Not a Single Minnow Left

Buddy Koi and Partner

Last week we had a beautiful day here in the tiny town of Frankfort. The birds woke me up early and I actually went out to the garden to plant a Castor Bean seedling a friend gave me. I got the fever. The pond needed another dredging before the water lilies over take it. I got my trusty fifty year old lawn rake out of the  garage and began scraping the bottom of the pond of organic mush, mostly decayed leaves. It took me about forty-five minutes to get around the perimeter. While doing that I kept my eyes open for fish survivors. In that whole time I spotted only one lonely Koi. Last Father’s Day my son-in-law surprised me by stocking the pond with two four inch koi and a couple dozen comet goldfish about on inch long. By the end of summer the koi grew to six inches and the gold fish to four inches.

At the beginning of fall I always shut down the pump which makes the water flow from the pond into a waterfall. That action keeps the water aerated. When the pump is off I usually install three aerators to keep air moving into the water. For three years in a row all the fish went belly up by mid November, that is, until last fall. I kept the pump going all winter long. The electric company kept sending me letters that my electricity consumption was thirty percent higher than any of my neighbors. Such is the cost of saving fish lives. At the end of winter when all the ice had melted on a nice sunny but cold day the two koi sunned themselves, and a beautiful black and orange comet joined them. Success! I saved the fish. I figured I better clear the skimmer of scum and lifted the lid. There sitting on the edge of the skimmer basket was a giant leopard frog. He took one look at me and jumped into deep water. Here we are nearly three months later and I am finally doing maintenance on my water-garden-fish-pond. I didn’t see the big frog, but I did scare up one tiny beeper. Throughout the dredging only the larger white koi revealed himself. I never saw a minnow nor the koi’s partner.

Today, I took a closer look at the pond. The water lillies have tripled in size and have covered over fifty percent of the water surface, by the end of next week they will be giant beautiful deep green round pads and the flowers will begin to bud. I stared at the beauty of it when I spotted a slight movement beneath the foliage. Ah! There between the pads was the second koi, and then his partner appeared. I am a proud daddy of two koi. But where are all of the comets? Then I remembered the now missing big frog. I’m sure he had a very large grin on his face as he departed the pond for the wetland behind the house. Still, there should be some comet minnows hiding somewhere, but I have yet to spot a single one.

Oh yeah, I finally limped back into the house after four hours. I haven’t been able to move my legs since. My quads and glutes are just burning and keeping me from bending, sitting, walking, or anything. The best first day of gardening ever!

Hello August

Hello August. I hope you intend to be good to the world again. Usually, you give us balmy dewey wet mornings followed by beautiful hot sunny days without much rain. You are the perfect month for lazy days by the seaside, and for birthday parties outside at night. Your daylight hours are noticeably shorter giving us a hint of the many light deprived days that are headed our way. Alas, let me not dwell on those dreary days but rather bask in the beauty of your warmth.

All around me I find birds busily scurrying to feed their last brood of the summer, the Comets dart from under the lily pads to grab a bug coming from the brook, frogs hunt amongst the spent foliage for something to eat while rabbits graze on clover blossoms and hop about the yard. Many new flowers like the native hibiscus with its giant bright flowers begin to pop open. Rose of Sharon blooms profusely in white, pink, and blue while the foliage of the peony bushes fade and wither. Day lilies continue to open new blimagejpeg_0.jpgoms among the spent ones, and the lawn is still lush green from the late summer rains.

Yes, August you are perfect for a birthday celebration, and I will enjoy my own in all your glory, and I thank you for giving me your magnificence.

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I Give a Rat’s Rear

The 2015 Monet Vision is in its Blizzard White phase, and I could care less. The snow is pretty looking at it from the warmth of a house, but it becomes a hazard when outside. I don’t care about snow at my age. I’ve seen enough to last the rest of my lifetime. No longer do I rush outside to shovel the drive or the walks. I tend to let it accumulate and hope the sun melts it off. That however, is a dream. It’ll be May before we get the temperatures to melt off a snow pile. Instead, I will drag myself out with shovel in hand to push the snow off the walks and the drive. If I don’t, then walking becomes hazardous, and tedious. I’ll just let the beauty of it all soak in a while longer before I venture out with shovel in hand.

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Whopper of a Fish Story

When I close my tiny backyard pond I dread pulling the pump in near freezing water. The cold is so intense my hand hurts with a burning sensation for an hour. This video of a Lake Superior ice fisherman extending his arm into the ice hole to extract a fish mad me shiver. Obviously, his adrenaline rush was so intense he didn’t notice his arm burning up to the shoulder. The fish he caught is certainly a trophy, and he did the right thing.

PSA-141205-Save the Monarchs

My garden club had a Christmas luncheon this past Wednesday and our president Kay Mac Neil presented each of us with a gift, a package of milkweed seed. She introduced a project to save the beautiful Monarch butterfly from extinction. Her letter explaining the project is below. Please read this and decide whether you will take part in saving the Monarch.

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Besides finding and planting seeds in your backyard there is another thing you can do, stop buying cocaine. The Monarch winters in the high mountains of Mexico and cocaine growers are killing Monarch habitat. We can plant all the seed we want in the upper forty-eight, but if there is no winter home for the Monarch all we will have are yards full of milkweed. Not that milkweed isn’t a desirable plant but it is one that seeds by blowing fine cottony puff balls around the universe. I already have a yard lined by cottonwood trees which sends out puff balls in enormous quantities making it look like it is snowing in June. I like the orange and black Monarchs and will endure puff balls for their sake, but the cottonwoods have given them a bad name.

end _Daniels Run

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Sneak Preview

A short movie is worth ten thousand words.

Osaka Gardens

When the newsletter came from my garden club, and I read the next meeting is a field trip to Osaka gardens I got excited. Japanese gardens turn me on. They are among the most aesthetic works of art planted. All things about the gardens promote peace, serenity, and well-being. The placement of rocks, the stones selected for grain and texture, the plantings, and the flow of water all lend to the experience. Since I had  never heard of Osaka Gardens I had to find it on Map-Quest. Surprise, the garden is a tiny dot inside a huge tract on the south side of Chicago called Jackson Park. As a kid of thirteen I went to this park many times by streetcar to drown worms. The lagoons were very accessible to fisherman, and they connect to Lake Michigan making them abundant in fish species. I kept my record intact, I never caught a single fish there, but I spent many happy hours trying.

The map program pinpointed the place exactly and the adventure began. Getting there after a sixty-three year absence made it more exciting. As it turned out, the map program and the GPS took the excitement out of the ride because I merely followed instructions and got to the exact place without a single wrong turn.

At the parking lot our members grouped and found Karen Szyjka waiting for us. This young woman sports the impressive title of Operations Support Manager, Department of Natural Resources for the Chicago Park District.  She explained her role as one of managing and maintaining the Osaka Garden and other Park District gardens in Grant Park. Karen was a fantastic tour guide. She told us about every aspect of the Osaka Gardens and the history of the place. Even though I have lived in the Chicago area all of my life I had never heard about the place. Yet, it came into existence during the Columbian Exposition in 1893.  During its lifespan the garden has gone through several reconstructions. The garden went into decline after years of wear and then needed reconstitution and refurbishing. The worst decline happened during the nineteen forties. Hello, I guess we were not very happy about the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor.

Currently the garden is very happy, and Karen has made it her life’s work. She knows every tree, plant, rock, and pebble in the garden. She spoke to us with passion and excitement during her hour-long walk along the path winding around the garden. The views of the Museum of Science and Industry, the only building remaining from the Exposition and the World’s Fair, framed by the garden were astounding. My point and shoot camera did not do the views justice, neither did the photographer.

After the tour, most of our group stayed and picnicked along the shores of the lagoons watching the beauty around them. Peg and I escaped for a second adventure on our own. I decided to tour my boyhood neighborhood, and awaken some old memories. A wise man once wrote “you can never go back home,” and I will add “and you shouldn’t.”

If you get the opportunity to visit the Osaka Garden take it. If you are a garden nut or just a Chicago nut, you will love it.

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