Friday, October 21, 2005


I spent the weeks surrounding my birthday building a new pond. I missed the pond I built at the old house, and I wanted something larger here to attract wildlife and help mask traffic noise. We moved the existing pre-formed pond to the back garden to create space next to the patio for a larger fish and wildlife garden, and now we have two ponds in our backyard. The birds can splash in the smaller pond in the back or wade in the pebble beach of the new pond, and we've already had a frog come to live in our new pond!

Sam, who is my wildlife and nature buddy, helped a good bit throughout the process. His papa bought him a shovel just the right size, and he helped me dig some of the hole. Jim helped dig the holes as well with this pond--unlike the one I built at the previous house. Thankfully, too, because hardpan piedmont clay is much harder to dig than silty bay clay! Of course, I had to choose an exceptionally dry summer to begin this project, as well. Our Massey-Ferguson tractor, or "Big Red" as Sam and I call it, helped tremendously. Dh was able to move most of the rock for the pond in the front end loader.

Here, Sam helped me dig the lower pond, and he enjoyed testing the depth and level for me with the carpenter's level and the yardstick. Dh and I worked with the mattock, sledging the dirt away bit by bit to get the level deep enough to over-winter the koi. As I worked, that song "I owe my soul to the company store" looped through my head. Pretty good work out though!

Once dug, the pond needs an underlayment to protect the epdm liner from punctures; we reused the carpet padding we ripped out when we got new carpet. Emily helped me roll the padding out in the yard and check carefully to be sure all the staples had been removed. I crawled around several times on my hands and knees, squeezing each part of the padding between my fingers. One rogue staple could be a fiasco! Piecing the padding together was a bit of a puzzle, but it made a great, if somewhat bulky, underlayment.

Next step was to spread out the flexible liner, which is incredibly heavy and definitely a two-person job. The weight of the water helps conform the liner to the shape of the pond, and the biggest job is to tuck and fold the liner as the water fills so it looks as smooth as possible.

I finished laying the stone on my 35th birthday, and it was the best present I could've received. I thoroughly enjoyed the process from start to finish, and I'd learned so much from the first pond I built. Although this pond is about 1000 gallons smaller than the old pond, I think it's a prettier pond as a whole. Of course, the landscape I was working with was entirely different this time around, lacking the natural slope of the old yard. I ended up designing kind of yin/yang upper and lower ponds that nest together nicely. The bottom pond has a bog garden off the back side, which Sam and I plan to fill with carnivorous plants in the spring. This waterfall is significantly lower than at the old house as the grade was so flat, so I made it wider in order to maximize the sound.

All in all, I'm incredibly pleased with the result, as are the kids. They have their sitting ledge again where they can dip their toes for the fish to nibble. The surrounding landscaping is coming together, and I was pleased to find a trumpet creeper vine at Lowe's this fall--a native flowering vine that the hummingbirds love. Sam and I plan to place a mister within the rocks so the hummers can frolick. Yes, the vision is coming clearer.

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