The longest journey begins with a single step, but the longest landscaping project began with a single rock.
That rock was followed by another, bigger, rock, which in turn was followed by one bigger still. This was followed by dizziness and cursing which preceded profuse sweating and heart palpitations.
Thus began the pond project on a raw morning in late March, as winter’s grasp squeezed New England with waning strength on borrowed time.
I was pale and lethargic from a winter of beef stews and Netflix. My body drooped and my mind sagged as I looked upon the rings and piles of
rocks boulders I needed to haul into the woods before the project could begin in earnest. This was the donkey work. I brayed and got to it. This is about three quarters of the rocks I moved. There were more in the pile, but I’d since moved many of them back to the pond by the time I took these pictures.
That first day, I think I hauled only a single cart full of rocks, perhaps two, before my body and mind went on strike. Boy, was I out of shape! But over the following days, I cleared the rocks (with occasional help from Barish) from one end of the pond. When all the rocks were removed (except around the main pool where the fish live), Handan and I began cleaning. Okay, let’s be honest, Handan did most of the cleaning as I stood around looking, feeling and being useless.
We improvised a dam using bags of patio base and dish towels. I’m sure you can imagine how well it worked. Later, we upgraded to something much better. This was so we could keep the fish swimming free in their end of the pond, while we worked on the other end.
Handan cleaned the liner as best she could using dish towels and clean water sprayed by me, aka Hose Boy.
When everything was clean and dry, we started laying the Rock-on-a-Roll. This stuff comes in 8 ft sheets. It is a porous liner that resembles natural rock. It is not meant to be waterproof, but to be placed atop the pond’s liner. Over time, it will discolor like natural rock with algae, and it will allow aquatic plants to grow on its surface.
To adhere the Rock-on-a-Roll to the existing liner, we started out using pond and landscape foam.
It works well, but it takes a while to set. Also, you really don’t want to get this stuff on your skin, as it takes days for it to come off. Handan got just a little on her hands. This is how they looked after a couple of hours of washing and scrubbing.
Red, raw and a little painful for her, but the stuff was still there. Do yourself a favor and wear those long yellow dish gloves when working with this landscape foam!
We used landscape bricks to form a border around the pond. We also used them temporarily to weigh down the liner so the landscape foam could set up and harden.
Messy, but getting there!
Handan is the real workhorse of the family!
We finished laying the Rock-on-a-Roll on the one side, then started to clean the main pond where the fish lived. This was a real pain in the butt. I had to move literal tons of rock, and then we had to clean decades of accumulated muck, slime and aquatic plants. Here’s how it looked before.
Most of the usable space in that pond was filled with rock and mud and decomposing leaves. Poor fish.
Handan got busy cleaning.
As always, with a big smile.
Despite the nasty conditions.
Meanwhile in the pond…
Poor fish. Won’t someone help them?
I started to remove the grasses growing in the pond. What I thought would be a quick yank and toss turned out to be an hour-long struggle to the death for the first clump of grass. The second clump went more quickly, but tired me even more. These things grew roots around every damn rock they encountered!
We started to drain the water. The fish were still in there. Poor things. But the only way we could catch them in order to transfer them to the other side was to drain most of the water. And still they were hard to find among all the rocks and muck!
We cleaned and filled, then drained it again.
Gratuitous pet picture.
Handan, still cleaning up the muck, while I stood around with my finger in my nose. I don’t know how or why she puts up with me, but I’m so thankful she does!
Always with a smile.
Seriously, it’s like she loves being covered in smelly mud!
Once the pond was clean (and look how big it is!!), we attached some strips of pond liner around the edges. We only adhered them at the bottom, this time using a new product we found. It is so much easier to work with than the foam, because it adheres instantly. We still used foam though, just to double up on the adhesion.
We then folded these strips of liner back over the edge of the pond. Once the strips were secured at their bottoms with the tops flipped over the edge, we began to backfill them with small stones. This was to raise the sides of the pond a bit to help prevent small stones and dirt from falling in in the future.
It was exactly here, around 2:00 on a Sunday, May 12, that we decided it might be a good idea just to buy a whole new waterproof pond liner and lay it over everything before trying to apply the Rock-on-a-Roll. I hopped in the car and headed to Lowes to pick up a liner. An hour later, we had it sprawled on the lawn.
And then in the pond.
We set it in place with some water and added some big rocks that the fish could swim under for cover.
We moved the fish back and left it like this until the next weekend, then we finished putting on the Rock-on-a-Roll. I took no pictures, as it was a lot of work, and we were focused on getting it done. After it was complete, Handan put a few decorative rocks back into the pond.
And that brings us to the end of the pond itself. There are still some more rocks to place, and a few other details, but they will be shown at the end of the project. In the next post, we’ll dive into the landscaping. But first, look at how happy the fish are. They can finally swim between the big pond and the little pond!
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