How I Spent My Summer Vacation...
Pond flowers and crossstitch patterns to make them will come as soon as I have pond flowers to copy! In the meantime.....
The question is, "HEY GRAMMA - WAS IT HARD??"
Uhhh... Hard??? Yeessss, and no. The north end of our yard was pretty barren. It took about six years for the snowball bush to finally grow to its current size, and this was the first time it was even close to pretty. There are eight rose bushes in this picture, but all of them are sick. Especially since this is the view out of my patio doors, it needed help.
It took months of learning about ponds – most of the winter – but there's a lot of stuff on the internet for that and lots of pictures of other people's ponds. (Just don't believe the jerks who say it took two weekends – they lie.) It took another month going around to find places that had the materials I needed and the smarts to answer questions. Then I had to decide what I wanted to do, discuss with husband-person (who was absolutely NO help), talk again with suppliers, etc., and decide how much it was going to cost.
What I started out wanting was a shallow pond for my dogs. I bought numerous plastic kiddy pools, but they always managed to chew them up. Then I thought that we had always wanted a fish pond but had cancelled that idea when we got the bulldogs because they would sink. The more I thought about it, I decided to try to find a safe way to have both. We thought that if we built up the sides, the dogs wouldn't be able to get in. (Bad thought, but more about that later.)
I also wanted a bird bath where the dogs couldn't harass the birds. The one I have sits on the ground and is currently nonfunctional because Sarah chewed up the tubing and half pulled it out of the ground. I drew pictures and diagrams and all kinds of stuff until I decided on the final design.
At the first part of April 2004, I started on my project by extending, leveling, outlining, putting in a retaining wall, filling, and mulching and my rose bed. It had been high in the middle, sloped toward the front so water ran into the front yard instead of soaking in, and had grass overrunning the edges. I took some old wood, cut it to about a foot long, and hammered it along the edge using level string to even it out. It was very warm through the spring, and the rose bushes wanted to bloom early. Then it froze HARD and killed three of them. I bought roses to replace the three plus bought a couple more.
I decided on Robinson Rubble from Robinson Brick Co. Robinson's rubble is left-over pieces of rock after they groom them for sale. Regular rock suppliers would have cost $1,200-$1,500 or more, but I would have gotten evenly colored, matched rocks of a predetermined size. The rubble was more or less the same color, the rocks were varying sizes and shapes, but they only cost about $175 altogether. I bought the rubble on May 26, 2004.
Then, because we were building up the sides, it would be harder to see the fish and plants, so Sandy (husband-person) had the idea to use glass blocks. (It's too bad we didn't shop for those because the ones we bought at Robinson are wavy and we can't get a clear view through them – there are clear ones available that would have worked better. If we had shopped, we would also have found a better way to install them, but <sigh> live and learn.) We just put four glass blocks in the dam between the two ponds, and they are still leaking.....
I followed a lot of internet advice and marked out the area I wanted for the pond. Then I kinda dug a trench around because the dogs kept moving the hose I was using for a marker. We bought 11 concrete blocks to hold up the waterfall. Then I got the kids to dig the hole, and they stacked the blocks and leveled them. That hole was a lot of work!!!
Funny story about that dam. Dalton and Kim were over, so I asked if they wanted to help me make mud pies. Dalton gave me the strangest look, and very suspiciously said, "What's mud pies?" The kid is 12 and he doesn't know what mud pies are??? Hmmm... So we hit the pond to fill in holes with mud and build up shelves and the dam. At first I thought I needed concrete blocks across to make the dam (they turned out to be too high, so we took them out later). We put the blocks across and added mud under them to level them out. When it all looked ok – not that good, but ok – Kim and I came in the house. Dalton must have spent a couple more hours making mud pies; he had a wonderful time! Imaging being 12 and making mud pies for the first time.....
When the inside was relatively smooth (we didn't get it smooth enough, though), it was time to put in the liner. A neighbor had just replaced carpet and gave us the old carpet and the pad (we actually swiped the stuff out of his garbage). Then he gave us a chunk of old indoor-outdoor carpet and six huge paving stones, one of which he thought would be perfect for the waterfall, and it is. We lined the whole pond with the carpet and covered the rough edges on the concrete blocks with the carpet padding using ancient strapping tape to hold it in place – in all the years of hauling the stuff around, I wondered what we would ever find to do with that strapping tape!
My grandson-in-law is an electrician, and he ran the wire from a new breaker in the electrical box to near the pond. It turns out that the wire had to go at least four feet down, so he rented a "trencher" and he and his two partners did the work. I thought I only needed two outlets, but they put in four "just in case." Then they made two of the outlets work off of a switch below the electrical box on the house. They were MUCH smarter about this than I was!!!
We decided Parker Sprinkler Supply was probably the best place for us to get pond parts, so went down and bought thousands of square yards of liner – maybe not that much, but much more than we needed!!! IF I ever build another pond, I'll measure just as carefully as I did this time, and then not let a husband-person talk me into buying more than I need!!!
When we bought the liner, we also used the measurements we had to determine the gallons of water the pond would hold and to buy a pump that would handle the load. In my internet checking, I had learned that OASE made one of the best pumps and Parker Sprinkler had that kind. We also bought a Pond Sweep skimmer for the shallow pond which would let water run through its filters removing leaves, dog hair, and other debris and then send the water up to the biological filters in the Pond Sweep Purifalls waterfall box that we also bought. Jesse at Parker Sprinkler told us how best to attach the pump and fittings and he also had all the parts for that – and he saved us from several errors we would have made – and we bought pipe, fittings, splitters, back-flow preventers, glue, and who knows what all else. It actually took us several trips to Parker Sprinkler to get it all.
I started working on the skimmer box when Dalton asked me if he could do it. I figured he couldn't do worse than I would, so said, "Okay." First he had to dig a hole in some *Very* hard soil. Then he had to put the box in and level it. It took him several hours, but in the end, it was perfect! (The skimmer is on the right side of the doggy pool.)
By now, it's the first part of July and 95 degrees. Kim got her boyfriend and his friend who had dug the hole to come back over. Dalton, Nathan and Kaitlyn (Nathan and Kaitlyn are g-grandchildren, kids of Mary's step-daughter, Amber) helped also.
We laid the liner out flat on the yard, surrounded it with persons, and carried it over the hole. Then we started putting water in it. The water is to help arrange the liner to get as few wrinkles as possible and to spread it evenly over the whole hole.
This part was the most fun of all. The kids started out very seriously, smoothing and arranging and working hard. Then somebody moved the hose, accidentally I'm sure, into the space where someone else moved at the same time. The slightly dampened person, of course, retaliated.
In the end, we had eight extraordinarily soaked people – and the liner was too far left and too far to the front.....
The next day we drained out the water and did it again, and it worked out better. (You should have seen the water bill for THOSE events!!!)
The liner was in and centered, but it overhung the whole pond 1-2 feet; we could have saved a lot by getting the correct size!
Now Kim helped me to glue the liner to the front of the skimmer, and we were set to go! (We should have put lava rock or some other porous, rigid bottom in the skimmer hole. When it got wet it started to sink – not a good thing! Now we have to try to get the lava rock in and leveled as well as Dalton did when rocks are holding down the liner and skimmer box and they won't move much.)
It was time to make use of the 1.75 TONS of rocks. I started on the outside edge of the lower pond thinking it would be less important and a good place to practice. I found all the same-shaped rocks I could and laid a row around the edge. Dalton and our neighbor's daughter, Haley, helped fit rocks together. I had mortar that I bought from Robinson, and Sandy decided it was better to mix the whole bag. Bad idea!!! But it did give the original row of rocks a very solid cement base! I learned that about a gallon of mortar mix with two cups of water mixed in a throw-away aluminum roaster was about how much I could use at one time and made cleanup very simple. I built up rocks a couple of rows on the outside, pulled up the liner in front of them, and built up rocks on the inside. When the wall was stable, I trimmed the liner even with the top of the rocks and filled in between with mortar. This trapped the edge of the liner above the water level and hid it from carousing doggies.
Next I put a layer of indoor-outdoor carpet in the doggy pond to protect the liner from their toenails and held it down with rocks. And started putting rocks in the very deepest part of the pond under the waterfall. We quickly realized that the weight of the whole wall under the waterfall would fall on a very tiny area at the bottom. In order to distribute most of the weight better, we put one of the large paving stones about a foot up from the bottom with most of its weight on one of the shelves. We are very happy we did this for a number of reasons: It gives fish a place to hide, gives fish a very deep place to survive for the winter, and it provides a place for humans to walk and service the pond.
We left water in the doggy pond while we worked on the deep pond, and it quickly became the world's largest water bowl! It was also midsummer and provided a wonderful place for doggies to cool off, which was the whole point in the beginning!
For persons trying to rock in the deep pond, however, with all that black rubber and rocks all over, it was excruciatingly hot! A half hour working left me gasping, and it sometimes took an hour in the house to cool back off. The only days that were really bearable were cloudy days when the black rubber didn't heat up so bad, but they were many too few.
I could do as many as five pans of mortar on a very cloudy, cooler day. All together, we used five 100-lb bags plus six 80-pound bags of mortar. I got the liner attached to the waterfall box and managed to get the wall under the waterfall up pretty even. When it came time to put the stone under the lip of the waterfall, it just fit! Boy, was I ever pleased!
I also learned that it helped immensely to lay out rocks on the ground so that they sort of fit together before trying to build a wall in the pond. It was much easier to see and then fairly simple to move into place as mortar was ready. I also learned later that the mortar would stick better and not dry out so quickly if I wet the rocks first. It was a good thing that I learned that before I built that big stack leading up to the waterfall!!! This row of rocks is for the dam between the two ponds.
And finally it was time to put in the dam. You recall I mentioned that we had to remove the concrete blocks because they made it too high, but we still needed a flat, rigid underpinning for the dam. It was quite the task to get the concrete blocks out and the thinner, two-inch paving stones under there, and I still worry that the whole thing will take a nosedive to one side or the other, but it looks ok.We bought two of the large pans which are usually used under plants for the bird baths at the top. We found these at a store which hand-produces pottery in all shapes and forms, but they were a little pricey. Getting them installed at the top was one of the more mentally demanding parts of this pond.
Early on we found a bamboo-lookalike spitter which was broken and had a part missing at a garden center, so we talked them into selling it to us for $5. It took a little figuring, but we got it back together and I put mortar around its base to hold it up. Then we bought another spitter, a frog, at half price. I put the two spitters at the top, the frog to "spit" onto another frog, and the bamboo to "spit" into the birdbaths. When we turned on the pond, however, the spitters just sat there. It turned out that the pond had a lot more water in it than we had originally calculated because of the built-up walls, and the pump wasn't strong enough to handle the rise to the waterfall and the spitters, too. We bought a very small pump at Nick's Garden Center, where they had been very helpful to us all along. That mostly worked. Too much water was leaking from the bamboo, though, so I had to redo it to fit it inside the top birdbath. (When I thought I had them in right, they leaked down the back, so require more work still.) We also bought a pond deicer from Nick's which keeps a small area melted for fish survival in winter.
And, amazingly enough, it looks about like I expected. Oh, yeah, the other thing. It needs a net across the deep end. I found one on the web called KidKatcher that should stop anything bigger than four inches wide – including dumm doggies – from falling into the pond. The first thing both doggies did was jump in the deep end! Cyril managed to get himself out up the steps, but Sarah panicked. Poor Sarah! Sandy made her hang onto the dam until he could take her picture before he would rescue her.
We had a pond party on October 3 when the pond was supposed to be finished. We filled it up and it still leaked through the dam and down the back from the spitters. Since I can't fill it up until I get the net anyway, it will wait until spring. But it's beautiful, and I've rarely been prouder of myself.
But to answer the question, I had a great time. I guess you have to decide if it was hard for yourself...
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