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. Hi Fiona and Danny

    Sorry to read about george i will have a wake out here for him, john in thailand

  2. Minamoo

    Oh I’m so sorry about George Fiona! I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for you to have to drag him out of the pond. Many many hugs and imaginary cups of tea are coming to you from me. Xx

  3. Poor old George. Very sad to lose such a Top Fish. My sympathies.

  4. I have nothing to add except my condolences. What a great pal he was and what a full life he had. Your post has given me the inspiration to put in a small wildlife pond and to get a George of my own. x

  5. Kate(uk)

    What a whopper! I love the gloopy smacking noises Carp make with their lips when you feed them- sad to be without such a reliable chum.
    When I was about four I saved up my pocket money to buy a silver goldfish that I had admired in the petshop window.Eventually, I had enough and brought it home to our pond. It was large and lustrous. The next morning I woke, rushed to the window to check the pond, pulled back the curtains and there sitting looking up at the window was Felix our cat. Beside him, arranged in a neat row in order of size, were all the fish from the pond, my silver being the largest, lying right beside him. I was fairly cross about this, but I couldn’t get too annoyed with Felix as he had arranged them so very carefully, was clearly so proud of the result, so eager for me to see it, a cat and cats catch fish, they can’t help themselves, they just can’t resist doing it. Also he used to let me dress him in baby clothes and wheel him round in a pram with a bonnet on his head and his paws curled over the counterpaine- can’t get really cross for long with a cat who lets you do that!

  6. stephen

    sorry to hear about george its always sad when you loose a much loved pet. i have a fancy goldfish in the pond called patricia, she used to be in a tank with bubble and typhoid in my old house and when i moved in with my partner they all came along in a tupperware box, unfortunatley the other two became victim to the strong pump and now rest under the olive tree. patricia is quite a character, she is fine with my but if my OH puts his hand / arm in the water near her she will attack him for no reason! she was very protective of the other two as well! this year she looks as though she may have gotten herself pregnant with one of the koi carp! then again she could just be a bit on the plump side! if i had to save one thing i own without a doubt it would be her, she’s become more than just some old fish to me! 🙂

  7. Oh! I’m so sorry too. That must have been an awful moment for you – finding his fin.
    I agree with Pat, though: 25 years and 25″, that’s a happy and healthy life.
    Very best wishes.

  8. magic cochin

    That must have been such a sad moment “ but how wonderful to have shared your cottage garden with such a beautiful fish. You’ll always remember , and the pond is his memorial.

    Our cat Charlie is at rest at the base of the wall in the vegetable garden, under the hops where he used to sunbathe. When I’m gardening nearby I always say a quiet word to him. And the new cats roll in the sun on the stone slabs over his resting place – soaking up the ‘spirit of Charlie’.

    with best wishes
    Celia

  9. Fiona, so sorry to hear about George. Big hugs to you and I know he must have had a great life to have lived that long and to be that size.

  10. michelle sheets

    Hi Fiona,
    I’m so sorry about George. I know how much animal friends can touch you very deeply. Friendship without condition the way pets can offer is without price.
    I had a sweet boxer who was my 60 lb lap dog, and when she passed away from cancer the same time I lost my grandmother, I couldn’t tell you which passing had me more torn up.
    No, I take that back, I cried more for my dog.
    I wish you good memories.

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