2013 – a better pond and waterfall

Spring returns sometime in April

2013 01We have started to clear out the work from last summer and can finally shape some of the pond walls.  We had asked Koi Acres to help us build the new pond but they had already been committed to a number of projects.  Since they would not be able to squeeze us in until late May at the earliest, we decided to try it ourselves. Of course much of the spring we saw this: 2013 03 We were finally able to get some sandbags in between the raindrops and put down a pondliner. 2013 022013 04 Around Memorial Day weekend we made the acquaintance of a local koi pond enthusiast, Irv Geffre. Irv happens to be in the same bible study group as my father-in-law and runs Alta Falls and Pond Supplies (www.altafalls.com).  He believes in the healing power of water and I think he is a koi whisperer.  Remember my unfriendly koi? Irv visited them in their garage home and in two minutes, they were eating out of his hand.  Irv gave us some good advice on pond design and steered us towards some suppliers. We continued to visit the landscape and masonry supply and brought home a few more tons of handpicked rocks. In retrospect, a few hand picked rocks are great but it’s pretty much a waste of time to inspect everything. We worked like dogs to get the pond portion finished so the fish could move out…2013 052013 062013 07

Moving day for the koi

I’m not sure who was more excited, me or the koi! The pond was starting to clear and the waterfall had been reshaped, lengthened and running well.  Just like a canary in a coal mine, we chose Pinto and Tito as the test koi. After a few minutes, it was clear they weren’t going belly up so the rest of the koi joined them.  The koi had been growing the last few weeks in the polyvat and ranged in size from 8 to 12 inches. 2013 082013 09


Of course once the koi went in we felt good but there was a mountain of landscaping to do.  There were a few tons of rocks to position, making stairs, buying and transplanting plants, etc.  It literally consumed much of our weekends. Here’s a little movie clip of what the place looked like just after the koi moved in… CLICK HERE TO SEE THE CLIP 2013 102013 11Remember the mexican beach pebbles that were a bad buy last year? I reused them in the pathway portion of the pond area. 2013 122013 132013 14Click on the photo below to see video.

Little surprises…literally

When the koi moved into the new pond I noticed they were acting strangely for a few days.  Some of them were chasing each other into the edge plants, swimming recklessly and after a little research, I thought they might have been spawning. The online research states that females tend to have rounder bodies and the males are generally slimmer. Hard to say with this crowd. We think Fatchiko and Tito might be the females. Frankenstein, Tarzan and Gunga Din act like males but who knows. I looked for eggs but saw none – of course most eggs get eaten in the wild by the adults so I promptly forgot about the odd behavior. Our pond rocks get a little algae on them so every now and then we do a little scrubbing with a pool brush in addition to the usual chemicals.  Looking in the pond one day, I saw a little orange flash.  It turns out that there are 6 little koi. One is blackish, one is greyish and the other tend to be white/orangeish. They stayed under rocks most of the time and finally joined the rest of the koi when they were two inches long. The babies:2013 15 When it got really warm in the summer, my husband did some rock cleaning while sitting in the pond.  I’m not really a big fan of that and thought the koi would be unhappy.  They actually did not seem to mind that someone was sitting in the pond with them.2013 16

Late summer-

Once the plants were in, the steps done,2013 17a the flagstones redone we added two more 2013 17bkoi to the group, Moriarty (black and white) and Irene (red, black and white). Irene is the dumbest koi on earth. We found Irene with her head stuck under a rock not once but three times. 2013 17 At night the pond lights come on automatically and the koi are very active at night. I’m not sure if they ever sleep, maybe around 3 am.2013 21 A side project I started was trying to get moss to take on the rocks in the waterfall.  I would harvest large patches of moss from other areas of the garden and lay them on the rocks. It actually works.  The test will be to see what they look like after the winter.2013 18 We finally turned off the waterfall just after we had a new window put into the side of our house.  With all the work that went into this side yard project, it seemed to be a shame that the current window gave us a limited view of the pond. In early December, we had a picture window installed.  2013 192013 20

Winter returns again…

Only this time, it’s quite nice to see the snow falling on the pond through our new window! We have a little heater at the bottom of the pond and aerator going for oxygen.  The koi have slowed down and generally hang out at the bottom of the pond around the heater.  During the polar vortex, air temperatures dropped down to a windchill temperature of -45.   The pond ice opening varies and we were a little worried it might close up. We did feel compelled to throw a few buckets of hot water on the ice occasionally to keep it thin. You might wonder why we just didn’t break it – koi can die when disturbed during their semi-dormant stage. 2013 222013 23 In January, we decided to check on the koi since it’s difficult to see them with the aerator going. Sadly, we found one koi, Pinto away from the rest of the fish. Pinto was very weak and clearly diseased. We had to take Pinto out of the pond and he now lives in our compost pile 🙁  Didn’t see any of the tiny koi but I’m hoping they will make it through the winter. Pinto…2013 25 The rest of the koi hanging around the heater…2013 26 So we’ll be hoping the group makes it through the winter.  I’ll be posting more about this pond on the posts page 2013 24

What we learned in 2013…

1.  There is no need to handpick rocks. It’s better to have a few tons delivered to you. 2.  People like to stand at very edge of water, place some flat rocks that will accommodate this tendency along running water and the edge of the pond. 3.  When fed properly, koi tend to grow quite rapidly (even goldfish can get pretty big). 4.  Always buy multiples of more expensive plants and take a photo. It makes it a lot easier to return the plant that dies because you can show that they were planted at the same time under the same conditions. 5. Puttering around the koi pond is a never-ending and extremely satisfying process.