A Little Piece of Paradise

This is the small pond in my backyard. I only meant to take a picture showing the piece of 1×8 pine board that I’d sawed out to direct water from the downspout to the pond, a piece that looked too bright and artificial initially, but that I knew would quickly fade and soften to a natural look. But a lucky capture of the reflections of clouds and branches made for a prettier photo than I’d planned.

The pond is an old kidney-shaped concrete pond that had cracked and broken many years ago and been filled in. I dug it up and put a liner in it. The rocks you see around the edges extend all the way around, and all of them came from within the pond itself, which made digging it out its own little piece of hell. But between the rocks and the plants that surround and hang down over them, the pond has developed a very naturalized look. It’s a very small piece of paradise, but it’s a piece of paradise, nonetheless.

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About James Hanley

James Hanley is Associate Professor of Political Science at Adrian College and a Fellow of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. The views expressed here do not reflect the views of either organization.
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8 Responses to A Little Piece of Paradise

  1. Troublesome Frog says:

    Beautiful. Nothing like a little running water. I hope you have a nice place to sit and read nearby.

    I bought my house in July partly because of the larger-than-average back yard (at least, large for a Silicon Valley suburb) that contained a pond. The previous owner had let the place run down a little bit, but it had a nice pond with a lovely two-tier waterfall (not running). I got the filter and waterfall running again and cleaned out some of the overgrowth and the water has been clearing up for the past couple of months.

    I just discovered two days ago that I have some goldfish in there. It was semi-stagnant when I bought the place and the previous owner didn’t say anything, so I hadn’t been feeding them. Unless Pasteur was wrong, those guys have been there the whole time and not had an easy time of it. I wonder how many fish I had when I bought the place.

  2. Matty says:

    Goldfish are domestic enough they probably are left over from a previous stocking but fish do get to isolated ponds without human help. A commonly given explanation is that the eggs get caught up in mud or weeds on the feet of water birds and then washed off in a new pond.

  3. Lancifer says:

    James,

    How big is your pond?

    I dug two ponds, with a small stream connecting them, in my backyard twelve years ago when I had a backhoe and a Bobcat to dig the foundation footers for my carriage house garage and house addition.

    Both are ovals. One is about 15′ long x 10′ wide x 3′ deep and the other is about 8′ long x 6′ wide x x 3′ deep.

    My previous marriage ended before I could put the liners and other accessories in place and I haven’t recovered financially enough to make the project a priority. They fill with rain but without liners they dry up between rainstorms.

    So now they are just two big holes in the ground that most closely resemble bomb craters. I’m always telling my neighbors that I will get liners “next spring”. Luckily my backyard is surrounded by a six foot privacy fence so the neighbors can’t see the “craters” unless they peer between the fence boards.

    In the spring sometimes it stays wet long enough to breed a batch of spring peepers and toads. Then I have to worry about running them over with the lawnmower.

  4. James Hanley says:

    Lance,

    I don’t remember the exact dimensions, bit something like 5′ x 9′. Kidney shaped, shallow but sloped in the end pictured here, about 3′ deep in the other end. I just did my fall clean out today–the water plants had spread to cover the whole surface, and the silver maple drops a hella lot of leaves.

    By the way, my wife noticed that I captured our two frogs in this picture. The one is straight off the end if the board (follow the line of the right side of the board), and the other is just barely visible above the rock on the right side, right where the little wrinkle of liner sticks out.

    I want to put in a pump and fountain, but haven’t been able to spring for that yet. It would require running electricity, as well as the cost if the pump. I do have an exterior light on the house near the pond that I think I could tap for power, but it’s not as though I’m short of tasks to do around this place.

  5. Lancifer says:

    James,

    I see your froggies. I love reptiles and amphibians. In my early teens I wanted to be a herpetologist. My neighbors call me if they see a snake. I have stopped them from killing them. Even though there are no poisonous snakes in the area a few of them still freak out if they see a snake in their yard so I catch them and release them in the area around my “craters”.

    Putting a pump in your pond is fairly cheap and easy and it helps keep it from getting stagnant. I’m not a big fan of fountains because they usually don’t look very natural and they tend to malfunction frequently.

    If you have an end of the pond that is surrounded by vegetation or some other natural feature you can place a few pieces of slate or other flat stone to make a small elevated step “waterfall” to give some movement and sound.

    I plan on putting a solar powered pump in the far end of the big pond that feeds a buried line to a step water fall at the far end of the small pond with a short brook between them..

    Of course I’ve had this “plan” for about twelve years now but alas, still just have the two bare bomb craters in my backyard. I, like you, have plenty of other projects to complete first, but one of these days I will have a beautiful and relaxing mini-wetlands, populated by frogs, turtles, snakes, newts, salamanders and fish in my backyard.

    I also want to raise a few Hellbenders to put in the brook part of the system.

  6. James Hanley says:

    I’m not in the Mississippi basin, so I’ve got an excuse to not have two-foot salamanders in my yard. Jeez, those things would be bigger than Philo.

    I hadn’t thought about a solar pump. That might work for me if I can put the collector a few feet away from the pond so it’s not under the tree. Johanna was thinking about making a fountain that would be more drip or waterfall than spray. Alternatively I’ve thought about pumping the water into a whiskey barrel I have by the pond and letting it flow out a pipe into the pond. And I actually do have a very thick piece of slate cantilevered over the middle of the uphill side of the pond, and have thought of using that as you suggest. I’m getting new gutters put up next week, and I’m going to put a simple filter over the end of a length of downspout and run it to just above that rock.

  7. Lancifer says:

    Kidist doesn’t share my love of reptiles and amphibians so I’ve kept my plans, including water snakes and giant salamanders, secret to this point. I tried to show her a small bull snake that I found in a neighbors yard and she screamed so loud on her way out the back door that I was afraid that someone would call the police.

    My old house has ornate tail rafters so it would require straps to suspend old style half round gutters, unless I wanted to square off the ends of the rafters, which I don’t.

    While digging for the foundation to the addition that is now the laundry room I uncovered an old cistern. I had found an old rusty pump while tilling for a garden in the same area years before. Sadly I had to dig it up. If I ever do put those old style gutters on the house I want to connect them to a cistern that I would use to replace evaporation from the ponds.

    Did your house ever have a cistern?

  8. James Hanley says:

    I’d like to add a cistern, too (I wonder how much it would cost). Lord knows enough water comes off my roof. The house I grew up in had one, and I remember having to haul buckets of water to the garden in dry summers. I’ve never found any evidence of a cistern at my current house, but we also have a laundry room add on, and there could possibly have been one under that spot.

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