news from the waterfront by Tim Matson
HELP! MY POND IS KEEPING ME UP ALL NIGHT.
There are many reasons why a person might have trouble sleeping. I don’t need to list all of them here, but one reason just might
be your pond. I’m not talking about pre-con- struction jitters. I’m talking about after the pond has been dug, filled with water, and stocked with your favorite fish.
It would be a good idea to anticipate three potential problems and decide how you plan to handle them during the pond planning stages— before they sneak up on you in the dark of night.
- Your pond peepers keep the neighbors awake at night. Feuding follows. Or, your peepers keep you awake all night.
- A near-sighted visitor steers off your driveway straight into the pond. Listen for a big splash.
- The neighbors want a full time pass to use the pond for swimming, fishing, and canine recreation.
The Peeper Problem
New pond owners are sometimes surprised by the sound of spring peepers. You build a pond, and then out of the blue one nice spring evening, there’s high-pitched singing like a flock of baby chicks emanating from your pond. Where’d that
come from? Well, it’s coming from pond peepers, tree frogs, but they may be impossible to see being a quarter-inch long and como-colored.
Most people, including me, love the sound. In fact it’s been compared to sleigh bells. A chorus of peep- ers on a rainy spring night is better than a sleep- ing pill—unless it’s not.
There are some people who can’t stand the sound. I heard a radio story last summer about a lady in the Midwest who got a call from the police late one night. Her neighbor was complaining about the loud music she was playing. “But I was asleep,” she said. “I’m not playing any music.” An hour later the cop called again, same complaint. “Come over and listen for yourself,” the lady said.
The cop arrived, and then the neighbor showed up. “I hear it!” the neighbor said. They walked
around back. A bunch of peepers were chirping merrily away in her pond. “That’s it!” the neighbor said.
“It’s just peepers,” the lady explained. “Its nature, they’re breeding.”
“You can’t stop nature,” the cop said. Case closed.
As much as you like peepers, they might keep you awake, too. Here are a few possible remedies. Close the bedroom windows. Try earplugs. And keep in mind how Louis XIV battled peeper insomnia brought on by the frogs in his ponds at Versailles—he ordered his servants to sur- round the ponds at night and beat the water with brooms to shut them up. No servants? What bet- ter reason to look forward to winter.
I like peepers, as do most pond owners I know. A woman across town was selling her house and put an ad in the local forum for someone to do a recording at her place. She wanted a record of the peepers in her pond before she left. It was the thing she would miss the most about her place.
If you're planning a pond and don't know if you like peepers or not, check out some local spring ponds to be sure that they won't drive you nuts. A pond should provide joy, not problems, espe- cially with surrounding landowners. For those areas of the world without peepers, you know not what you miss.
It’s often hard to see problems ahead.
Not all signs are as exact as this one.
Corral That Pond
Pond landscaping often involves some decorative use of stones and fencing. Recently I saw a pond where a small adjustment of stones and fencing would have prevented an unfortunate incident.
Here’s the storyline: A guest arrives for din- ner and parks his car. After dinner he bids good- night and steps outside to drive home. No car. He looks around and sees the roof of his Toyota just above water in the pond. Apparently the brake failed and the car rolled down the driveway into the pond. Luckily, no one was in the car. Ironically, the pond owner had recently installed a fence and some accent stones—on the other side of the pond.
Something similar happened to me years ago.
I parked a VW bug in my driveway, walked into the house, and heard my wife holler that the car just rolled away. Sure enough, the VW had rolled down the driveway into the pond. Luckily it was winter, and the ice supported the car.
I started up the trusty bug and backed off. Lesson learned: when parking, leave car in gear, engage handbrake, and turn wheels away from the pond. Why did I not install some stones or a fence after that incident? They would have stood
in the way of the plow truck and made clearing
snow twice as hard.
I’ve seen many ponds where the driveway passes near the pond, with parking spaces uphill
from the water. I suggest that where that’s the case, install some stones or fencing to prevent cars from rolling into the water. It doesn’t have to be a runaway car either. At night, someone unfamiliar with the driveway might veer off the road into the pond, without a barrier to stop them. In this case, adding a few reflectors wouldn’t hurt, either.
Think safety! Not only do you need to keep cars out of your pond, think about other aspects of the pond that could become a safety concern. Steep shores, slippery slopes, and boggy areas could create safety issues, not only for humans, but also for pets and wildlife.
Private Pond or Neighborhood Swimming Hole?
Ponds are wildlife magnets, and they are people magnets, too. New pond owners might be sur- prised to come home from a trip one day to find neighborhood kids swimming or fishing. How you react to that can be tricky. Say no, and you might come off as a grouch, or more understand- ably a property owner with safety concerns (not to mention liability issues). Or, possibly be un- derstood as an angler safeguarding his/her bet on bass or trout fry.
A college biology professor I know likes to ob- serve the development of frog eggs into tadpoles and then bigger amphibians, which a gang of swimmers would have cannonballed into oblivion (not to mention her water lilies and lotuses). So, pond builders, be prepared to make decisions on public visiting hours, and do it early in the pro- cess of building your pond so you are prepared to respond in the best way possible.
If you’re like most landowners, you respect oth- ers privacy, and you want them to respect yours, too. While a pond is a magnet, think about who might use it and who you want to use it and when, then make your own rules. After all, it’s your property and you must deal with the liabilities, both legal and moral.
So, these are three good things to consider. Remember—don’t do unto others, unless you want them to do unto you. Safety first, liabilities and moral issues second, and then even if the peepers keep you awake, at least you won’t be lying awake at night because you are worried about what you should have done.
Originally printed as a feature article in Pond Boss magazine January/February 2014 edition.
reprinted here February 10, 2014