by ESP on September 2, 2011 · 10 comments

I thought that I would start this post of with a cheerful yet strangely (in these days) controversial “how life started”, shortly before diving into significant amounts of death and continued moaning.

This little anole looks exactly how I feel.

This unfortunate chap was fried in the bottom of my “everything but the kitchen sink” rainwater collection “system”, which has been bone dry for quite some time, in fact it now functions more like a convection oven. I try and check for stray anoles in this tank as much as I can but this one slipped through my vigilance net apparently right onto the scorching galvanized steel griddle base, he did not stand a chance with our Austin temperatures currently comparable to the aftermath of  Mount Vesuvius’s eruption.

After hearing about some compost piles spontaneously combustion in our area this week…(yes that is how hot it is), I no longer venture close to mine, just in case. I know how much nitrogen is in there!

Maggie and Jim, (my neighbors on the other side from poor Ernie), recently emptied some greens into their compost barrel, it was a terrible affair.

This fatsia japonica also self-combusted this past week. I believe the reflected heat from the stock tank made it croak…all my other aralias are coping just fine.

There is still life at the base so my hopes are tentatively high for a full recovery, which is more than I can hope for from my feeder stock tank.

Shortly after topping up this sunken tank that I use to dechlorinate water before I siphon it into my main fish pond, I noticed that it was no longer retaining its contents.

On closer inspection I noticed that it had developed holes in the rust around its perimeter which is really annoying as now I have to dig it out and replace it.

It appears that our Austin tap water, will, over a few years, disintegrate galvanized steel stock tanks, well, that is my theory, any thoughts? My main pond, receiving predominately dechlorinated water is still devoid of any rust and subsequent degradation, it is eight years old and still going strong. This tank will spend its autumn years as another bog pond, well, can you have too many?

While I scurried around the tank hunting for the leak,

I came face to faces with these two gulf-coast toads under a lily pad.


In the heat of the midday sun even the small chain-link leaves on my pride of Barbados close up to reflect the suns deadly rays.

Here it is behind a stressed out sago, still it is not all doom and gloom…

…grasses, yucca, sages and laurels don’t seem to care about the weather. While I was in this neck of the Patch I decided I would replenish the protective ring of Diatomaceous Earth around the base of the soft leaf yucca, in case, along with everything else, it had dried-up and blown-away.

Everone knows that there is nothing soft about soft leaf yucca, and trying to apply a ring of very fine powder around the base of one, in a 111 degree temperatures, ranks up there on the arm stabbing annoyance scale with pruning sotols.

Arm Stabbing Annoyance Scale:

So what is this Diatomaceous Earth anyway?

It is fitting that we started with evolution, skeletons and lots of dead plants as Diatomaceous earth is actually made from fossilized water plants, specifically, unicellular algae-like plants called diatoms.  It is believed that 30 million years ago the diatoms built up into deep, chalky deposits of diatomite.

Here are some live ones from Antarctica: 

Photographer: Prof. Gordon T. Taylor, Stony Brook University
Credit: NSF Polar Programs

Photo: wikipedia:

The diatoms are mined and ground up to render a powder that looks and feels like talcum powder. It is a mineral based pesticide. The fine powder absorbs lipids from the waxy outer layer of insects’ exoskeletons, causing them to dehydrate and die.

I am using it to protect my agaves and yuccas from the terror that lies below the nose of the evil agave snout weevil, and so far it appears to be working.

I was really happy to find (in-between the puncture wounds and the foul language) that my yucca has had some babies, quadruplets in fact. These will be moved to new pastures as soon as my metal shovel cools down enough to be handled.

Moving on:

It arrived in a small UPS box that was eagerly ripped open like a Willy Wonka chocolate bar by some little hands, excitement was high with the prospect of discovering precious materials, gems and all manner of other imaginary bounties.

Their junior metal detector had finally arrived.  They wasted no time in getting out into the garden (as you can tell from his attire) and within minutes, armed with my garden trowel, dug out a penny.  Thus began a treasure hunting obsession and I am sure the demise of my decomposed granite pathways – good thing that I plan on replenishing them in the next few weeks.

It could only be a matter of time before the jackpot was hit, surely.

So far the prospectors have successfully found…

mm, not quite…

but it is treasure to them.


Inspirational (if rather odd) Image of the week:

This garden shower by Viteo is an upside down shower. You connect it to your garden hose and by stepping on it 4 meter high water jets cool you down.  I want these as weight activated stepping stones all the way down to my shed in preparation for next year’s summer…ahhh.

Stay Tuned for:

“ Flying Walnuts”


All material © 2011 for eastsidepatch. Unauthorized
intergalactic reproduction strictly prohibited, and
punishable by late (and extremely unpleasant)
14th century planet Earth techniques.


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1 Gail September 2, 2011 at 8:03 pm

The heat is definitely having an impact…what if anything is normal?

Think I’d like to borrow the metal detector…who knows what treasures could be found in this dry earth?

2 ESP September 2, 2011 at 8:23 pm

Hi Gail.

It is indeed, though I have my fingers crossed for a slight reprieve next week…only in the 90’s? Hmm we will see.

Yes, a visit from our resident treasure hunters may find some nails, old cans, perhaps a priceless sovereign or two on your property, you just never know. They bill out at quite an expensive treasure-hunting rate though…10

an hour…well, they have to live.

3 Diana September 2, 2011 at 9:44 pm

You still have lots of healthy, happy plants in spite of the losses. Weird about your tanks disintegrating – who knows what’s really in that water, right? Hope that diatomaceous earth works on the agave snout weevil. Keep us posted.

4 ESP September 2, 2011 at 10:30 pm

Hi Diana.

I do still have a few, though most of my remaining plants are stressing out pretty bad.

It is weird on the stock tank front and I require feedback from all who own stock tanks around the world regarding this disturbing rusting matter.

What a strange and ancient product Diatomaceous earth is, I had no idea, and yes I will most certainly post about it should the…

Agave Weevil

unmentionables return.


5 Laurea September 3, 2011 at 7:56 am


when I got a stock tank for fish I did some research on water here in Austin; Austin don’t use chlorine they use chloramine (which does not degas, http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/water/questions.htm). The thought process is because it does not degas it is more effective, but there is evidence that it can corrode pipes, and so I imagine metal in general. There are products you can buy (Hill Country Water Gardens in Cedar Park) that claims to deal with the chloarmine…I got some but have not used it yet.

Best of Luck,

6 ESP September 3, 2011 at 11:26 am

Hi Laurea.

Interesting on the water front, thanks for the information. I just checked on my “everything but the kitchen sink” water tank that only receives rain water…

rusted stock tank

and found that it too is rusting. Now I am totally confused and my theory is in ruins :-)

7 Casa Mariposa September 9, 2011 at 11:53 am

I hope and pray you and your family have remained safe from the fires!

8 ESP September 10, 2011 at 7:31 am

Awful for those people that have lost their homes, the house toll is up to almost 1400. We are all okay in the Patch, thank you for your concern.

9 Cheryl September 10, 2011 at 9:30 pm

I have a steel stock tank that is ancient. It had already been in use for several years when I got it (it came with the property we bought in Eastern Oregon in 1979) and it is still in use as my “above ground steel pond”. No rust yet. It has had years of well water and now years of “city” water. Maybe they just don’t make them like they used to! I think mine is the same size as yours. oops.. this was supposed to be a comment on your most recent post! My brain has rusted.

10 ESP September 10, 2011 at 10:27 pm

Hi Cheryl.

That is what I thought…galvanized steel = longevity?
Perhaps you are right, or perhaps I just got a bad one…or two?
I use:

on my brain every morning, it works wonders :-)

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