The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Bringing life to the sky pond


This time of year always feels melancholy to me, blight or no blight.  We're halfway through our frost-free period, and signs of autumn slowly build.  This year, the autumn feeling is coming faster, with a low of 52 last week sending me hunting for a long-sleeved shirt.  Luckily, I have a sure cure for end-of-summer melancholy --- pondering!

Water strider

Even though I'm supposed to be letting the jewelweed ferment and gley my pond for at least two weeks before adding anything that could boost oxygen content of the water, I couldn't resist tossing in a gallon of pond inoculant to get things moving.  I aimed for transporting a few clusters of parrots feather and some duckweed out of my tiny pond, and ended up bringing along some water beetles and water striders for the ride.  Hopefully I got lots of even smaller critters, too.

Lotus runners

I couldn't resist breaking off a runner from my lotus while I was at it.  The runner had multiple rooted points, and I pushed each into the mud at the bottom of my sky pond with a long pole.

Something about these various inoculants triggered the local dragonfly population, and nearly immediately, half a dozen moved in.  The most common species (I'm thinking a Common Whitetail) was extremely territorial, with up to five individuals chasing each other so busily that no one got to spend much time at the pond.  But two smaller species slipped past the Whitetails' radar and hung out on the lotus pads.

Reddish water

In the meantime, the pond continues to be a bubbling cauldron of life, quite literally.  Pockets of gas continue to drift up from the fermenting jewelweed, leaving an oily skim on the water surface.  Now I know why I sometimes see these oil-slicks in wild locations where I can't imagine human impact has dropped anything in the water!  (And is it possible this oiliness is also why fermenting organic matter seals a pond?)

Another odd observation pertains to color.  After the rain filled my sky pond up, the contents suddenly turned reddish, and even though it seems awfully coincidental that the roof feeding the pond is glazed red, I can't imagine that so much pigment could be flaking off a year after application.  Ideas?

Water in lotus

Of course, I know you're probably far less interested in all of these natural observations, and more interested in whether the sky pond is doing its job.  On Friday, as Kayla and I peered at my little pond, she mentioned that she was able to walk across the ground above it for the first time ever --- the swamp is drying up!  I'd been a bit afraid the soggy ground would just move to the downstream end of the pond, but that doesn't seem to be the case either.

On the other hand, I suspect water levels in my little earth pond are going to vacillate with the seasons.  After I measured the water depth at 13.25 inches Wednesday, we got more rain in the afternoon that raised the pond water up another couple of inches.  And, since then, the pond level has been slowly dropping, reaching 13.5 inches by Saturday morning.  I'll keep you posted on water levels (and far more than you probably want to know about other aspects of the pond) as my experiment progresses.

Our chicken waterer is the tried and true solution to bringing clean water to backyard birds.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Iron oxide from red clay soil?

Comment by Roland_Smith Sun Aug 4 09:05:10 2013
Roland --- I'll bet you're right. I've noticed iron bacteria in our floodplain swamp, which you usually see in runoff from coal mines, but can also be in other areas high in iron. And our soil test showed our soil is very high in iron. Mystery solved!
Comment by anna Sun Aug 4 10:33:29 2013
Kinda looks like a weak compost tea- from fermenting Jewelweed?
Comment by Eric in Japan Mon Aug 5 01:52:47 2013

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