By Bruce Stambaugh
Our backyard looks and sounds a little different than it has in a long time.
We recently bid a fond farewell to our little backyard garden pond. She served us well all these years. It was time to let her go, and allow others to embrace her captivating charm.
I didn’t relish removing the little pond and all its accessories. The artificial pond brought us many genuine joys, far beyond any expectations we could have imagined.
When I retired as elementary principal in 1999, my faithful staff, amiable students and supportive parents presented me with a very special gift. They gave me a hand-hewn birdbath and a gift certificate for a garden pond, something I had wanted for a long time.
I brought the weighty birdbath home and plopped it where the sidewalk curves to the front porch. Surrounded by luscious bubblegum petunias, it enticed many a bird to sip and bathe in the summer sunshine.
I located the pond just steps away from our back porch. It was also easily visible from the windows at the rear of our home.
I’ve had two different ponds over the years. The first was a rubber lining placed in a shallow hole that I had dug out. I added a miniature waterfall constructed out of an assortment of rocks I collected from farm fields and local creeks.
I added goldfish, oxygenating plants, water lilies, snails and non-toxic chemicals to kill the algae and keep the water as clean as possible. Of course, I had to feed the fish and regularly clean the pond pump filters.
Unfortunately, destructive varmints also were drawn to the water feature. Several years ago, I awoke to find that the pond had been nearly drained.
I discovered that some ground moles had created shortcuts to quench their thirst. To prevent a reoccurrence, I switched to a hard plastic pond. In the end, it turned out to be a better option for everybody, pond critters included.
The waterfalls provided practical and esthetic pleasures. The birds loved it, bathing and drinking the refreshing water. The sound of water falling mesmerized anyone who graced our porch.
I enjoyed watching American Goldfinches bringing young to the pond for the first time. I added a heater to keep the falls going in the wintertime. A variety of birds took advantage of the much-needed water when their normal sources froze.
Birds weren’t the only animals attracted to the little pond. Over the years, raccoons, garter snakes, groundhogs, squirrels and even deer came to the pond.
The grandchildren loved the pond, too. They couldn’t wait to feed the fish and count the frogs hiding among the lily pads and their pure white blossoms each time the grandkids visited. My wife and I will always cherish those fine memories.
As much as we loved the pond and its amenities, we needed to give it up. Given our situation, we simply couldn’t maintain the pond properly. A friend’s family is already enjoying its alluring magical sounds. It’s nice to know that another generation will continue the gratification that we received from the little water feature.
To keep a water source for the animals and birds, I relocated the sandstone birdbath from the front to the back and added a couple of others to keep it company. We transplanted hostas and placed several of the rocks leftover from the falls for some natural texture.
The birds have already discovered the water. I only hope the snakes and groundhogs don’t find it as desirable.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2015
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