Staying busy with koi, pond and the farm


I feel this spring we are racing around, busier than ever. My “to-do” list keeps increasing. I’m taking advantage of a long plane flight to catch up.

Japanese Black Pines and Japanese Maples. Japanese black pine, matsu, symbolizes endurance and eternity in Japan. These pines are featured in kabuki and noh theater as background scenery symbolizing a reflection of a god watching the performance. These trees grow wide with an irregular shape. I think many bonsai trees are shaped to mimic how this tree grows. Since I don’t have the time or inclination for bonsai, I’ll just go for the giant version of a Japanese symbol.

I wanted one in my old Minnesota garden but it probably would not have done well. On our farm it should thrive and the bonus feature is that it is a very fast growing pine. I ordered three pines from a local nursery and they took a few weeks to show up. I had planned on planting them across the hayfield so that I could view them in the winter but changed my mind once they came home. Pond builder suggested we put one or two in the pond area.

On pine pick up day, we ran into two of our favorite koi friends. They were on the hunt for some new and interesting Japanese maples, in particular an orangeola maple. Their backyard is filled with all sorts of Japanese maple varieties around their koi pond. Walking around the nursery with them puts you in the mood to buy some new maples. (I noticed that the nursery staff was serving mimosas to customers…effective sales strategy?) We came home with two new maples. The inaba shidare was planted on the west end of the pond. Online descriptions promise me three seasons of color, fiery red in the fall, romantic weeping habit and perfect next to a pond. All sounds good. The second Japanese maple is called koto no ito or strings of the harp. It’s a slow grower and tops out around 5-6 feet. Pond builder liked it because it has a bamboo look to it.

Planting trees is much easier now that the pond builder has gotten the hang of using the back hoe attachment on his tractor. He’s always liked digging holes but this makes short work of 15 gallon plant holes. The two Japanese black pines will help with shade in the pond area. We did take down three young black walnut trees because pines are not juglone tolerant. We will have to poison the remaining stumps and roots to ensure the juglone does not interfere with pine growth. Hopefully we planted a male and female pine tree…and maybe I can plant some pine cones on the far side of the pasture.

Koi Show. Last weekend was the ZNA Carolina Koi Show in Raleigh, NC. I had the privilege of co-chairing the show with a local koi friend. It was one of the nicest koi show that I have participated behind the scenes. Things ran smoothly, no bickering, happy vendors, happy koi people and relatively good weather. Since pond builder was out of town all week, I decided to do the easy route of showing koi by taking delivery of two koi from our platinum sponsor, Bristol Koi Farm. Alex Bristol flew some of his koi in a few hours ahead of his flight and it was like Christmas at the koi show. We unboxed the koi and I was happy to see my new Ikarashi doitsu showa (about 18”) and Hiroi gin kohaku (just short of 20”).

The koi show is a mix of work and play. I got to do two of my favorite jobs – working on the benching team and being the scribe for the judges. Being a scribe means you can officially eavesdrop on the judges’ commentary as they appreciate the koi – and you learn a great deal. This show was particularly interesting because there were a number of high quality koi entered. Hanging with koi friends is always fun. We did have some wicked thunderstorms on the morning of the last day but everyone seemed to be in good spirits.

My koi came home to quarantine in the breezeway.

Pond progress. Pond builder is squeezing in work between work trips and planting trees. Skimmers are in and he has started on things in the equipment house. We are waiting for the electrical company to come out (again) and wire the house with outlets and a cut off switch. We think they accidentally cut the lights for the water pump house, so they will need to fix that. We are having a preventative maintenance check on our well completed soon. It’s an 800’ well (water level at 70’) and we use a lot of water. Pond builder calculated that our current pond in the garage uses about 19 gallons of water an hour. Seems like a lot but the koi are happy and healthy.

The hens.We have a brooder. One of the white Colombian wyandottes is busy trying to hatch eggs. So she sits in the coop all day. We have to pick her up a few times each day, set her somewhere far away and she returns. Brooding can last a few weeks and collecting eggs quickly is helpful. One problem is the brooding behavior can spread —- one of the buff orpingtons (who are prone to brooding) has a part-time bad behavior.Brooders stop laying eggs so we only get 8-9 eggs a day but it’s plenty for us.

Future fruit.My fruit trees are doing well this year. So far no fungus and the nastier bugs have not arrived. I have a few peaches starting and one apple. I took off the covers which helped with some of the frostier nights we had in early spring, but seem to cramp the trees.

The grapes are growing and my new blueberry bushes are covered with berries. I will have to work on some netting to ensure that we get to enjoy the blueberries. I’m sure the turkey, deer and other wildlife will try to sample the berries.I’m thinking about buying some more bushes to expand the patch, maybe after the koi are in the pond..

Milkweed for Monarchs. I’m growing weeds for monarch butterflies. None of them have found this little spot, but maybe in a year or two.

Kind of a long post but there’s a lot happening on the farm. Tending the vegetable garden, weeding (a sisyphean task), watching the game cams, cleaning up downed trees and branches – endless fun. The big task of completing the pond (really getting the koi outside) is getting closer! I’m hoping the next time I post, I will have a photo of koi swimming in their new pond!!!