Late 2003 - 100kb

2003 - The Genesis

Just a "water feature", that's all we wanted. Got the 220-gallon preformed pond from Home Depot. Besides the egregious effort of digging out so much clay and rock it was ulimately impossible to dig the hole to be an exact copy of the pond. Next time I'll dig one like on "Ground Force - San Antonio".

The Little Giant PCL-025 475GPH pump in a filter box, FMS-20, has too little head - At the top of the fountain 475GPH dwindles to, I'm guessing, 120 - And the filter box quickly fills with slimey mud.

Workers - 132kb

Anyway, first dug the "pits" - Those gray things up the hill from the pond. Three interlocking planters made from gray concrete retaining wall blocks. Later painted them with a very, very big brush and three colors of latex paint - Black, tan, and orange - Mixed with scumble glaze. Almost like weathering a spaceship!

Dug the hole for the pond. As if it weren't difficult enough, as I was digging it the dirt went up into the pits. So, of course, when it came time to put the pallet-load of stones down, all the dirt in the pits came back out and was put around the pond.

Cemented-down the stones. The ones under the falls also got imbedded wire. Next time I'll stain the cement.

The Crew

Rudolph - 72kb

Rudolph is a Brittany Spaniel, or maybe a Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever, we found wandering the neighborhood. Initially named for her red nose, 'Doof' and 'Doofies' accurately described her behavior. Now, as the Elder Statesman dog, she's Rudolph Dufé.

Resting - 84kb

Scully is a Labrador-Golden mix and has the sweetest temperment. Turned out, though, not to be named for the X-Files character but was short for 'Skullduggery'. Ate an old spaceship of mine just before I was going to enter it into a Starshipmodeler contest. Took her wading pool, buried it, punched holes in the bottom, cemented stones around it, filled it with sand. Problem solved - And another created.

Sculley and Fox

Got Fox Mulder as a playmate for Sculley. He's more of a Fox Monster. Now we have a spare room packed with pillows for when he's older and won't gut them.

Scully and Doof.jpg

Both Scully and Fox are from Granbury Friends for Animals No-kill Animal Shelter, 817-326-3647. There are more such Texas organizations.

Toes... Snow

2004 - Fish Introduced - A recurring event

This year laid sod, seeing as how Fox and Sculley tore-up the grass chasing each other around the pond. Added comets. Several times. Lessons learned:

August - 124kb

Advent of the Skippy filter


From Lowes bought a $19, 20-gallon macCOURT Plan*Tain*er. Installed the "3/4" pipes (smaller than Skippy recommends, but it looks like a match) and the grate. In e-mail "Skippy" said to lay the grate right on the pipes, so I did. For $25 bought a box of five commercial floor scrubber disks from a janatorial supply store. Got the white ones because they were "finer". I could, mercifully, if barely, cut them into chunks with scissors. Took all five disks, and still had a little room.

Bought a bottle of Microbe-Lift and a 20-foot roll of 1-inch ID clear vinyl hose from Home Depot. Filled the tub with water, chemically compensated for the tap-water, added the Microb-Lift, stirred it up, then added the filter chunks and hooked it all up.

Woo hoo!

With the new, fatter, hose, though twice the length I needed, throughput was 150GPH, which is ok for a 475GPH pump with 20 feet of hose and 3 of "head", and appreciably more than what I was getting with the hose that came with the pump. Only dissappointment is that six hours later the pond, as best I can tell in the dark, is still not vinyl-hose-colored. Perhaps in a couple of days. (It never did.)

Interesting experience, the first evening. Although I filled the skippy filter with water before turning it on, the pond was losing four inches of water every 12 hours. Also, when I turned-off the pump a few minutes to clean-out the in-pond filter surrounding the pump, all the water in the filter started running out of the filter and back into the pond. I wonder... Were the pump to go off for ten minutes or so, say, if there were a power failure, wouldn't the filter's 20 gallons go into the pond, and, overflowing it, be lost? Yikes! How to fix...

Tub with vent

Larger skippy filters have a chimney in the inlet pipe, perhaps so that when the pump stops the water stays in the filter and only air goes back down the hose to the pump in the pond. Fixed that!

Tub with vent

Oops. The ambience of water gently falling into the pond is kinda destroyed by the gurgling coming from the chimney! Okay, simple enough to adjust... Now the water flows straight through to the relatively gentle bend into the filter. The chimney is much shorter, AND - And I hope this is a good thing - Rushing by the chimney creates a slight suction, drawing air into the filter. I can see the occasional bubble amidst the fliter blocks. I hope this means that my bacteria will be the aerobic kind and not the smelly anaerobic. Status, after all, is everything.

The Skippy filter works, so now it's time to install it permanently. Tore off the back of the waterfall and installed a new tub identical to the one in the above picture. It wasn't expensive, and I didn't have to shift twenty gallons of water at once, or worry about keeping things going while I built around it.

Skippy intalled

First I poured a concrete footer for the tub so that whatever it sat on wouldn't shift and create a sharp edge that would puncture the moderately-flimsy tub. Serendipidously, the spout lined-up with the waterfall's spillway.

Glued a flap of pondliner to the spout so that no water would ever circle around the spout and enter the waterfall. Hooked-up the water pipe, cutting off about eight feet and improving the volume by that much. Repositioned the electrical outlet for the pump, taking the opportunity to run a line out to the back fence for some low-voltage lights.

Cement block substructure

Surrounded the tub with a ring of cement blocks, smooth-side out. Squirted "Great Stuff" - an aerosol can of very sticky styrofoam - along the interior base and in the seams in order to insure no water would get in that way.

Added another layer of thin cement blocks that topped-out just above the height of the tub. Squirted Great Stuff between the lip of the tub and the cement blocks so that no water would be able to escape the tub and enter the waterfall interior. This was important because the top of the skippy filter was to remain open so that I could put plants in it and the last thing I wanted was a smelly swamp in the waterfall interior that might also wash into the pond. Cemented-on rocks around the outside.

Using black latex paint I painted the yellow Great Stuff and the white plumbing fixtures in the top of the tub. Enamel or Lacquer would have disolved the styrofoam. Cemented-on the top rocks, which rested thoroughly on the cement blocks and the rocks on the sides. Unfortunately, I painted about six hours before the sprinkler system washed-off some of the almost-dry paint. Water turned a milky-black color for a couple of days, but then dissipated - Without killing any fish!

Pond at night with lights

Mounted a 300W "Malibu" low-voltage transformer to the back fence. Used two two-hundred-foot lengths of the larger gauge wire, I ran it out to the end of the tree-branch over the waterfall for a light there, and then back for one over the left side of the central of the three pits. Ran it then to each corner of the back fence, then back again to the transformer - A closed-loop system insuring bright, even light from the four 50W halogen bulbs.

Plugged-in the transformer and its built-in superfluous timer, into a radio-remote-control receiver and thence into the weather-shielded electrical outlet. Now we can turn the lights on by remote control!

Pump Swap by Remote Control

Warned of a good deal from ThatPetPlace on a Pond Mag Drive 700 (Supreme) I ordered one early in August. Just in case, you know? After all, it easily attaches to the hose in the pond, and takes 60 watts to push 425gph at 5' of head, is about two complete pond-fulls of water, the minimum recommended.

At the end of the month the Little Giant pump died while we were away on vacation. The filter box it came with clogged. Up until fish were added the filter box needed to be cleaned periodically. Fish, as they grew in size and food throughput, accelerated the solids production process.

Had The Crew's pet-sitter fetch the new pump out of the garage, hook it up to hose and power, and drop it into the pond, all while cradling a cellphone between ear and shoulder. Disaster avoided!

When I got home I took the advice of Jan, one of the premiere denizen of of rec.ponds, and put the pump in a cage - Two pond-plant planters, much like this, only smaller, and square. Cut a hole in the bottom of one for the hose, and slit the side a little so I could feed the electrical cord through it. It's important not to remove any of the lip of the planters because that would diminish the strength of the one planter right were it joins the other. The main point of having this cage anyway is to let water containing soft debris into the Skippy and keep rocks, twigs, and baby fish out.

Christmas 2004 - 15-degree weather

Snow around the pond - 96kb After a cool night, lots of ice - 96kb

Initial snow was heavy, but the temperature was right around 32-degrees and the ground was still warm, so it only stuck to vegetation and the odd overpass.

Christmas Eve morning was quite cold. Ice covered half the pond. Fish looked exactly like the model goldfish we had in Japan - lifelessly-still, as if attached to the bottom by a fishing line and a weight. Lots of ice on the water-falls, too.

The skippy filter with the vent frozen-over - 104kb

Most of the surface of the filter was clear of ice, but the chimney hole had a plug. Would be dangerous if water were to stop flowing back into the pond. Note the purple Cabbage at the top and the green Cabbage to the left. They will bloom in March, one with a tall stalk with tiny yellow flowers.

April 2005

Skippy spearmint - 157kb Skippy spearmint - 134kb

Spearmint nearly fills the top of the Skippy filter. The purple and green cabbage bloomed but couldn't compete. Three ornamental sweat potatoes - two bright-green Margarite and one dark-purple Blackie - take over, banking on being able to escape the top to drape themselves over the side. Certainly wish them luck. A red Japanese Maple overlooks the fountain, the peculiar draping action courtesy of the careful pruning last spring at the teeth of the Fox Monster, who doesn't feel quite so compelled anymore to chew anything that will sit still for it.

First Lilly - 131kb

The first Lilly of the year, blooming by mid-morning, to close-up by late afternoon. Thus witnessed only on weekends, alas.

The Lads - 54kb

And here are the goldfish. The one that was black for the longest time is now kinda funny-looking. The dark-green color has been constant since late winter. At least it's not bright opaque green. Apparently, the Skippy struggled with spring's algae bloom before the pond-plants could help consume the fish-waste. Just now, late April, the water cleared enough to easily see the bottom,

June 2005

June - 190KB skippy summer 2005 - 126KB

Note that the Spearmint (4) has almost completely taken-over the skippy filter. (1) is one of two Margarite sweet potatoes, while (3) is the Blackie variety. (2) is all that shows of the cabbages anymore. Interestingly, a skippy filter is an effortless way to filter a pond - No filter fabric to pull out of the pond and clean. But all those plants as well as the additional open water uses-up more water than the sprinkler system can replace. Once or twice a week I have to prop-up the garden hose which has an adjustable sprayer nozzle set to "mist". I figure the spray renders the water as harmless as the sprinklers do, and the "misting" insures the dissapation of the chlorine.

Alas, Doof is doing poorly after her stroke. And just yesterday I saw proof of what the fish were up to when I thought they were just racing each other. The fingerlings, although nearly the size their parents were when I bought them, don't have diminutive tails but large flowing ones like their parents. There's at least one fry, too - About bite-sized. And the black goldfish has now all but completed his conversion to orange.

July - A victim of my own success

lush - 208KB
bronto - 60KB

Look at all the lush vegetation growing out of the skippy filter! The spearmint looks to have designs on the rest of the backyard. The sweet potatoes race to see who will cross the yard first. All this vegetation keeps the pond very clear and presumably clean, a special consideration since it appears the fish have more than doubled their number. So, what can go wrong?

babybird1 - 37KB

Scroll up the page and look at the vent again. Remember when I installed the skippy filter, that air drawn through the vent percolate up through the filter? Not anymore! Too much vegetation on top means too many roots in the filter, impeding flow to the point that not only does the vent not draw air, but water threatens to overflow the vent! Here it is, mid-July, and the skippy filter is in danger of choking to death. As the water flow slows, the spearmint and sweet potatoes will find it easier to further impede water flow. I've had to install a small chimney in the vent, in hopes that I can wait until winter to clean-out the filter, when the fish are mostly dormant and don't depend on it so much.

November 2005

June - 145KB

A light freeze two weeks before Thanksgiving proved the sweat potatoes fragile. Strangely, they'd already begun to look a little ragged. And the chimney extender I added in July is no longer necessary.

On an icy day in the dead of winter I emptied the skippy filter, squeezing each filter chunk once and dumping the muck into the flower beds. Found that the sweet potatoes had developed stretched-out tubers. Left them in. A mistake, as they rotted. Also found rather large earthworms living in the filter chunks.

April 2006

2005 april pond - 175KB

April started with the expected seasonal algae bloom as the biologics in the pond suddenly couldn't keep up with the increased amount of waste produced by too many warm goldfish. This year there were no plants in the skippy filter except one tiny stump of a Spearmint. It's starting to grow, and I added fresh green and purple sweet potatoes. In the pond, lots of lilly pads reached the surface and, in the last days of the month, a lilly flower did, too.

Note to the left that if all the goldfish in the picture were all the goldfish in the pond, then there would be no bubbles or froth, which are sure signs that there's too much waste matter in the water. At least I can see the bottom, finally.

2005 sandbox - 252KB

Some new construction. It turned-out that a sandbox by the back door, because that's where Scully was digging, was a bad idea. The dogs were constantly covering the porch with sand and tracking it into the house. Added another pit onto the bottom end of the "Pits" at the back of the yard. Made it like I will the next pond, a la "Ground Force - San Antonio": A circle of cement building ("cinder") blocks topped by stones. Well away from the back door, I hope all the sand stays outside.

05 pit visitors - 105KB

The Nephews dropped by to recreate Dinosaur World, which seems to be a place where dinosaurs watch while boys dig deep tunnels and spread sand in their hair and pants. Great training for "The Great Escape".

May 2006 - Not clear, not green, but brown

It's fun to sit outside in the evening and enjoy the frog - Er, toad - serenade. It's fun to accompany the dogs out in the morning and discover a toad in the pond. Awwww... Little Toad likes to swim in the pond just as much as Scully! And a couple of days later, see what the toad was really up to. The excitement of clearing-up that mystery is tempered by the water color that results from thousands of little tadpoles recycling tons of algae. Now the pond-sides are black again, best I can tell through the murk. I would have thought the goldfish would snack on the slow-swimming morsels, but no such luck.

Can't wait until all the little babies grow-up, go off to college, find a mate and a well-paying job, and contribute to Social Security for my eventual retirement. Ok, I'd settle for just 'leave the nest', so the water would clear-up.

By July 4th the toads have... Scattered all over the yard. You walk over by the side fence and it's like the Earth Moves.

The toads are screaming again. Does the cycle never end?

Winter 2007 - The White Before the Storm

Just wanted to show how barren it looks in its winter defoliation.

Summer 2007 - Concentrated Excess

fish dirk from pond

An interesting Spring. For a couple of months the brother-in-law stayed with us. And his two Chocolate Lab puppies. Although he got them at the same time, they weren't litter mates. The smaller of the two, Josh Howard, aka "Josh Needle-Teeth", is perfectly comfortable remaining on the side of the pond. Dirk Nowitzki, aka, well, "Dirk", has to jump in the pond and scrabble around hourly - More if he gets hot chasing Josh around. He managed to up-end all the in-pond planters, killing all the Anacharis, and breaking all the Iris tubers that had extend past their planters. Dirk also scared one of the goldfish white! I got the Iris re-established, and got into the habit of covering that half of the pond whenever the Brown Babies visit.

sand outside pit new pit

They were also the final straw for the dogs' sand pit. When I moved it from the back door to The Pits I made it too small, so a lot of sand got kicked-out. Now, it's big enough for four dogs, and more of the sand stays inside.

too much sweet potatoe

The biggest problem this year, which I won't feel obliged to fix until late fall, at which time I'll HAVE to fix it, is the sweet potatoe. I loved how it spread over and around the fountain a couple of years ago. This year's variety hugs the fountain, hiding all the cement seams between the rocks, AND producing litle pink flowers. All its roots, however, have packed the poor skippy filter until not all the water goes all the way to the bottom, some burbles-out the chimney. Worse, however, is that huge mass of roots has also elevated the level of the filter's contents, to where a lot of water slips over the edges of the top and escapes into the fountains interior. So much escaped during a week vacation that the pond was only half full when we got back. One or two times a week, now, I have to add water. I'm actually looking forward to cleaning out the skippy filter, and gluing-in an extender to the edge.

Summer 2009 - Concentrated Excess

Not much new in the last two years. Mostly just letting things go. But nature is always changing. Things grow, die, are replaced.

For one, the trees have grown! More of the yard is shaded, which isn't a problem for St. Augustine, except for the corner right behind the pond. The trees around it have grown substantially, eliminating too much light, so the grass just never recovers from when the dogs run over it. I'd had the foresight to elevate the rim of the pond above the surrounding ground. But the left uphill side was least elevated, and the perrenial nature of the plant there meant that a very hard rainstorm was able to wash mud from the denuded hillside into the pond!

I'd had warnings for a year. Netting leaves from the bottom of the pond kicked-up a lot more mud than in years past. I just thought I was mis-remembering and kept shoveling. Now the water is opaque brown, and I don't dare scrape out the mud for all the tadpoles. Mercifully - Remember how the Brown Babies (well, Dirk) had eliminated all the Anacharis and broken the Iris bulbs? I'd taken the bulbs and tied them to socks containing rocks. Thus the Irises grew without any dirt of their own. Until now. It only took a week for the thus exposed roots to accumulate most of the mud. The water is now translucent. And every night waves of baby toads "Ascend".

It took a few years, but the Skippy filter has become the neighborhood birdbath. I'm not crazy about the guano, but live and let live, right? Except the birds lack that philosophy. They feel it certainly doesn't apply to the Sweet Potatoe plants I try to grow in there. The birds' attitude seems to be, no prob, we can kick this crap out of the way - And thanks for the bath!

We've had one baby fish join the throng, and one fish turn black and die. And our black dog, Scully, died way, way too young.

The pond was hers.

We started with a plastic wading pool on the back porch because she loved water. It became the first sand pit when we built her the pond. She was forever jumping in to cool off, even if the water level only came up to her stomache. She was very good about staying in the plant-free side, only venturing a little into the other side in pursuit of frogs.

Her last day we spent on a towel in the shade. She'd been laying down all day, once getting up to climb into her sand pit and give it a couple of token digs. After a couple of hours on her side on the towel I left her for a few minutes, returning to find her in her pond one last time.

Winter 2010 - New dog, same old pond

Meet the new terror. Zoe Washburn could be funnier-looking, but not without clown shoes and a wig. Her hair is wirey, and comes in two layers, the second being longer and much thinner. On her chin it's three layers, the outermost again-thick, reminiscient of an teenager trying to grow a beard. She fell into the pond twice, but now jumps in frequently. She even hunkers down to get her whole body cool after a few minutes of heavy play.

April 2012

No grass grows behind the pond, even though I thinned the trees. Worse, the pond has continued to "settle". The liner that started out with two levels is now only one with a huge pond-sized wrinkle around the edge. And it leaks, I thought where the liner folded, but it's actually under the waterfall. I have to add water twice a week - Maybe less when I turn-on the sprinklers for the summer. I'm looking forward to rebuilding the whole thing. Too bad I can't find a "sponsor".

Last week we came home to an apparently fish-free pond. Some winged predator we assume relieved the pond of the burden of half the fish, some which had survived years and accidental chemical fish-kills. The survivors, traumatized, were hidding in the tiny spaces around the planters. It's been a week or so, now, and they're just now emerging to frolic with the Replacement Fish.

August 2012

I bought some Waterfall Foam Sealant from Home Depot. It's one of the small-quantity niche-items their website lists, they claim is in the store, it is in the store, but not where the employees can see it. Picked it up an hour after ordering it. Used it to fill-in the spaces between the waterfall rocks and to add a lip to the bottom of them. No more mysterious water-loss - Huzzah!

So, of course, there's now a more worrying problem. The waterfall volume dropped to a quiet trickle. Hose leak between the pump and the skippy filter? Nope.

It looks like dark-olive soft, slimy coral choking the throat of the pump. Mercifully, it doesn't form anywhere else, not in the hose or the piping in the skippy filter. But it does grow fast. Every three weeks I have to pull the pump from the pond, open-up the cage, unscrew the water-end of the pump, and clean it out. When I replaced the pump it came with larger filter. I hope it works. I don't know how else to get rid of this.