Summer Pondside

lilliesThis summer we have really been experiencing the abundance of our pond as it grows into it’s own beautiful and unique habitat.  Dragonflies and damselflies helicopter over our heads catching bugs on the move, and water boatmen navigate around our ankles and legs.  We have watched the progression of native tree frogs from egg sacs to tadpole to tiny green gems snuggling into the folds of the water plantain and the tall flat stems of the cattails.  We have seen the brief orange flash of a rough skinned newt, and watched puddling ducks and diving grebes, all within the close gaze from the living room window or the pond side lounge.

The pond was dug four years ago as an integral part of our lands’ water system.  It is 50 feet across both ways, 12 feet deep in the middle, and captures 50,000 gallons of spring water, holding it entirely by the natural solid clay that makes up our lower field.  The spring that emerges on our property at the base of the bedrock slope has been registered since the 1950’s and flows all year round, decreasing in the summer months when the rain stops.  Previous land owners dug down and placed a gravel bed with perforated drain pipe in the spring, which we connected to a 1175 gallon below ground concrete cistern for our domestic water.  A pump delivers this water up to the house, and the overflow from the continuous spring water pours into the pond.  In the winter, the overflow from the pond creates a small stream that we have directed towards the garden, which we plan to utilize more effectively in the next few years’ of landscaping.

Right now, being July and without rain for a month, the overflow from the cistern stops while the tank recharges from the spring whenever we use the water, taking up to several hours to trickle out once again, and the level of the pond has dropped 8 inches below the outflow to the garden.  It will most likely drop another foot before the autumn rains begin once again.

Besides water catchment and creating natural habitat, the pond is a fabulous swimming spot.  We had the excavator build two ledges at either end, one being for plants and the other for a small beach.  The beach area goes out about 10 feet before a small rock wall marks the place where it drops off into the full depth, and at one end of the beach is a large rock placed far enough out so that we can jump off into the middle of the pond.  This June we got around to building a wooden deck over the lid of the concrete cistern, which will later have a four post arbor and shade providing vines growing over top as an intimate and relaxing space.  Colin put in a small stone patio connecting the deck to a rock near the outflow pipe, and we formed the beach by building a low rock wall that separates the grass from the sand that slopes down to the entrance to the pond beside the small deck.

These small improvements, with the growing in of the water plants, have created a little oasis for us and many of our neighbours during these hot months of summer.  Almost everyday we have some friends stopping by for a late afternoon cool off, giving the pond a community feel.  All that we ask of everyone is to have respect for the life that is abundant in the natural eco-system, and to have an awareness of safety and responsibility for each other.

On the topic of maintenance, the pond has proven to be not for the faint of heart.  It is a lot of hard work as we navigate the various needs for a healthy water habitat.  We have had various years of algae blooms and have considered different aeration systems to keep the water circulating and fresh.  Really we wanted the pond to create a natural system that self regulates with filtering plants, oxygenating plants, and algae eating critters.  For a few years we left a barley bale floating around in the water, as decomposition of barley straw in water produces and releases many compounds, one of which apparently controls algae populations. The chemical compound does not eliminate existing algae cells but interferes with and prevents the growth of new algae cells. As “old” algae cells naturally die off, few new algae cells are produced and the algae population is controlled as long as the compound is being produced.  We also introduced snails, which feed on the algae growing on rocks and plants.  One year we added a large jug of microbes.  It is difficult to know if any one of these methods really worked or not, since there are so many other natural variants from year to year, and really, the pond is still very young and adapting.  This year the water is clear and clean as the plants and animals settle in.

We planted a dozen water lily plants that we acquired from a friend who was moving, and a few water iris’s and a dwarf water bamboo plant.  All other plants have naturalized, probably from ducks visiting from other ponds.  We have a growing stand of cattails, a fringe of water plantain, sedges and rushes on the edge of the water, narrow-leaved bur-reed, and an aggressive buttercup- like lily.  Now that things are filling in, I am spending more time trying to pull much of it out so that we can still swim in the pond, and so that we can control the alien invaders of the American Bullfrog, which has made itself comfortably at home on Pender in the last few years.  Two years ago we caught two males quite easily, but this year we have a huge male and a female that are quick and elusive.  All this plant matter for them to hide in doesn’t make for easy eradication.  They eat the native tree frogs, as well as dragonflies, hummingbirds, and baby goslings.  No natural predators in this area make them the top of the fresh water food chain.  So besides spending many hours ripping out the deep roots of the water buttercup (I have yet to make an actual identification of this plant), Colin and I have made nightly journeys down to the pond to hunt out the bullfrogs.  I head out in the hand crank paddle boat that my father made for us, with a high powered head lamp, and look for glowing eyes.  Colin sneaks around the pond edge with a net and tries to move faster than they can jump.  At this point, the frogs are winning, and we are increasingly concerned that they are laying masses of egg sacs which will hatch into tadpoles next spring.

Mostly though, the pond has been an important central feature in our increasingly developed vision of our gardens.  It has brought us together with our community through birthday celebrations,  musical concerts, summer picnic potlucks, work party dips, Summer Solstice ceremonies, and casual cool down hang outs.  It has also provided the opportunity for Cedar and Taeven to become stronger swimmers, and made restful and intimate memories for us as a family.  The pond is a constant reminder of the sacred abundance and presence of the spring water that we rely on as our water source.  I imagine that as we all grow, the pond will provide many more years of beautiful memories as we work to create a sanctuary of connection between us, the land and water, and our community.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. dawn hamilton
    Jul 30, 2013 @ 19:24:42

    Wonderful write-up and photos of the pond—-can’t wait to see it! I will be at Wendy’s Saturday night, late. Love to all, Mom



  2. Clare Mathias
    Aug 10, 2013 @ 16:34:52

    This is a very special place you and Colin have created, and your generosity in sharing this beauty with the community is wonderful. Your writing helps us to see the interconnectedness of everything around us and the importance of that delicate balance to achieve a healthy life. Thank you for all that you do for community and for sharing your talents.


  3. Trackback: Water Storage and Irrigation System | Inspirational Village

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