Time to talk about the ponds – #1 Big Pond

If you have been following along with these blogs, you may have noticed that I have not said much or shown on the ponds themselves. You would think that with a title like “The Blog of a Pond Enthusiast” I would talk of nothing else but I try to lead a varied life which translates into varied blogs.

So, this is the story of building the first and biggest of the ponds.

I first became interested in building ponds around  1995 or so. Up to that time, I had kept an old horse  (literally)  in my back yard. He had the run of it so there was very little that went on in the way of yard work. His name was Zippo and he was a white Arabian and was a beautiful horse to look at and a joy to ride.  He arrived with us (I was still married way back when), courtesy of a mutual friend who no longer could afford to keep him. At that time, we had other horses on a small 5 acre ranch out towards the Perdinales so one more horse was not a hardship. He was 15 when we got him and when we sold that property, we took him with us not trusting him to others who may not want to care for him. By then, he had foundered and was no longer ride-able although he still had lots of spirit. We boarded him out when we first moved in to our new home and following the divorce, I brought him home to the back yard. He lived there for a long time and eventually, on Christmas Eve, 2000, I had to send him to his final resting place as he was obviously in some discomfort. Zippo lived to be 36 years old and even at the end still had that same indomitable spirit. It was a sad Christmas that year.

Following Zippo’s demise, I turned my attention to the back yard which was a bit of mess although it could have been worse. I could have kept goats and its a well known fact that they eat anything and everything within their reach.When we bought the property in 1985, one of the things that attracted us was the fact that it had lots of live oak trees, forty four in the front and another forty five in the back. Grass does not grow very well under trees unless it can also get a lot of sunshine. Ours didn’t so the problems of what to do with a half acre of tree shaded property loomed very large. On top of that the house is located at the foot of the Texas  Hill Country with about twelve inches of soil and then rock and that’s if your lucky. Mostly, its just rock!

I began researching ponds and thought that building a small one wouldn’t be too hard. I started digging and like I said, soon hit rock. I worked at it as much as I could and then elevated the sides of the pond to get sufficient depth. I bought a cheap liner and surrounded it with rocks and ended up with a very nice little pond about twelve feet in diameter and about two feet deep. It held about 1500 gallons of water and had a waterfall on the deck end. I still didn’t do much with the rest of the yard except to try to grow grass and again, very unsuccessfully.

One thing about building a pond without help or advice from anyone is the number of mistakes you make along the way and not all to do with the actual construction. I was always in a hurry and read somewhere that it was a good idea to lower the water level and add back fresh water. What I either didn’t read or pay attention to was the part about adding a chlorination treatment after topping up the pond. Needless to say, next morning all but one fish were floating on the top of the water. Not a pleasant sight.

 About two years after building the pond on one rainy day, I looked  out the window and there was this bloody great bird standing on  the side of the pond. At first glance it looked to be about ten feet  tall. In retrospect, it was probably closer to five feet but in  moments of panic, one tends to exaggerate a little. That was my  first of many visits from the heron. Do not confuse herons with  storks. They are totally different. The heron eats the best fish out of  homeowners ponds while the stork delivers babies. Not sure at which point the delivery occurs whether in the making or the actual birth. In my house, neither birds are welcome.

After a couple of years, I started having problems with a leak in the liner of the pond and try as I might, I could not locate it. So I went back to my favorite store, Home Depot, and bought a three hundred and fifty gallon preformed pond to keep the twenty or so fish (and one small turtle) in while I went ahead and let the pond drain out to nothing. I still couldn’t find the leak and in a moment of total exasperation, tore the old liner out and proceeded to rebuild the pond making it almost three times as big and a lot deeper.

I had learned a lot in the first two years. I bought a heavy grade of liner. It cost a lot more but was well worth it. I did all of the work myself without any help from anyone. Not boasting about it but trying to point out how the human brain can work through problems. The liner was pretty big something like thirty feet by twenty four feet and weighed about four hundred pounds. I had to figure a way to get that into the hole in the ground without ruining the sides and shape of the pond or without doing myself a serious injury. So,  I folded the liner up the opposite way that I wanted for it to unfold and then tied it up with a rope to keep it together. I then built a ramp leading up to the pond which stood about two feet out of the ground and loaded the liner onto a two wheeled dolly and took a run up the ramp going as fast as I could and when I reached the end, I let the whole thing go and it flipped into the middle of the hole. That was almost job done as it was easy to unfold and move the open liner around where I wanted it. Ah, the beauty of the abilty to think and work out problems..

I also invested in a different filtering system by adding a Casio pond skimmer unit and directing the water back with a 3500 gallons per hour pump (gph) through a hundred gallon Skippy filter. I dug the pond down to about three feet at the deepest end and made the sides vertical with no plant shelf. To beautify it, I added a central urn with a 2000 gpm pump in the center and another urn to act as a separate waterfall across from the fall that I had built into the pond. The pond now holds about 5000 gallons of water.

After the fiasco with losing the first fish, I filled the pond and waited three weeks before re introducing the fish back into the new pond. It must be said that the new pond took about two months to build and age the water and in all that time, I never lost a single fish in the small pond they were in. I felt very lucky on that.

The pond is now about twelve years old and has had a few changes and additions. I changed the Casio filter out with an Atlantic filter preferring the type of filter system used in the Atlantic. I have added a couple more pumps to drive additional water features and of course, the vegetation is constantly changing. The twenty or so Koi that are in there are now well over two  feet in length and probably weigh anywhere between six and ten pounds. They destroy water lilies and such but have left the lotus alone. It must have stronger stems. I feed them almost every time I go outside which is often and they certainly have responded with their growth. Due to the Texas sun and the amount of vegetation in the water, I have top up this pond about every four days. I only allow about 75 gallons of water each time after losing one of the big Koi when I topped up with 150 gallons. I use timers on the faucets to help nullify overfill but they are not 100% reliable and I still check constantly during the refilling operation. Trouble is, my aging brain starts working on something else and I forget the timers are on creating moments of sheer panic when I do recall what I was supposed to be watching.

As for the heron, he tormented me for several years and I was forced to put   electric fences around all of the ponds powered by a doggie shocker. I don’t know if that is the reason I haven’t seen  him or her for the last two years or whether there is another reason like it  has found better hunting closer to its nest or old age caught up with it and it died. Who knows when the next one will show up to take its place.

Just as long as the stork stays away…

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