Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

Pond of Pilfer and Plunder.

Posted on | August 23, 2013 | 2 Comments

Remember this?

Well, that Mother’s Day present actually did make it into the ground.

Since the preformed pond liner was off Freecycle and the slave labor was coerced by guilt donated, the real trick was to get all the landscaping for as free and cheap as possible.  Because nothing ruins a gift faster than a gift that costs money to use.  We have lots of free things around here that ended up costing a lot of money.  Not that I’m going to mention any names.

But I might post pictures.

First, I pilfered one of the 2 benches from the kids’ playground.  This is where I used to sit while children yelled, “Watch me, Mommy!  Watch me!  Mommy!  Watch me!” every second of every minute that they were playing on the slides or swings or sandbox or rock wall or monkey bars, etc, etc, etc, until I had to run, screaming, back into the house.

Eventually I graduated to watching from the window over the kitchen sink as I putzed about doing house chores.  By that time, they didn’t want me watching what they were up to and I really didn’t want to do more than peek out on occasion.  Mainly because their new activities involved illicit things like walking on top of the monkey bars to sit on the roof of the fort instead of inside the fort.

I was smart enough to pretend not to see it if they were playing happily and they were smart enough not to come in crying if they got hurt doing something they shouldn’t have been doing.  What happens on the playground stays on the playground, people.

In any case, the bench was no longer in use and seemed ready to rest easy, next to a happily gurgling waterfall flowing into a koi pond.  Just like me.

After installing the bench, I started dividing my herbs from the garden.  Most herbs are perennials, spread quickly, and are really handy to have right outside the kitchen where the new pond was located.  Add that to the fact that you can hack an existing herb plant almost to pieces and it will recover on its own and I’m not really sure why Lowe’s and Home Depot bother selling boxwoods, forsythia, and holly bushes for $15 a pop.  My parsley….

lemon balm….

and mint started filling in empty spaces practically overnight.

And although it’s nice to get your Mother’s Day present in May, if it doesn’t get set up until June, there’s a huge advantage.  All of the container plants on the deck were overflowing their rims and forcing roots out of the bottoms their pots by end of June.  So it wasn’t even noticeable to yank out and transplant the extra sedum….

trailing succulents….

creeping jenny….



and even mums.

I even had some knockout roses that I bought for $5 each as withered cast-offs from an end of spring sale.  I had been watering them on the deck, in order to keep them alive until I could transplant them during the fall.  By keeping them on the deck I was personally guaranteeing that we would have the wettest summer in centuries.  If I had transplanted them at the end of the driveway where I wanted them, far away from the reaches of the hose, we would have immediately entered a drought.  Yeah.  I know you’re doubting that I’m really that powerful.  But honestly, are you sure?  ‘Cause I might be.

With the pond needing landscaping, I happily decided those roses would be an excellent addition against the rock wall….

and draped over the cascading waterfall.

Then I hit empty.  Despite my scouting and scrounging I didn’t have anything left to divide or transplant from anywhere else on the property. So I headed to the next best place for cheap plants—-the flea market.  Plants at the flea market include everything from the expected to the exotic, 5 gallon commercial containers to seedlings in Dixie cups, dried up and damaged to full bloom and flourishing.  I’d show you a picture of some of the choices but it’s not that kind of flea market.  It’s the kind of flea market where children act as translators, “Buyer Beware” is universally understood, and cameras create an awkward silence, if not an all out exodus.  But even better than the exciting array of random and ever changing choices in this environment is the fact that the prices are negotiable.  In this manner, I purchased a trumpet lily….

an aloe plant….

an unknown specimen that Google seems pretty sure is penstemmon….

and some rue.

Which the seller insisted was an essential herb for health but also poisonous,  and was used in cooking but dangerous to touch.  The uncertainty alone made it irresistible.  All farmers are adrenaline junkies at heart–even when they are relaxing next to their koi pond.

Besides, with my excellent negotiating skills, I managed to talk the seller down from $16 for all those plants to only…..wait for it…….$15!!!  Which may not sound impressive to you.  And I admit that my haggling is amateur.  But I did choose the aloe plant that had all these healthy little aloe babies nestled in the soil of the pot.

Which I don’t think he noticed.  Therefore, putting me secretly ahead in the deal.  Muwhahahahahaha!

By the time I finished, the pond looked nice, but not really…..done.  Also, all that planting resulted in the kids getting quite a bit of dirt in the pond, muddying the water.

Good thing my friend has a lovely pond, filled with a variety of natural pond plants perfect for filling out my new landscaping project and disguising my cloudy water.

Pretty plunged in without hesitation to capture some lizard’s plume….

water iris….

and hardy water canna.

She even waded out waist-high and dug around the bottom of the mucky soil in order to free the roots of water lilies.  As the boys hovered along the pond edge in fear and accompanying shame.  The thought of entering that murky water causing, literally, nail-biting anxiety.  Or nose-picking anxiety.  Hard to tell….

But it was worth it.  Because by the time we filled the pond with looted pond plants,  it looked much better.

Well, actually it looked better after I forced my floating pond plants to divide up evenly by tying them to rocks with fishing line.  Because it’s difficult for a Type A person to relax at a koi pond when the floating plants keep clumping in one corner.  Ah, now that’s better.

And if adding a huge pot of dirt and water lilies obscured the waters even further,….

it also brought a bunch of awesome visitors.  Did you know frogs actually do sit on lily pads???

I thought this was a made up thing from kids’ picture books.  Like how the farmer in story books always goes out to collect eggs in the morning.  You can’t collect eggs in the morning, people!!!  Unless you forgot to pick them up the night before.  In which case some obnoxious hen has stumbled at dawn, half-asleep, into the nest box to begin the lengthy process of egg-laying (which usually takes until afternoon, by the way) and has discovered the forgotten eggs and decided that she is now broody, will no longer lay any more eggs, but will set on those eggs, and if you reach your hand in to get those eggs (morning or afternoon), you will pull back a bloody stump.  Funny how they never show that in the Little Golden Books, huh?

However, it appears that, just like in the children’s books, frogs do hang out on lily pads. (No word on whether they actually sit on logs yet.)  Which makes all that muddy water worth it.  Besides, you can still see the koi.

Kind of.  I think.

Probably.  Maybe.


That filthy water was disturbing The Other Half to no end.  He couldn’t understand how, after he had carefully rinsed and cleaned each rock (wha???) before putting it in the pond or on the liner, that so much dirt got in there.  He questioned me several times about my planting methods.  He eyeballed the water lily pot suspiciously and wondered aloud if the recent rainfall was causing it to overflow and spill its dirty contents into the pond.  He silently picked leaves out of the pond after he came home from work and saw that the kids and I had flung carefully distributed leave debris from the ditches into the water around the plants and called it “free mulch.”

He wasn’t even distracted from his worries by the piece de resistance that arrived via my family in New Jersey.  They own a nursery and sent down a beautiful Japanese maple, perfectly suited to drape over the pond edge.  It brought that little bit of fabulous needed to finish off the landscaping.

But because The Other Half is lucky enough to be married to me, it all turned out OK.  Within a few weeks, the slabs of concrete and loose bricks that I had piled onto the preformed liner to support that pot of water lilies caused a crack right on the bottom of the pond and all the water leaked out.  Call it a structural defect or a result of that preformed pond liner waiting outside against the side of the barn for 5 years to get used or even the concrete blocks being so heavy that they might have slipped out of my hands and crashed to the bottom with great force as I was putting them in.  Really, who’s to say?

The happy result was that The Other Half got to spend a couple days catching the koi, moving the pond plants, emptying the remaining 2 inches of water, and starting over.  He reinforced the bottom of the pond with new plastic liner, rinsed off and reinstalled the filthy filter, cleaned off the pots and roots of all the pond plants, and then put it all back together.  He didn’t even flinch at replacing the free water lilies with a $30 pot of water lilies from the home and garden store.  Lilies in a plastic peat pot that could sit gently on the floor of the pond and didn’t require any soil at all to flourish.  In the end, the pond was finished, the water was crystal clear, and the fish were in full view.

So that The Other Half could enjoy the pond just as much as me.  I’ll tell ya, there is no end to the joy of being married to me.  And passing that pond every time I exit the front door fills me with joy and peace  of my own.

Well, now it does.  After I separated those clumping floating plants with fishing wire again.

Peace is kind of relative when you’re a Type A.


2 Responses to “Pond of Pilfer and Plunder.”

  1. Nadine
    August 24th, 2013 @ 5:08 pm

    Your pond looks beautiful and I would to feel peaceful if I had a sight like that!

  2. Lin
    August 27th, 2013 @ 1:09 pm

    I will warn you that the pond will go pea soup green in about a week–if it hasn’t already. It will need to grow good bacteria on the sides in order to stay clear on it’s own. You may want to get some “good bacteria” via the store or order online to get it going. It will stay green for some time–but resist the idea of cleaning it—that undoes what it is trying to do.

    Yep, I know all about frogs and lily pads…and their comings and goings.

    Watch the rue–if you rub up against it in the heat of the day, you will get burns on your skin. We had to pull the rue out after finding this out.

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