Tackling the Country Life

Wizardry in Everyday Life

A photo of Steve DautLast night I took Sue out for her birthday. The present was a trip to the IMAX movie theatre at Henry Ford museum, to see the latest Harry Potter movie. She started reading the books years ago, but didn’t want to make some kid wait to get theirs, so was always careful not to buy until each book had been out for a month or so. Well, I tried to avoid all the hoopla over these things for a couple of years, but eventually I got started with it and read all the books myself. And we’ve seen all but one of the movies. Here’s the thing that struck me last night as we were waiting in line: the crowd was a typical Saturday night movie mix- some families, some teens, but also a lot of adult couples of every age and stripe.

I think what makes this series so fascinating is that you get caught up in this world where magic and wizardry become commonplace, where moving photographs, 20 foot tall arachnids, love potions and dazzling spells become just part of ordinary but wondrous everyday life. We all need magic.

So I’d like to try out an idea with you. Imagine this amazing witches’ brew that’s full of complicated ingredients, and all you have to do is add one little drop of some special essence to make virtually anything you wanted. If you wanted a ruby red gemstone, you would add a little drop of brown liquid, stir the mixture for a couple of days and the stone would float to the surface. You could grow an umbrella to keep you cool in the long supernatural summer simply by adding a small oblong stone to the mix. You could even make things to eat, or to smell, or items that in turn could be used to make even more magical potions. Does that seem plausible to you?

Well, this is not a vision of some fantasy world. It is our own world, seen through magical eyes. The potion is our garden soil; the drop of essence is a seed. It has been so long since I have had a garden that this year, when I saw the first tomato beginning to grow, it startled me into amazement. How is it possible that all you have to do is add this particular little seed, and the world magically provides sun and rain to make the mixture of seed and soil transform itself into tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, corn, dill, basil, all of these distinct and wonderful things that you can eat? What magic causes a gem-colored flower to grow, or a tree that provides umbrella-like shade?

You can break it down to a purely scientific description of how this happen, which is what Harry and friends study in their book of potions, but these descriptions cannot take the magic out of it. We don’t need a movie to be immersed in a world full of wizardry. All we have to do is look at our own world, our own lives, through eyes that can see the magic.

Pond Maintenance Progress

A photo of Steve DautWell, after much research and gnashing of teeth, I’ve finally settled on a solution that looks like it will bring our pond back from the brink of eutrophication.  It took a fair amount of research, a bit of sweat, and not insignificant amounts of money, but it didn’t break the bank, either. I think I went about it backwards, or at least sideways, buy hey, it’s the results that count, right?

After a couple of false starts with algaecides last year, I realized that those chemicals were just contributing to the problem. Kill the weeds and algae with chemicals, making them die and cloud up the water, depleting the oxygen and causing another cycle of nasty plan growth that further reduces the fish population.

So I went looking for a more ecologically friendly and more effective approach. I found what I was looking for through a company called Airmax. They have a four step process, and being a cheapskate and contrarian, I started with Step 2, a bacterial agent called Pond Clear that is designed to “eat” the nutrients that noxious weeds thrive on and clear up the water. This stuff had an immediate effect, and after cheaping out on a couple of gallons of the liquid, I bought a bucket of packets that should last a full season for my ¼ acre pond. After only a few months of treatments, I’m seeing schools of tiny fish that I don’t think could have survived before. They also offer blue pond dye and something called Nutri-Defense, and “eco-enhancer” as steps 3 and 4. I’ve used the dye a couple of times, but haven’t yet tried step 4. But from the results of Pond Clear, I’ve definitely drunk the, um, pond water.

Pond with bubbler

Well, back to step 1: aeration. I sort of choked at the $1,300-$1,500 price tag for the fancy high high-end aeration systems, and I also wanted to look into solar aeration, so I did a lot of looking. For what I found, I’m not convinced that there is a viable solar system our there at a cost that justifies the cost of electricity. If you can’t get electric out to the pond, that’s another matter, but what I found it that most solar aeration systems are very expensive, underpowered, or cut out some elements (such as a battery) in order to be more affordable. And of course, they need sun to work, so even without the price differential, an equivalent system is going to deliver less constant results.

I opted for an electrical system. The primary criterion for sizing a system seems to be the Cubic Feet Per Minute (CFM) of air it delivers. I’m not an expert on these things, but it seems to me that all of the fancy check valves and aluminum casings and cooling fans just suck more energy and run up the cost. I opted for a system through a website called fishpondaerator.com. I got the medium pond system which delivers 8/10 CFM, and it cost less than $300, by far the best price I saw anywhere. It was a bare-bones system with just a small diffuser, some hose, and a pump. I built a pump housing out of a plastic milk case, some plastic foam insulation for soundproofing, some PVC pipe to bury the hose between the pump and the pond and $60 worth of direct burial electrical wire.

The diffuser is a weighted bottom tube, because the oxygen has to get to the bottom to get thermal turnover and to oxygenate the lower parts of the pond. I’m expecting the fish to start jumping up onto shore any minute now, so I have laid out some frying pans at strategic locations around the pond.