Coffee heat rising

Another Day Late…

But no dollars short, to tell the truth. Indeed, I’m yet another day late posting the most recent serial installment of the three (!!) magnum opi going up at Plain and Simple Press because more dollars are flying in over the transom.

Not 20 hours after I returned the most recent paper from one of the teams of Chinese scientists, a long, complicated affair and a tour-de-force of English as a Second Language, in came three departments from our client journal, with more to come.

So that put the eefus on any creative scribbling. I’ve read three book reviews and moved them over to my co-editor for formatting. Much, much more to come.

Meanwhile, the corgi continues to cough. Have to drag her across the city to the vet first thing tomorrow morning. Second thing, actually: the appointment isn’t till 9:45, which will just get us out the door at the right time to avoid a) the accursed no-left-turn lanes and b) the worst of the rush-hour homicidal traffic.

I’ve now added almost 15 pounds of soda ash to the pool water. The pH was almost up to the “neutral” level, at which point I should be able to add the algicide that I plan to dump into the drink in gay abandon. The algae has returned, in its own gay abandon, coating the south wall and steps with sheets of green.

By now the water should have cooled down enough to make the pool nearly unswimmable, but that is far from the case. Weather remains not warm here but hot, and the pool is still warm enough to swim in (if you call dragging a hose and sprayer into the drink and power-washing the walls underwater “swimming”…). This will delay the resurfacing venture, probably into October, since we’re already halfway through September already. I’d hoped to dump in the algaecide so it would be sucked into the filter, where the stuff could saturate the innards.

That won’t do much good if we have to wait very long after the event to shut everything down and empty the water, highly laden with organic compounds that promote algae growth. But…it should use only a little more than a third of the bottle of the stuff. So if the delay goes on long enough to allow the little green plants go start growing again, I’ll just dump some more of the stuff in.

Meanwhile: Beyond tired. Going to bed.

Nine is the new midnight…

Adventures in Pool Ownership

Well, things are looking up in the swimming pool department! For a change. One adventure down, a new one comin’ up.

I haven’t bellyached much about the pool’s longstanding mustard algae problem, because there’s not a lot anyone can do about it. Not that there’s much anyone can do about anything I bellyache about here…

This, from the Web, is pretty extreme…but you get the idea.

Mustard algae is a microbial plant whose growth pattern reminds you of moss. It sets its little tentacles in the plaster of your pool and grows with great delight on the walls, across the steps, and even all over Harvey the Hayward Pool Cleaner. It doesn’t turn the water green, as some types of pool algae do. It creates wall coverings, as it were.

It is profoundly resistant to chlorine. I’ve found it growing, in gay abandon, inside a chlorine float! So you can pour as much poisonous chemical into the drink as you like, and it will do nothing for your mustard algae problem.

I found the easiest way to keep it under control, once the weather is warm enough to swim, is to put a high-pressure sprayer on a garden hose, drag it into the water, and blast the stuff off the walls. This will give you a clean(-looking) pool for about…oh…16 hours, maybe.


Suddenly one day, along about 10 days ago, the mustard algae disappeared. GONE. Absent. An invisible algae infestation.


Here is what I believe happened…

You’ll recall that by the end of June, I was running out of money. Chlorine is damned expensive, and since it doesn’t do any good, I delayed buying it. With the pool’s chlorine level lower than that of the drinking water that flows out of the kitchen tap, I was feeling a little desperate.

But in the shed, I had two bags, probably out of date, of a chemical that Leslie’s Pools calls “Fresh’N’Clear.” This stuff contains no chlorine. It’s an oxidizer. Leslie’s peddles it as a “non-chlorine shock treatment,” but that’s bullsh!t. It’s not a shock treatment. About all it does is clarify the water if it’s looking a little cloudy. My favorite Leslie’s store manager, who occasionally slips up and says something honest to the customers, long ago informed me that it has exactly zero effect on algae of any kind.

So he thought.

Coming across these two packages — in effect a double-dose of oxidizing chemicals — I thought, WTF! Got nothin’ else…might as well get rid of ’em both. So, blithely enough, I dumped them both in the drink.

Next morning, when I would normally expect to scrub off the prior day’s growth, no algae festooned the walls and steps.


It was a day and a half before a little bit of algae began to reappear, and even then, it wasn’t much. At that point, I could afford to buy a couple bags of chlorine. While I’m at Leslie’s aquiring their product (yes, I do buy Cl from Leslie’s, because it is objectively true that their products are superior to those sold in big box stores), I mention to my guy that this strange thing happened.

He looked genuinely puzzled. I said there’d been plenty of daylight hours — a day and a half, which is long enough to grow a fine new mat — and so I was pretty sure the Fresh ‘N’ Clear had somehow interfered with its growth. He cogitated about this for a moment and then said, “The only thing I can think of is that maybe the stuff freed up some chlorine ions, or something, that remained in the water.” I say, “There was no measurable chlorine in the water. I tested it more than once.” He says, “There’s gotta be a reasonable explanation.”

Neither of us can figure out what it is. It just is what it is…

So that very night I fly out there and dump two full bags of chlorine into the drink. Best to hyperchlorinate at night, because sunlight breaks down chlorine in pool water.

Next morning: not a sign of an alga. Algum? Amalgum???? Not even in its favorite places. Nowhere are any visible algae attached and growing. The water is as clear as crystal. Next evening: none. Next day: none. Days later: hardly any visible anywhere.

What in hevvins name does this mean?

I don’t know. But the stuff has so far not come back in any force. Here and there a few very slight smears of it occasionally, nothing that one would get exercised about or need a high-pressure sprayer to remove. Last night I administered two more bags of Fresh ‘N’ Clear. This morning: nary a bug.

It was so nice to jump in the water after the morning dawg walk and just swim! And not spend the time scrubbing algae off the walls.

It’s been about a week, and the stuff hasn’t returned. This evening I’ll dump another two pounds of chlorine in and let the pump circulate it all night.

Only thing I can figure is that somehow something killed it off. Whether it was the oxidant… ????? …it seems unlikely. However, there doesn’t seem to be another explanation. Unless the stuff died of old age…

Meanwhile, the Decision Has Been Taken: resurface the pool this fall. Later this week I’m meeting with my favorite pool company’s guy to decide what color of Pebblesheen to apply and to set up a couple weeks next October for the job.

You don’t want to replaster in the summer, for three reasons:

1. It is a two-week job, and you sure don’t want to take away from your swim time in 115-degree heat.
2. Our kind of hot weather can dry out plaster before you can refill the pool, causing cracking, peeling, and a generally substandard job.
3. The damned City jacks up the water rates in the summer, and they also determine next year’s billing rates based on the amount of water you use in the summer. I’m already using more than enough just to keep the plants alive, without adding another 18,000 gallons to the tab.

So, October or November it will be.

Financial Advisor Dude says there’s plenty of cash money on hand to cover the ±$10,000 job. So rather than going with the low-end plaster (which would normally be my choice), I’m going to spring for the much more durable Pebblesheen product — it’s a finer, smoother grade of PebbleTec, which supposedly will not remove the skin from your feet if you’re active in the pool.

So the question is, what color to choose. In passing, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of a dark color, because (supposedly) this causes the water to look reflective, like a natural pond. (Presumably, it would also…ahem…hide the algae.) But it also increases the water temperature. Pool Dude says it can raise water temperature by around four degrees.

While that probably would extend the swimming season a week or two on each end, at this time of year four degrees would be a lot. As we scribble, that’s bathtub water out there. You get in a pool because you want to be refreshed, not cooked like a lobster. IMHO another four degrees would make that water unacceptably warm.

Additionally, Pool Dude reports that the darker colors tend to fade. Pebblesheen’s “black” turns to gray after a few years. And so, he says, do all the other colors. He says the minerals in Arizona’s deliciously flavored water cause any colored pool finish to gray out over time. And since, with decent care, this finish can last 15 or 20 years…what would be the point?

I’ve never been displeased with the plain plaster-white finish. In an eight-foot-deep pool, the water alone refracts light so as to create a blue color. In the evening, it’s reflective and pretty. So I’m inclined to stick with a white or off-white color. Pool Dude says one of the options is a white that looks marbled, which he favors because over time dirt, minerals, and pool chemicals tend to stain any finish to some degree. 🙂 If the surface is supposed to look marbled, so much the better.

Since we’ll have lots of time  — a good three months — I’ll ask him if he can show me some pools with different colors of the product before making a final decision.

The last time this company replastered the pool — which was after Tony the Romanian Landlord trashed it by throwing about five gallons of used motor oil over the back wall into it — they chipped the Cool Deck in a few places. The insurance company, after having ponied up something over $10,000 for the clean-up, repair, and replastering, refused to pay for a Cool Deck repair. But…turns out that small dings are not very hard to fix. Apparently. There’s even a DIY kit, which looks suspiciously easy to use.

I’ll ask Pool Dude if his guys can touch it up while they’re here. Failing that, though…there are only five small dings. If I can match the color — which should be easy because Cool Deck is pretty standard — I’m sure that’s something I can fix myself. Especially if Pool Dude or the Leslie’s Guy will advise.

So: therein lies the future for the pool. I’m looking forward to getting rid of the agèd, pocking plaster and maybe having something that’s a little easier to care for.

Pool a-filling

So Paul from Swimming Pool Service and Repair dropped by the day before yesterday to drain the pool. It’s pretty simple: drop a pump in the bottom of the deep end, stick its hose in the property’s clean-out drain, and plug in the cord. The pump runs so quietly you can’t even tell it’s on, except for the quiet gurgling of water running down the drain.

Here’s the result:

Took about a day to arrive at this pass. Paul came by yesterday morning to retrieve the pump and start the hose running. It takes two or three days to refill a pool this size with a garden hose. By 11:00 p.m. it was about a third full. I turned the water off late last night, partly because the spigot makes a noise that you can hear everywhere in the house—the sound of money pouring through the plumbing is not conducive to sleep—and partly because I’d repaired a small crack in the tile grout and wanted the silicone stuff to fully cure before the water reaches the tile line. The gunk should be fine by mid-afternoon, and I’m sure the water will be nowhere near the tile line anytime before dark.

Otherwise, the thing seems to be in pretty good shape: no cracks, crazes, or chips in the plaster. Water has gotten into the light on the shallow end, which of course you can’t see in that snapshot. Doesn’t matter to me though: I never turn the light on. If I’m swimming at night, I want the pool to be dark…that’s the whole point of swimming at night! It’s quite lovely in the water late on a summer evening.

The highest and best use of a swimming pool

Trout pond.

Sometimes I think it would be a great idea to convert my pool into a trout pond.

The stock pond on our old ranch was not all that much bigger than the pool. Somewhere along the line, some old ranch hand had the bright idea to pour a bunch of trout fry in there. Amazingly, they survived. When my father was living, he would go up there and catch fish, which he would bring back to the house for dinner.

Hey! It would go with the chard patch! Who needs a grocery store when you’ve got trout and chard growing in the backyard?

Seriously: d’you realize it can cost as much to get rid of a pool as it does to build one? Around here, you can get a backyard pool installed for around $15,000 to $20,000. By the time you hire a licensed contractor to demolish the concrete walls, pull up yards and yards of concrete and Kool-Deck, fill in the gigantic hole, and relandscape the yard (pulling out and rebuilding your block wall in the process), you could easily spend that much to uninstall it.

A number of homeowners have converted their pools to what they think of as “natural,” chlorine-free swimming holes. I can’t imagine you could get away with that around here: it’s against the law to let your pool go green. Arizona is developing quite a West Nile problem, one that’s been aggravated by the large number of foreclosures, which invariably end up with a puddle of scum in the backyard.

On the other hand, it’s unclear that they’d do much to you if you actually turned the thing into a fish pond. With fish in it. Assuming you could keep them alive, they’d presumably eat the mosquitoes.

The pool already has a pump and a filter (though a DE filter might not be ideal for a fish pond…especially given its tendency to regurgitate DE into the water). Some people build an above-ground device that functions as a kind of biological filter. Besides having to build that and maybe install a pump designed for a pond (would it work with a 10- or 12-foot-deep pool?), you’d need to tear up the hideous Kool-Deck and redesign the landscaping to create a garden effect around the pond. A fish pond in the middle of a pad of Kool-Decked concrete would just look stupid: like a swimming pool you converted to a DIY fish pond. Even this guy’s pond looks silly, IMHO, because he left it in the middle of a surrounding wooden deck. Better than Kool Deck, by far, but still: obviously a repurposed swimming pool.

No. You’d have to get someone to jackhammer out the concrete, haul it off, and relandscape with xeric mulch (in our yard, that would be what we call quarter-minus), trees, and smaller flagstone or brick sitting areas, bordering the “pond” with boulders, stones, and plantings. Lots of desert bunch grasses: that would look nice.

Here’s what I figure one would have to do to convert my gigantic pool into a functioning trout pond:

Replaster with Pebble-Tec or RiverRok, at the very least, paint or resurface the white plaster with something dark
Build a filter basin
Reroute the pool’s plumbing to feed water into the filter basin
Disguise the basin with boulders to create a waterfall effect
Build some ledges or lay some boulders inside the pool to create shelter for the fish
Lay some soil on the bottom in which to grow water plants
Jackhammer and haul the concrete all around it
Regrade the ground around the pond
Edge the pond with boulders, stones, and plantings
Get rid of the endlessly aggravating palm trees
Plant a shade tree or two in the area where the concrete was removed
Build a sitting area near the tree and pond, using a compatible surface such as flagstone or brick
Lay stepping stones
Extend the watering system, which would entail…
. . . Hooking up a new valve to existing system
. . . Laying new pipe
. . . Setting up new irrigation tubes
Plant ornamental grasses, shrubs, and small stuff
Install water plants
Spread quarter-minus
Refill pool and adjust water
Introduce fish

LOL! Wouldn’t that be a project!? And though you’d dispense with the endless application of pool chemicals and the chronically broken-down cleaning system, you’d still have a pump and filter to have to take care of. And one wonders whether the fish could survive in Phoenix city water: in some seasons it’s every bit as chlorinated as pool water! Our stock pond, after all, was fed by the Hassayampa River. You’d have to find a way to dechlorinate the water before you could refill the pond, which in the summertime is every. single. day.

Assuming you hold the koi and stock your pond with bass and trout, what do you have?

The most expensive trout dinner in the history of the world.