August 20 – prettifyin’ the pond

Here’s how it was meant to go:  I, along with three other friends, were going to spend Tuesday and Thursday canoeing and camping along the Rappahannock River, my reward for all the long days of shutting myself inside in front of an index last week.  At 9:00 Tuesday morning, with the canoes on top of the car and all of our food and camping gear packed, the FDA showed up for a surprise inspection of the community’s tofu hut.  One of my friends, in fact who had been organizing the trip, is an essential part of our tofu business, and wouldn’t be able to leave until the guv’mint was satisfied.  So I found myself with six hours to kill, waiting around for the feds to do their thing.

There were  a couple of jobs at the pond which I had been neglecting, since I had been so busy with indexing.  A previous pond manager once mentioned that the hardest and most frustrating part of the job involved staying on top of the waves of unwanted vegetation that spilled forth every summer, and she’s right.  The plants grow and spread, fighting any attempt to create any semblance of order down there.  Here’s the pond as I found it on Tuesday, pretty but over grown.  Image

My tasks were twofold; first I had to cut back the brambles, ivy, and trees from where they were growing up, around, and over the solar hot water tank that needed to be exposed to the sun so that people could take hot showers when they stepped out of the pond.  This was accomplished with a lot of cursing, sweating, and getting scratched up by brambles.  The second task, which was a bit more well-documented, had to to with our flow forms.

In order to provide flow and aeration to the pond water, the folks who originally built the pond installed a system which pumps water out of the pond, into a ‘bio pool’ above, where it flows through a gravel field, then down a series of ‘flow forms,’ where the water gets sloshed back and forth as through it were flowing through a cascading mountain stream.  It is quite a pretty sight, although if no one is on top of the forms, they can get so overgrown that there is no back and forth sloshing action, just straight down through a tunnel of algae, ferns, slime, and ivy.  Here’s what it looked like when I started working on it:Image

You can hardly see the flow forms, as they’re so crowded with vegetation.Image

Here’s one of the forms, bits of concrete emerging from the mess.Image

Look at all that nasty brown slime!Image

Here’s the same photo, minutes later, after the top form had been cleaned out.Image

And here’s the whole cascading lot of them, all clean and pretty, with the water sloshing back and forth as it was meant to.Image

At about 2:00, my friend came to tell me that the FDA’s departure was imminent, so I went back to the house to change and get a couple of things for the trip.  On the ancient beech tree just outside of my door, I noticed these crazy orange mushrooms growing in a mass.  Like the other ones I saw earlier, I think they are poisonous jack-o-lantern mushrooms, beautiful to look at, but terribly poisonous.  Image

They sure do look cool, though.Image

Half an hour later, we were all back at the car, with the canoes up top and the camping gear packed, ready to head out, six hours later than we had initially planned, but still in high spirits.  Just before we started out, I noticed this bright yellow goldfinch among the mature sunflowers, chomping away at their seeds.  Quite a lovely sight.Image

Hanging upside down to get at the seeds.ImageThen, moments later, we were off, on our way to the river!  But that’s a different post for a different day…

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