Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Semi-Winterization of the Pond at Chez Sarge

Not quite the look of my frozen pond...
There was no submarine, and certainly no polar bears...
Other than that? Pretty close.
(U.S.Navy Photo by Chief Yeoman Alphonso Braggs)
As mentioned in the tale I bored regaled you with yesterday, The Missus Herself and Your Humble Scribe had not quite gotten around to winterizing the pond prior to the Thanksgiving festivities of Thursday last. Now normally this is a task we manage to do sometime in early November, I don't recollect ever having let it go this long, i.e. late November.

I also mentioned that it was bloody cold over the Thanksgiving holiday, as in 1° in New Hampshire, a balmy 14° here in Little Rhody. Which meant that being outside, the Pond at Chez Sarge would probably ice over in the period we were away. Which it did, to the tune of about an inch and a half of ice at the deep end. Also Manneken Pis, seen in the photo below, froze right up, his wee willie spouted not. (He did pile the ice high though, didn't he just? Note that, unlike his bronze counterpart in Brussels, our chap is made of concrete, almost stoned he is...)

Not a problem though as at the shallow end of the pond there is a waterfall. The constantly moving water kept it from freezing during the short cold snap. As the bitter cold lasted only about a day, I wasn't worried about the filter unit which resides in the ground next to the pond. It would take a lot more than one day of freezing temperatures to render the soil at Chez Sarge into something approaching the arctic tundra.

Now I had received my marching orders late on Friday (Black Friday to the shoppers in the crowd) that we would be cleaning the pond on the morrow. With a manly sigh, I accepted that it did need to be done, but I could still sleep late. Had a fine Friday eve, crashed late, awoke late as mama had fed the feline staff and was having a coffee in the dining room when I managed to stumble downstairs with all the grace of a poleaxed bullock.

"Good morning honey. What are you reading?" I asked.

"Good morning, I'm looking at an advertising circular from the Navy Exchange. Which is where I'm going after I wash up." sayeth the love of my life.

"Ah, so when you get back, we'll clean the pond?" thinking I had a few good hours of goofing off in the immediate future.

"Oh no, you need to start as soon as you've had breakfast. I won't be back until it's almost dark." sayeth the lady of the manse as she headed aloft to wash up.

I just stood there. Was this a good thing? ("He shouldn't screw it up too bad.") Perhaps a bad thing? ("He gave his mother a rough time, a little hard labor would help cure that attitude.") Maybe it was a neutral thing, division of labor and all that. She shops, I lift heavy things. The filter unit is kind of heavy and did need lifting out of its hole, so yes, I could see the logic of it. Then she called down from upstairs...

"Or you could come with me to the Exchange."

I nearly panicked, go shopping, on the weekend after Thanksgiving? No, that was not a fate I had imagined for myself. Quick, what to say, how to answer...

"No, that's okay honey. I really want to get the pond ready for winter."

She looked down the stairs at me and offered a most dazzling smile. I felt as if I had passed a test. I usually suck at those. I have spent lots of money on flowers in the past as penance for my sins. Not today! I was going to winterize the pond!

As she drove off, I headed out. I noticed that the ice on the deep end, the end which held the pump at the bottom, was really iced over.

As you can see in the photo above, I later broke out a chunk of the ice to get at the pump and noted that towards the deeper water, the ice was at least an inch and a half thick, tapering to not much by the "shoreline." (And yes, I used that photo the other day.) But at first the ice was too tough to attempt to break through and I needed to get the filter unit out first anyway. As it was warm-ish on Saturday, I figured the ice would weaken as the afternoon wore on. (Which as you can see, it did.)

Now I couldn't just go flailing away at the ice, for you see the fish were still in residence, they stay in the pond year-round, in the winter they are nearly dormant. Banging on the ice sends shock waves through the water (I learned this at pond maintenance school, no really, okay it wasn't a school, it was information online) and if y'all remember from your anti-submarine warfare days (ASW, also know as Awfully Slow Warfare), water is nearly incompressible, whereas fish are most certainly not. A big enough shock and it kills the fish. My fish. (And no Virgil, you can't go ice fishing in my pond.)

So, I had to wait. In the meantime I semi-emptied the filter unit of some really disgusting water, then got mad at it and simply yanked it from the ground. I am such a child at times. Though the filter unit had less water in it and was rather loose in its hole, it was still heavy, which I discovered when I yanked it from the ground. Though I did use my legs to lift, my back was still exceedingly pissed at me for a couple of days. Geez, I never learn.

After cleaning all of the various filter thingies within the filter unit, think little plastic spiky balls which agitate and clean the incoming water (see next photo), and large donut looking filter things which are made of some sort of foam, and which, of course, filter the water. (See the picture after the next one.)

Bioballs (no, seriously, that's what they're called)
Foam filter "donut"
Now all of those things were liberally coated with thick, disgusting smelling, slimy, green algae stuff. No, I don't know what it's really called, but it's gross, trust me. (Pond scum is another term I've heard used, though that typically floats on natural ponds. On manmade ponds it collects in the pump and in the filter units. Which need to be cleaned periodically.)

So by now, I was rather agitated and pretty gross from cleaning all that stuff. So I went over to check out the ice thickness to see if I could retrieve the pump from the murky deep. Yup, ice fractured rather well with just pushing on it, no shock waves, no dead fish. (Again Virgil, no, just no. You cannot fish in my pond.)

While all of this was going on, Mother Goose and
her goslings looked on in utter fascination.
So, there I was (not the Standard Juvat Caveat, I'm just using it in its non-military connotation), filter out, pump out, filter elements (foam donuts and spiky balls) all cleaned up, and the bubbler (a device to keep the water oxygenated) was installed and the fish slumbered away, only occasionally moving away from me and my noisome activities.

Bubbler at work
Mother Goose inspecting the result, note the fish slumbering
under the bridge. Nearby lies another section of bubbler tubing.
Which, you will note, is bubbling merrily away.
Before retiring to my bath, I decided that refreshments were in order...

Refreshments consumed (note the saw horse in the background, there is another, drying between them are a number of foam donuts held aloft on a shovel handle, drying) it was time to wash up. Though it was nigh on to 1500 local, I even shaved. It's tidy I like to be. For those worried about my safety, I only consumed one porter before attacking my whiskers with a sharp razor. I won't say how many I may, or may not, have had after my ablutions were complete. Suffice to say, I had enough to satiate my thirst. Pond ready for winter, Sarge ready for whatever.

When The Missus Herself returned to our humble abode, it was indeed dark. But the next day, on our way to church, she complimented me on a fine job. Though she did remark that before winter set in, we needed to get all of those leaves off of the bottom of the pond. The pond being only semi-winterized. Of course. Therefore I said, and you guys know the drill...

"Yes, dear."

I may have sighed, I don't really remember.


  1. An offer from The Missus Herself to take you shopping on Black Friday weekend or do a nasty cleaning chore? Oh well played...... well played indeed (chuckle). Those two younger bears were wondering how that REALLY big whale tastes. Come retirement time,between you and The Missus Herself and her honey do list, my money is on her I'm afraid. You'll have to think of a way to make runs to secure adequate libation supplies. Kudos to the photog and photog equipment, rather clear and nicely focused, thumbs up!

    1. My honey do list is seldom very long, she gives me just enough and no more.

      I am truly blessed.

  2. Looks like the little nude dude is getting old. Better get him checked, his feet are wet. Bad form.

    Oh man, seeing that ice on the ice, reminded me of my youth... When we moved to the county, dad couldn't resist getting some live stock. I learned the joys of "hauling water". We had a small pump house with a gas heater. Cold weather would hit, and after a while, the pipes to the barn would freeze. Two five gallon buckets, fill with water in the heated pumphouse, shuffle a hundred yards to the barn, chop hole in the solid ice in the cow trough, dump the buckets, return, repeat until three thousand pounds of cow were done drinking. Cows can hold a lot of water. I can scratch my ankles without bending over....

    One winter, the snow piled up deep enough to tip the buckets if you didn't hold them in a curl the whole way. My pants were frozen by the time I made it to the barn.... Our natural gas line froze solid at ground level before it got to the meter. I didn't know there was water vapor in natural gas. That was the year we didn't top 20 degrees for two weeks, and we lost the pear tree and all the peach trees.

    Happy winter!

    1. STxAR,
      I knows the feeling. Last winter, the horse trough water heater died, and the trough froze over with about 6 inches of ice. Thought I could break it with a heavy ball peen hammer. I did and the water was reachable for about 5 minutes before refreezing. After the second breaking, with the horse's laughing at me I might add, I went to Tractor Supply and bought another heater. Takes a while to get that much water back above freezing. Me and the Ball Peen had a long cold couple of days.

    2. STxAR - Yeah, our version of Manneken Pis is feeling his age. Of course, if you had to stand outside naked for seven plus years you'd be looking a little worn as well. :)

      Live and learn, water vapor in natural gas, didn't know that, stands to reason though.

    3. Juvat - You have read Shaun's old posts about the stock tanks he has haven't you?

      I can picture you with the hammer and the horses chortling at your efforts. That had to have sucked bad.

  3. We have't had any fish in our tiny pond for years, because we took "Provide free fish to various wildlife" off of our list.
    The pump is pulled out and drained and the leaves are gone.

    If you look at the bridge photo you will see a concrete basket sitting on the ground, and oddly enough we have its twin sitting out front of our house. (and by the way the bridge looks very very nice)

    Speaking of ice, we got underway from the pier once during the winter at Fort Schuyler New York and every section of piping that took in seawater was covered in ice, that included the entire inlet side of the main engine condenser. I had never seen anything like that before, or since.

    Good post.

    1. Haven't had a problem with the local wildlife yet. Seems we have a family of hawks who have taken up residence in the neighborhood, they are very interested in my neighbor's chickens. The benefit to me is that the waterfowl who used to pay the pond visits (for takeout) don't like sitting around on the ground with two frustrated hawks circling about. We shall see, we shall see.

      While I have had raccoons show up on the deck (one of the little bastards hissed at me before I sent him off) the earth bound wildlife in the neighborhood are seemingly uninterested in the pond. It's the avians you have to keep an eye on.

  4. Spent a lot the past few days with "Yes Dear" as we transition from Fall/Thanksgiving to Christmas but then I really could say it is generally the first thing out of my mouth most days.

  5. Tough job, but way better than shopping on that day! Do you have issues with birds stealing your fish? I know several people that as soon as they stock their pond, herons manage to find their pond.

    Lifting with the legs is what you always hear, but also when you lift, look up...that puts you back in a straight line. I have learned to make that a habit and no longer tweak the nerve when I lift is not always the weight, just the action, you can tweak you back lifting a coin if you do it wrong...just passing along a little old man knowledge.

    1. Just saw your answer to John re the fish stealers...interesting. A friend had to run fishing lines across his pond to protect his Koi.

    2. As to the lifting, I looked down. Dammit, I looked down. I know better, but the thing angered me. Yes, I was outraged at an inanimate object. Sigh...

    3. We used to put a net over the pond, it kept the leaves out and the predatory avians. However, if we get snow, it pushes the net down into the water, no matter what we tried, and made a complete mess of things, actually killed a couple fish one winter. It got warm, they swam near the surface, got tangled, then it froze overnight.

      We have one dwarf Japanese maple with one long branch hanging over the shallow end of the pond. That seems to deter some of the birds.

      Herons are pretty birds, pretty pain in the ass birds. Haven't seen any in while.

    4. Beans/Sarge.
      I learned my rigging from the real riggers at the shipyard.
      Look up "tripod lashing" on the internet. (not a bedroom game!)
      Add an inexpensive come along from HF and some 2X4s of the right length and you can lift a surprising amount of weight safely.
      Add 4X4s for pulling concreted in fence posts.

    5. Concreted in fence posts. Been there, done that. Wish I'd known that back then!

    6. Once in a while you have to use the post hole digger to make a hole next to the post and rock it a bit, but usually you can pull the post out like a bad tooth.
      The same setup works well for pulling bushes out if the Property Planning Person decides change is needed.

  6. Perhaps a trip to Horrible Fright (Harbor Freight, the home of cheap knockoffs that won't even sell in ChiCom) you could find some enclosed space winch (like used to lift dudes and stuff out of manholes) for to which winch the motor up and down, and save your precious back. Should fold and store nicely in your toolshed or basement or attic or strapped under your deck or wherever else you could find that doesn't offend The Missus Herself.

    And as soon as I saw the clump of dead leaves floating on the surface and you not mentioning any leaf removal, I knew The Missus Herself would send you on wet, cold, frozen scummy leaf removal detail. You should have used... INITIATIVE. But, of course, if you used INITIATIVE it would have gone against the carefully laid plans of The Missus Herself and you would have been in as much trouble as if you hadn't used INITIATIVE. DAMHIK.

    As to shopping, long time before wife became unambulatory, she shopped like a dude. Plan, plan, plan, pass all the phase lines, strike the target, if primary mission is achieved, withdraw, avoid secondary missions/targets (but never Target, for they pissed the wife off) and if Winchester, RTB. Which matches my shopping style also. Except she doesn't mumble faintly under her breath what sounds like a bomber pilot talking to his crew and to base.

    So, well, I am fortunate in that. Now that she is unambulatory, she actively encourages me to dash-attack stores and return ASAP forthwith. Which I am happy to do (hate crowds do I, most fulsomely.)

    Congratulations on a successful achievement of Pump Removal by Oneself. Looking forward to the Tale of Removing Frozen Pond Scum.

    1. Leaf removal was on the plan from Ops but as one end of the pond was frozen, rendering leaf removal problematic, I pressed on to the target, Yeah, a winch thingie wouldn't work, if I remain patient and empty ALL OF THE WATER and not just some of it, the filter unit doesn't weigh that much. But the bastard splashed pond muck on me, pissed me off it did. So I went full stupid on it. As you probably know, ya never go full stupid, never.

      My shopping is rather like a Viking raid. I come ashore, strike straight through to what I came for, grab it and head back to the beach, grabbing anything else which may strike my fancy as I do so. I get the job done but nearly always come away with "extras." Efficiency and stealth are for SEAL teams, I make a lot of noise and spread confusion in my wake. Though The Missus Herself has advised me that saying "Excuse me," to the person blocking the aisle with their stupidly placed cart, followed almost immediately with a bark which sounds like, "That means MOVE asshole," just won't do in polite society. I learn, slowly, but I learn.

      Now I just growl at them.

  7. Ok, once again I'm not sure which I enjoyed more; your post or the comments. Both are so good.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

    P.S. I'm getting better, no editorial comments.

  8. "Maybe we're making fewer mistakes?"

    He wrote hopefully.


  9. Looks like little Mannaken Pis could use a warm winter coat as he seems to have acquired "frightened turtle syndrome".

  10. O.K, O.K., So I'll have to pass on your Koi, but your stone Geese remind me that we always have a Christmas Goose--got any live ones wandering around your property? :)

    1. Geese we have in great flocks all over the place this time of year. Hell, where I work you have to be careful not to step in goose crap on the walk from the parking lot to the building. Nice, clear lines of fire on the company's property as well, a number of good places to set up a blind as well. Deer all over the place as well.

      Heck, where I work is like a wildlife preserve. Come on up.



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Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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