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!

Wabbit War Mind Game

War is definitely a mind game. Strategy is critical to the success of one, or the other side. Right now, I am trying to understand the new strategy of the Alliance. This morning my intelligence indicated a new player on the scene. Could the Wabbits be so smart as to ally with the Herons? Even if they are not allies, the heron represents another attack on Grumpa Joe. Now, I have to fight the enemy on one more front. Wabbits, ants, mice, now herons; how many more will join the battle before I raise the white flag?

I thought I won the heron battle last fall, but I lost. I last saw him standing on the frozen pond waiting patiently for the thaw. The temperature turned down, and he disappeared. All winter, I waited  to determine if any of my fish had survived his onslaught. They did not; he had eaten every one of them.

The heron is a formidable enemy. He is cunning, clever, and observant. The least bit of noise or movement, and he flies off making a giant circle around the neighborhood only to return and land on the roof of the castle. When opportunity presents itself, he glides down to the water, and patiently fishes.

I avoided buying new fish because of the heron threat. I did not see Great Blue for months, so I finally broke down and stocked the pond with five bucks worth of Comets. The fish are so small, that I have only seen them three times in a month. They disappear rapidly under the foliage of the water lilies.

Today, I did maintenance on the pond. I trimmed the creeping water plants, pulled the string algae out by the bucketful, and cleared the skimmer basket. The heat has evaporated several inches of water, so I ran the hose to top it off. As I picked up the trimmings and piles of algae, I spotted a toad. Then, a few inches away from the toad, I watched a green frog quietly slip into the pool. The frog is another threat. Will he win out over the heron, and eat the comets? Or, will Great Blue have frog legs for supper?  It doesn’t matter; I’m screwed either way.

As I said before, war is strategy. Grandma Peggy hates Great Blue because he eats fish. She will not have a fish eater as her ally, but she will remain faithful to the flower eating Wabbits. How do I resolve the dilemma of split Alliances? In one case she is with me, in the other she is against me. It’s a losin fight.

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