Cleaning the Converted Pool to Fish Pond September 2016


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I got up early, at least for me, so that I could film the volunteers from the Austin Pond Society as they worked on Nancy and Jake’s pond. This particular pond is actually a converted swimming pool and at least one member had asked the question, “How can I convert my pool” at the last meeting. This blog will show the process in reverse.

This was another example of how the Austin Pond Society by means of a show and tell with members physically joining in with the work, have them  performing  such tasks so that they have the knowledge and ability when the time comes, to perform the work on their own ponds. It was also an opportunity for those members that needed pond plants, to get some for free in return for their help.

When I arrived about 9:30 am, there were several people already hard at work. This included Jeannie and Steve, Jeannie’s son, Cory and of course Nancy and Jake. They had already lowered the water by a couple of feet and both Steve and Cory were in the pond removing the plants. Steven had on waders and Cory was in with just his bathing trunks. The pond/pool is about 30 feet long and 18 feet wide and like most swimming pools had a shallow and deep end. The shallow end is where most of the plants were standing on metal glass topped tables that Jake had especially adapted for this use.

It took a good hour and a half to get all of the plants out of the water and during this time, several other people showed up to help including Alex and David and a little later on, BJ, Ann and Betty. With all of these helpers, the work on the deck was quickly divided into groups as plants were separated and re-potted. Plants that were not going to be re-planted and all of the sundry dirt and roots from the rest was taken to the trash heap some little distance from the deck. Ted, our Pond Tour Chairman showed and he helped Jake get the inlet pipe ready to be reconnected. During this process, Jake’s new electric drill fell into the pond and was eventually fished out by Alex using a long handled net. It remains to be seen if it will dry out enough to work.

While this was going on, the pond boys, Steven and Cory had been replacing the newly re potted plants onto the glass topped tables within the pond locating them in their new homes. For them, this was a much simpler job than their previous one of taking the plants out of the ponds. Even though the plants originally had been planted in pots, Nature being what it is, does not contain itself within these limitations and many of the plants had not only outgrown their pots but had been growing in wild abandon without the pots constrictions. Consequently, when it was time to get them out, they were way too big and too heavy and had to be cut down into smaller chunks. The Umbrella plant in particular, which looked very spectacular, took Steve and Cory probably a good fifteen minutes before they could manhandle it out of the pond and not before they had cut it into several more manageable sized pieces.

While others were working in and around the pond, BJ was working on the bog which is an above deck structure and is probably about fifteen feet by six feet and about 3 feet high. She spent her time pulling plants out of the bog around the edges and thinning out others towards the middle. She looked a fine sight as she was mud spattered from head to toe.dsc_3988

As soon as Jake and Ted had the inlet pipe hooked back together, Jake turned on the water to the bog which in turn, provided some circulation within the pond. They have a 9500 gph pump which is pushing a lot of water which showed with the amount that flowed out of the bog. About this time, hot dogs were served and the pond crew took a hard earned rest. As it happened, they also had to leave and so Alex volunteered to get into the pond to complete the remaining work. Some of the other helpers had left as most of the work was complete.

I said my goodbyes and Nancy walked me back to my car. While we were there talking, two more members showed, Cynthia and Barb both of whom had previous engagements that had kept them away, full of apologies for their lateness. Both were surprised that the work was complete.

It was a very interesting experience and even though I had to put up with a lot of joking remarks about my role as photographer, followed by dire threats of being plastered in mud, I managed to get out of there unscathed. All in all, a very interesting morning.

I took a lot of film and have turned them into videos.
The first and longest shows the work involved in clearing the pond.
The second shows the plants as they are cut up into smaller and more manageable pieces to be re-potted and then the re-potting itself.
The third is very short and shows the inlet pipe that was already assembled and being put back into the pond.
The next video is of BJ  and others cleaning some of the plants out of the bog.
The last video is of the plants being replaced into the pond.

Cleaning the Pond Pool September 2016 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Re-potting the plants 9-24-2016 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Re-assembling the inlet pipe. from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Cleaning the Bog from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Replacing the plants from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

In the Ponds…


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View of the 5000 gallon pond. The plant on  the right is a Thalia.

I had reason to get into two of my ponds a couple of days ago. In one, the pipe that connects to the fish fountain had come disconnected probably because I had installed a 6000 gph pump greatly increasing the water pressure. The only way to reconnect was to literally get in the water as the fountain stands in the middle of the pond.

The ponds plants have taken over because nothing died back following our frost free winter and also helped by the fact that I decided to let things grow. I have not done any pruning or cutting back, this year at all. The entry into the pond that I specifically built is so full of Taro leaves and other plants that there is no way into the water without tearing the place up. I didn’t want to do that so had to devise another way to get in.

I went to the opposite end where the skimmer and pump are located and figured that if I put a couple of boards over the skimmer box, I could use it to gain entry into the pond. This I did and hooked the pipe back up to the fish fountain, this time wiring it together in the hope of it staying there longer.  While I was in the pond and as is my usual practice, I cleaned the pond bottom of as much junk and leaves that I could find. When I turned the water back on (I always shut off the pumps when I get into the ponds as a safety precaution) , the water streamed out a good three feet in front of the fountain, something it has never done before. As I mentioned, the new pump was putting out a lot of water and this was the first time it had been hooked to the fountain. Very impressive.

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The frog statue showing how far the new pump can throw the water.

I went over to the first pond by the deck and tried to think of everything I needed to do in this pond and before I got into it, had all of the pots and tools lined up.  My reason for getting into it in the first place was to try to upright a Taro plant that had slipped over. This one had grown very tall, taller than me which is not saying much, probably close to six feet. I also wanted to take the opportunity to clean out the pond which I always do if I have to get in them.

Compared to the first pond I had been in, this one turned into a comedy of errors. I didn’t have any trouble getting in and out of this pond as it is not so deep as the first one except in the middle. I walked over to the Taro plant wondering what on earth I was walking on. Instead of a hard surface under my feet, it was soft and mushy and all kinds of thoughts started racing through my head. Dead fish, dead plants, mud, pea gravel, maybe even a dead Heron as I had not seen my visitor from another world for several months.

I dipped my cleaning net into the water and brought up the first net full which turned out to be nothing worse than mud and pea gravel from the pots that the big Koi had managed to tip over or washed out with their tails. I had originally built  a couple of “tables” in the pond comprising of concrete blocks stacked three high with a weighted plastic shelf made out of garage storage shelves. The “tables” have been in the pond for probably twenty years or even longer and normally have pond plants in pots standing on them, the Taro plant being one of them. One table was still intact but the one that had the Taro standing on it had collapsed which is of course why the Taro had fallen over.

In my efforts to clean the muck and get the blocks and pots out of the pond, I managed to stumble over yet another concrete block and before I knew it, had joined the fish swimming in the water falling over backwards with a considerable splash. I quickly scrambled to my feet none the worse except maybe a little cooler and a lot wetter and wondered how many fish germs I had swallowed. After all, fish poop in the water. Where else are they going to go?

Interestingly enough, The big Koi and I am talking about fish well over two feet long and longer, were not a bit disturbed by my joining them in the water. Not even when I fell over. As I worked, they swam lazily around me and I even reached out and stroked several of them on the side and they still didn’t panic. I am not suggesting that they recognize me after twenty five years plus of me attending to them but they definitely did not consider me a threat.

I had planted in pots at least three lotus and a couple of lily plants this season but if they had come up at all, the Koi had quickly managed to destroy them. All that remained were the pots some still full of clay and stones, other completely cleaned out. I lifted these out along with the concrete blocks and continued with the chore of cleaning the pond. While I was at it, I cut back the overhanging growth around the outside of the pond. Then I turned my attention to the reason I was in the pond in the first place, the tall  Taro plant. I discovered that it had grown out of its pot which is the reason it had tipped over. I could not get it back into the pot and the only recourse was to drag it over to the side and scramble it up onto the bank.

I have it sitting in a large pot now and will keep it alive. The original leaves have already died but it will grow more. Maybe, I will put it back into the pond, this time in a much larger pot weighted down with rocks to keep it steady. Or not….

 

Austin Pond Society 22nd Annual Tour – S5


Continuing on with the Austin Pond Societies Annual Pond Tour, this was another of the larger sites on the tour. It is a beautifully manicured paradise of ponds, play houses and pirate ships.

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S5     Mark and Debbie – Westlake

This site is a perennial tour favorite, and each year it exceeds expectations. Follow the artesian-fed streams down to the 40,000-gallon pond filled with exotic tropical water lilies and marginals, but don’t stop there. Go past the gazebo that’s at the back of the pond and check out the new greenhouse. Take time to wander through the 1,200-foot long maze, which spells out “Love “and was constructed by the owner for his wife. Continue past that area to the far back of the property. You’ll come to Never Never Land, which the owner is building himself for his seven young grandchildren. To the right, there is a sweet pink playhouse for the little princesses, and to the left the Jolly Poppy pirate ship is being completed. Feel free to explore; it is magical!

As with all of these slides, if you click on any one of them it will enlarge and then use the side arrows to move the pictures along. Press  “Escape” to get back to normal.

Austin Pond Society 22nd Annual Tour – S4


Continuing on with the Austin Pond Societies Annual Pond Tour, this was one of the larger sites on the tour. It spread over 5 acres with a lot of challenges of climbing or descending steps and long pathways. It was well worth it though as the end result is quite spectacular.

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S4     Marc – Westlake

There’s a lot to see on this five-acre property: beautiful sculptures, four ponds, water features and the newest addition, a 4,000-pound granite sphere that floats on a cushion of water and can be rotated by a 3-year-old! Stone steps and gravel pathways meander through the property, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes so you can see everything. If this is too much climbing for you, there will be a golf cart to take you to a vantage point. Construction is finished on the new 80,000-gallon swimming hole, grotto and cylindrical waterfall, but the misting area and the iridescent glass tile dragon that will guard the opening above the waterfall has yet to be installed. The owner will have renderings to demonstrate the next phases and will be there to answer your questions. An amazing project!

As with all of these slides, if you click on any one of them it will enlarge and then use the side arrows to move the pictures along. Press “Escape” to get back to normal.

Austin Pond Society 22nd Annual Tour – S1, S2, S3


I have listed the ponds in the same order as in the program although tour participants  were not restricted to it. In fact, I actually started from S10 and worked my way back into town. Apologies to you Volunteers who were not included but it  was all a matter of timing (morning or afternoon). Only one time was I in the right place to take pictures of the change from the morning shift to the afternoon shift.


 

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S1.    Jeff and Janice – Central Austin

If you’re looking for an absolutely perfect small pond in a beautifully shaded setting, this site is for you. The 1,100-gallon pond has an EPDM liner and is constructed of slabs of softly colored limestone. The waterfall is backed with Macho fern and beautiful plantings spill over the pond edge. The garden is a classic example of the use of variety and texture, and everything was put in place by the owners. Lots of goldfish make their home in this 23-inch-deep pond, which has a nice variety of marginals, such as black taro, Sagittarius, purple and white pickerel and a huge lizard tail. This pond is a jewel in an idyllic setting


S2  Roger and Jo – Zilker Area

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The front garden of this home is carpeted with a maze of native Texas plants with a very tiny area that requires mowing. The entire garden is overhung with large live oak trees, which create a shady setting. Follow the walkway around the right side of the home past a 125-gallon water tank and proceed to the backyard where you will pass the large and elaborate filter system that is used for this 12,000-gallon pond. A new limestone waterfall graces one corner of the pond and provides perfect drinking and sunbathing opportunities for doves, cardinals and frisky squirrels. The pond is filled with rainwater from a hidden 3,000-gallon tank.


S3     Chris and Alice – Westlake.

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Follow the path around the left side of the property to the rear garden and make yourself comfortable on the limestone patio at the rear of this Hill Country home. Adjacent to the patio is the first of three small ponds connected by a stream, which meanders down the hillside to the 1,200-gallon pond at the base. The garden is filled with native plants, and the ponds contain iris, pickerel and other marginals. The ponds and stream, which were formed of concrete surrounded by limestone boulders, are so natural in their setting you’d think they had been there forever.

As with all of these slides, if you click on any one of them it will enlarge and then use the side arrows to move the pictures along. Press “Escape” to get back to normal.

 

The Beauty of Water Lilies and Lotus


Ripples Publication May 2015 PDF Final-CopyYesterday was the monthly meeting of the Austin Pond Society and as usual, was held in the Zilker Botanical Gardens. I arrived a little early and could not help but notice the beautiful show that the water lilies and lotus were putting on in The  Willy Birge Memorial Pond located at the entrance and  managed by Darren Bayhi and maintained by him with help from other society members.

Every year, he and bunch of APS volunteers empty this pond, scrub it out and then meticulously re-pot the lilies, lotus and other plants that reside there. Judging by the pictures, it is a job very well done. Usually, the water is pretty clear but for some unknown reason, it is currently having an algae bloom which has turned the water green. I am sure that Darren with his expertise will figure a way to clean the water up.

Below are a few pictures of the lilies and the lotus that are currently in bloom.

Austin Pond Society January 2016 Meeting.


logo-144x144The Austin Pond society held it’s first of the year meeting at the Zilker Botanical Gardens Meeting room at the usual time of 6:30 and on the usual 3rd Monday of the month.

We started off with a small snack of Tacos and Salad with a whole bunch of different donated cookies for dessert put together by our new volunteer chef, Stephen Monfrini. Thank you Stephen for volunteering. You are the most popular person at the meetings.

Jeannie Ferrier, the President opened the meeting with an appeal to the members to sign a petition for AAGC to be presented to the City Council for more funding for Zilker Gardens amongst other things. Below is a video of her appeal.

Following the meal and after Jeannie had made her AAGC appeal, the speaker for the evening was Jane Tillman and her subject was, “Put out the welcome mat for Backyard Birds” Jane Tillman is an active member of the Travis Audubon Society, and a Capital Area Master Naturalist. She is the president of the Native Plant Society of Texas, Austin chapter. She put on a very entertaining presentation followed by a lot of questions.

The video is of the presentation by Jane Tillman.

Following the presentation, Jeannie, our President, went around the room asking the several new members to stand up and identify themselves and then to the Board members asking them for any input or words of wisdom they may have. Ted Theone was introduced as the new Pond Tour Chairman and outlined his plans for the tour. He is already looking for volunteers to help with the organization and on the days of the tour.

Our Treasurer, Nancy Reinert presented the budget for this upcoming year and it was passed by acclamation. Our Librarian, Betty Blackson spoke briefly about the books available for check out.

When it came around to my turn, Jeannie pulled a fast one getting the group to sing “Happy Birthday”. Most embarrasing but very welcome. It’s nice to hear it from friends and acquaintances and after all, you only get to celebrate your 80th birthday once in a lifetime.

There was not a lot of other business and the meeting ended with the door prize drawings which this time around was several copies of the 2016 APS Calendar.

For a video of the business part of the meeting.

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