decision

It’s interesting to watch a pond progress from infancy into pondhood. Ours was dug 13 years ago in sandy soil that had been leased out to neighboring farmers for growing corn and soybeans.

Every year we notice changes, from the arrival of frogs and turtles to the growth of willows, reeds and cattails. After watching for this long, it’s clear that the tendency is for nature to try to fill a pond up with life, much like soil left bare tends to eventually fill up with weeds and grasses.

So far I’ve been successful at lightly managing the cattails. They tend to spread quickly unless they receive some guidance.

But this year there’s been a sudden explosion of another species: ten-foot tall reeds called phragmites in the cattail sanctuary. Phragmites are an extremely invasive species that can quickly get out of control, smothering out native pond plant life and nuking creature habitats.

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phragmites aren’t actually bad looking…

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…but they are pond-hungry

So I made the tough (and very politically incorrect) decision to use a chemical control containing glyphosate, the newest environmental bogeyman.

In my decades of gardening I’ve never used any form of chemical in my vegetable gardens. It’s a badge of pride with me. So this was a tough but (in my view) necessary decision.

The only effective non-chemical control for phragmites is burning, and the pond is too dangerously close to the woods for that. Pulling them by hand only causes them to spread. It was the only option short of surrendering the pond and its associated life to a foreign invader.

The other, way more fun pond project was dragging the beach with the 4 wheeler. The best excuse ever for a grown man to do wheelies in the sand.

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the pond

As a change of pace (not that daily updates of how much my zucchini plant has grown isn’t interesting) I figured maybe write about something kind of related, but not really.

In 2003 we were looking for a way to enjoy a field at the back of our property, a couple of acres that we rented to a farmer who was growing corn. I had lusted after having a pond, but the price ($10-20,000) to have one dug seemed well…a lot.

Then we heard from a friend that a gravel company was excavating sand at a neighbor’s place. I called the neighbor, who gave me a contact. It turned out that the company agreed to dig us a finished pond in exchange for the almost pure sand that sat under our field.

It was a trip watching the dig; a 20-foot high mountain of sand that my girls enjoyed climbing immensely for a short time. When the digging was done, the contractor smoothed down the edges and left us with a twelve foot deep, 1/3 acre hole.

It took a while to fill, and that was worrisome. But fill it did. I stocked it with sunfish and bass, and planted 30-ish 6′ evergreens around the edge. Each tree hole was dug by hand and was 3′ deep and wide. Phew. But the trees have turned out beautifully. Most of them are Concolour firs with awesome, soft, medium-length needles.

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Near the swimming beach I put up a semi-pre-fab cabin. It’s still a great place for a game of solitaire in a snowstorm with the propane heater running, and of course it makes a perfect drying-off area.

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We decided that the swimming end would be well-tended (my wife’s desire) and the fishing end would be allowed to more or less go natural (my desire). It’s worked out well. Cattails moved in gradually over several years. They can be invasive, so I do keep them in check. Then gradually two different types of reeds lined the edges. I like those.

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Like most things in life, I don’t appreciate the pond as much as I used to or should. But most nice evenings my wife and I still take walks around the pond, it’s still perfect for cooling off after a hot day, and we usually manage to get in a family skate day or two.