Hasta la vista, Starlings

The Pond has been attracting birds.  The flat rock at the top is the perfect bathing spot and there are plenty of perches to grab a drink.  I don’t mind scrubbing off a bit of bird doo-doo but last week the starlings came.  They dropped by at 4:30.  A.M.

The bathing platform
The bathing platform

Starlings aren’t quiet.  They quarrel, yell and chatter at the top of their voice and they do it continuously.  You know they really aren’t pretty so why were they also cursed with such raucous voices, guaranteed to set your teeth on edge?

I resigned myself to waking earlier, then the first three visitors became six and one morning I looked out and counted ten strutting their stuff across the lawn and jumping from rock to rock around The Pond.  They were also driving my bird friends away.  The ones with the sweet warbling calls wafting in on the morning breezes.

My yellow finch hadn’t been seen in days, the cardinal was M.I.A., even the robins had deserted the scene.  Time to Google: “Keeping starlings away from my pond”.

Helium balloons with scary bird faces is one suggestion.  They bob up and down and it’s partly the motion and partly the face that scares the birds away.  Would they have those in the party places?

Scary bird balloon
Scary bird balloon

If they were banging into my windows I could get a moving spider that looked like it was jumping at them, ready to have bird for dinner.

I liked the idea of a floating alligator in the pond but wasn’t sure where I’d find one around here.  We’re a long way from Florida and would our birds regard Allie as a predator?


Then I saw the motion activated water sprinkler.  Not only would it discourage the birds but whatever was coming around in the night to do a little fishing would also hit the road.  I’ve never seen this predator but in the morning Chloe will sometimes spend 10 minutes or more sniffing the rocks so something is coming by.  So far all 3 fish are present and accounted for, thankfully the pond is deep in the middle and we have lots of hiding spots.

Scare-crow water sprinkler
Scare-crow water sprinkler

Off to a few hardware stores and finally found one at Canadian Tire.  Had to ask though as for some reason they’re not with all the other sprinklers.  Nope 2 aisles over just to keep the customer guessing.  We brought it home and while I read the instructions Dave went ahead and set it up.  You can test it dry by listening for the clicks that signal it is on or off and it fires a 3 second blast and will re-set in 10 seconds.

Now to test it with water.  I stood behind it and Dave turned the water on, came back over and waved his hand in front of the sensor.  Bam!  The water shot out like a cannon and sounded like a machine gun.  Rat a tat a tat!  And the arc was wide.  For a second there we both thought we’d be the first to be christened.

A few adjustments and it was no longer arcing over the garage all the way into the neighbours yard so we turned the water off to finish the yard work.  Chloe casually walked by and click, we heard the activation.  We hadn’t realized there was enough water in the hose for one last squirt so Chloe was the first victim.  Surprising how quick she can move when she has to.  Sorry Chloe.

The sprinkler works great!  First time the starlings flew down Bam! the water shot out and the birds shot off and out of the yard.  It’s been 2 days now and though they’re still testing it, we keep it on, except when we’re out there.  The nice thing is, the smaller birds don’t always set it off.  I watched a young robin bathing, shaking his wings and dancing around and nothing happened.  A minute later the starling swooped in and off it went.   Hasta la vista, baby.


The Pond Saga continues…

We had our first algae bloom last week.

Chloe and I check out The Pond first thing every morning and that morning the pond was a dark and murky green.  It was fine yesterday, what could have happened?

Chloe coming back from checking out The Pond

Back in the house and on to the pond forums to see what we did wrong.  As it turned out, probably nothing.  We’d had a week of hot temperatures, the pond is in the full sun and our plants haven’t grown enough yet to cover much of it’s surface.

Still, that green had to go so DB and I filled up Chloe’s doggie pools in preparation for exchanging about a 3rd of the water.  And on the weekend we headed back to the pond place to buy 2 water lilies to both beautify and shade The Pond.

We started draining The Pond Saturday morning and our garden is enjoying the benefits of that rich pond water.  Then DB scrubbed the sides of The Pond and tried to vacuum in between the river rock on the bottom.  DB is something of a MacGyver and in no time had added extra hoses to the shop vac (including a piece of garden hose), duct taped on a long handled scrubber we used to use for the hot tub and voila! we had a pond vac.  Of course later I read that the algae on the sides of The Pond is good algae, live and learn.

Meanwhile I had figured out the volume of the 2 dog pools so I could add the proper amount of good bacteria and de-chlorinator.   The pools had been sitting since Friday and would be ready to add to The Pond Sunday morning.

Once DB had cleaned The Pond he started on the biological filter that we were going to add to the commercial pond filter we already had.  He used an old milk crate, added some filter cloth and lava rocks and placed the pond filter inside.  More lava rocks and filter cloth on top and it was ready to go back in The Pond.

The lava rock will promote the growth of the good bacteria and the filter batting will filter out the algae.  Or so we hope.

The next morning we ran out to The Pond first thing and already we could see that it was clearer.  DB added the fresh water (which some say will just make the whole pond start the cycle over, sigh) and The Pond was back in business.

The dog pools are very shallow, about 8″ deep and so the water we added was warmer than The Pond water.  The fish loved it!  All 3 of them came out to swim around and they played tag all Sunday afternoon.  They also enjoyed the algae that DB had loosened from the sides.

I guess we’ll see if this means we start our pond cycle from scratch again.  For now the fish are happy, we’re happy and The Pond is settling in to be a top attraction in our backyard.

New water lilies. And I think that’s Minie on the right.
Water lilies, water hyacinth, summer snowflake
Eenie, Minie and Mo all together.
Things are starting to fill in around and in The Pond.
Our 3 little goldfish.
Looking out from the patio. Those ferns are Chloe’s jungle. She loves to prowl through them.
Looking the other way from the patio.
Side garden, near the gate.
Other side. The innukshuk and cow are peeking out.


The Pond – Adding the Fish

We left The Pond last time, freshly filled after draining it due to a mishap with one of our plant baskets.  After a couple of days we put the plants back in and then waited impatiently for the day we could add the fish.

In the meantime there were a few things that the pond sites told me I needed.  I had heard that there was another good pond place about a 1/2 hour away with a really experienced and helpful pond guy, so on a nice day I set out to go see him.  With me came my list of pond needs:  a net for skimming, a thermometer so we’ll know when to start feeding the fish in the Spring and when to stop feeding them in the Fall, a plant that stops the formation of algae, a PH and alkalinity tester, the good bacteria needed to start the pond, possibly some pond lights and whatever else he might recommend.

The pond guy knew his stuff and I think he was impressed with my research, I knew most of the basics.  He recommended I add Horn wort to The Pond for oxygenation and to reduce algae, stocked all the items on my list and added a dechlorinator  to it.  Though chlorine will dissipate on its own this removes Chloramine and heavy metals and adds a layer of slime to your fish.  Which, he assured me, is better for the fish then it sounds.

One hundred dollars later I was on my way armed with plenty of products and a little more knowledge on how to keep The Pond.  No lighting yet, maybe out of next month’s budget.

As soon as I got home I added the pond products, stuck the thermometer in The Pond and couldn’t wait for the next day when I could test my pond results.

It’s suggested that The Pond should be tested at the same time each day and the best time to do this is at noon.  At 12:00 p.m. I was out there with the test strip kit, dipped it in and counted to 10.  I pulled the strip out, held it up to the test container and Eureka! The Pond was spot on.

For the next few days I tested it every noon hour and by the weekend DB and I figured it was time to add the fish.  They are just 3 good-sized gold fish, Eenie, Miney and Mo, who have grown too large for their tank and they’re the reason we added The Pond.

We checked the temp Saturday at noon and the water was 65 F so it was time.  DB carefully bagged the fish with lots of their aquarium water and he placed them gently in The Pond.  After 20 minutes we added pond water to their bags and 20 minutes later they were ready to go.

DB first let Eenie go, the biggest goldfish and he took one quick look around and high tailed it to the filter and hid underneath. I don’t think we saw him again for 2 days!  Then DB let Miney and Mo out and they did a slow circuit of the pond, sticking very close together.  In the lead was Mo, the smallest of our goldfish and the bravest.


Eenie and Mo finally free in The Pond.
A brave explorer watched over by Chloe.
Wow, this pad is big!


Sticking close together.

It’s been a few days now and finally all 3 are exploring their new environment.  The only problem is, I’m missing them in the house so today I think I’ll go save 3 more feeders.  Then next Spring they’ll be ready for the big life in The Pond.

The Pond – Day 3

I don’t think I mentioned the reason we considered adding a pond to our garden, actually there are 3 of them.  Eenie, Miney and Mo, our goldfish.

A few years back we had received, as a dinner party favor, a goldfish in a small vase.  The vase was really only large enough for the fish to turn around so DB and I went hunting for a small aquarium.  We bought one that would fit in a wheeled tray that was fairly deep and whose original purpose was as a plant holder.  In turn that fit on a small old smoker’s cabinet that had been my Dads and had sentimental value and now a use!

Eventually that little, lonely fish passed on and the fish tank was relegated to a basement shelf.  While cleaning up down there one day I came across it and decided to once again have fish.

When we visited the pet store they informed us that the only fish such a small tank with no heat would be suitable for, was, you guessed it, goldfish.  This time we bought 3 so they’d have the company of one another.  They are “feeder fish” and I felt I was rescuing them from a terrible fate.  I’m not sure the employee who had to capture the individual ones I decided to rescue was as enthralled.  Eenie is the largest and is orange on both ends and white in the middle. Miney is the middle sized fish and is solid orange with a very pretty tail.  And Mo is the smallest guy and has truly gold scales that flash and shimmer through the water.

Here it is 2 years later and these fish have grown.  Eenie in particular.  He is now over 3 inches long and a bit of a porker.  That would be my fault because every time I get up off my chaise (which is quite near their tank), they dance a fierce water ballet and eagerly await my coming over to feed them.  I don’t always do it, however I do feed them at least 4 times a day.  I love their little dance and that they are so happy to greet me.

So now they have outgrown their tank and while we debated buying a larger tank, The Pond won out.

I have been doing some research on ponds and DB and I knew that we wanted to add some plants and get the environment right before we add the fish.  So on the weekend we decided to check out a pond place, just to look.

As we exited the car DB reminded me that we were “just looking” and I agreed and off we went.  The place has 2 large, very modern square ponds and there were some very exotic plants fringing them.  Immediately I ran over to one and excitedly declared that this one had to go in our pond.  So much for just looking.

This place is a small, family run operation and the young guy running things was very knowledgeable and exceedingly helpful.  Soon DB was sent to the car to get the dish pan bin that I had washed out and brought along, just in case.  Did it really make sense to run out here again, we might as well buy the plants now and save us another trip.  $50 later we were on our way home with an assortment of large and small plants, soil and the baskets to put them in.

It had been a week since we put the pond in so we could plant the plants and add them right away.  We’d read how you have to wait a few days because our chlorinated water has gasses that have to dissipate before adding fish or plants.

We were so excited that I didn’t take the time to search the internet on adding plants to your pond.  The pond guy had said it would be good to add pea gravel to help hold the soil down and to water the soil well and make a wet ball of it around the roots of the plants. DB kneaded the soil while I added the water and soon the plants were divided up and in the baskets.

We added river rock to the bottom of the baskets (to help hold them down) and put more on the top.  We did have some pea gravel but thought the river rock would work as well.  Both of us hurried over to The Pond and DB knelt by it’s side to place the basket gently in.  Oops, the first basket took a header into The Pond and we watched in dismay as soil streamed out of the basket and The Pond’s crystal clear water turned a muddy brown.  Not again!

DB placed the rest of the baskets in The Pond and we were sure that though the filter would have to work a little harder it would clear the water eventually.  By the afternoon when the waterfall had reduced to a trickle we had to admit to defeat again and DB said we should drain the pond.

First though we filled one of Chloe’s doggie pools up with pond water so the plants had somewhere to rest while we took care of The Pond.  Then came the arduous task of sucking the water out of the pond with the shop vac, dumping the water in the garden and on the lawn. again and again.  Finally we reached the bottom and I sprayed the river rocks off a few more times and we anxiously checked the shop vac to see if the water was clear yet.  Success at last and then we filled The Pond.  2 more days and the plants can go back in and then 2 more weeks and we’ll add the fish.

Pond plants resting comfortably in their pool.

In the meantime DB replanted the plants, this time using pea gravel both in the bottom and on top of the plants.  He also wrapped the soil in landscape fabric though I have my doubts about the plants roots making their way out of that.  If we lose some plants we’ll try again next year leaving the bottom free of the fabric so the roots can grow.


The waterfall. DB has to run an outlet to the back of the garage, until then we have the extension cord. One day at a time.
We added a few plants to the edge and the crane. I expect one windy day to find the bird in The Pond.

We need a skimmer and I’d like a pond light to highlight it in the evening but I’d say The Pond is done for now.  I’ll revisit it in my blog in 2 weeks after we add the fish.  Have I said I love my new pond?  I do.

The Pond – Day 2

Day 2 dawned bright and early and DB, myself and our Dalmatian Chloe all headed outside to work on The Pond.  ( I feel this needs to be capitalized as the project has become a dominant force all on it’s own)  Chloe, of course, has the supervisory role.

While DB checked once more to make sure everything was still on the level and watered the dirt around the edge, added more dirt and tamped it down (but not too hard, watch the edge!), I took the wheelbarrow out front to a pile of river stone left over from another project.

The Pond is all black and we thought the river stone would look pretty on the bottom and add an air of authenticity to The Pond.  By the time I got back DB was ready to pile up the excavated earth to make a ramp for the waterfall.  Then he had the brilliant idea (so we thought) to put sand down first to protect the liner, though I only chose softly rounded river rock.  This was the sand left over from what we had put underneath as part of the leveling process.

We had bought really soft sand and as DB poured it gently into The Pond it seemed to explode and expand and suddenly our beautiful crystal clear pond had become a muddy mess.  “It’ll settle down” DB said.  “Let’s keep working on the rest of it.”

So DB continued to build up his waterfall ramp and I started to lay out the rock to lay around The Pond.  Soon I had a nice assortment of flat rocks, small rocks, medium rocks and big mother rocks laying around me on the lawn.  Taking a deep breath I laid the first rock down and mixing color and sizes continued around The Pond.  Noticing all the while that the sand wasn’t settling down, not one bit.

Around lunch time DB was ready to lay the waterfall in and I was waiting so I could place my last stones.  DB figured that once we installed the pump that would somehow help the sand to settle (what?) or at least filter the worse of it out.  The waterfall was in, rock placed around it, the pump connected and we turned it on.  Oh, how I love the sound of a babbling brook, too bad it was such a muddy one.

Chloe was very interested in all the coming and goings around The Pond and when passing on a closer inspection, in she went, splash into The Pond.  Good thing there is a ledge all around the one end for her to scramble out on.  What a look of surprise on Chloe’s face, like she hadn’t noticed the water ’till just then.  A little bit of comforting and a lay down in the sun and Chloe was back to her exploring.  Keeping a little bit of distance between herself and the edge.

We turned off the pump and worked on the garden all afternoon, taking frequent peeks at The Pond to see how it was doing.  By late afternoon DB gave it up and fetched his shop vac to drain The Pond and vacuum the sand from the bottom.  By dinnertime we had added the river rock (thoroughly washed by yours truly)  and filled the pond once more.  DB added some tall grass (well it’s short right now, but it’ll grow) to the back of The Pond and some short grass (this one stays short) to the front and The Pond was ready for it’s debut.  A little rough around the edges but give it time.


The Pond
The Pond
Watering The Pond plants
Watering The Pond plants
Chloe, the Supervisor and The Pond
Chloe, the Supervisor and The Pond
The Pond & Waterfall
The Pond & Waterfall
A proud DB and The Pond
A proud DB and The Pond

You’d think our troubles were over, at least regarding The Pond but that won’t be the last time we empty The Pond.  Day 2 however is over and we’re in to get cleaned up and rest.  And raise a glass of cheer to The Pond!

The Pond Saga (Part 1)

I’m a kijiji shopper and since I have a lot of free time, I browse the site at least once per day.  The weather’s getting better so I check out home – outdoor to see if I can trade plants or pick up some decor items for the garden.  I’ve been pretty successful too.  Take a look at some of my finds:

Free fencing for the back of the yard. (to replace a decrepit chain link one.)
Bird bath/fountain
Funky shed door
Trellis with gate
And finally a pond kit.

Unfortunately for DB my finds usually mean work.   And the pond has meant lots of work.  Yes it was free, (we did a trade for it) and then we found the rocks to surround it on kijiji for a mere $45.  But first we had to decide where to place it in the garden and then the hole had to be dug.  It’s only 4′ X 5′ X 2′ but that’s a big hole.

DSC00471 DSC00473 DSC00474 At the end of day one the hole had been dug, 5″ wider and deeper than the pond, the pre-formed pond dropped in on a base of sand and leveled, and leveled and leveled and the pond was filled with water.   Feeling accomplished and rather tired off we went to eat, drink and rest up for Day 2.



I’m One Of the Ladies Who Lunch…

Pretty much everyone I know is back to work tomorrow.  I, however, am still under employed, keeping my options open, am one of the ladies who lunch.

On my agenda tomorrow is making banana bread from those 3 browning bananas laying on the counter.

Not that that’s a bad thing.  DB loves banana bread and I do too.  It’s just that I’d rather be out there having some contact with the rest of the world that seems to be getting along just fine without me.

Thing is, I was one of those happy workers.  I went in early, stayed late if it was needed, spent the time at work actually working and gave my employers good value for the money.

If the school I was working at hadn’t had to downsize a 1/2 time secretary (me) I’d probably still be working there.  I can get bored easily doing the same tasks everyday but believe me, working in a school, especially one in a low-income neighbourhood is never boring!

I was a board employee so they were obligated to find me another position and I could have bumped someone from theirs but that’s not my thing.  I tend to think of bumping from the bumpee’s point of view.  There you are happily ensconced in your school and suddenly your job is gone.

And they did find me a job so I went to tour the school.  It was summertime and the janitor was happy to have a distraction and show me around.  She also happily told me that the full-time secretary had been there a long time and liked things done just so.  (Reading between the lines I could tell it was her way or the highway.)  I’m adaptable though and after all I’m only there from 8:00 – 11:30.

Eventually we came to the office and the first thing I noticed was an ancient fan situated in the far corner of the office from where I sat.  It couldn’t be…the office wasn’t air conditioned?

Now you have to know where I’m coming from here.  I was having hot flashes and night sweats.  Even with the air running full blast in my school I also had a turbo fan that I could turn full on me (and did) and still I’d feel the sweat beading my forehead and the flush spreading over my face and neck.  I didn’t even know up till then that a person could sweat behind their knees!

Then I noticed the set-up of the office.  Both desks were angled in facing the Principal’s door rather than the visitor’s door and I had my back to the window the student’s used.  That window was so high how would I ever see my favorites, the kindergarten students?

The janitor explained that the older students collected attendance so we wouldn’t be bothered by the young students.  Bothered?  That was the best part of my day, seeing the little ones blossom and gain confidence.  So shy at the beginning of the school year and so confident a few weeks later, telling you their stories and the good parts of their day.

I asked what had happened to the previous part time girl and found out she had quit, as had the 2 girls before her.  What?  Charming.

All that summer I mulled things over and knew that I didn’t want to work in a hot and stuffy office where the students were a bother and I’d have my back to our visitors.  The present secretary had set up the office that way when they had renovations.  That pretty much said it all.  The grapevine told me the rest.  So a few weeks before school began I handed in my resignation.

I’d never worked somewhere unionized before.  I had always applied for a job, sized the situation up before applying and decided if I was a good fit before taking the position.  I didn’t like this being told where I would go, having no choice in the matter.  I had a bit of money saved so I decided to take a leap and open a small store selling gently used furniture and accessories.

And that’s a whole other story.