Saturday, May 21, 2016

You never see the same river twice

Having grown up next to a huge body of water called Lake Michigan, I love water.  I enjoy looking at it, sitting next to it and listening to it.  Not a big fan of being IN it, but love how it makes the air smell fresh when the breeze comes from the west and how it tempers our weather's mood swings.  When I was younger and troubled by teenage angst, I would often ride my bike to the beach and mellow out.   I suppose that is why I desire to have water in my gardens.  I find it beautiful and soothing.

Lake Michigan Sunset in December looking out the channel.

I have installed a bog and three ponds in our yard's landscaping over the years in my quest to add water.  Bigger and better, fancier and more labor intensive has been the trend which got a hard theoretically unemotional review this year.  Well, let's just say T was unemotionally attached and I was overly invested, but between the two of us, logic had some sway.

The bog was a cut off bottom of a 55 gal plastic drum that I sank into the ground, filled with some sub-par soil and planted a few boggy plants.  The main reason I wanted the bog was to grow Marsh Marigolds which only grow in swampy areas.  My sand dune was a hostile environment to these yellow blooming lovelies which can be found in great numbers in the local swampy areas and ditches.  I actually went and dug them up from a backroad ditch.  In my ignorance and laziness, I did not plant my new little bog well and in two seasons I lost all the Marsh Marigolds and the bog was overrun by Sweet Flag and Geranium.  Per T's request, I pulled it out soon after.

Sweet flag, geranium, astilbe and marsh marigold

My first pond was installed during the volleyball court landscape project in the second year.  My 35 gallon plastic form pond was installed by T with a concrete fountain that I found on clearance.  I was so excited that the lady was fully clothed. This cute little pond was my joy for a long time.  However, I had a really hard time keeping the water clear and the little pump clogged up daily which I needed to clean off.  Also the wind would blow the stream of water out of the pond which emptied it quite quickly and in order to save the pump motor, the fountain would have to be shut off.  I was able to put quite a few plants in it and several small comets.

My lovely lady fountain and small pond

In the last year of our three year landscaping project, the upper terrace and big pond were installed.  T told me that I was on my own for this one.  I designed, hoarded rocks collected from fields and ditches, dug out the hole, lined it with carpet strips and liner and laid all but one rock.  I was pretty proud of this pond.  I was able to have koi and goldfish live in it who survived the winters and a pretty bell fountain.  I still had problems with it though.

Both of my ponds and the new created terraces the spring after they were installed.
Variegated cattail, papyrus plant, several varieties of floating water plants, water hyacinths, water lily and a water pickerel rush plant along with my glass balls and a second hand find cobalt blue turtle and tea light holder.  The largest rock upper center was the one rock T needed to help me move.  The rest I carried and placed by myself.

This pond was situated half under trees and did not have full sun.  It also collected great amounts of leaves and pine needles.  It too had trouble stabilizing the water and the pump clogged up daily with slime.  I could not keep it clean but I really loved my large koi and gold fish I grew from small fry to 6 plus inch in size.

My fish would come up and eat out of my hand every day.  I had names for all of them.  The big white and red one was Strawberry.  The orange ones started life as comets intended for the belly of a bigger predator but were saved because I convinced the poor store worker to chase down,
"That one with the pretty fins."

Once my big pond went in, T convinced me that it was pointless to have two hard to take care of ponds and that we should pull out the smaller one so I could focus more time on the big one.  Sigh, yeah, he was right so my small pond came out and went to live at my Mom's house where it fits in perfectly with her little garden and frogs live in it.  My favorite parts about having a pond were the plants that I could now grow and the fish.  I really like fish.  Next to dogs, they are my favorite pet.

Ubu considered all the ponds his giant water dish along with all the neighborhood cats, squirrels, birds and amphibians.  The triangle created by the two rocks was a small "cave" that my fish hid in on occasion, thus leading to the Fishy Pond Story.

My third and last pond was put in my circle herb bed in the front.  While T installed the electric for this one too, I installed the pond by myself.  I created this pond as an oval 3 feet wide and 4 feet long and about 3 feet deep.  I thought that by making it deeper, fish would survive the winter better as there would be more water under the ice.  Nope, they still need an air hole for the toxic gasses to escape.  I had trouble keeping an air hole open on all the ponds.  Several times a week during the winter I would trudge out with my tea kettle full of boiling water to open up the hole in the ice.  I was not always successful or vigilant.  Cleaning out the pond in the early spring and finding slimy fish bodies is both disgusting and heart breaking.

I was really proud of my stonework in this one as I could walk on the rocks around the perimeter of the pond and every stone was very stable as I fitted them together and locked them into a circle.

Eventually I pulled out the big pond too.  It was a mess, I couldn't keep it pretty and once it started a downhill slide in late spring, I would give up on it.  I was not being a good steward of it and the truth is painful to hear sometimes but I had to admit that my actions spoke louder than my words of affection towards the pond.  It was removed, the stones piled up, the tarp cleaned and put in the pond box.  The plants were redistributed to my mom and a friend and to the little pond.  That corner returned to a weedy spot that has yet to be planted because the soil is so poor.

Now I had one last pond.  It also had very specific problems.  I couldn't reach the bottom without danger of tipping in, it was always cold because it was so deep but didn't have enough surface area to warm up.  It really filled up with leaves every fall because of its proximity to a large Norway maple.  It was too small for my water lily and the bell fountain to co-exist happily.  Water lilies do not bloom in troubled water and the fountain was always blowing water onto the leaves.  If I did not run the fountain, it became a mosquito breeding ground which T understandably had no patience for. The sides were pretty steep and if the water level were the least bit low, frogs and toads would become stuck in the cold water.

I moaned and groaned and pouted but in the end this pond came out this spring too.

Is T the "bad" guy here?  Taking away my ponds?  Nope, not at all. He is merely the catalyst for me taking a good hard look at what I am investing my efforts and time into and how much reward is received from the project.  I have really enjoyed my ponds on many levels despite the different issues.  These issues have helped me form a list of goals for my "dream" pond.   My goals include things such as a shallow gravel area for amphibians and birds to safely enter and exit the water, multiple levels for marginal plants as well as water lilies, a water cleaning system with a bog and a waterfall.  A pretty big list actually which will demand some space to fill, all which is not available at our home in the present.  So there has to be a change.  Change for the better still means that something must be sacrificed.  In order for my goal of a someday dream pond to exist, I am giving up my mediocre ponds of the present in order to focus more time on what I can make better here.

This sort of mind set is new to me.  Yes, I understand change is necessary, don't particularly like change, but realize if one does not change then one is probably dead.  Well, not actually, I guess your body continues to change as you decompose…  Oh, sorry, back on topic, Change.  Yes this idea that all change requires the sacrifice of something.  To gain a healthier lifestyle, one must sacrifice unhealthy eating habits.  To gain more time and focus on particular garden projects, I must sacrifice projects that are not going to bring a good return.  Change for the good or the bad require a sacrifice of something.

Thus, my ponds are no more.  I will probably get a water feature of some sort, even if it is a table fountain or simply make sure the bird baths are clean and filled to have water in my yard, but until I can create the dream pond which will be functional and beautiful in balance with the energy needed to maintain it, I am letting go of my ponds.  I'll just have to go down to the beach and enjoy my Heavenly Father's gift of water.

Sleeping Bear Dunes State Park on Lake Michigan