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Robyn's Pond Blog for February 2010

Last Updated: 3/1/10

1. There was 4.5 inches of snow on the ground the morning of 2/3/10.

2. That was nothing. From 2/5/10 around noon to 2/6/10 around 6 pm, we got 27 to 28 inches of snow! They say it is the fourth largest snowfall on record with the February 2003 storm being the largest. Well, I looked at my March 2003 newsletter which discusses that storm in detail, and that storm was about 21 inches according to my measurements at the time. There was a foot storm a few days later so we did have about 3 feet in some places. Today, 2/6/10, around 9 am, I measured 20 to 35" at various locations in the yard with an average of 25". By 4:30 pm, it was an average of 27 to 28 inches deep with drifts over three feet. Luckily, we have not yet lost power even though it did flicker. There are some pine branches down but only one on the neighborhood road that is too large for a strong man to move. A plow may be able to move it. We are at the mercy of the neighbors who have equipment to get the neighborhood road open. If they will not help with our 1500 foot or so driveway, then we are going to have to hire someone to dig us out. My father has a riding mower and plow but only got about 20 feet before the walls of snow are too high to get through. Even with a few hours of hand digging, he has only got the hood of my car cleared. I took photos which I will develop later.

Since it was Saturday, I did my usual Saturday chores save going to the grocery store which we did Thursday night. Outside, I put on my pond hip waders and pond gloves. I went out to the chickens and dug out their door to get in and feed and water them. I had the forethought to fill all the bird feeders Friday afternoon and bring in the two outdoor rabbits so they were taken care of much more easily. I hip waded to clear out the electric box, two heat pumps, two pond outlets, pond aerator for the 153 gallon (to let in air), and my lighted penguin by the 1800 gallon outlet (he was completely buried, no light getting through). I also walked to the mail box and a little down the road, shaking off low and stuck branches as I went. Both the 1800 and 153 gallon ponds had openings in them with liquid water aplenty. I even saw Kojak in the big pond. The ponds are both like pits in a mountain of snow. Photos really do not show at all what it is like. We are expecting another 6 to 12 inches of snow on Tuesday. I used up all my vacation and need to get to work. I am not sure when that will happen!

3. On 2/7/10, I could not do any pond chores aside from taking photos and making sure things were running as they should. I cannot reach the thermometers. So far, the ponds are holding their volume. The 1800 gallon pond pumped out 75% with the 12/19/09 storm but not this time which is a good thing because there is no way I could get the snow off it this time! A neighbor with a front end loaded dug out our road but the road at work was not passable for me to go to work Monday.

I do not know when I will have time to link in all the blizzard photos including ones with the pond but they are at http://www.fishpondinfo.com/photos/other/blizzard2010/ in that directory.

4. Well that last storm was nothing! From about 3 PM on 2/9/10 to 10 PM on 2/10/10, we got another two feet of snow. I could never get an exact measurement because it was a blizzard. Depths range from two feet in blown out spots to over five feet in open areas and some 10 feet in the snow piles from the front end loader. I cleared off my car and the path to the chicken pen four times during 2/10/10. The edges of that path range from waist to neck high.

5. When I went outside 2/11/10 to the ponds, it was surreal. A foot of drift covered in the chicken path so I dug that back out. I cleared off the back porch and found mouse tracks of all things. Putting on my hip waders, I went back out to the ponds. First, the 1800 gallon. I had to hand dig a few inches up to a foot just to walk forward with snow beneath my hip waders. It had drifted badly. I finally got up to where I could see the waterfall, or rather where the waterfall should have been. For the first time EVER, the entire horizontal portion of the big waterfall was not visible, covered over by snow drift. Even when it was -10 degrees F, that stayed open. I could hear the water falling and see ripples in the water below. There is a few square feet of open water. I saw a goldfish. The water level is okay so I am leaving the waterfall on. I dug out the poor lighted penguin who may not survive for another season due to squishing injuries. I dug out that pond outlet. It is absolutely incredible how deep in it is, four feet under.

Walking over to the 153 gallon was even more challenging as the drifts there are five feet. Luckily, I was actually walking a few feet off the ground as the earlier walking compacted it down but, on occasion, I slipped in to my waist. I made it to the pond, and I think for the second time ever (the other time also being a much more shallow blizzard), the pond was not visible. I broke through a snow roof to the open cave of the pond below, a two foot drop through snow in to a snow cave. I said, "Hello, in there!" and it echoed. The water is open down there. It was hard to find the aerator but I dug it out, and the bubbles increased as the pond got more air. I gave up on the outlet there. The snow is about 5 feet there, and it flies back in my face and back on the aerator as I try to dig it out with my pond gloves like a dog digging for a bone. I am exhausted! At least I don't have to go to work, in fact I can't. Our road is only about four feet wide for 1500 feet! Dad's out there digging and plowing and getting stuck. As long as there's electricity, I would just say give up!

6. Around 3 PM on 2/11/10, I went out and used a bird seed scoop to try to lower the depth of the snow down my paths to the ponds. At the big pond, I saw a fish on his/her side in the open area, apparently dead. The water was rippling but it looked like Mac which broke my heart. When I checked again after going to the other pond, the fish was gone so it was not dead but clearly not doing well. The pond conditions are deteriorating. I took more photos which I will develop at some point.

7. I was ready to go back to work on 2/12/10 but the day started off badly. First, the little mouse who had left footprints on the porch was left dismembered by the door by GK (the former stray cat who refuses to use a litter pan and who is an adept killer despite having been declawed by the people who previously were supposed to have been taking care of her). Then, one of my worst pond nightmares came true. I looked out at the penguin in the dark - no light. I shined out the flashlight. Yep, I could see the penguin and no light. I checked the breaker box - no tripped breakers. I went out and hip waded out to find out that the switch there was off. How? Well a few days earlier, I accidently stepped on it and turned it off but noticed right away and was super careful after that to always look back as I walked away from the outlet to see that the penguin was on. I can't imagine that I would have not done that. It's possible that an animal hit it but doesn't seem likely. I must have unknowingly been the pond's instrument of death. The pond was totally sealed in with no openings. What to do?

Stupidly, I turned on the switch and after a while, no waterfall movement was heard. There's too much ice and snow for the water to come down. I started to scoop snow off the green storage container lid that covers the top of the biofilter at the top of the waterfall. After 20 minutes, I only uncovered 10% so I gave up. I went inside and found a spare de-icer, an extension cord, and this neato waterproof connector I just knew I had to have and now really needed. I hooked the cords together. Out at the pond, I flung the de-icer out to where the waterfall used to splash in to the pond. It broke the ice which was very good. I couldn't get it upright but plugged it in. I then decided to set up my spare Luft pump. I don't have a little house for it though. I normally have 25 or more uncut feet of airline tubing with my supplies. Now that I needed it, there was no long pieces! I used connectors to connect five sections of airline tubing to an old rotten air stone. Boy, I need some new supplies for the next disaster. I put lead weights around the top of the air stone and flung it to the open water. Voila! Air to the dying fish. I also reflung the de-icer and got it in the right position. The airline tubing and electrical cord run on top of four feet of snow and about 15 feet out from the outlet. I can't close the outlet's cover due to the width and stiffness of the two new plugs and the lack of movement for my arms (only a few inches are dug out on each side of the outlet). I put a white trash bag over the outlet, as if that might save the air pump and electrical plugs and outlet from short circuiting when the next snow comes through in a few days. I thought I was helping the pond by keeping the penguin and outlet clear for emergencies. Ironically, if I had left them alone, the power would never have been turned off, and the waterfall would have happily been chugging away. This is the first time in the pond's almost 13 years that the waterfall is not running when we have power. Now, I have to start digging when I have time and/or wait for four feet of snow to melt and the ice to melt enough to get the waterfall going again. Maybe by March! The snow is too deep to hose it off. I only hope that someone is still alive when the waterfall gets going again. I know the dormant good bacteria are now dying as the filter should have drained when the pump went off leaving the bacteria (and probably a few frogs in there) high and dry and frozen. If my animals are dying down there, I can never forgive myself.

8. I am putting up the blizzard photos and videos on this page.

Here are photos from the measly 5.5 inch snowfall on 1/31/10:

153 gallon pond - facing west.
Pond - facing south, standing at the top of the falls.
Pond - looking at the open area at the base of the falls, standing near the stream.
Pond - facing south; the pond is netted.
Pond - waterfall; Maggie (koi) can be seen in the opening.
Koi - three of my four koi were visible; Colin at the top, then orange Maggie and little Kojak at the bottom.
Koi - Maggie at the top, Colin to the left, and Kojak at the bottom.
Pond - facing north towards the waterfall.
Pond - facing northwest towards the waterfall.

9. When I got home on 2/12/10, I cleared the snow off the green Rubbermaid lid. I looked inside. There was no water which is they way it should be when the pump is off (I have no check valve). There is so much snow on the waterfall, I did not trust that the water would go where it was supposed to so I haven't tried to turn it back on. The de-icer and aerator are keeping a hole in the ice. I have seen a live fish now and again but also some that looked bad. I have failed.

10. On 2/14/10, I obviously could not check the thermometers, top off the ponds, clean the filters, etc. as the ponds are under three feet of snow. I did do some more digging. I finally dug out the 153 gallon pond's outlet and some snow around the opening to that pond. I dug some snow around the 1800 gallon pond's outlet so I had more room to maneuver. I dug out where the water comes out of the biofilter. I then turned on the pump, the filter filled up, and the water ran out the waterfall. I watched it for 10 minutes, and it seemed okay. Yet, there is no way I can trust that, somewhere under the snow, there might not be a diversion of water, however small, that could pump water out of the pond. I could see the main waterfall drizzling in (not very strong though) but couldn't see where the stream was coming in, if at all. I couldn't risk running the falls so I turned them back off. The air stone and de-icer are keeping a hole in the pond and hopefully are enough to keep the fish alive for the few weeks it will take for the snow to melt. I then hip waded over to where the stream is and dug down. I found a cave! The moving water had kept open a cave under the snow which was still there. I probably should have left it alone because now snow, water, etc. can get in there and block it for when I might turn the falls back on. That may be a long time! We are due for a few inches of snow tonight and then temperatures in the 30's degrees F for highs all week which may melt some but not enough for me to get my pond going anytime soon.

11. On 2/17/10, my father started to dig a path to the rabbit hutch, about 500 feet from the house. The rabbits had been inside in small cages since 2/5/10 before the first blizzard, 12 days. The next morning, I measured the depth of the snow down this virgin path (clean area with no plowing, drifting, or walking by human or deer). It was 18 to 21 inches in various spots. That's still quite a bit of depth but it's more than half melted down. I can hip wade to check on the ponds and fill bird feeders but I can't balance food bowls full of water that way which is why I needed a path to put the boys back out.

12. The morning of 2/19/10, not only did I see the white goldfish on its side (turns out it was not my koi Mac) but there is an upside down big frog down there. Live frogs don't hibernate upside down so its dead. I sure hope that the waterfall being off isn't at fault. The snow is melting but it's taking its time!

13. On 2/21/10, all I could do was record the temperature of the 153 gallon pond at a toasty 46 degrees F. The snow is down to a foot deep in places but the pond is still encased in snow and ice except for half the surface which is liquid and out of my reach.

14. I posted all the remaining photos and videos from the blizzards on this page.

15. I was going to wait until Sunday to try to get the waterfall going but I was ahead half an hour on Saturday so I decided to do it at 2 PM today, 2/27/10. My idea was to connect four hoses from the laundry room faucet out the window, down the length of the house, and around to the pond. Then, I could squirt the falls with hot water. I had trouble getting any pressure at first due to kinks, leaks, and the venturi on the faucet but finally got some water squirting out. There is about a foot of snow still on the falls but it is really more like ice. You have to chisel it; you can't shovel or push it. I can walk on top of the ice snow which makes moving around the property much easier than sinking in. The hot water made very slow work of the ice snow so I changed my plan. I used the hot water to create a one inch wide melted area along the edges of where the water ever runs when the waterfall is on. That way, the snow/ice can't wick the water up and out of the lined area. Liquid water will always go down with gravity without a wick so the water should be okay. I plugged the pump and de-icer in the biofilter back in. I accidently plugged the de-icer in to the plug that I thought was dead and smoke came out. Now, that outlet works with the penguin but I won't use it (too dangerous). I will try to get my father to put in a new outlet but it may not happen. I tied up the plugs for the other de-icer and aerator in a plastic bag and left them in the pond just in case.

I checked the pond multiple times today and will check again right before I go to bed to be sure no water depth is being lost. About 80% of the pond's surface is melted out but 100% of the pond's net is frozen in by the foot-deep ice snow around the pond. There is a well rotted goldfish in the shallows. If the net weren't there, I could net him out but I can't due to the darn net. There is another dead goldfish in the deep end that I may be able to reach with the long net tomorrow. I don't think I can reach the dead frog in there either. I saw one goldfish gasp at the surface (really a running air gulp) after the falls were back on because it was a little foamy from the organics coming out. Hopefully, it won't be a big deal. Ideally, the filter would have been cleaned before turning it back on but it's impossible. I did add some BZT Aquaculture for the first time in over a month. Spring, where fort art thou? I still have 30 daffodils bulbs I never got to plant!

16. On 2/28/10, I was finally able to get a little pond work done. The 153 gallon pond was at 48 degrees F, and the 1800 gallon's thermometer was still frozen in (not in the water but at the edge). I removed the unplugged spare de-icer, Luft pump, and air stone as the waterfall seems fine. Almost all of the pond's surface was melted out but I could not get in to the pond because of the net being frozen in to the snow. I did some snow depth measurements with the yard stick, and here are some readings: snow over the waterfall area = 4 to 7 inches; snow down the path off the back porch (not piled up) = 11 inches, snow at the edge of the pond covering the net so I can't get in = 11 to 13 inches, and snow off the back porch (piled up) = 17 inches. This "snow" is extremely dense and heavy. It really can no longer be shoveled or moved by hand.

At the 153 gallon pond, I picked up a knocked over water iris pot thanks to the raccoons. At the 1800 gallon pond, I used a paper towel to pick up a huge pile of excrement from the raccoons. Thanks guys! I put about 4 pounds of pond salt on the snow on the waterfall and around the edge of the pond. The salt will help melt the snow and also raise the salinity of the pond slowly as it gets melted/rinsed in to the pond. I added a half dose of KoiZyme to the big pond and a bag of ChemiPur (just because I had some that I got free, and the water was foamy) to the filter. I removed two winter victims that I could reach. First was a dead pickerel frog, about 2.5" in the body and about 5" total in length. Then, I removed a rare goldfish. The 7" goldfish was a tancho. He/she was entirely white except for red around the eyes and a large red spot on the back of the neck. Both animals had been dead for weeks but I could not get to them. Another goldfish, about 5" remains long dead in the shallows, out of reach due to the net there. I count three orfe so that large one that was dying seems to be missing. And, yet the pond is thawed, and I should be able to see all over. Perhaps he went in to one of the bottom hiding places. I won't know until I can get in the water which has to wait for a foot of hard snow to melt. I see my three largest koi but haven't seen Mac, the baby.

Continue to the March 2010 pond blog.

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