Monday, February 16, 2009

Our Pond

Every time my pasture floods – which is about once a year on average – the river leaves an inch or two of silt behind. The pond gets filled in even more. For a stretch back in the 70s and 80s I dug out the pond every winter with a shovel. It’s great exercise if you’ve got plenty of time and energy to spare. Even then, I was thinking about hiring a backhoe and giving the pond a mega ream job.

Eventually my priorities changed, and I stopped digging out the pond. Slowly, it started to fill back in. The flood of 06 hastened the process, and I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer – I had to hire that backhoe I’ve been talking about for over 20 years. This was the year for action.

It only took Paul Madrid an hour or so to dig out the pond as deep as his shovel would go – about 8 feet deep. He hit the water table, as you can see. When they turn the river on, the pond will fill nearly to the top.

I had him deposit the dirt in a circle around the pond, forming a protective berm about 20 feet in diameter. This will hopefully keep any flood waters from washing the fish away and depositing sediment in the pond. I trapped some tiny (2” long) catfish in a minnow trap last fall, and put them in a 55-gallon drum with an air bubbler. I don’t know if they’re still alive, since they’re at the bottom. If they are, I’ll put them in the pond next month when they turn the river on. We’ll also call the vector control dudes to bring us some minnows. The minnows eat mosquito larvae, and we ask the county to bring us minnows each year. They always buy a jar of honey from us when they’re here, which sweetens the deal all around.

Right now the pond looks like a bomb crater, but time will swiftly soften its contours. Once it fills with water, the walls will slowly slump, and the pond will become shallower and wider. I’ll probably hire Paul to dig it out every year or two for awhile – keeping it the same depth in the center, but widening it year by year. Eventually, I hope it will have water in it year-round. Then I won’t have to rescue the fish out of it each fall. I wonder if water lilies will grow in such alkaline conditions?


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