by Pat Whalley

Sweat equity, not such a pleasant expression but it means to improve the quality and appearance of ones home by personal effort.  This past couple of weeks, if the amount of perspiration lost is really of importance, I have doubled the value of our yard. I started with the relatively easy jobs of pruning and removing all the dead growth from last years’ shrubs and perennials.  Next came a few days of weeding and general clean up, then came the nasty job that could be put of no longer… the garden pond.
Seventeen years ago our property was an old peach orchard, poorly kept trees that were truly past their best, two hundred of them in fact.  Over the years that we owned the BelAirMotel, Dave had cut down about fifty of these old trees but we still had about one hundred and fifty left.  Once the decision was made to subdivide the peach orchard from the rest of the property, a very long and expensive process, we had a backhoe come in and remove most of the trees.  I wanted to keep some of them for our own pleasure but the majority were in very poor shape.
As the old trees were removed I replanted shade trees in some of the spaces, about fifty new trees over a space of three years.  Seventeen years later these trees are wonderful and I love them, though Dave tells me they spoil his view of mount Baldy, (too bad, the trees stay).  Over these same years the rest of the peach trees died off and had to be removed, now we have to buy peaches.
While the backhoe driver was working on tree removal I had him dig a pond.  Visions of splashing water and glimpses of goldfish, surrounded by shady ferns seemed to me to be idyllic.  The reality is a constant battle to remove leaves and branches that fall off the overhead willow and surrounding shrubs.  The fish get eaten by some predator just as soon as I put them in but, in spring we enjoy the singing of the frogs that live there.  On warm spring evenings the sound of the frogs makes me feel that we do indeed live in the heart of the country.  I love my pond but every couple of years it needs a good clean-out.
Monday I decided it was the day.  Dave changed the pump from splashing into the water to discharging it into the rest of the yard.  When the water level was down to about eighteen inches, I bit the bullet and climbed in, YUK!  I am not sure why this job is always assigned to me but Dave swiftly reminds me that it was my idea to have a pond, so I do the deed.  Standing in the horrible, oozy bottom of the pond I scoop out all sorts of dead roots and other slimy nastiness and put them in a bucket.  Dave empties the bucket into a wheelbarrow and returns it to me.
Over the space of a couple of hours we filled three big wheelbarrow loads of the gunk, which went onto the compost heap.  While I was digging around in the murk I found several garden ornaments that had fallen in and loads of rocks that had tumbled in from the surrounding sides of the structure.  A further hour with the pump and the pond was almost empty.  I hacked back some of the water iris and rearranged the baskets of water lilies and Dave refilled the pond.  After filtering through the pump all night the result was a lovely clear view of the baskets at the bottom on the pond, however, will not take long to get murky enough so they will not be seen.
I am tempted to buy more fish but I think that they would eat the frogspawn, so maybe we will just enjoy watching my fake mallard float around and the sound of the frogs instead.  The act of clearing out the pond is truly a labour of love but it is so worth the effort to see the water sparkling and free of debris.  After a hosing down of my shoes, socks garden gloves and my legs, it was into the shower to remove all traces of sweat equity.  I may not have improved the value of my home but I have sure improved the feeling of a job well done and that is very satisfying.

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