I was beginning to think the pond would never freeze this year. It had been another very mild Winter. Ah, but that all changed one Sunday night in late January: we finally got our first snowfall! Let's pick up the story from there, shall we...
As I was saying, it's about time we got some snow!
I love waking up the morning after a snowfall to see how the snow has collected itself on every branch and stone. And then, if the wind stays at bay and the sun comes out, all the trees start to glisten as the snow begins to melt away in place. It's quite a show and it never gets old!!
And then it got very cold... according to my gas bill, the average temperature in February was 27F (-3C). So with most of the water sources frozen, all the animals were stopping by the pond for a drink... including this wary cat! Normally, I would have gone out there and request that he leave, but since the fish were safely nestled under a sheet of ice, I figured there was no harm in letting him quench his thirst. But then he started stalking at the bird feeder, so...
No words needed...
There's the (green) pond deicer hard at work. As always, it's placed at the mouth of the skimmer intake. This keeps the water flowing into the pump. There's really nothing to do for the pond in the Winter... just watch the animals come and go!
And as Winter comes to a close, the Spring cleaning begins!
It's been 4 years since we last cleaned out the pond. And long time readers will remember this was a difficult and disruptive process because we had to catch the fish, drain the pond, clean, refill, and dechlorinate the water. Since there was now 3-4 inches of sediment on the bottom, it was time to clean it out again. But this year, I tried something simpler... I used our wet/dry shop-vac to suck up the sediment! This worked surprisingly well, although I could only do 5-10 seconds at-a-time because the volume of water/sediment would overpower the pump on my old unit. So with my wife working the power switch, we did 20 passes and were finished in 10 minutes!!
On April 15th, the Spring Nor'easter of 2007 arrived bringing with it 5 inches of rain! Here's a panorama of the back yard which shows the water winding its way to the drainage grate in the back right corner of the yard. Naturally, the kids and I went out there to help the water find its way (we weren't playing in the water, okay! ;-)). I remember the previous owners told us that, before the township installed that drain, heavy rains would turn the back yard into a lake!
Here's a shot of the pond during the storm. It's full! The edge in the foreground is a little higher than the one in the back, so the overflow is spilling out onto the grass behind the pond. It's also funny that the storm came when it did; just a couple weeks earlier, I had a dream where the entire back yard was under water and I was out there with a net trying to scoop up the fish from the pond!
The right side of the upper waterfall had been settling over time, and this Spring, I noticed that it was now a quarter inch lower. As a result, the water was flowing more to the right rather than over the middle of the falls. I had two options... either dig up and reconstruct the upper waterfall, or build a quarter inch mortar wall to guide the water back toward the center of the falls. Naturally, I choose the easiest solution and made a little wall...
And once you toss a few stones around it, you can't even tell it's there! That's one great thing about pond work, if something doesn't look right, just toss a few stones around it. Anyway, now the full volume of water is flowing over the center of the falls once again.
First of all, just look at that moss growing on the rocks!! It's an inch thick now, and the water winds through it en route to the falls. At least, it's trying to reach the falls, today it seems, one of our resident frogs is sitting in the stream bed. Looks like the perfect place to sit, doesnt it?! Also, if you look directly behind where the frog is staring, you can see tiny shoots of Horsetail have planted themselves in the moss.
One Monday in April, the kids were home from school looking for something to do, so we started a little project. I grabbed some scraps of wood from the garage and we set out to build a bird house. I didn't know how to start, but fortunately someone else did! We followed these excellent Build a Chickadee Birdhouse instructions. The only change I made was to install a hinge and hook on the top so we could peek inside... errr, I mean, so we could clean it out from time-to-time! :-)
We hung up the house on a garden fence pole and, to my surprise, within a week, a pair of chickadee's moved in and built a nest. In fact, here is one of them now asking me to leave!
A few weeks later, we noticed the parents were frantically flying in and out carrying food in their beaks, so while they were away, we took a peek inside to find... 6 baby chickadees!
A couple weeks later, on May 30th, it was getting pretty crowded in there! I figured they'd be on their way soon...
And sure enough, two days later, there were a flock of chickadees fluttering around the yard! The one picture here was the last to leave the nest, and I got to see his first flight... he flew about 20 feet and then crashed on a pine tree. Then the parents called him over to another bush and the flock of them took off for the next yard. They still come back to the pond for baths and snacks (at least, I think it's them. And I imagine we'll have another batch of them next year!