Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas 2008 and New Years 2009

Christmas was a good time this year.

True, the country is reeling under an economic downturn.
True, Everyone is fearful for their livelihoods and family.
True, Home values are upside down all over.

But This Christmas I was thankful for many things. That this year was good, that my career is going well and that I have friends and family I love and who love me.

Spent this Christmas and New years at home with my wife and my Mom-in-law (Yes, she loves me as well). We also went to San Francisco to Union Square to see the lights and sounds. and to San Jose to see the "Christmas in the Park" decorations. We also caught a performance of "The Nutcracker" at the San Francisco Ballet off Van Ness. Really good !

Put up a Christmas tree, Decorations on the house and got presents.. What more could one want..

Happy New year to all.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Our Hot Air Balloon ride over Tracy.

My Mom-in-Law has come to visit.

So being the good Son-in-law, I decided to make her trip memorable by taking her for a hot air balloon ride over the San Joaquin valley. You probably heard about Professor Muldoon's Hot air balloon company in an earlier blog post of mine, but I didn't have pictures then.

So here are a bunch of pics we took (Wife, Mom-in-law and I) of our Hot air Ride in the Aerostat "Inspiration".
We made the trip on the 3rd of September at 6:30 in the morning, before it became windy. Met Professor Muldoon (Bob) at the Tracy Airport. He looks a lot like Kenny Rodgers. The Tracy Airport is a small and neatly kept strip, just south of Linnie road on South Tracy blvd. They also have a flying school there I noticed...

(Click pics below to enlarge)


















Here are a few pics of Tracy from the Sky..










2 Pics I snapped as we were coming in for the landing.




We had a great time and went to iHop for breakfast after that.



Another point of note is that Tracy, CA is home to the JESUS Hot Air Balloon.
(See pictures below)



Thank you Bob!





Get information on these rides below.
The rides are not expensive and really worth the experience.
CLICK Here for the website
Professor Muldoon's Hot Air Balloon Company

P.O. Box 1208

Tracy, CA 95378-1208
Phone: (800) 822-3333
(209) 833-9014

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Building a Fish Pond and Waterfall - Part 1

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Part 1

Its been a little over a year since I moved into my new house and I have been maintaining and landscaping my backyard for all that time. This spring I decided to build a Fish Pond, or a Koi Carp pond as some call it. Of course I realized it was not as easy as digging a hole in the ground, throwing a few water lilies in and then plopping a fish or two to swamp it there and eventually die.


(Click images to enlarge)


No, I wanted to build a really nice pond, with a sustained ecosystem, or atleast one which needed minimal upkeep and would be as simple to maintain as a sprinkler system for a grass lawn. Turns out there is a lot of effort required to build and set a system like this up, so I set about the task with confidence and armed with all the knowledge and processes I had learned from books, the internet and of course a couple of other Pond owners. This was going to be fun !

As you may well recall, this was a picture I took of my backyard when I bought my house.. 3000 sq. feet of pure nothingness.. (Except weeds which I had painstakingly removed
)


Step 0

The Great Plan !


Everything great starts on a drawing board and if it doesn't then it is doomed to failure. I started by putting the design down on paper. I had decided after a lot of reading and recognition of the pitfalls that could occur, that my pond would have to have the following characteristics and parameters.

  1. Has to be able to hold atleast 1500 to 2000 gallons of water, anything smaller would not look good or feel worth the effort.
  2. Needs to be atleast 4-5 feet deep at the deepest point, so that fish can hide from predators and changes in climate (Tracy has extremes)
  3. Needs to have sloping walls, like a toilet bowl, so that dirt and fish poop can sink to the lowest point and be vacuumed out via a pump and filter system that I would build into the design.
  4. Needs to have a waterfall leading into the pond, so that I can hear the soothing sounds of a bubbling brook (lol, I know sounds gay! for give me). Also helps aerate the water.
  5. The pond will need an automatic filtration system as well as a system to keep the water clear and free of green cloudy algae. That would require an Ultraviolet clarifier with atleast a 30-40 watt UV bulb and a bio-filter and a Pump with enough oomph to run the show.
  6. Pipes and plumbing would have to be a part of the pond structure.
  7. I wanted at least one foot of the pond to be above ground, so that one could sit on a ledge and look into the pond, that meant that the pond had to be made of concrete and waterproofed.
Here are sketches I had done initially, gives you an idea of the thought put into it.

(Click images to enlarge)



Step 1
Digging the hole !


It took me one month to dig the hole bit by bit. I put stones around the periphery so that no one would fall in by mistake. (I mean my wife, she's a bit accident prone.. lol)

(Click images to enlarge)


I don't have more pictures of the digging, suffice to say I dug the flask shape and hollowed it out to 3 feet deep. and gently sloped the edges inwards to the center drain point.


Step 2
Hiring the Homies to get the Concrete Poured and Shaped !


The next stage of the pond was way too complex to do without help. So I went out and hired a concrete guy (Martin) I found locally and 2 other homies (He got them along to help him)

Anyways they took 2 days to further dig and smoothen things under my supervision and lay down the PVC pipe that would eventually be the drain. The also put a board structure around the digout in the shape I had drawn (Flask/Gourd shape) This was to shape the concrete when it arrived and they had to pour it. I am glad I hired these guys.. I would have never gotten to the next stage without them.

Lots of Pictures Below..
You can see the underlayment gravel and the Pipe buried with the 2 ends showing.


(Click images to enlarge)







Step 3

Making the Terra-Cotta ledge


Making the ledge with Terra-Cotta tiles was fun, but a royal pain, because I had to constantly level it. Used fast setting cement for this, had to work really fast and make sure I constantly levelled and wiped the extra away with a wet cloth. One of the homies helped me :-)
Made it worth his while.

(Click images to enlarge)







Step 4
Letting the Concrete cure.
Doing other Backyard Landscaping meanwhile...

2 months have passed since the pond was built and it is probably cured solid by now. I spent the rest of the spring planting and landscaping the rest of tha Backyard. I had set up a drip system and laid out patters using Retaining Wall blocks and I must say it looked pretty good. so I planted and planted and my wife helped me.. When I finally finished the back yard looked quite transformed from the plain weed infested nothingness to a living and thriving yard with plants and sprinklers spraying about 3 times a day. I also spent time getting gravel (Lava rock) and huge boulders to place strategically around the pond. You can see the work done and compare by looking at the pics below.

(Click images to enlarge)



Step 5
Etching, Staining and Sealing the exterior pond wall.


I took these pictures after I spent one weekend Etching, Staining the outer wall (Burgundy) and sealing the pond exterior.

(Click images to enlarge)



Step 6
Buying the Pond equipment

Bought the following equipment for the pond.
  • 17x17 feet of Black PVC liner for the waterfall
  • A Calpump T-1500 water Pump
  • A Savio 31" Waterfall Weir with mechanical filtration
  • A Calpump UV Clarifier with a 36 watt UV bulb
  • Black and Grey PVC pipes 1 inch, 1.5 inch , 1.25 inch and 3 inch.. and atleast 20 different odds and end connectors and adapters so that the pond plumbing fit perfectly. A few PVC check valves too.
  • Some PVC cement
  • Perma-Flex to line the inside of the pond and waterproof it.

(Click images to enlarge)





There's more to come in part 2
:-)



Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3