You load sixteen tons, and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt. St. Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go — I owe my soul to the company store!”
Well, I don’t owe my soul to the company store, but I certainly feel like I loaded sixteen tons this weekend. Of course, this is poetic license and hyperbole. It was probably only one or two tons. Anyway, water aerobics was a real trial today. I went because I knew it would be good for me to move my sore muscles around.
So what was it that caused this state of events? To sum it up in a few words: Jim and I cleaned out the pond this weekend. Mostly I cleaned it out. It took several hours Friday, all day Saturday, and several more hours Sunday. It still is not quite finished.
You may wish to go over to this blog post where I have several pictures indicating the history of the place. A little ways down in the post there is a series of three pictures of the pond. This one was taken right after I finished digging it.
Look over in the corners on the left and right sides. Little did I know what a mistake planting those little clumps of cat tails was. And I was so happy when they grew.
Every once in a while I would get into the pond and sort of try to beat them back from the center. They continued to grow, however.
A couple of years ago, I noticed that one of the things that the birds had brought me was razor grass. That makes beating back the marsh more difficult and painful. But I finally steeled myself against the razor grass and got in there and really worked on getting rid of it. I paid a high price for THAT one.
Needless to say, that experience made me reluctant to get into the pond when the weather was warm. And my father’s decline and death last spring sort of took precedence over cleaning out the pond. All last summer, I was swearing to myself that Something Was Going to be DONE about the pond this year.
And so it was.
We siphoned. While the siphon was going, I began to hack away at the vegetative mass in the pond. I used my trusty axe to cut pieces that were small enough to heave onto the shore. I am about half done with the west side in the next shot. The siphon has almost gotten to the point where it will no longer suck.
Observe the pile of cut pieces out on the bank. The bucket contains the water lily, and river lotus, which I wished to re-introduce to the pond. The water canna is still in the pond, just to the left of the bucket. That mass in front of you is the east side marsh, which has not even been touched yet.
After a while, it became necessary to bail, as the siphon just couldn’t deal with the pond bottom. It was hard work, but eventually we got the water all out.
The above is looking at the west side. It is completely clear of the vegetation that was in the shallow shelf. Below is a view of the east side. I have already hacked a good two feet of vegetation back to where the shallow shelf begins.
A shot with Jim in it, for scale.
Here is a close up of that root wad that his hand is next to.
Back to the axe! One must be circumspect about that tool. Part of what makes the job difficult is lifting the mass of roots away from the pond liner so that when you hack through the roots you don’t also hack through the rubber liner. When I bought that liner, it was over $400. I can’t even imagine how much it would cost today, 17 years later. I am just grateful that it hasn’t broken down over the years.
Another reason to be circumspect is the fact that over the years there have been rocks that found their way into the mass. Big rocks. Believe it or not, there was a time when the vegetation in the marsh was small enough that it needed to be anchored so it wouldn’t float around. (Ironic laughter here) Hitting a big head sized rock with the axe is hard on the axe. We tried to avoid that. Fortunately, when you get close to a rock when you are hacking at the root wad, the sound changes so that you can modify your aim and miss the rock. No axes were harmed during the project.
So anyway, we did not try to beat the east side all the way back to the edge the way we did the west side. I decided the frogs and salamanders needed some marsh. I left about three feet of it intact. I know I will enjoy the water irises there when they bloom, also.
After we beat it back some, we cleaned the liner and refilled the pond. I spent some time clearing the grass back from the stone “patio”. That part is not done yet, but it rained in the night and there is a lot of water out there, so I will put that off for a bit.
This is how it all looked yesterday afternoon.
There are no fish in there any more, which means the salamanders and toads will have a much easier time propagating. I know for a fact that there are seven salamander newts, because I meticulously saved them during the baling process and put them into the bucket with the lilies, and then carefully put them back into the pond after it was full.
A job well done. And my body knows all about it, too.
Something a little less physical also going on: The bargello quilt strips for Jesse and Lynette’s quilt are cut.
I have about 25% of the strip sewing complete. I think I might just work on that today and let the pond and the gardens alone. Just for today.