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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Mean and green

The road is badly washed but the landscape is as green as can be. It's like a botanical garden. (Oasis in background center of photo)

Here are a few of the flowers I photographed today. The first one is Gregg's Coldenia.

And this next one I guess is Scarlet Bouvardia. I planted it years ago and had thought it was a Mountain Sage, as I remember planting that species, but looking it up, this isn't Mountain Sage. The sage must have died. The years go by.

Rock Trumpet
I can now confirm that the stucco tank is leaking between one inch and one and a half inches per day. What is, is. 

Had two mice in the shower room in the past week or so. I have zero tolerance for mice, so I went at mouse-proofing it with a vengeance. Unfortunately, I started with spray foam. Never, ever again. I got it all over me and my clothes and can't get it off. It's some mean, nasty stuff. It'll just have to wear off. For a while I couldn't even get my fingers separated. If you ever need a cast, just spray the broken bone area with foam. Then I couldn't stand the looks of the foam in, and oozing out of, the cracks so I scraped it all out and replaced it with concrete patch. Whew! I think I found and sealed where the mice got in though.

The weather has been cool and cloudy so I see no interesting butterflies or odonates. But summer isn't over yet. Still time. I photographed this Flame Skimmer just because he perched right beside me. And I love photographing odes.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Disappointed, but not surprised

Since I didn't get finished pumping until nearly 1 AM this morning, I couldn't get a very accurate measurement at 8 AM. However, I can say the stucco tank is losing at least an inch per day, and probably 1½" per day, but not more. That's the same as it lost last year. The tank is just a bit too porous, I fear. This winter I'll put another coat of Drylok on the bad wall. It was supposed to have two coats to begin with but I wasn't physically able to do that. Just one coat on the whole tank cost over $2,000. And hopefully I'll reinforce that worst spot with another wall of concrete.

But to put this leak into perspective, assuming it's the same as last year, I was desperate for water when I got some rain this April. I thought it would tide me over until rainy season, but that didn't happen for me until four more months of record heat and no rain. So I can expect lean, rationing times unless the oasis has a normal fall and winter. Having said that, by pumping the tank out and saving half an inch per day, I'm saving over a foot per month. In 3 months, that's 3 feet. Very significant in a tank that's 8 feet deep. Without doing that I had little hope of making it until the next rain. In the past, the tanks have filled  at one time or another in almost every month. For example, one year they filled in January. So there's always hope. It's important to do everything I can to save water. It's as likely as not that I won't get any more runoff until next summer.

Here is the big piece of wall that flaked off that was covering the hole I photographed (see post of Aug 24th). It appears that there is nothing substantial holding the coating and patching to the wall. The wall is deteriorated. Likely a poor cement mixture and not thick enough in that area. Since I built it all with my gloved hands, one handful at a time, it's easy to see how I might have gotten careless in one area. Tank walls aren't forgiving. I'm determined to build a new wall inside that bad area.


WOW! I went back and read my posts from last July. Seems the tank leaked 2" per day (same as this year), I pumped it out and patched it with hydraulic patch (same as this year), then when I refilled it, it leaked 1" per day. I had totally forgotten all that. Good thing I blog. As I recall, I didn't have enough water in the dirt tanks to totally refill it. This year I did, plus it's August and not July. So I should be in better shape this year, unless the leak is greater than it was last year. (Another April rain next year is highly unlikely.) And there's still water in the one dirt tank that holds the best, so I can top off the stucco tank in a week or two. Every little bit helps.

 Last year I did catch some runoff in the upper dirt tank in early October, but not enough to top off the stucco tank. Surely I'll get more rain this year. If I do, and if I can keep the stucco tank topped off until November or December, I'll be in good shape in the spring. It's so wonderful to be able to water adequately at the time things are wanting to put on new growth. I think my late monsoon this year means I won't have good odes and butterflies anymore this year. We'll see. Hope I'm wrong.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The deed is done!

What you see is what you get. Water was still seeping into the tank this morning. In hindsight, I wish I had drained more water out of the tank. With the water added via the leaks in the last couple of days, I was working right at the edge. There may be more leaks below the water line. But it is what it is this year. I spent two hours this morning doing my best to stop the leakage. Checking the records for last year I see it leaked 1½" per day after the first big [July] rain. So this year should be better than that. I'll check the level in the morning. It should give me an idea.

Notice the inlet pipe on the top of the tank (right edge on above photo). It shoots water out and creates a whirlpool against the bad wall, so I put an elbow on it to prevent that. That puts more pressure on the elbows along the pipe's route from the dirt tank. One elbow blew out twice, but I finally got it fixed. Underwater repair, of course.

I was pleased to see this lovely Parry's Ruellia blooming.

And finally, some people are actually into robber flies. Here's a photo for that small crowd. It may be the same species I always post, or it may be a new undiscovered species. Beats me, but my money is on the former.

UPDATE: Started pumping at 11 AM. The tank is almost full, with plenty left over in the lower dirt tank. Will be full around midnight. Then I'll check the level in the morning.

 I searched my blog and found this same species of robber fly posted on July 9, 2014.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Tomorrow's the day

At 5 this morning it started to thunder and sprinkle. Checking the radar online I saw that the oasis was in the path of a big storm. I grabbed a flashlight and mixed some patching compound and got into the tank. But the leaks were still running and I couldn't do a thing about it. So I decided to go to town and let come what may. The rain was pounding down by then and I barely made it out to the highway.

My sister, a mile north of the oasis, got half an inch, and neighbors three miles to the south got well over an inch. So this afternoon I came back down to face the situation. I figured I'd at least need to redo the feeders.  I got a little over half an inch, but if it had come down faster it could have flashed. As it was, it all soaked into the ground. That's good.

So many flowers are blooming that the bees ignored the feeders. Here is the best my Senna wislizeni has ever looked. I'm just so amazed at how things can be so struggling and half dead after four months of record heat and no rain, and then a short time later be all lush and gorgeous, like nothing happened.

And I was excited to get a couple of halfway decent shots of an ovipositing (depositing eggs) female Eastern Amberwing. Hard for me to do; they move so fast. The background is rather busy, but I didn't have time to get the focus right while it was in constant motion. In hindsight, I think if I had gotten down to water level it would have worked better, but it all happened so fast. This is one of the best amberwing ovipositing shots I've taken so far.

And I'm really burned out on Common Green Darners. This is the most I've ever seen in one place.

Tomorrow early I'm going to make one last attempt at patching the last few leaks. Then I'm going to start filling the tank, leaking or not. Can't postpone it any longer or I won't have enough water to fill it. If the leakage is reduced from 2 inches per day to 1 inch per day, I can live with that.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

More frustrating setbacks

Daylight found me anxious to get the tank patched and start pumping. However, the hydraulic patching material did not work as stated. I followed the directions and tried over and over again. Wouldn't stop the water leaking in. So, I'm waiting. Too tired to go to town and try to find something that will work, so waiting for the leakage to subside. Another day lost. At least it hasn't rained yet and filled the tank. I got to thinking. The shallow end is 8 feet deep, about 96 inches. Even if I get the leakage down to half what it is, that still would mean the water would only last three months. If there's even enough water left in the dirt tanks to fill it. Hopefully, tomorrow.

A few photos from today.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird, probably juvenile male

Silverleaf Sage

Condalia Warnockii

Same Condalia, (20 yrs old)

Texas Ranger

Eastern Amberwing, male

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Rain, rain, go away!

With the generous help of Michael and Cecilia Gray, we got the tank pumped out today. (I'm so very grateful to them.) Everything else is full of water and it's threatening rain. If any significant amount falls, there's no place else for it to go except into the stucco tank. I can't patch it until water stops running into the tank through the leaks. We all got very worn out today. I couldn't have done it without their help. They're the best!

The above photo is of me examining the leaks. It's not of my fall. That didn't get captured on camera. The ramp going into the tank is slick and muddy. I made several trips in and out for various reasons. On one of them I skidded off the ramp into the deep end of the tank. Had I been able to stand up it wouldn't have been over my head, but the bottom was sloped and slick. When I stayed underwater, trying, in vain, to stand, I finally decided time to swim or tread water or something. Once I did that, somehow I managed to get on my feet, but it took a while. I hate getting my head underwater and swallowing that nasty water. Yuck! At least I didn't hurt my sciatica. That was my only fear in falling. The water was a soft landing. Thinking about it makes me laugh now. Not so much at the time.

Here is a photo Cecilia took. It was after I got to my feet and making my way out. Michael had been putting gas in the pump up on top and came down still carrying the gas can. I had lost my UV glasses and was trying to recover them, which I finally did. Normally, I entered the tank along the wall on the ramp. Everything was covered with mud so I used a broom as a walking stick, brush side down. Where you see the broom on the photo is where I skidded off the ramp and into the tank. Where I ended up the water was about 4½ feet deep.

Here is the biggest leak, but not the one that has the most water coming from it. Maybe because it's up higher. The piece on the left third of this photo is the patch that peeled off the hole (the rest of the photo). Obviously, I'm going to have to come up with better solutions. Right now, though, I want to get it patched and filled.

I was able to start patching the above hole. The round one below it is still leaking too badly.

Here's the caterpillar of a cool moth, maybe a Forester moth?

The laugh is on me. Michael and I were taking turns photographing an Elf Owl, fearful that it would flush. I snapped photos while Michael went to get a different lens or camera. When he walked back toward me he asked if it was still there. I said, it must not be very nervous of our presence, because "it has one eye closed." When I downloaded my photos, I had to laugh at my mistake. No closed eye on this owl.

Update: It only sprinkled tonight. Since there was nothing I could do to the tanks this evening, I came to town for hydraulic patch, gas, etc. That way I can get down there and patch early AM and start filling. Won't have to wait for it to set up. The only urgency to filling is that with every delay the water in the dirt tanks goes down a bunch. I want to hurry so I'll have enough to top off the stucco tank. But more important are secure patches. I think I'm winning.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

No time for photos

I came down to the oasis at daylight this AM intent on pumping out the stucco tank quickly, then refilling it tomorrow. Now I regret doing it. No place to pump the water and trying to save as much as possible I kept having to move pumps and hoses around. All back-breaking work. Spent an hour trying to get one gas pump running. Finally quit when the pull-rope broke. Lots of time spent in cold water for various reasons. Finally about 3 PM I just collapsed and couldn't go anymore. The tank still has only about 3 feet removed. Usually I don't even start pumping until it's 3' down. By then I don't have enough water left in the dirt tanks to fill the stucco tank. So I thought that by starting earlier I'd end up with a full tank. But that means wasting a lot of water. Of course, it would waste one way or the other. Anyway, I'm committed now. I asked Cecilia and Michael Gray to come help me finish it tomorrow. I just can't lift one more 50 lb pump. I can barely even move. Taking NyQuil and off to bed.

If I don't patch the leak it will really have been a waste. As it was, I could keep the tank topped off from the dirt tanks for weeks to come. So would have had water in it until around December. But that's too soon to start using the water from the big cement tank. It wouldn't last until rainy season. If I can top off the stucco tank, and if it doesn't leak, it should last until March or April. Life is a gamble.

Everything is blooming -- purple sage, yellow bells, beebrush, etc. The oasis is heavy with the fragrance of the beebrush. I'll try to take pictures tomorrow.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Newspaper article

The San Antonio newspaper did an article on the festival and trip to CMO but I haven't seen it yet. Hope it's accurate. I'll try to get a copy tomorrow, if possible.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Festival's conclusion

Earlier in the week I heard a blurb on National Public Radio about the festival. The speaker said the itinerary included a field trip to "a place called 'Lucifer Madness,' believe it or not." I knew they had to be referring to CMO and I couldn't figure out who had come up with that name. I figured maybe to protect my privacy one of the organizers came up with it. Then I found the festival schedule online. Here's a section of it:

It seems that was the name of the field trip, not the name of the location. Another example of not believing everything you hear on the radio.

Tonight the final event was a photo presentation by Larry Ditto. I was eager to see how his oasis Lucifer shots turned out. This first shot is one of my mountain reflected in the lower dirt tank. 

Next are my photos of the presentation screen of female and male Lucifers. Larry's actual photos are much better and sharper, but this gives you the idea.

And no festival would be complete without me buying a tee-shirt. Artwork by Clemente Guzman III.

Aftermath update

When Larry Ditto was getting ready to leave Thursday after his photography workshop Sherry Wilson wanted a photo of me with Larry. I was rushing around hanging fresh feeders, but paused for the photo.  At first Larry tried to scrunch down to be more my height, but I said, no, I wanted him to stand tall beside me. He's a great person! I hope his plans for a spring workshop at CMO work out.

Here's a photo I snapped of the setup. Of course, through their lenses you will see professional shots...

... more like this one I took in the spring with their camera and setup.

I found out last night that two of the dozen festival vehicles from yesterday got stuck on Snake Road coming out from CMO in the place where the big holes were that we had filled. One had to be towed out. Hated to hear that. But at least the others made it through OK. I'm told that everyone had a good time and no one complained. If I could control the weather you can bet I would. LOL

I ran down this morning to redo all the feeders again. I got a total of over an inch of rain yesterday. Water was still overflowing the tanks' spillways.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Nothing but rain!

About 30 festival field trip participants showed up shortly after 8 AM. Then around 10 AM it started to pour and I had to get them out asap before the road got any worse. I think that's the first time ever an event at CMO got rained out while in progress.

Here are a few videos from yesterday. I couldn't post them yesterday because my oasis computer doesn't recognize the videos in the camera. The first one is the water running down the arroyo and over the first dam. At the end of the clip you can see it running into the already full concrete tank.

The second one is of the wildlife pond filling. It leaks bad. I don't use it for storing water, just for the wildlife. It's not very large. The cottonwood tree has roots going into it so it makes the cottonwood happy. And I have a little island of reeds in the middle for dragonflies and other species.

The last one is of the stucco tank topping off. I will, at some point, drain it, patch it, and refill it.

We got over another inch of rain since I left the oasis today. Now my feeders will get covered with bees.

Thursday, August 18, 2016


The workshop went fine this morning. See this Lucifer posing nicely for them.

Then the group went to the lodge to eat lunch, intending to return for one final session around 3 or 4 PM, same as yesterday. At 2 PM we got torrential rain. Larry Ditto had left his car at the oasis. So I took the back road to the lodge and led a vehicle (with Larry in it) back to the oasis. Then I had to go work on the road so he could get his low clearance vehicle back to the lodge, and also my family and I worked on Snake Road so tomorrow's festival group can make it in.

In the midst of all that it was discovered that someone had accidentally left a very expensive camera at the oasis. Not knowing whose it was, Larry locked it in his car. The camera's owner had gone to Study Butte for gas and couldn't get back for it, and was desperate to get her camera since she was heading back to East Texas. They caravanned back to the lodge from Study Butte and somewhere along the line they lost the owner of the camera. Presumably she tried to get down Snake Road to CMO, but her camera was locked in Larry's car and she couldn't have gotten to it anyway. I don't know how it all turned out, but it was sure chaos for a while. Cell phones don't work here and I'm sure most people are dependant on them, making it more challenging to function out here. Certainly an adventure for them if they can look at it that way.

Most everything was already full of water here except what had leaked out of the stucco tank and the leakage to the wildlife pond. So they got topped off. The rest ran down the arroyo to the ocean. The arroyo ran for a long time. Hours. Below is the stucco tank filling. Again. Above is the wildlife pond filling again.

Of course I had to empty and refill all my hummingbird feeders. They were getting low anyway. I had held off on filling any since the rain was expected. Even so, the rain surprised me when it happened. No big buildup or anything. Just same old overcast one minute and a deluge the next. I got 1.22" total today.

I read that worldwide, July was the hottest month on record. Rain is forecast for the next week at least.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Day One of photography workshop

This is from Larry Ditto's website:

Things went well today. Didn't get rained out, and plenty of Lucifers to keep everyone satisfied. With the group size limited to 8 there were plenty of opportunities for all.

Meanwhile, I played around with my Lumix camera to help me make up my mind what I want my next camera to be. Here's a Varied Bunting I snapped. With the sun not shining it's hard to judge, but I think I'll buy a new Canon instead of a Lumix. Not sure yet, though.

Saw this lovely Twelve-spotted Skimmer this afternoon. Photo taken with my Canon.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

CMO today

The photography workshop starts tomorrow so Larry Ditto and a couple of helpers worked today to get things set up. Sure hope the mosquitoes hold off another couple of days. I had my first one today.

I hung around all morning (doing miscellaneous tasks of my own) in case they needed something, or had a question, then headed to town to get things caught up there. Did laundry and many other things that needed doing. Will be back at the oasis early in the morning to help, if needed, and to answer questions, etc.

They hung shade cloth over a large area. It seemed so strange to watch someone else working at the oasis and I didn't have to do anything.

Just for kicks I decided to give an oasis Lucifer T-shirt to the photographer who captures the best shot of the Lucifer's courtship display. I had ordered a few of the shirts, but don't want to sell them. I would have to charge too much just to break even for one thing. So, at this point, the only way to get one is to win it.

I think once this monsoonal week is over I'll see about pumping out the stucco tank and patching it. Just can't live with the leakage. Here is my soapberry patch since it got a huge flooding. At least it's alive. I would think with the horribly hot days behind us, and the ample watering that it'll get lush yet this year.