Seemingly, I am incapable of recalling the dates of most events in my life without an unforgettable reference point. I’m quite certain I would not remember when I was married if it was not the year after I began to work full time after college (Egads! In the same place since 1976. It seems like yesterday).
I could go on, but I will not give my wife the satisfaction, and of course, most of the forgotten dates do not relate to the garden. I do recall that our family moved into our current residence in 1989, and the first pond was constructed in the garden within a few years. Additional ponds followed at random intervals, but always when my wife traveled with our boys to visit grandma, or some such journey that I was able to weasel my way out of. Without distractions, ponds were completed quickly.
Ponds two and three were constructed to appear as if they were continuations of the first pond, though other ponds can only be heard and not seen through dense plantings. Stone bridges cross narrow parts of two ponds, and paths connect to a patio which is the only point where the three ponds can be seen at once.
A fourth pond was dug just off the front walk in the shade of a dogwood and ‘Seriyu’ Japanese maple, and for a period after there was no itch to build another. But then the timing becomes fuzzy, until by some chance inspiration I began to research swimming ponds, larger, naturalized ponds that one could swim in, or as I envisioned, float in. I can swim passably, but my goal was relaxation, not exercise. I could imagine reclining on some sort of floating lounger on a hot summer afternoon, and so the project was begun, though I’ve lost the reference to when.
The pond moved from inspiration to planning within hours, and in a few days materials were ordered. As usual, I considered and ignored much of the advice from references, and decided that the pond must include fish. If it seems obvious that this is not particularly sanitary if you’re planning to swim (or float) about in a pond, you’re on the right track. But, I reasoned that people swim in farm ponds, so this couldn’t possibly be any worse.
And, this is how a swimming pond became a koi pond, as a handful of koi became a few dozen, and then a hundred or more. The koi are, of course, impossible to count or even to get a close estimate of the number as they swim excitedly as I approach, waiting to be fed. As you would expect, this far from sterile environment attracted frogs, then turtles, and finally, snakes, as well as a variety of predators, birds and dragonflies.
For several summers I drifted about on my inflatable lounger, with koi startling me from an afternoon nap as they brushed past. On occasion, one of the pond’s snakes would circle around, but this was a peaceful coexistence until the koi became so numerous that I could not rest undisturbed. So, the lounger was retired, replaced by a green recliner that sits high and dry at the pond’s edge.
As yellow flag and Japanese irises, sweetflag, waterlilies, and pickerel weed have grown to fill the pond’s filtration area and spaces between stones at the pond’s edge, more critters have found homes in this nearly wild habitat. This includes an unknown number of Northern Brown water snakes that are harmless enough, except that they lurk beneath boulders, and my wife has declared that they must go, or at least that they must be endlessly harassed. A groundhog has moved into the cavity beneath the shed beside the pond, and hawks circle overhead, waiting to dive for any unfortunate fish or frog that carelessly ventures into the open.
Though I cannot recall if the pond was constructed seven or eight, or twelve years ago, it was once a peaceful paradise. Today, it’s survival of the fittest.