Photo of the Day Wednesday, Sep 19 2012 

Taken at the outflow of Julie’s Pond last year; this year there is no flow.  The green stuff is duckweed, the bane of people with ponds around here.  It is a floating plant and can’t survive even moderately rough water with any success; but if the conditions are right it can completely blanket a still pond during the summer. If I have to choose between it and algae though, I will take the duckweed any day.

Noteworthy events Monday, Aug 27 2012 

Unless one is under a rock, the fact that most of the U.S. is in one form of drought or another can hardly escape one’s notice.  Technically this bit of Connecticut is only unusually dry, which classification it has held since sometime in the winter, with periodic hiccups into moderate drought.  I have my doubts about this, and suspect that (like the rest of the Massachusetts’ Berkshires) it is probably a moderate drought.*

This suspicion was confirmed today.  Julie’s pond may have some seepage still from the spring (but the main pond water level is now dropping fast), however the old reservoir supply is, for all practical purposes, no longer flowing.  If we were relying on the reservoir for drinking water, it would be the first time since the 1930’s that the springs have stopped. 

Maybe the scientists don’t call it a drought, but I think I will.

*For good economic reasons, drought monitoring in the Northeast is hardly as comprehensive as elsewhere: the combination of highly localized, complex watersheds and relatively minor agricultural business and ample urban water supplies makes it less necessary and prohibitively expensive.

I shouldn’t complain Tuesday, Jul 17 2012 

Compared to the Mid-west, we have plenty of water.   According to the U.S. Drought monitor, we are merely ‘dry’.  Well, I have my doubts about the accuracy of their monitoring for this region.  It isn’t, after all, a major agricultural center and the water rights for the cities are ample, well protected, and unchallenged.*  So, why should they monitor it closely.  Besides their fine print does say that it may not be accurate…

So my doubts….Stub Hollow’s brook is only barely flowing, and really only below the old Stoney Lonesome pond, which is spring fed and controlled by a dam.  Stub Hollow’s headwater marsh, which is mostly a point of surface water collection about half a mile above the pond, isn’t producing much water.  Usually, the brook has a significant year round flow, sufficient that you will have to either wade or be very agile at rock hopping, and has fish.*  The big swamp on Maple Hollow has only a center channel, mud that should be 4 to 8 inches under-water is growing grass.

Julie’s Pond, spring-fed, is holding water; but the outflow is down to essentially a seep.  As opposed to about ten gallons a minute in a normal year.

And its only mid-July…

*The various city water companies own huge swathes of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York; they are routinely overlooked property owners.

*the unbiquitous little fast moving minnows, never more than about four inches in length.  but fish nonetheless.

Pity it isn’t deeper Thursday, Jun 21 2012 

Julie’s Pond.  It used to be deep enough, a century or so ago, to swim in.  I think there are entirely too many frogs, snakes, and turtles to contemplate such action now (plus about a foot or two of muck).  But it is hot enough that even I would almost contemplate a cool swim, and it doesn’t get colder than a spring fed pond!

Peep! Tuesday, Mar 20 2012 

The peepers are going.  It is interesting to observe that the pond across the road, located in a field in full sun, starts up several days ahead of Julie’s pond, located in the woods.  The dance of temperature and light continues.

It is nice to hear the frogs though.  Now if we could just get the algae back under control in the pond.  Actually, it doesn’t appear to be growing denser at the moment, despite the temperatures, which suggests that the bio-balls may be able to bring it back under control.  Basically, they are basketball sized balls containing the bacteria* which naturally keeps algae in check, which is then spread on a time-release over several weeks.  We had to use them last year as well, and they did work.  Hopefully, in a few years the pond will restabilize…unless of course the vineyard’s** run-off does get into it.  We don’t think it does, but water does such odd things.  However, the nutrient load is probably still coming from the pond itself, since it is less than 18 months from when we rebuilt the dam and reflooded  a large area, which is not a terribly long time.  There is no option but to be patient with it though, even if it wasn’t located in a public water-supply watershed, I have no intention of dumping an algae-cide into it.  Somehow, even putting a targeted poison into a water-source strikes me as bad karma.

*That the bacteria doesn’t easily colonize a pond, despite adequate food, is a good illustration of how delicate bacteria can be, apocalyptic sci-fi not withstanding.

**Vineyards are about as un-green as you can get in commercial agriculture, right up there with any other intensive, finicky crop.  They pretty much have to be too if the farmer wants a reliable annual crop and a wine with the essentially the same profile every year.

Random photo Thursday, Jan 19 2012 

Sunset at the pond.  One of the things that is so intriguing about the pond is how it is set: the drop to the south-west is so great that it almost hangs on the edge of the hill.  The location was chosen for the consistent spring, running at about 5-10 gallons a minute for at least the last 140 years; but the hill is also important, by building the dam up, so that the spring is at the highest original elevation and enters the pond at the original ground elevation, (the spring is in the far NE corner) rather than digging the pond down, you get a much greater sky/water effect with far less earth in the view.  Had they built the pond primarily east and south of the spring, the effect would have been lost because the hill’s slope would not have been turned into a vertical drop and so there would have been hill in the foreground.  This way there is water, a thin strip of land, then a distant hill and the sky.  It must have been quite startling before the forest returned.

Mouse Ice Tuesday, Dec 13 2011 

Ice on one of the little ponds.

Ice on the main pond, the spring is in the center right of the photo and is not yet collecting ice.  Not that the ice is exactly thick! Hence the name, though that may also come from the way the ice forms whiskers and patterns. I don’t know if one could ever skate on the pond, it only appears to have the one spring in the corner; however, it wouldn’t be much fun to go through the ice: three feet is quite deep enough. The animals are willing to walk across it in the winter, but a fox is lighter than a man…

On the face of the waters Friday, Dec 9 2011 

We are accustomed to storm water; that water filled with sediments, road dirt or other material running loudly down a ditch or brook, capped with white. In New England the natural storm water runoff wouldn’t carry much sediment due to the nearly complete tree cover, but even an undisturbed forest watershed will have large amounts of debris, or tannin, colouring the water after a storm.  The rain the other day was no exception.  The ditch by the lane was steadily increasing in turbidity on its way down, with a massive jump in sediment levels below an area of washing on the dirt road.

It was, therefore, a slight surprise to turn away from the stream to look at the pond.  There was no wind and there is never a visible current in the pond, though a leaf will make a slow circuit.  And so, in the rain at dusk, the pond was a slate gray mimic of the sky.  A rain shadow could be seen, smooth water beneath the tree branches which were catching water; but over most of the pond the raindrops made the surface opaque and apparently rough.  From some places the water appeared to be dark, broken and then refrozen ice and from others it looked more like stone, if you had stone that flat.  Water in such a setting can be a little spooky, the usual clues that say ‘water’ are movement, reflections, sediment.  Frequently, the pond is sufficiently clear that its depth (which isn’t much) is uncertain, but on those days the reflection of the trees and the color of the water helps tell the eye that it is looking at a body of water.  Wind ripples do the same.  But to see a grey, featureless surface, with no wind ripples and no reflection of trees, nor any ability to see down into the water, that was distinctly different.  It really did give the impression of a hole in the earth that was filled with the storm.

One Man’s Vision Saturday, Nov 26 2011 

or why we spent the day dropping a sixty foot ash into the pond and then hauling it back out, a task made somewhat fraught by its attempt to swing over into a key laurel bush, jam on the bank, and otherwise hang up.

Why did we take the ash out?  Well, for one it was rooted in the stone wall of the bank; two that it was shading a perfectly lovely black oak; and three…it looked bad.  While the two, much larger, trees (a black cherry and a maple) stood back from the curve of the bank; and the black birch leans far out over the water in a graceful manner; the ash was a perfectly straight pole that broke the curve and stood too close to the cherry disrupting the picture.  It also had a bad top and was thoroughly surplus.  That the long term aim is also for the area to be oak/hickory with a laurel/ilex understory also factored in happily.

Some landscapes aren’t managed by man, parts of the North American north for example, though there a sense of pathos is often created in a piece of artwork (as opposed to the actual experience of being there, when it tends to be an unwanted intrusion) by the careful placement of a man-made structure in the foreground.  Connecticut, however, is much like Europe or Great Britain…man shapes and reshapes the landscape.  Current thought is that even before the colonists, the Native Americans extensively managed the area through the use of fire and hunting patterns. 

Landscape design often deliberately attempts to create something that looks natural, even when it isn’t.  Or that emphasizes certain natural elements and uses man-made elements to draw the eye.  To do this well is fiendishly difficult.  The pond on a lesser scale reflects the same sort of picturesque, shaped landscape that was a signature feature of the movement in the nineteenth century that was best realized in North America under Olmsted’s creations of Central Park, the Boston Fens, Mont-Royal in Montreal and other places.  That it happens that such places can be ecologically as well as aesthetically pleasing makes it even better.  The pond has played host to several groups of migrating wood ducks, teals and mallards, as well as the ever present wood-peckers, the innumberable amphibians, turkeys, deer and many others.  It has healthy , if small, populations of partridge berry, pippiwessa, ilex, laurel, highbush blueberry, three or four fern types, and hopefully will have trilliums, Indian cucumber, native sweet flag and cardinal flower.  By taking the ash out, the dominate feature of that bank (oak/hickory) will hopefully be given emphasis…it is what would primarily occur there anyway, but without any distractions.  The trick is figuring out what counts as a distraction and what is integral, either ecologically or aesthetically.

On the water’s edge Saturday, Nov 12 2011 

Julie’s pond a few days ago.  Bit of a difference from exactly a year ago!  The repaired dam is that far edge. 

One of the smaller ponds.

walking down to the pond, the bridge over the outlet is just ahead of the person on the path.

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