Another Wet Day…


wet hiking tail

Another wet day in my home town
it has been like this for more than a week
the days before this were a hundred and three
and now it feels much cooler to me
it’s not unusual in Texas for such extremes
as we generally get a cooling trend
with the temperature dropping a few degrees
instead it has gone to eighty three
we can always use the rain
even when the streams are full
and flooding the banks and onto the fields
and washing away the man made shields.
the trails are much too to wet to hike
and with the chance of a lot more rain
out on the trails and under the trees
and walking in mud up to my knees
is not something that I want to do
these very wet days are very few
for not getting out is not overdue.

mudphoto

Walking McKinney Falls State Park with BJ 7-21-2016


DSC_3402BJ and I met a little after 10:00 am at the entrance gate at McKinney Falls State Park as she had earlier indicated a desire to go on another walk. I’m always up for a walk and was more than willing to accompany her. This Park is about the same distance to Bastrop as it is from my house, only about 25 minutes so a perfect spot for both of us without having to travel too far. I have walked here many times and was here last week but it was going to be the first for BJ.

We discussed which trail to take and finally opted for the Hike and Bike Trail. I learned from my walk of last week that we should go in the opposite direction from my previous walk as that would cut out having to ascend the steepest of the hills. This trail is all blacktop with the exception of the places down by the river that have washed out with the recent floods. In fact, we passed a couple of men with shovels and a Bobcat dozer and driver who were working on re-patching the path.

The walk was uneventful and I did not take many pictures having already taken quite a few a couple of days before. Nothing much changes in two days but the Spruce were putting on a display. They are really beautiful trees. When we got into the Picnic Area down by the river, there were a large group of teenagers who were with some camp playing what looked to be a very energetic game of beating each other with long poles. The smart ones were tagged early and got to stand in the shade as the other more energetic or maybe it should read competitive ones, kept on playing.

At the start of the hike, I had shown BJ the Upper Falls pictured above, which she found to be a wonderful place vowing to bring her friend for them to go swimming. She wanted to see the Lower Falls and we jumped into our respective cars and drove the mile or so to where they are located. We parked our cars and walked the short distance and the Lower Falls opened up in front of us. We had to cross a large granite expanse to get to it which was all pockmarked with the actions of water for the past thousands of years. Water is such a powerful thing.

I mentioned that there was a long hike on the other side of the Lower Falls requiring some acrobatics jumping from rock to rock to gain access to those trails. While we were there we reconnoitered what difficulty’s there may be in us older folks trying to cross and it looked passable. The young kids were leaping it without any trouble. Oh, the joy of being young. It looks like we have our next hike ready to go in front of us.

While  at the Lower Falls which has another stream that joins it at this point, I spotted a Great White Egret fishing in the river. They really are beautiful birds.

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As we watched, it moved positions to a different part of the river and we could see it chasing a fish as it splashed around in the water.

We walked back to our cars passing the warning and educational signs outlining the do’s and dont’s of this part of the Park.

As we stood by our cars, both of which are almost identical, BJ asked me if I knew about starting the car from the a distance with the key. I did not and she proceeded to show me. So I learned something new today. Like the car advertisement, I was waiting for a bear to come out of the woods and give me a hug. No such luck, thank goodness, maybe because I did not use voice commands.

Another great day on the Texas trails.

Reimers Ranch 6-24-2016


DSC_3147For a change, I decided to take a walk at Reimers Ranch where I hadn’t been in a while. I thought that maybe I would take one of the two long hikes but when I arrived, changed my mind. Instead, I pulled into the Mountain Bike Parking Lot and went through my usual pre-hike rituals  of changing boots etc. I set off on the trail that would lead me to Johnny’s Homestead and from there, headed North down the Multi-Use Trail.

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A few hundred yards down the trail, I came to the signs for the Kelly Prehn Trails which I knew branched off towards the river where  I could get some good pictures. This trail splits into two separate trails, the Kelly Prehn Overlook and the Pogue Canyon Overlook.

I walked them both and managed to get some good pictures of both Overlooks. The views from above are not the greatest and it is a long way down to the water. The Spruce trees however, are in fine form and show very well on the pictures. It is a pity that this trail is not connected to the last overlook on the Main Trail as it would be a fabulous walk as it followed the river.

Continuing, North along the Multi Use Trail, I came to another fork in the road with one trail leading to Turkey Loop and the other remaining the Multi-Use Trail. I opted to take the Turkey Loop in the hopes that I might get lucky and spot a Turkey or two. No such luck but I did get a picture of a sparrow which actually is more than I can usually get with any bird other than a Buzzard.

DSC_3151

I completed the loop and was back on the Main trail which from there was a straightforward walk back to the parking lot. I found a few flowers along the way and took pictures of them.

I arrived back in the parking lot with still a few cars in it. A couple of horses and riders passed me just as I made the turn and they were the first I had seen in a while at Reimers Ranch. Altogether, I covered around 5 miles of very easy walking underfoot. The trails are wide and flat with very little loose rock. My timing was good as the thunder clouds were rolling in as you can see from the pictures below and I drove home through the rain.

As with all of these slide shows, if you click on anyone of them, it will enlarge and you can use the side arrows to move them along. Use the “Escape” key to get back to normal.

 

Why do we keep so much paper?


DSC_0930I had lunch with a friend, one of the first people I met after moving to Texas almost 40 years ago. He invited me to play on his soccer (football) team even though he had never seen me play. I spent several years with that group of guys including a double break to my right leg which kept me from playing for 6 months. My friend still plays a bit although he has an eye problem that hampers his ability to see the ball. Like me, he is getting on in years although still a bit younger than me.

We chatted about days gone by and the current soccer scene and then we came back to the subject for which the lunch had come about in the first place, him becoming my Executor. We discussed the ins and outs of what all is involved and he suggested that I could make a start by organizing my stuff into something that someone other than myself could make sense of it.

It’s amazing what we keep thinking that it might be useful or that we can claim it off our taxes or because we just like to hoard our junk mail. Whatever the reason, I have a small file drawer on wheels that I have kept close to my table/desk since I moved the computer out to where I could admire the view of the back yard as I worked. No longer being involved with any of the soccer organizations as I had been for most of my life here in Texas, I was able to cut back on the amount of desk space that I needed. Two computers, a printer, lots of wires running everywhere hooked to things like CD Players, additional Hard drives for backup, extra USB ports and two of the Guardian monitors that I use to check the cameras out on the yard and in the house. Actually, there is not a lot of free space left on the table/desk…

I started to look through the folders in the little storage drawer and discovered lots of junk mail including things like old water bills and stuff from Blue Cross or Medicare. I have a small shredder sitting next to the desk and started to methodically shred all of the stuff that I had hoarded over the past couple of years that I knew I would no longer need. Even then, I looked at it at least twice more before shredding it. I was going great guns only to get waylaid by my Ford Escape which I deemed needed a software update. I managed to spend several hours on trying to figure out how to do that small job and try as i might, I could not get the software to upload from from a USB Stick. I looked at videos and read lots of instructions but it just wouldn’t happen. So, after several frustrating hours, I had to admit defeat and go back to shredding paper.

Included in the shredding were old veterinary receipts for the countless times I had visited the vets with my small menagerie. Remember that these files go back a couple of years or more to when there were six dogs and three cats way up from the two dogs and two cats that we are now. What I did not realize as I bombed merrily along, feeding page after page through this shredder was that taped to some of the old files were the dog tags from those years. As I was feeding three or four sheets at a time, I didn’t see the tags until the shredder came to a screeching stop. I hit the reverse button but it was too late. The dog tags had torn up the teeth on the shredder and jammed it to where I could not get it to move anymore. Being the inquisitive guy that I am about mechanical things, out came the screwdrivers and the wrench and I took the thing apart only to discover that the teeth had been stripped from the main gear. That was that as I sat and looked in disgust at the havoc I had created, again.

Next thing was to jump in the car and drive to the nearest Staples and look at the cheapest shredders that they had. I figured that I generally don’t get very much in the way of paper that needs shredding and I am very careful to re-cycle any and all paper and cardboard that does not have any sensitive information on it. What I was working on at this particular moment was a couple of years worth of collected paper which was accounting for the filled up very large black plastic waste bag that I had shredded so far. It’s amazing the space difference between a sheet of paper and a shredded sheet of paper.

I found a unit that was on sale from $129 to $59 with another incentive of a $20 mail in with a receipt bringing the price down to a little under $40. As this was the cheapest one I could find, I jumped on the deal and drove home to continue with the very boring but necessary work of cleaning the files. The new shredder worked fine until I managed to jam it and it wouldn’t work. I sat and waited cursing under my breath about the quality of the stuff that you can buy nowadays thinking about having to return it back to Staples when all of a sudden, the green light came back on and it started working again.

I finished organizing the files in the little cabinet to where anyone coming in after I leave this planet, could find everything related to me and my previous life. Insurances are all filed under Insurance and I even have folders for Photography, Computers and of course, one for Miscellaneous not to mention that there is now a folder entitled “Last Will”. It doesn’t have much in it yet, but I am working on it…

Next stop, the “old” office and the cabinets full of paper in there including old federal tax returns which go back more than fifteen years. I told you I was a hoarder…

Today’s Thoughts, June 21, 2015. Father’s Day in America.


Rainy and Foggy Day

Rainy and Foggy Day

Today is June 21st, Fathers Day in America. We are probably the only country in the world that can come up with all of these dedicated days to celebrate something or another. Most official Holidays in most countries are usually religious holidays but here, in America we celebrate anything at anytime. More often than not, it is driven by commerce as with every “special” day, there goes along with it gift giving or at the very least a celebration of some sort that involves spending money. I sound like a cynic which I probably am as for me, I was a failure at being a Father in a couple of times of trying. Maybe I am just a sourpuss because no one is making a fuss over me not that I would want them to as I feel uncomfortable when I get any special attention. Pity my dogs don’t know what day it is as I know they would make a fuss over me and give me doggie kisses. Maybe I’ll tell them. Doggie kisses? Maybe not.

Anyway, be that as it may as I’m sitting here looking out of the window and watching it rain .. again. I read in the paper that Austin, a city that normally gets about 30 inches of rain a year has already passed that mark and we are only 6 months into the year. Today, in 2012, the temperature reached 108 degrees Fahrenheit,a record for that day and today, 2015, we will be lucky if we reach 85. I’m not complaining mind you as 108 is bloody hot even by Texas standards.

We can use as much rain as Mother Nature wants to send to us. Both Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan are still down from the perceived normal levels and although, the rain has helped quite considerably, we still need more.

I was able to complete my pressing outside projects. After several false starts due to the contractor going on vacation and not being able to get a pump truck because of the wet weather and Memorial Day floods, I ended up doing the entire project myself. I saved a bunch of money and lost a few pounds in the process and learned more about septic systems than I care to know. Anyone got a septic question? Bet I can answer it. Just kidding as learning is an ever ongoing process and every day brings new knowledge. Wonder what happens to those memories that I forget or have to spend considerable time in either retracing my steps or doing some serious thinking about what I was thinking about?

As I had to tear up the majority of the big deck in order to get to the septic system, I took the opportunity of replacing the wood that was showing signs of rotting out. After all, the deck has been there almost 30 years and although I replaced the original cedar with wolmanized after about 10 years of use, even that starts to deteriorate after 20 years wear and tear and weather. While I was at it and really in the swing of things, I completely tore out the lower deck and rebuilt it. So, all of my decks are in good shape and should see out my lifetime, however much longer that may be.

Power washing the deck

Power washing the deck

I wanted to power wash all of the decks and then re-finish them with some new fangled paint that is supposed to be 4x thicker than normal paint and after it is applied, one can dance barefoot on it! Yeah, right. The very thought of splinters is enough to send shivers up and down my spine. I got out my power washer from the shed and gassed it up and to my dismay, the gas poured out the other end as I poured it in my end. Damn thing had dried out again. Same thing happened last year and I took it to the shop to get it repaired. I think I used it once after I got it back and now this is “take two”. I loaded it onto my trailer and made the short trip (5 miles, short by Texas standards) to the repair shop who told me they were so busy that it would take a month to repair. I had no choice other than to leave it with them as it was no good to me like it was. Now, if I can only get into the habit of gassing up and starting up all of my gas-powered equipment throughout the year then maybe, I wouldn’t have this problem every time I want to use a piece of equipment.

My neighbor, Chris has a power washer and very willingly allowed me to borrow it. His worked just fine and I spent a busy couple of days washing everything that looked like decking. I was able to pretty much strip off all of the old red stain to bring it down to bare wood in most places. Now, all I need is to decide what color for the barefoot paint and for the sun to shine for a few days to dry out the deck. It will be interesting keeping the dogs off the wet paint!

Abigail looking for attention

Abigail looking for attention

Talking of dogs, life is continuing on without Abigail and although we are all still grieving, it gets a little better everyday. I swear that the other three dogs know she is no longer with us as they have all acted a little strange and out of character(for them) at different times.The temptation to replace her with another rescue is pretty strong but we will wait awhile before making any of those decisions. If you are wondering what happened to Abigail, she fell into the unguarded septic tank and drowned when my back was turned. By the time I got to her, it was too late. There is a poem about her at http://pondblog2011.mlblogs.com/2015/05/22/ode-to-a-dog-abigail/

My next project is to remodel the master bathroom. When I say remodel, I am only talking of the bath itself. I want to take out the bath and install a shower base with sliding doors and of course, all of the miscellaneous stuff that goes along with it. I am waiting to get a quote on it and will see what the contractor wants to charge before I make up my mind whether to contract the entire project out or save a bunch of money and do it myself.

I just took a walk around the garden in between the showers. As you can imagine, with all of the septic/deck work going on, only the bare necessities like feeding the fish and cleaning the filters has happened in the past 5 weeks or so and with all of this rain, the garden is now almost completely overgrown. I have to quite literally, push my way through the growth just to walk down the pathways. I thought maybe that I would be able to get to cutting a few of them back today, but with the rain, that idea is out of the window. Maybe tomorrow…One thing I am very grateful for is that my ponds were not on the Tour this year. With all of the septic/deck upheaval, I would have had to cancel as the yard was in no position to accept visitors.

Talking of pond tour, The Austin Pond Society has just completed theirs on the weekend of June 6,7. It was an unqualified success and although the number of visitors was down, that is mostly due to Austin being such a busy place with so much going on that it is generally recognized that nearly all events are not as well attended as in the past. Even so, I took that weekend out of my busy schedule to visit all 19 ponds and have written about them on the http://www.austinpondsociety.org website. I took over 700 pictures over the 2 days. One of the ponds was on the night tour and I took some really interesting pictures from daylight through dark as the evening transitioned. Below are a few of those pictures.

 

 

APS January 2015 Meeting


Splash Party leadin (1 of 1)

The Austin Pond Society held its first meeting of the year on January 18 at the Zilker Botanical Gardens Meeting Room attended by about 40 members. There were several new members who introduced themselves. As usual, Laura, our Hospitality Guru fed us with another delicious meal of Chile with a salad. I really need to get there earlier so I have more time to enjoy the meal. As it is, I spend a lot of the time just setting up the camera and then almost immediately, taking still pictures and in between, wolfing down the food. The good thing about that schedule is that I do NOT have time to eat any desert…

At 7:00 pm following the meal, Barb introduced the speaker whose interests seem far from what most female interest are as she talked to us about bugs. Her name is Wizzie Brown which by itself, is a very interesting name. When I asked her, she said that  it goes back to her childhood and has stuck ever since. Wizzie is an Entomologist with the A&M Extention Program.

In spite of her topic, which most people, except Pond People, would not find very interesting, we got to learn about the life styles, uses and habits of the bugs that are in and around our ponds. Which ones are good and which are bad. Probably, only an entomologist would think there is such a thing as a good bug with pond people a close second.

Her talk was very interesting and we could all recognize most of the bugs she was talking about as we see them on a daily basis busy at work in and around the ponds.

Following Wizzie Brown’s presentation, we had some business but nothing of major importance. We are still looking to fill the Parliamentarian’s position and again, there were no takers.  Sure miss John and his humor.

The next meeting will be on Monday, February 16 at Zilker Botanical Gardens at 6:30 pm. Our speaker for the evening will be Steve Kainer from Hill Country Water Gardens and his topic will be, “Preparing our ponds for the Spring”. Hope to see you there.

Wizzie Brown video.

Wizzie Brown Bugs from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Pond Society Business video.

APS January Meeting 2015 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

My 47th Anniversary…March 13, 1967.


Queen Mary

Queen Mary

Well, would you believe that on this day, forty-seven years ago, my family and I landed at New York Harbor on the magnificent Queen Mary. We were met by my mother and one of her friends who drove us back to the little village of Fort Plain in the Mohawk Valley in Upper New York State. Much has happened since that eventful day…

This blog is not a reflection of all that has happened since then as I have already covered that part of my life in previous blogs. No, I am writing this more as a summary and that today for me, is a day worth celebrating. Even though life has had its ups and downs in the past forty-seven years, the majority of it has been very good as I hope it has been for those that landed with me on that day.

Taken on the whole, the American people are a very nice and sociable lot with strong family ties. They have very firm beliefs in family values and in some cases, almost to a fault. The extent that some families will go to “protect” their kids from the normality of life is frightening as I see modern-day kids as mostly a bunch of super intelligent, spoilt and protected to the degree that they never have to face any hardship as they grow up. Part of that is the school system that extends every school day into a school evening in order for the kids to succeed. There is something wrong with a system that expects the kids to work every evening after spending all day at school. When do they have time to be kids?

Everything has to be organized. If is not, the parents won’t allow the kids to participate. City kids, even small cities, have to be taught about Nature. They don’t spend time in the woods among the trees with the birds and animals or smelling the flowers as we did when we were growing up. Granted, they were vastly different times and we didn’t have anything even closely resembling any of the electronic devices that we have to today to provide the entertainment. Don’t get me wrong, I am just as fascinated with these modern wonders as the next person and for an old guy, know my way around them very well. The trouble is they have taken over our lives and the simple things no longer have the same interest.

Funny the direction this blog is heading. I meant to write about my feelings after being in this magnificent country for nearly fifty years but instead it has turned into a rant of how I see problems ahead for the wonderful people who live here, people who I live next door to or greet in the store as we pass, or those that work out at the same gym as I do. It may not be in their lifetime but it won’t be long before modern kids as they grow up, will not know how to cook a meal as they never learned it from their parents.

Enough of all of this complaining. Think of the good things that have happened over the past forty-seven years. Things like becoming an American citizen back in 1976 or having the ability to buy a house  and many, many cars, or moving out of New York State to escape the brutal winters to enjoy the great state of Texas, thirty-seven years ago. Thank you Dominic Fazzone for giving me the opportunity. I think of all of the people I have met and the friends I have made in both States and there is nothing that I cannot do if I so choose. Regardless of the things I see that bother me, this is a great country and it has treated me well and for that, I am very grateful.

Do I regret emigrating from England to the USA? In some ways, of course I do. I miss the English people with their weird sense of humor and the simpler life style at least when I lived there. I miss going to watch the Professional football matches of the English Premier League and have to make do watching them on television. I miss roast beef and Yorkshire pudding and fish and chips eaten out of a newspaper and a pint of English beer. I regret that I was not able to make any of my marriages work and that I lost touch with some of the people who I knew over the years. I regret that I was not able to grow up with my two sons and that I only know them from a distance. The one thing I don’t miss is the incessant rain which was the reason we moved in the first place. Living here in Texas, I could sure use some of it now…

For me, my race is nearly run. I do not have time for regrets as I want to make the most of whatever years I have left and which I will spend in this great country. When I die, my ashes will be spread over this land and I will become a part of its history.

Rule Britannia and God Bless America…