The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

April pondWhen I first met George he was the largest and most regal specimen in Colin’s pond. An old English carp – the sort that live in castle moats for years, often outliving their owners. Colin reckoned that he was at least ten years old. George was special.

When Colin handed me the keys to the cottage he was handing me the keys to a dream. Seclusion and privacy in a cottage set well back from the road with a large garden and small twelve foot pond. George was a key player. He got under my skin. I had planned to get rid of the pond. Within a year I was designing a 22 foot pond. If the pond was bigger, how large would George grow?

At times he was a gentle creature taking fish treats from my hand with giant lips and jaws. Like any large being, his size could be quite alarming. Watching new baby goldfish suddenly discover this moving rock was always entertaining, they would rush for the shallows in a trice and George glided slowly by. Unsuspecting visitors would gasp when he leapt from the pond to catch a fly.

He was always the last to hibernate and the first to wake up in the spring. There was something steady about George. A sort of aquatic old retainer, inherited with the cottage. He gave me a sense of just being a small dot on the vast time line. His life would probably be a longer dot. Sometimes, I’d fret about what would happen to him when I died.

In the early years of the new pond, he nearly died.

Fiddling with the input of water from the pump, I accidentally knocked a pipe loose. I woke the next morning to a pond liner and a scramble of peaky fish. George was flapping weakly in the mud with glazed, cloudy eyes. I played the hose over him for a minute or so, his eyes cleared and he flipped into the six inches of water that were left.

George didn’t hibernate this winter. It was too mild.

I realised this afternoon that I hadn’t seen him for a week or so. I began to clear the leaves and pond weed expecting him to swim up. There was a yellowish leaf on the other side of the pond. When I touched it with the net, I realised that it was one of George’s fins.

It was quite a struggle to heave the body out of the pond. My old friend measured twenty five inches long. An inch for each year of his life.


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14 Comments

  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Michelle

    I hate losing a pet. I can empathise with you about your boxer. Loosing a pet that lives in your house such as cat or a dog is such a wrench.

    Hi Pat

    The pond won™t be the same without George. But we are planning to find another Old English Carp asap.

    Hi Magic Cochin

    You are so right. If you lose a pet you still have the memories. It™s good to think of Charlie lying under beside a warm wall in the vegetable garden.

    Hi Stephen

    Patricia sounds such a great character! Fish are not as thick as people think, I recon that most of them are quite intelligent.

    There is nothing more soothing than feeding fish on a sunny morning.

    Hi Sally

    It was sad finding George dead. He was such a steady character.

    Hi Kate(uk)

    Your story of your silver fish and your cat really touched me. What a shame.

    Despite his fishing habit, your cat sounds like he was a winner, allowing you to dress him in a bonnet!

    Hi Deb

    A pond is such a joy, best of luck with yours.

    Hi Martyn

    Yes he was a top fish. Thanks for dropping by.

    Hi Minamoo

    It was a sad day but we will buy another carp and have the pleasure of watching him grow.

    Hi John

    Great to hear from you.

    Hi TCL

    We were so looking forward to introducing you to George.

    Hi Veronica

    Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

    Hi Louisa

    He was a restful fish. We™ll miss him.

  2. R.I.P George. xxxxx

  3. Veronica

    so sad! And I was still feeling sad about the dcklings too 🙁 But at least George had a long and well-fed life, and a wonderful epitaph in this post.

  4. The Chicken Lady.

    So sad. I,ve read this 3 times and cried 3 times.
    Beautifully written.

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