Sunday, May 1, 2011

In Which I Wade In the Water

Do you know the Honey In The Rock rendition of the spiritual:

"Wade in the water,
Wade in the water,
Wade in the water, children
My God's gonna trouble the water..."?

Today, sunny and bright before a spate of rainy days, was my chance to deal with the garden pond.  All the advice about ponds maintains that, to keep algae at a minimum, you must cover the surface of the water with at least 40% plants.  Right after the pond was built last summer, I went to the nearest nursery and bought six pots of aquatic plants:  two water lilies, one miniature cattail, and three others whose names I forget.

When I got home, I took one dripping pot out of its plastic bag and dropped it slowly onto the submerged shelf that runs around the perimeter of the pond.  Imagine my shock when the pot, after spewing a large amount of dirt into the water, wavered off and sank into the murky depths.  Before submerging the next pot, I gathered some pieces of slate and put them on top of the dirt, then lowered the pot into the water.  The slate floated away and the pot sank, but not before shedding half its cargo of dirt into the H2O.
 
This depressing scenario continued until I ran out of plants and rushed into the house in despair, buried my nose in a book, and tried to forget the whole thing.

Now here it was spring again, and the pond was full of algae, and I needed plants to cover the surface if I was ever to have the hope of fish in there and water that looked merely like broth instead of pea soup.  Plus, aquatic plants are expensive.  So I knew I had to retrieve my six pots from the depths.

This morning, my husband rigged up a syphon system with hoses, then left for other pursuits.  While the water level lowered ever so slowly, I got my newly-purchased supplies ready.  I soaked a special aquatic planting medium in water, and set out six nylon mesh planting bags.  I also skimmed off the leaf debris that surfaced as the water went down.  There was an entire autumn's worth of leaves in that pond, as well as some dead salamanders, half a dozen drowned earthworms, and several frog skeletons. 

At one point, the tips of the rotted spears of the cattail became visible.  I gave them a tug, and the entire pot came up...along with a powerful stench of decay.  But when I upended the pot, there were white, turgid shoots emerging from the rotten mess.  I trimmed off the slimy bits, placed the plant in one of the nylon planting bags, filled it in with the planting medium, which consisted of hard clay pellets, and lowered it into the pond.

I held my breath.  Would the bag and its contents float away?  Would the planting medium drift off into the water?  Not a bit.  The wet clay weighed everything down, and the planting bag and its contents settled exactly where I placed it.

There remained five plants to retrieve and repot.  I checked the far end of the syphon hose and saw that it was vomiting dead salamanders and the outflow was growing slower.  I stared at that stinking green soup, hoping that somehow the pots would surface, or I could reach them and somehow avoid having to go in.

I kept skimming off rotten leaves and a frog cadavers and flinging them onto the grass.  You'll know how foul the smell was when I tell you that the dogs, all three of them, not only ate the stuff, but rolled in it ecstatically.
Finally, the words of the spiritual came to me, "you got to wade/in de waater/waaade/in de waaaater..."
So I did, removing glasses and relevant clothing first, terrified that I would slip and dive headlong into the murk.

All I can say is, ugh.

I was grateful for my prehensile toes, which allowed me to locate and lift the pots out of the depths and thus avoid immersing my upper body.  But still, ugh!  At one point, a large dead frog floated up.  I should have picked it up and saved it for the chickens, but my heart failed me, and I let it sink back down.  When I crawled out of the primeval slime, my feet left green prints on the patio slate.  I hosed myself down and repotted the plants.

There was only one live frog in the pond.  I suspect that the dozens that inhabited it last fall died of asphyxiation when the ice closed in.  Next winter, we'll put in a de-icer to keep the pond denizens alive.

Tuesday the two shubunkin fish I ordered will arrive.

5 comments :

  1. Oh oh OH!! Dead frogs floating by? YUK! You are very brave. I'm terrified of stepping into water when I can't see my feet - ocean, pond, lake, whatever. My question this morning is: have the dogs finished throwing up?!

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  2. So far, nobody's thrown up, though they do smell bad.

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  3. Wow, you are a brave lady...I would have had cow calving gloves on along with a trout fly fishing suit or something! OOooh , maybe like a deep sea diver suit, that would be best, with my own fresh air to breathe! Bleah...but oh the joys this summer again, with (live) frogs and fish and other water craving creatures...

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  4. The diving suit complete with mask would have made things definitely easier.

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  5. I would've sent the husband in!

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