the summer, again the hottest time of the year but although they were competitive, it was only for fun. Apart from getting to play several games over a weekend, we went for the company and camaraderie that belonging to a team brings. And the beer of course, lots of beer. I remember on two separate occasions, one in Dallas and the other in Houston when the heat got to us more than usual.

The Dallas Tournament was played on a large soccer complex which like all such complexes was built with very little shade around the fields. Our particular field had Flood Lights surrounding the field mounted on six, sixty foot metal poles. This was the only shade close to the field and spectators and players not in the game were all standing in a line in the shadow of the poles with a larger group at the end where the bank of lights projected a bigger shadow. It was pretty funny. The actual temperature that day was 108 degrees, the hottest that I have ever played in. The game itself was played in slow motion with the players trying to conserve as much energy as possible and when they wanted to sub out, they had the greatest difficulty in finding someone to take their place.  Usually, subs are lined up just waiting to get into the game but not on that particular day. I can’t remember much about the game or even if we won as the heat was the overriding factor for all of us.

The Tournament in Houston was very much the same with very high temperatures. The difference was that in Houston, being close to the sea, the humidity was through the roof which made it appear to be much hotter than it really was. Humidity saps the strength right out of you whether you are used to it or not. The same thing happened as in the Dallas Tournament except there were no floodlights to provide shade. In the second half players were subbing in and out at a tremendous rate as in these Amateur games, subs are unlimited. In the end, it got to where you couldn’t find anyone willing to go back in which meant that you had to stay on the field or if you came off anyway, the team had to play short. That game was truly a miserable experience for both teams. I can’t remember who won and in truth, really didn’t care.

On the home front with all of my ponds, I have to be very careful to make sure that there is no water wastage from anywhere. As it is, keeping the water cool enough for the Koi and Goldfish during these periods of high temperatures is a difficult task. The only real way is to keep the water moving with waterfalls and water features and plant lots of Lilies and water shading plants. The other big problem it to maintain the oxygen levels in the water as the heat tends to deplete the amount of oxygen. I have separate bubblers in all of my ponds which this time of the year are running non stop and even with these precautions, it not a bit unusual to find fish floating on the top.

I have all native plants in my garden which I tend to let grow wild only trimming them where my pathways are or maybe to keep them from crowding out the other growth. If I  have to water them to keep them alive I have installed an underground soaker hose system which if absolutely necessary, will run at night on timers. This is enough to keep the plants alive without wasting too much water in overspill. My garden is really a jungle in disguise which makes it much easier to maintain.

The one redeeming factor is that we can look forward to the Hurricane Season and since 80% of the North Atlantic Hurricanes form from June through October, hurricane season is declared from June 1 to November 30. The months when storms are most frequent on the Texas coast are August and September. If we do get any at all and that is not a certainty, we will probably get cooler temperatures and rain which if it is in excessive amounts will bring its own problems.

Texas has a saying, “If you don’t like the Texas weather, just wait five minutes and it will change”. This saying is also credited to many other States to which it can apply.

Written on another hot day in Texas.
7/3/2018

 

Summertime


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Summer is here with all that it brings
as the temperature climbs as though it has wings
going higher and higher with each passing day
topping out around a hundred too hot to stay
outside in the heat for long and instead
stay where cool air blows overhead
keeping us cool the dogs and me
as we each do our thing quite comfortably
the dogs are quiet each with their spot
it must be nice to sleep such a lot
and its instant the minute their head hits the floor
except when I get up to go out the door
they are awake  and right by my feet
in case they miss something maybe a treat
I have learned here in Texas a long time ago
that the heat from the Sun will make your skin glow
and sunburn is the most painful thing
when all it takes is a hat and to cover the skin
with lotion especially made for the task
without it your life will surely not last
Texans are pretty tough more than most
we’re used to the heat is something they boast
as the summers are not for the faint of heart
as A/C and cool drinks each play their part
around the end of September it will start to cool down
by then the Sun will have parched the ground
unless we are lucky and had some rain
which sometimes happen when a hurricane
moves in from the sea and onto the shore
and we get rain lots of rain sometimes more
than we need as it floods the rivers and lakes
and then it is gone which is all it takes
to make things grow the following spring
as Natures design covers everything
it may be hot more hot than I like
but I would not change it for a cooler life
instead of the heat the frosts I can’t stand
and the snow and the ice which covers the land
in winter making six months obsolete
to me is far worse than the Texas heat.

Written 7/1/2018

 

Summer is Here


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Our bit of Spring has come and gone
with warmer weather and birds on a song
green leaves and wildflowers bursting forth
to show off their colors for all they are worth.

Too short a season is our Spring
and all too soon hot weather will bring
temperatures in the hundred degrees
enough to bring a man to his knees.

Yet we manage every year
to live with the heat and to appear
that it doesn’t really bother us
used to it all with little fuss.

We work outside or play our games
or take long hikes no thought remains
that inside is where we should really be
trying to feel cool in the A/C.

For being outside in the Summer heat
is not really an impossible feat
you just have to think ahead
a hat and sunblock and water instead.

Do I like one hundred degrees
compared to say a winter freeze
and I would really have to say
I’ll take the summer in Texas any day.

Written 5/27/2018