Tuesday, June 26, 2012

On Ponding

Years ago, when we still lived in our old house, Brad mentioned that he thought he would like having a pond. So when we looked at this house, with two ponds in the backyard, we were kind of excited. It was late fall at the time, and inexperienced as we were, we were undaunted by the fact that the ponds were low on water, and full of leaves.

We thought we could clean them out in the spring, fill them with water, throw in some fish, and that it would be fun. Fun! We were wrong. I'd always thought of ponds as nothing more than landscaping. But they are much more than that. More than a hobby, even. A lifestyle.

The spring after we moved, we were so busy with the inside of the house, that we didn't really do anything outside. And the ponds sat. Stagnant water. Our backyard was a mosquito city. I'm not sure we went out there at all that summer, unless it was absolutely necessary. The next year, when we started on the smaller of the two ponds, it looked like this:

And it smelled really bad. See the slimy pile of leaves in the back? The overgrown lamium patch to the left? The weeds growing through the rocks? It was awful. We drained it, scrubbed it, and filled it. Then we added water, plants, and fish.

But it wasn't actually that straightforward, because I don't like to jump into anything. I always like to do a lot of research first. Find out the best way to clean the pond, whether to add anything to the water, what to do about mosquitos, whether to add fish, and which kind of fish to add. Lots of details. It was overwhelming.

When we ended, the pond looked like this:

Not exactly the lush, green landscaping jewel I'd pictured, but it was a huge improvement.

So I have learned a lot about ponds in the last few years. I have learned about the different types fish and plants, and how to maintain a healthy little low-maintenance eco-system in our backyard. While those things are interesting to know, I have also learned that they are unimportant compared to the lessons in patience and delayed gratification that ponding has taught me. The excitement of waiting for the pond to thaw, to see if any of our little feeder goldfish survived the winter. Then discovering they had, and experiencing our first algae bloom and having to wait a month for our plants to establish themselves and clear the water so we could see the fish again.

Rhythms and routines have always been something I have always struggled with in my day-to-day activities, but during the past few years, I have come to appreciate the rhythm of the ponds. From the first cleaning in the spring, to the final cleaning in the fall. The way the ponds rest in the winter, but are full of life again in the summer. Even the somewhat annoying nightly ritual of moving the water hyacinth to the big pond and the morning ritual of moving it back to the small pond, to keep the raccoons from eating it.

It's not something I would willingly undertake, but I am glad we stumbled into it.

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