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Pond Thoughts

August 25th, 2007

     Our pond always seems to stir the imagination.  In so many ways it looks bigger than it really is… Pablo  asked a great question about the size, and I walked the pond last year to figure that out.  I don’t know why, but I always like to understand things better and find out the details of things.  

So after much walking, note taking and calculating, my estimate came to around 1.4 acres, with a little more than 11 acre-feet of water in total.  An “acre foot” is defined as the volume of water necessary to cover one acre of surface area of water to a depth of one foot.  That volume is about 325,853 gallons of water.  I won’t show the calculations, but after averaging the depth at various locations in the pond, I came up with an estimate of the pond holding more than 4 million gallons of water!  Give or take a few hundred thousand gallons of course :) 

Somehow the trees make it seem bigger with the slopes on both sides.  It was built around 1984 with a dam on a draw or hollow from a 25-30 acre watershed.  I’ve read that it’s not always best to try and build a pond from a natural draw where the water runs off because it’s often difficult to keep the dam from leaking, etc. But in this case it worked pretty well… although the dam does leak a little.  In addition to the watershed, we suspect there are some natural springs and ground water that helps keep the pond full.  It’s stays mostly full year round, but drops about five feet in the heat of summer with less rainfall and evaporation… probably a lot of the trees tap into the pond as well!  

With more rain in the Fall, the pond should fill up by December.  But what is it about the pond and water that is so… well, comforting?  Relaxing? Mysterious?  I don’t know… but it wouldn’t be the same here without it. 

Another early morning picture of the pond, facing to the west with the dam at the far right.

Morning light on the trees above the pond, facing west.

Water

June 4th, 2007

What is it about water that indicates serenity, or peace?  At least for me it does… and helps bring clarity to the day. Perhaps the pond helps bring a sense of balance and harmony in the landscape.  The water has become more clear, at least for now.  The fish are thriving and the aquatic plants are not too abundant to create a nuisance.  Sometimes in the summer heat the plants will grow thick along the shoreline… we’ll have to see if that happens this  year.  But I appreciate the water clarity- if you walk slowly along the bank you can see the fish swimming by. 

The pond™s water has become more clear

 I stood on a stump and threw a small rock into the water.  Soon there were several hungry bass looking to see if their next meal was nearby. 

Several hungry Largemouth Bass look for food

I never tire of seeing reflections in the water, and the changing light and wind around the pond.  Just sitting to appreciate the natural beauty helps renew the spirit.

Beautiful reflection of trees in the pond

Rain in June

June 2nd, 2007

A good few rainy days this week, with a little sun as well.  How do you feel about the rain?  Do you get more done, or less?  Does it matter?  For me I shift “inside” both physically and mentally I think.  With a host of things that always need accomplished, when it rains I simply turn to those things on the inside of the house.  But I can’t say the rain doesn’t affect me, because I know I become more introspective.  In many ways I love it when it rains, and it helps me relax.  But I appreciate the rain we’ve had for the garden and landscape… everything is soaking it up!

These flowers look so nice… like a cottage garden.  We can’t take credit for them however, they came with the house!  We’ve pulled a few weeds and trimmed all around, but I love the contrasts in color.

 Cottage garden flowers in Spring

The pond is a tranquil place when gentle rain falls.  It fills up slowly, and goes down slowly… last year it dropped by almost five feet by late summer.  With all the spring rain, it may keep a higher level this year.

Rain falls gently on the pond

 

The Shiba Inu loves to prowl around the house… and garden!  I try to keep him out of the garden, but he thinks it’s his place to explore.  He is ready to lose his winter coat… a little shedding the past few weeks, but we expect it to all come out soon.  When it does, it comes in clumps!  He’s a happy fellow, and loves attention.

The Shiba loves to explore outdoors

The Living Pond

May 27th, 2007

The pond looks so nice at this time of year.  The leaves have finally established themselves, giving shade to each side of the pond as the day moves on.  Most of the fish are completing their spring spawning.  When you walk the pond you can see small areas of gravel where the fish laid eggs.  Life is abundant with tadpoles, bullfrogs, minnows, snails, insects and more.  I really enjoy seeing the diversity of wildlife in the area.  On some days a Great Blue Heron shows up… they are quite wary, and fly off when seeing anyone nearby.  I would rather they not spend much time here… they dine on anything they can catch and eat… sometimes they catch things, but can’t eat them.  A couple weeks ago I found a very large Bluegill dead on the bank.  A heron had grabbed it, making deep bill marks down both sides of its back.  But the heron couldn’t eat it… so it just left it there.   We went fishing ourselves the other day and caught several bass and bluegill.

The pond shoreline in the afternoon

I took a few more photos of a basking turtle, and the best I can determine is that it’s a pond slider.  Probably a Missouri Slider technically.   This one is about 12 inces long, and although I’ve seen one or two other turtles, they have been smaller. 

The pond slider watches me from its perch on the log

The Slider decides it’s time to make a getaway to the pond.

The pond slider makes a quick entry to the pond

The Pond is Quieter

May 6th, 2007

 Canada Geese are beautiful birds.  I took this photo in March as six or seven geese came flying in to the pond one afternoon.  I just happened to be walking with the camera in my hand and caught a nice shot of a pair landing.  As beautiful as they are however, I am pleased that the nesting pair is now gone.  I had walked the dogs around the pond more frequently last month, which the geese didn’t like of course, and later found that something had moved and got to the eggs. I actually found one on the dam.  The geese then left and came back briefly for a couple weeks, and then finally were gone.  About once a week a few geese still stop by the pond in the morning, and then they are gone by midday.  Last week I saw a solitary goose early one morning that appeared to be searching out a nest site.  But it was also gone within the hour.  I was concerned about goose droppings and such around the pond this year, so it is much nicer that we don’t have that “stuff” to deal with right now.  I do enjoy seeing them however… the pond is much quieter without their calls and antics on the pond.

Canada Geese landing on the pond in March

 

First Boat!

May 4th, 2007

Last week the young one got his first boat!  A fun little remote control fire engine boat…  he loves it.  He carries it to the pond and runs it all around, and it even shoots water out of a little hose up front.    The novelty has worn off after a week already, but he loves to look at it in his room.  He wanted to run it all the way across the pond, which he finally did. Then he ran up the hill and back down to the other side to get it… but the wind blew it back to the original side! Without even thinking about it he zoomed it over to him… success!  Then he carried it all the way back, very proud of himself.

First boat for the 6 year old!

The Pond

April 23rd, 2007

We had a nice picnic the other day on the pond dam.  The temperature was just right and a cool breeze blew across the water from the southeast.  Something about the water brings peace to the surroundings, and perhaps also to us.  I’ve always loved the water… go figure, I spent lots of time at sea in a previous career.  But even a small body of water such as this seems to provide a larger perspective on life.  The mysteries of the water… the fish and other creatures that exist in and around it… all are connected and lend continuity to everything else.  I pray the pond will remain for many years as it has already.

The pond on a sunny Spring afternoon

 

Rainfall and Turbidity!

March 22nd, 2007

With Spring comes the rain… this year it came quickly!  Today we had a major thunderstorm, with 1-2 inches of rainfall in a few hours.  We needed the rain… just not all at once, as the saying goes.  It’s a mixed blessing, because with the helpful water comes the force of water and the erosion of hills and gullies.  Sometimes you work for months to plant and grow, and the rain simply washes it all away.  I noted several of the draws leading to the pond have washed out completely, exposing bare rock and muddy ditches.  Some of the lily plants and grasses I hoped would grow have been undercut by the force of the water.  And where does it go?  To the pond!  The watershed is about 30 acres, which is perfect for keeping the pond at a sustainable level.  But with too much water the pond becomes the repository of the “organic detritus” and soil particulates.  Over time and years, this organic and inorganic matter can accumulate and actually fill up the pond in many shallower spots.  So my journey for the next few years will be try and mitigate this process, perhaps to grade areas that need it, and re-plant grass if it can take hold.  Time will tell, but I will not give up!  So here are a few pictures of the rainfall, and how the pond looks during and after.

During periods of heavy rain, the water from the higher pastures washes down to the house area and then down the hill to the pond.  I am doing battle with the moles… they create enormous tunnel systems and pathways for the water to travel and erode the soil.

Rain washing down the hillsides and grass towards the pond

This almost looks like a pretty creek washing down the hill. But really it only has visible water during heavy rainfall… and then it cascades down the draw, washing mud and leaves into the pond.  The water is nice… the mud is not!

The œcreek washes into the pond during heavy rain

The pond is filling up!  You can see the leaves in the corner after being washed into the pond, and the brownish coloration from the muddy water.   In the parlance of a limnologist, or a scientist who studies the the life and properties of fresh water ecological systems, the water’s turbidity has increased.  Turbidity is a measure of water clarity, and because of the silt and soil particulates, the water clarity will be much reduced for a time.  Normally, turbidity is influenced more by the presence of phytoplankton.  But not today!  The silt and brown coloration will settle to the bottom with time.

The pond is slowly colored with the brown of mud from the heavy rain

After the rainfall, the pond will begin to clear… but it may take a few days.  The “creek” is no longer washing into the pond.  It’s not all bad… the nutrients from the sediment and vegetation will help fertilize the pond and allow phytoplankton and other microscopic life to grow.  Especially with the warming weather and increased sunlight, the food chain in the pond will benefit from the rich diversity of life that will grow.  But too much mud and sediment can be detrimental over time, so I will try to work with the land to control any erosion problems.

Pond after the rainfall the soil sediments have colored the water brown for a few days

Dam Spring Cleaning

March 11th, 2007

The pond’s dam that is!  Such beautiful warm days… perfect for catching up on chores and those outdoor things that have been on the list for some time.  This weekend is being spent cleaning… indoors and out.  Yesterday I finally cut the trees down on the pond dam that I had planned for many months.  Last year I began clearing the dam of 5′ high brush, poison ivy and small saplings.  I can’t remember how many saplings I cut down.  After clearing the brush, I planted grass and kept it cut during the year. 

The slope is so steep I have to use a walk-behind brush mower and wrestle it around the dam.  Not fun, but the result is a nice clean look, with the dam covered in grass.  It’s important to keep the dam covered in grass to prevent erosion, and to keep the trees off so the roots don’t breach the integrity of the dam over time.  The trees I cut down were some type of river willow- more of a nuisance tree that invaded the area.  They spread like crazy and have long roots that run along the surface.  There is some debate over how large of an established tree you should cut down on a dam, but these were probably no more than 8-10 inches in diameter.   I will have to kill the stumps to prevent the trees from sending up sucker shoots again.  But now that all the trees and brush is cut down, I need to clear it.  A good chainsaw does a wonderful job.  The pictures don’t show the total area, but here’s a before picture of one part:

Trees and brush before cutting with chainsaw

And here’s another picture of how it looks when cleared:

After clearing trees and brush from dam

I hope to seed that side of the dam with grass also.  In the background are the native Oak and Eastern Red Cedar trees.  I have also been planting other native tree and shrub species such as Dogwood, Serviceberry and Wild Plum throughout the woodlands.  The Missouri Department of Conservation will send many native shrubs and trees for planting at minimal cost.  These are desirable native species that provides improved habitat for birds and wildlife.

I also took a quick picture yesterday of the Koi I stocked in the pond last year!  These were about 8 inches long as of July ’06, and they have grown to at least 12-15 inches long.  I stocked three- and they all made it through the winter!  It’s hard to see, but two are orange and one is black and white with orange tips on the fins.  They swim around the pond together, eating algae and sifting the mud and bottom matter on the pond.  I doubt they will breed successfully, but we’ll see.  They are nice to look at as they swim lazily around the pond.

Three Koi in Pond

Minnow Pennies in the Pond

March 9th, 2007

Well… not really.  But I did put Fathead Minnows (Pimephales promelas) in the pond.  Hmmm… after putting a couple thousand of the little dudes all around the pond, it might as well felt like dumping half-pennies in there!    So we stocked some fish yesterday… it’s always fun, and I enjoy doing it. I’ve been managing the pond since last year to try and attain a more balanced Largemouth Bass to Bluegill population.  We also have a certain number of Green Sunfish, Redear Sunfish, a few Channel Catfish, several Grass Carp and three Koi!  The Green Sunfish have large mouths and compete with smaller Bass, as well as eating the smaller fry of all species.  I try to catch and eat more of the Green Sunfish while allowing the Bluegill populations to increase somewhat.  The Bluegill have much smaller mouths and do not compete with the Bass at the same level of the food chain over time.   But to complement the natural forage foods available, I have supplemented the pond with Fathead Minnows several times since last year.  It’s a little early in the year right now, but I wanted to have a large supply of the minnows in the pond before the Bass/Bluegill breeding season in April and May.  Some people believe adding minnows to a pond just provides a healthy snack for hungry Bass.  It probably does to a large degree, but I believe enough minnows will survive to breed themselves over the summer months.  Once the water warms up to about 60 degrees F, they will begin breeding.  The fathead minnows are a great addition to the food chain, and hopefully will help the Bass be very healthy for breeding season as well as increasing the average weight of the Bass over time!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Here the Fathead Minnows are swimming out of the plastic bag. They come from an Arkansas fish farm, by way of a large “fish truck” that stops periodically at various feed stores throughout the region.  What a job they have… they’re driving on the  road five days a week, stopping at five different towns each day delivering fish. The minnows are “hand-dipped” out of the truck’s tanks, and put into the plastic bags to make the 20 minute drive home.  After unloading and getting to the pond, I quickly put the bag itself in the water for 15-30 minutes to help them acclimate to any difference in water temperature.   Then it’s time to release the minnows!   It appeared that only one or two didn’t survive the trip out of a couple thousand fish… I was very pleased.  The minnows swam off quickly toward the bottom cover, leaves, sticks, etc.   I think they’ve got a great start!

 

Fathead Minnows swimming away into pond

Swim away!  Be free!

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