Saturday, August 12, 2017

Summer Project: Building The Pond

No, I'm not writing a book about The Pond. In between attending author events and book signings, I've been busy digging and lugging and getting downright muddy with a real pond.

I thought this was a lot of rocks...ha! 
You may remember this photo from a previous post.

See all those rocks flowing down the hill? I collected those from a house across town van load by van load three years ago. Then I unloaded them in a big pile. A year later, I moved them all to this hill. Who needs a weight set?

The digging has begun.
Well, I decided it was finally time to do what I intended with those rocks rather than let them be the haven for snakes and weeds they had become. So this summer, it was time to build a pond. Two of them actually. But it started with moving all those rocks again, but only a few feet to either side this time.

I'm not good at stopping to take pictures when I'm in the middle of a project, but here's where I was after several days of moving and digging. The top pond was difficult as the first foot was hard clay, rather like cement. Thankfully, nature took mercy on me and provided sand for the rest of the depth. The top pond is 3 foot by 5 foot and 2.5 feet deep.
I tried to give the waterfall some
angles to make it more interesting.

It appears it was spring when I first began this project because the tulips are just done blooming. Summer really rushed by this year!

There are 23 feet between the top and bottom ponds. All of which needed to be made into a series of waterfalls. I spent a lot of time standing and staring at the hillside. It was much like contemplating a scene when writing. A lot of chin scratching, some scrunchy faces, tipping of head from side to side, walking up and down the hill and standing in various places along the way. Days passed, summer moved along.

My collection of rocks included two nice slabs of marble, which I planned to use for my upper and lower fall. The smaller falls used various flat rocks that I had around. With the fall as long as it is and as wide as I ended up making it, I ended up having to borrow from the newer pile of rocks I'd bought and moved here this spring. There was much moving of rocks, a bit of swearing, and two blackened fingertips that were caught between rocks as they shifted into place (and quite a lot of swearing at those moments).

I hit up my local Lowes for their clearance broken bags of stones and pebbles to fill in the gaps.

As you can see from the photos there are a lot of tall plants next to the waterfall. They weren't tall when I planted them there, but we have super soil. That meant I spent some time digging out a lot of overgrown plants. Though I was able to give some of them away, several of my prospective plant takers failed to get back to my and my patience ran out. I did expand some of my flower garden area on the hillside to accommodate some of the offending plants, but the rest got pitched out into the field. Hard as they are, they may grow there and naturalize the otherwise boring field of weeds. If not, oh well. I have plenty more of those particular flowers.

Work began on the lower pond. I wanted this one to be deep enough that the bottom (hopefully) wouldn't freeze. I also wanted it big enough to support fish and plants and help fill the space on the hill.


The first foot and half was again hard work, though not because of clay this time, but because when the house was built, the excavators had shoved all the yucky piles of debris onto the hill because the soil was good. Unfortunately, it also included a lot of what had been tree roots and stinky black dirt. It smelled so bad! Once I got through the two feet of random wood bits from the excavators, I got live wood bits thanks to tree roots, both from trees still here and those we had removed before building. There was much clipping of roots and swearing and hacking of roots with shovels.
The shovel and I grew very close over the weeks that passed.
The lower pond is 5 feet by 9 feet and has steps at 2, 3 and 4 feet, with the lowest section at 5 feet deep. Even more fun than digging all that dirt out was deciding where to go with it. I don't mind digging. Lugging carts full of dirt is not my favorite thing. It's not even something I sort of like. In fact, I dislike it very much. After awhile I enlisted my husband to take the dirt carts away with the lawnmower to patch up the lawn wherever he wanted.

Then came the issue of doing a pond on a hillside. Where does one determine the level of the pond when one side is significantly higher than the other? I decided to make a step on the tall side and raise up the short side with some of the dirt from the pond to even out the difference.

There was much anticipation while
I waited for the top pond to fill and
water to start down the fall.
Just when I thought the digging was over, I remembered I would need to dig a trench along side the whole thing for the pipe to bring water from the bottom to the top and for the electric that would need to come down from the house to the pump and filter in the bottom pond. Oh good! More digging!

I ended up going with 1.5 inch irrigation hose for my waterline because of the distance from the pump. This allowed for a good flow of water down the fall. It makes for a lovely rush of water sound that draws birds, butterflies, and frogs. Yesterday, a heron came. It was pretty, but it better not eat my fish. Hopefully, the dogs in the yard will chase it off again like they did today.

Yes, there are fish. The top pond is home to a lively guppy population. (There's a post about the originator of my guppies out here somewhere. Yes, the progeny of the great guppy mother have prospered). I put them out there when the top pond was half full and beginning to teem with mosquito larvae. Euw! The guppies feasted. Sad to say the waterfall and lower pond took much longer to finish than I had originally anticipated due to weather, limited time, and my energy level. By the time the lower pond was ready for the pump, the top pond was so green and dark that I was sure there was nothing left alive in it.

The first fall is the longest.
Once I had the pump and filter installed and all the lines run between them and the ponds, it was time to switch the whole thing on. Slowly, and with the help of some barley tablets, the water began to clear. Surprise! The guppies had multiplied like the guppies they are. Baby guppies everywhere!

It took a few days of tweaking stone placement, one day of letting it all dry so I could use pond foam to fill gaps and further direct the water flow, and a week of wondering where my water keep going (dirt settled on the rim of the top pond, creating a slow overflow area that was well hidden), before I was finally happy with the project.

Not all the way happy though. Those two nice slabs of marble I mentioned? They survived the move over from their previous home, they were moved here several times. They were walked on and shuffled here and there. But when I finally placed the lower one near where I wanted it? It broke in half. Yes, you guessed it, more swearing ensued. I did install it for now, but I will replace it next year. Right now, I just want to finish the landscaping and buy a bench so I can enjoy watching the fish and frogs.

It only took a week before the frogs
started arriving.
The bottom pond is home to 14 goldfish. The ten cent kind. I learned my lesson with that with my other pond. If it's not the heron, it will raccoons feasting on expensive pond fish. It's also home to about half of the guppy population. How? Well, when the water started flowing, it pushed all those babies right off the surface of the top pond and propelled them all the way down to the lower pond via the waterfall. An amazing amount of them survived. There are also several full grown males down there. Sad for them, because all the full grown females were smart enough to hang out at the bottom of the top pond. Baby guppy explosions will be on hold for a while.

There's still some work left to do. The electric needs to be finished, but it's running off an outdoor extension cord for now. The landscaping needs some of my time, but I'll get to that when the mood strikes. Mulch will come when it's on sale at the end of the season. One of these days I'll finish digging the hole for the filter system, but it's okay in its half hole for now.  One day I might hang a nice flower basket from the top of my electric post or decide to chop it off further down. The pond needs plants. All tasks for another day.


 I'll leave you with the view from upstairs. Don't mind the hose and shovel. We've all grown quite attached this summer.

4 comments:

  1. Amazing project, Jean! I love the sound of running water in the garden. We had a pond at our old house that I still miss, and we've always talked about some kind of water feature at our current place, but not yet got around to it.

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    1. It does take a lot of work, but it's worth it in the end. The running water attracts all kinds of interesting creatures.

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  2. Hi Jean - amazing project - creative vision too - as well as all that rock heaving, let alone earth moving. Gosh you'll enjoy it so much now it's done - and obviously the wildlife is having a ball ... congratulations - and looking forward to more updates as the garden settles and the plants fill it out ... beautiful - cheers Hilary

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    1. We've been enjoying watching the honeybees drink from the stream. I'll definitely be posting updates. :)

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