The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Overhauling our pond: part three


Marsh marigold in our pond late spring last year

Marsh marigold in our pond late spring last year

As The Contessa is diabetic she has daily insulation injections. These are given after a meal. Having devoured the large rotting fish and disposed of the same all over the downstairs of the cottage, she clearly wasn’t up for breakfast.

The emergency vet was calm.
“Starve her for the day and don’t give the insulin. She’ll be fine to miss it for a day.”
The Contessa lay on the sofa, under a thick rug. She slept all day, snored through the rugby, enjoyed lots of attention and the next morning she was fine again. That little dog must have a stomach of iron. People can die of fish food poisoning.

Meanwhile we worked on in the pond. I found another dead fish in the reeds and a strange calcified part of a fish in the shallows – any ideas how this happened. These were rushed to a place of safety – the dustbin – before any other Min Pin fancied a snack. These fish had survived for over five years without us even knowing that they were there. Both about a foot long, they were sizeable. I think that they were tench – these are ground feeders and stop the silt settling in the bottom of the pond. So they are best avoided if you want a crystal clear pond. They were a present from a good friend about ten years ago so we couldn’t say “Noooo”.

D and I worked together in short bursts. Moving the silt and hacking back the plants is heavy work. In the end I reckon over the past few weeks we’ve covered an area of 100’x100’ with a thick 2” layer of silt. Impossible without a really good builder’s barrow and sturdy net. There are still more areas of the kitchen garden to cover but that can happen next year.
“Next time let’s tackle this on a sunny day.”
Danny was shivering. It’s warm in the Rat Room and he’s not used to working outdoors. Even I was cold. At dusk yesterday we decided to refill the pond.
“We can re pot the pond plants next year.”
Guess who said that?

So now our pond is refilling – it takes a good 10-15 hours. We still need to sluice out the big filter box and replace the UV light bulb but we’re nearly there. We’ve ordered a new switch box. We’ll let the pond settle for a week or so and then we will be looking at fish. Nothing exotic – just small goldfish and shebunkins. For a splash of colour, mosquito egg eating and interest. And we’ll be following Paula’s advice and stretching a fishing line over the pond to deter the dreaded heron.

The Small Pond, refilled as we drank a mug of tea, will remain a wildlife pond. I know that fish and newts eat tadpoles and that fish also eat newt eggs. But we have a lot of frogs and newts clearly breeding happily in the garden. Even when we had a very well stocked Big Pond, loads of froggies, toads and newts spawned and survived. The size of The Big Pond means that there are reedy areas where tadpoles and baby newts and toads are comparatively safe.

It’s been a long haul but worth it in the end. The prospect of the sound of water, a healthy pond and fish has me smiling as my fingers fly across the keyboard. Roll on summer.

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  1. Tamar@StarvingofftheLand

    She mucks out ponds! She fixes pumps! She attends to sick dogs! And all without losing her sense of humor. You need a cape and a lycra suit with a ‘CS’ on the chest!

    • Fiona Nevile

      But I couldn’t kill my chickens like you! CS – chicken shirker ;0)

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Paula

    Yes I understand. We didn’t do this as the swallows loved to glide through the surface of the pond but they no longer nest in the barn so we can try this.

    Thanks as always for your advice!

    Hello Keth

    Good idea but not quite yet. I reckon that we’d need a bigger pond – more of a moat – great fun but a future project.

    I sense that things are going to get very tough in the next few years and then we’d do this, definitely. We love eating fish but I’d like them to have a bit more space.

  3. mmmm. it occurs to me that maybe you two are missing a trick with the pond. I don’t know if its big enough/suitable for this, but is it worth stocking with edible fish? using it as monks would have used a fish pond at one time? Just a thought… personally i love water in the garden. you’re absolutely right: its so soothing!

  4. Ponds are very useful for creating habitat for bug eating critters, and are supposed to be an integral part to a well balanced garden, so kudos to you.

    You understand that you have to make a sort of web with the monofilament, right? You might see it glisten in the sunshine this summer but you can tell yourself that it’s a spider web.

    Good luck!

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