The usual cast of birds and reptiles were back again! Eastern Ribbon Snakes could be seen throughout the year (not everyone was thrilled about that :-)). And, this year, we discovered a family of Wrens had nested in the Japanese Pine behind the pond.

As always, there were dragonflies chasing each other around, and on a good day, you could count up to 3 frogs patiently waiting for insects to come within range. Every year, the kids and I head over to the pet store and buy a few big tadpoles (at $2.50 each) and then release them into the pond... this ensures us an ample supply of frogs every year!

Also this year, we had one baby Comet (big goldfish). It started off black -- the first time I saw it, I thought it was just a shadow -- then it turned yellow, now orange. Apart from the minnows, I had no idea there were any babies, so I guess the fact that one managed to survive is pretty remarkable... a lucky fish!

While over in the garden, butterflies and sunflowers abound!! There were at least 20 sunflowers sprouting up around the yard. We didnt plant any of them. All I did was put up a birdfeeder with sunflower seeds... the animals (chipmunks, I think) took responsibility for sowing them.

Which brings us to...
This year's project: rebuild the right channel of the waterfall!

I've always had trouble maintaining waterflow on the right channel (that drains from the upper pool). I had been using thin flat stones laid on the liner, and a lot of the water was flowing underneath them. Worse, this year, roots got under the flat stones and lifted them so almost no water was flowing over them... totally unacceptable!!

So, one weekend in early September, I ripped the right channel apart and rebuilt it from scratch. This is the before picture, where you can see the flat stones removed exposing the black liner (across the center of the picture).

As usual, I didn't have a plan, but I was thinking about a southwestern motif so I went to the local garden center and bought 100 pounds of red fieldstone (10 cents/pound), came home and began the process of laying, splitting and adjusting them again and again and again and...

Finally, this is what I came up with! Note that, those red fieldstones are up to an inch thick. In fact, I can stand on the two lower stones making for a very nice place to sit (with feet in the running water)!

I tried something new here, too. To keep the maximum amount of water flowing over the stones, I used Black Waterfall Polyurethane Foam, which is just like that expanding yellow foam you spray into walls except that this stuff is black. Apart from getting some on my fingers and in my hair, it was easy to work with and did a nice job plugging holes. I used a little mortar on the edges of a couple stones to keep the water on course... hey, it takes nature a long time to get this stuff right, I only had the weekend!

Oh, and here's a tip: always wear gloves!! I sometimes took them off and, at the end of the weekend, my fingers were in pain! You'd think I would have learned this lesson by now?!

A couple nights after this photo was taken, I was sitting out on the porch around 9PM when I saw an animal come up to drink from the upper pool. First I thought it was a squirrel, then maybe a cat... nope, it turned out to be a fox! Very cool!! It drank for a minute or so before leaving. And from now on, I gotta remember to bring the camera with me when I'm sitting out there!

The following weekend, we visited our local garden center and bought $30 worth of perennials (half off this time of year, ya know! :-))... Spiderwort, Creeping Baby's Breath, Candytuft, Ice Plant, and Black Mondo Grass. I spent the rest of the afternoon splitting and planting them between the rocks.

The thing is, I never know where the plants are going to take hold... I follow the instructions (direct sun, shade, well-drained soil, etc.) but a lot of times, it seems like a crap-shoot. Since I've noticed that these plants often relocate themselves to more favorable locations, it'll be fun to see what this looks like next year!!

Here are a couple more pictures of the backyard. These first two are from the roof; the one on the right was taken in 2001. It looks like things have grown in quite a bit over 4 years!

Another one from the roof, this time looking into the backyard along the left side of the house. When we moved here in 1994, this was all grass!

One more picture from the roof. We planted that yellow butterfly bush on the right to draw butterflies across the front of the pond... that worked nicely! Had an excellent crop of water lettuce and the two water lilies are doing fine. Actually, everything is doing well -- the water conditions are always good -- the whole thing pretty much takes care of itself these days!

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