Friday, January 29, 2010

Where Draco Got It's Name

I have a habit of stopping to read historic markers along the roadways. This one is just down the road from our house, so of course I read it soon after we bought this property. This stretch of the San Gabriel river, that runs just behind the house, is a beautiful place no doubt. However I can only imagine the beauty of it when the Indians lived here. There is evidence of springs in just about every draw that empties into the river. The influx of cedar [Ashe Juniper] has sucked them dry now. And although the riparian zone still holds a vast variety of plants, it just can't be as fine as it was before the bad ranching practices of the last hundred years. After it was over grazed until there was nothing for cows to eat they moved in goats and sheep. That finished it off for the plant life and the three plus feet of top soil either washed away or simply blew away with the winds. All I can do is make my little part of Draco as beautiful as I can and maybe help the wild life as well.

Click on the picture and it should enlarge so that you can read it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Play Big, Lose Big

The low temperature here at Draco was a chilly ten degrees. I wasn't too concerned about any of the plumbing as it's been very close to that in the past. But there is new plumbing since then. Yep, the rain water system. I had all the valves on the tanks turned off and with around 1900 gallons in each tank, I knew they wouldn't freeze. The pipe that connects all the tanks together has a valve on one end to bleed the water in it off so that shouldn't have been an issue. That is, if it had been opened. My feeble little mind registered that I had done that. In reality I had not done that, and man did it cost me.

When you glue PVC pipe the glue actually melts the fittings to the pipe. essentially making it one piece. Sooo, when a pipe cracks and it comes to a fitting, the crack just keeps on going.

On one tank a crack made it into the valve and the water was lost.

The big problem with this is to change out the PVC pipe I will have to replace the valves on three tanks. To change out the valves I will have to empty the tanks. So as not to lose the water in those tanks I am going to pump the water into other tanks while I change the valves out. I will use brass valves this time even though they cost double the PVC ones. You know what they say "you play big, you lose big".

The gardens stood up fairly well though. The huge Nopalito cactus out front looked so pitiful I didn't have the heart to take a picture of it. Usually it is about five feet tall and is now about two feet tall. The other spineless prickly pear cactus is still about an eight feet tall tree. The freeze didn't affect it at all.
The perennials had already died back to the ground and the pond plants already had their shearing. I've always felt that in springs following really hard freezes that the perennials attain their most stunning presence.
The prettiest parts of the gardens in a good freeze are the ponds. The big pond had never frozen over before but had about one and a half inches of ice over it this time.

The fish don't have a problem with the cold as goldfish and koi are really cold water fish. It is good to break the ice off daily just to help with getting more oxygen into the water. You can see in these pictures where the ice had been broken the day before and had just refrozen over night.

We have two above ground ponds of about a hundred gallons that are built under the rain gutter outlet in the back. Lyn likes to keep a bubbler in them for more oxygen for the fish. It was the only unfrozen water in any of the ponds.

A couple of days after the weather had warmed up I found this guy crawling across the driveway. I guess it didn't get his cocoon made in time for winter. He must have been deep under the leaves so as not to freeze. It was moving very slowly.

I know, like the caterpillar, that when we get hard freezes here in Texas, they just won't last very long. Even though I look at other blogs and think how nice it would be to live where the summers are mild and there might even be dirt, I will stay here. That's because, even though I don't like the heat, I hate the cold.