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Monday, July 28, 2008

Washington to Texas Day 3 - Rocks in Utah

We took a different route from Washington to Texas than we had when we brought Amy and the kids from Texas to Washington. We had a much more scenic route in mind. We pretty much sped through Idaho, missing our favorite sights from the 2006 trip, such as Shiprock mountain, and lots of wonderful rock formations heading up to Salt Lake City. If you would like to see some of the photos from that trip, you can at My Old Photographic Memories blog. This trip we wanted to see the Grand Canyon. So our route took a southward turn out of Salt Lake and we saw a whole different world.

The two photos below are side and front views of the same rock. We stopped rather suddenly when we came over the hill and saw the formation. The formation in the photo above is across the road from the formation below. We were literally surrounded by beauty. I really like the side view below; it reminds me of a staircase of stone. The front view will give you an idea of the size of the formation. It looked literally like someone sawed the side of the rock away. If it was done by men working on the highway, it seemed unnecessary, since it was so far from the road. But I don't know anything about road building, so I don't make judgments. But I can and do admire the beauty in the rock, and my hope it that it's a natural formation.

As we headed south, the rock got darker and richer in color. We wanted to go to Arches National Park (you know, the photos!) but we ran out of time. We had to get to the Grand Canyon in time to see it, and the trip from the North Rim to the South Rim was several hours' drive! So we drove and only stopped for quick pit-stops and a few photos.

The formations themselves also changed as we drove, with more formations of the type below. This looks more volcanic in nature to me than the previous rocks we saw.

And just before we hit Arizona, the landscape really changed! We felt as if we had left an enchanted valley. But we were very anxious to get to the South Rim by the "golden hour" and get some good photos (seeing both rims would not have worked, as we had to get to our cabin in the Kaibab National Forest in time to see the way.). And get good photos we did!

Well, I guess there will be a Day 3 1/2 to give the Grand Canyon its' due. We saw the canyon itself, some pretty cool wildlife (coyote, raven, moose), the Watchtower, and all-in-all had a very memorable visit. But I could not let our time in Utah get lost in the shuffle. Those rocks are worth seeing. If you ever get a chance, drive south from Salt Lake and enjoy. Don't forget to bring a camera!

More later,
Mike Z

8/17/08 PS - John Corney, one of my favorite photographer/bloggers, posted some photos of Arches National Park that I think are quite amazing! Please go visit (use the link to get to the right page) and check out the amazing rock formations!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Austin Pond Tour 2008 Part 2 - Kathy and Rick

Kathy and Rick

I am glad I saved Kathy and Rick's pond for a separate post, mainly because there is so much to show you! As you can see from the photos, the pond is very large, 40 by 60 feet, and holds over 25,000 gallons of water. Kathy and Rick built the pond themselves with the help of friends, and the results are lovely and tranquil. But the pond itself is not what makes the whole effect so amazing. As you will see, the plants and sculptures, the house, as well as the design of the pond, makes this pond unique among the ponds I saw on the Austin Pond Tour.

Part 1 Follow the Water

What struck me first about this pond is that Kathy & Rick designed the hillside that is their backyard right into the pond itself. A small pond with a beautiful sculpture and blooming water lilies is situated right at their covered patio, and water flows down a rockwork stream to the larger pond. This gives the pond a very active yet tranquil atmosphere, and gives the eyes plenty to occupy their time!

(You can click on any picture to see it larger)

I put these photos in order, to show the progress of the water down the "stream" to the large pond (I'm tempted to call it a lake!). The steps leading from the back door of the house to the picnic area run beside the stream. You can hear the sounds of rushing and falling water all along the walk. They placed specific plants around the pond that the wildlife don't like to eat, which makes perfect sense considering that they live out in the country. The attention to detail is minute, yet the whole area looks like it "has just always been this way." Kudos to Rick and Kathy, the artist in each really shows!

Part 2 - Water Lilies

I have a special place in my heart for water lilies. Since I first photographed them at the San Angelo Water Lily Display last year, I have kept my eye out for them and have tried to learn all I can about their names and blooming habits. I still have lots to learn.

Rick and Kathy's lilies are beautiful and compliment the pond so well. I give their lilies a special "chapter" in the post because they deserve a closer look. I hope you like them.

Part 3 - The House

I include these photos of the house because I did not want you to miss anything. The whole effect speaks for itself, so without further ado...

Part 4 - Sculptures

As I mentioned, the sculptures placed around the house and pond add a wonderful touch to the yard. Rick was very modest when I asked him about the sculptures, but did tell me that he has several of his pieces in galleries around Austin, and has his own studio called The Fire Within. My take on the style is somewhere between abstract and African (or Easter Island?), and the combination is delightful. Please visit his website to see more of his work.


I close with a few pictures that I couldn't fit in the "outline" above but that I just liked and wanted to share. If you are able, do not miss the 2009 Austin Pond Tour. I am sure R&K will be included!

I like that the two sculptures above have the best view....

Until next time..
Mike Z

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Grapes on Julia's Arbor - Update

I had the photo that I wrote about in Grapes on Julia's Arbor blown up to 8x12 and wanted to get a nice frame and mat for it. Jan and I went to Hobby Lobby to see if they had frames on special. They did! However, the frames that we liked seemed to be all chipped and bruised, and the mats looked scuffed and had that not-so-new look. We tried every frame/mat combination we could find that was in decent shape, but no luck.

As we were leaving, Jan noticed a whole area of "art prints." The frames and mats all looked pretty good, and didn't show the wear and tear that the empty frames had shown. We picked out a couple of likely candidates, and finally chose one of a bulldog dressed in a general's uniform. I won't horrify you with the actual print, but you can get the "general" idea.

We bought it, took it home, and spent about an hour extracting the print from the mat (whoever made the picture sure didn't want us to get our own print in that frame!) When we had the dog/general out, we put the grape photo in, and viola! the final product.

I really hope that Jan's mom likes the picture. I will let you know in a PS what happens.

UPDATE TO THIS UPDATE: We brought the framed photo to Jan's mom, and she loved it. We hung it behind Jan's dad's recliner, over Julia's hummel collection. I really think that space was waiting for a photo just like that to make it perfect. I am so glad she likes it.

Check back soon,
Mike Z

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Austin Pond Tour 2008 Part 1

I found out Saturday that the Austin Pond Society was having the 14h annual tour of their members' ponds this weekend. The tour is now over and I only got to see 6 locations out of 28! The tour is put on every year the 3rd weekend in July to raise awareness of the beauty and serenity of ponds, and also to benefit the APS by raising money and increasing membership. The tour was divided into the South Austin Tour, which happened Saturday, and the North Austin Tour, a small part of which Jan and I were privileged to see on Sunday. The day was sunny, hot, and there was not a cloud in the sky for most of our tour, but we and many other tour-ists were treated to some beautiful and relaxing ponds.

I am going to have a separate "chapter" in this post for each pond that we visited. I think that the work and care that went into the ponds makes them deserving of some special attention. Each pond and each society member is unique and special, and Jan and I came away from the tour as many others have done in the past -- we want our own pond in our backyard!

Stop 1 -- Brushy Creek Community Center

Our first stop on the tour was the Brushy Creek Community Center, about 5 miles from our house. We were unsure of the directions to the center, so I used the Navigator (GPS) feature on my cellphone to get to the spot. We were greeted by two very friendly volunteers who took our fee for the tour, gave us our wristbands and some other information about the APS, and sent us on our way to tour the 3 ponds that the BCCC has on its grounds.

The ponds were small (all three totaled approx 8,300 gallons) but were well-tended and had a variety of water plants and fish in each one. The pathway was lined on both sides by large blooming native Texas plants and there were several large trees that shaded parts of the walk and the ponds to give some relief from the sun and the heat.

A large bridge crossed over a small brook (man-made of course but very natural looking and peaceful) and there was a windmill to add to the ambiance of the park. Large limestone rocks also lined some of the walkways and the ponds themselves.

Stop 2 - Thelma and Deborah

Our second stop on the tour was to the home of Thelma and Deborah, a mother/daughter team who built their pond after seeing George and Leanna's pond last year! There are actually two ponds on the property, a small one in front that they built themselves (I love the blue spilling vase!) and a larger more elaborate one in the back yard by the pool.

Deborah told me that the sound of the water was most important to them, so they added the spilling vase so they could hear the sound whenever they were out in the yard. I had to admit that the sound of falling water really did make the whole arrangement more relaxing and calming. Jan and I were hooked!

Thelma and Deborah had the backyard pool installed by a professional pond company, Hill Country Water Gardens & Nursery, who worked with them to design the pond, and lay in the liner and the rockwork. The ladies added the plants inside and around the pond, and also added the nice statuettes and figures that surround the pond.

The water garden is less than a year old. Thelma and Deborah took last year's Pond Tour, and were so taken with some of the ponds they decided to make one of their own! I have been told that this happens quite often, and I can tell you that Jan and I have our two-year plan to get ours done and be in a future Pond Tour.

Stop 3 - Irene and Clyde

In the legends and lore of the Austin Pond Society, Irene and Clyde have a special place. They have taken the DIY (Do It Yourself) concept to a whole new level with their water garden. Not only did they dig the hole and place the rockwork, they fashioned a home-made sink filter and skimmer as well.

As we walked up, Irene was explaining how they went about designing and making the pond. She was very proud of their water garden and surrounding space, and rightfully so!

Two water pond tour takers admire the fountain in the center of the pond. As Clyde was digging out the limestone to make the water garden, he ran into a large lump of granite. The granite being much harder than the limestone, they decided to build it into the pond and placed a bubbling water fountain on top of it. Pretty ingenious, I'd say.

View from the bench

Beside the pond is a rock bench surrounded by flowers, a perfect spot to see and appreciate the pond. A gazing ball beside the bench blends perfectly with the foliage, completing the serene meditation spot. All in all, this was one of the nicest water gardens in our small part of the tour.

Stop 4 - Vicky and John

Our next stop on the tour was to the lovely home of Vicky and John. They have had their pond in place for about 4 years. They built the pond by themselves, including digging the hole and placing the large rocks that provide the "stream bed" the water flows in to get to the pond itself.

As with most of the pond owners we talked to, the sound of the water falling is the highlight of their "pond experience." John told me that the water must fall at least 6 to 8 inches to get the right sound. He had done a lot of research, and it showed in the care and attention to detail in their layout.

I asked John if his water lilies bloomed very often. He said that in earlier years they had, but now that the trees have grown and have shaded the pond more, the blooms are less frequent. He said he has seen as many as six different color blooms all at once. That must have been a pretty sight!

The back patio is raised off the ground several feet, and gives the family a wonderful view of the park behind their home. Jan had walked with the grandkids by their house several times, never suspecting that there was such a lovely oasis behind one of the fences.

The metal wheelbarrow has been in John's family for several generations; he told me he has photos of his grandfather pushing his dad around in the 'barrow. If I remember right, his great-grandfather used the wheelbarrow in his work, and it has been handed down since then. The wheelbarrow as a planter really goes well in the backyard, and in the corner opposite the pond is a plow or combine, I am not sure which.

Stop 5 - Tad

Our visit to Tad's water garden was an eye-opener! Another do-it-yourselfer, Tad has made a masterpiece of thought and planning come to reality in a beautiful way. A lot of work went into this wonderful water garden, and the very large koi in the pond are spectacular. They are a focal point of the whole display.

Jan and I noticed in his photo album of the water garden's beginnings to the present, that he is the proud father of three young daughters. Jan said that he would have a great place for bridal photos as well as weddings when that time came. It's true, several spots around the pond would be a photographer's dream for wedding photos.

We could have stayed a lot longer at this great water garden, but time was getting short and we needed to get to our last stop before 5 pm. Tad, I apologize for not getting more photos of your red arch bridge (a small part of it is in one of the photos above).

Well, that's it for Part 1 of this small tour of some of Austin's water ponds. To George and Leanna (who inspired Thelma and Deborah), Elsie and Gene, Jody and David, Kirk and Xenia, and the many other water garden enthusiasts who opened their yards to us tourists, we apologize for not getting to see your ponds this year. But you can bet we'll be ready for 2009! There is a bus that will take tourists around on both days to many of the ponds on the tour. We'll probably make use of that next year.

NEXT: In Part 2 of this post I will take you to Rick and Kathy's 25,000 gallon monster pond that was our last stop on the tour, and well worth it! I hope you'll stop back by and see the photos. With streams, fish, water lilies, sculptures (done by Rick himself) in the back yard of their 26 acre estate, this one was a fitting end to our 2008 Water Pond Tour.

See you then,
Mike Z