By Robert Pekel
I peered into the scary jungle of overgrown plants, spiders, unidentified insects, and snakes. What else, I wondered, lurked in the depths of my pond gone wild? Never-the-less, it was time to venture in, conquer and pacify, but where to start?
The thought about jumping into three to four feet of murky water full of mysterious elements did not look inviting. Eventually, I figured out to hook a hose to the water fall pump and direct the water to the garden. That would kill two birds with one stone. I could pump water loaded with fish poop and other decomposed goodies that would fertilize my garden while lowering the water level in the pond.
I had built the 7,000 gallon pond ten years ago to raise catfish as a protein source. It is 20 to 22 feet around, and 3 to 4 feet deep depending on where you stand. I added plants to help filter and shade the water: cattails, lily pads, and royal blue pickerel. Somehow the lily pads disappeared, the cattails remained in their designated area, but the pickerel took over. It manifested into huge bogs of interwoven roots that housed snakes and who knows what else. It was sort of pretty and I thought the wild element was cool. My wife hated it. Fortunately, we operate according to democratic rule at our house; unfortunately my vote doesn’t count, so the wild element was out.
Anyway, I pumped out a couple feet of water. What remained was about a foot of muck from decayed plants, fish poop, and Lord only knows that had built up over the last ten years. It had the distinct smell of a something good for the garden — it stunk. I found this to be an exciting discovery because one of this year’s gardening goals was to generate all soil enhancements from elements on the homestead. Muck is what great civilizations were built on. This black gold was the foundation of agriculture for the Mississippian Culture. The yearly flooding of the Nile made way for the Egyptian empire. My imagination was flying. I was going to knock it out of the park. My wife said, “Just get it out of here.”
Anyway, my problem was how do I get a foot of muck out from the bottom of the pond? It turned out that one bucket at a time, several hours a day for a week was the answer.
I did find some interesting creatures. The biggest bull frog I ever did see, a small snapping turtle buried in the mud, and about 30 bluegill fingerlings that I didn’t know were in there, which I transplanted to another pond. The pond also taught me several lessons. One, a fish pond is a great source of nutrient rich water for the garden. Two, don’t wait ten years to clean it. Draining the pond annually will mean much less work and sore muscles. Three, I like playing in the muck.
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