Our recent Australian contributor, Ashley Thomson, homesteads a rural parcel of land tucked into the southeast corner of Tasmania. Cattle, dairy cows, chooks*, a pair of miniature horses and two scrappy, loving little dogs have at various times through the years also made their home there. When not tending to outdoor chores Thomson’s kept busy as a husband and dad, composes music and perfects his photography. No wonder he’s created a pond for a bit of reflective contemplation!
Felicity: “I’m glancing out my window. The snow has mounded half way up our bird feeder pole. The sky is a watercolor wash of pale blue and porcelain white. The evergreens are slathered in frosting and every bare tree limb is edged in white. What’s the weather like down Tasmania way?”
Ashley: “Ah, you have painted a White Christmas scene we never see Down Under! As you will be gently thawing towards Spring and new growth, we are edging out of our summer towards a cool Autumn. It is still warm and summery during the day, but the mornings have a crispness about them, a reminder that fleecy tops will soon be the order of the day.”
Felicity: “And I was picturing your garden drenched in summer-sunlight! Now that we’ve set the southern-hemisphere stage… Please tell us about your pond, and why you created one.”
Ashley: “I could write pages on this question alone, from my love of gardening to how as a child, I could wile away hours catching tadpoles from creeks in the bush.
Water, just being near it, is an integral part of my psyche. For me, a garden feels incomplete without a water feature of some sort. When we moved here from mainland Australia I had a blank palette. A pond was one of my first projects, one that has never disappointed.”
Felicity: “Just how big of a project did you embark on? What are your pond’s dimensions?”
Ashley: “It is an oval shape of sorts, seven by 12 feet with the deepest spot being about 30 inches. Hindsight is a wonderful thing! As plants encircle a pond it will always appear smaller. Time permitting, I would like to build another much larger one!”
Felicity: “Who calls your current pond home?”
Ashley: “Not just fish and plants. I welcome all critters so long as a balance is maintained. This includes lizards, insects and, spiders. Frogs sometimes visit but won’t breed in the pond. As for mosquitoes, their larvae are prized tucker* for the goldies so we have no problems in that department!
“I leave a small access point for our nocturnal native visitors such as Bennett’s wallabies, bandicoots and pottaroos; who will sometimes come in for a drink at night. My wife Cathy wasn’t very impressed with a certain snake that visited last year!”
Felicity: “Well, I was just about to ask ‘what’s the most challenging thing about maintaining a back-garden goldfish pond…’ but I think you’ve just answered my question. I’m with Cathy! But, as for maintenance…?”
Ashley: “People find this amazing, but other than dealing with some over vigorous water plants, in 12 years I have never cleaned this pond! Here is the secret! The pond is constructed quite near our home. I have a rainwater downpipe draining into one side of the pond and an overflow on the other. Simple as that! Every time it rains some water is flushed out. When rain sets in for days the pond is completely washed. I like to think of it as the fish living in a water hole which is being fed by clean water from upstream. The system simply emulates what happens in nature and let’s face it; nobody needs to “maintain” her! Having outlined this system, I would be reticent using it in an area known for acid rain.”
Felicity: “That must be gratifying, to emulate a natural system; efficient and aesthetic. As regards acid rain… that’s an important reminder to keep in mind innate challenges a particular environment poses. Which makes me wonder, no matter which hemisphere we call home, do you have any particular advice to share with those contemplating a pond?”
Ashley: “Most importantly, get the construction right the first time. Once you’ve built your pond, you should never have to concern yourself with problems of leaks or excess water (overflow). Be sure to build close enough to your home so that it can be enjoyed by all … a focal point if you like. People will naturally gravitate towards a pond. Also, make sure there is water movement of some sort, be it a gentle trickle to a full on waterfall! If the pond is in “balance” you will have little to do other than enjoy it!”
Felicity: “I’m there! Your pond sounds like a welcoming retreat. Even during a frosty Tasmanian winter… though I suspect you’re just trying to make us snow-walloped Northern Hemisphere folks feel better!”
Ashley: “You can hang a beautiful picture on a wall, and it will always be the same. For me, my pond is a beautiful picture in a state of flux. I can stand at the pond with a hot brew, take pleasure at all the subtle happenings, and simply lose myself in thought.”
And upon that image, we thank Ashley Thomson for a respite from this snowy winter. Less than a month to Spring, or rather, Autumn, or… Well, upon which ever hemisphere you abode… Happy Ponding!
“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”―Albert Camus
All photos taken by Ashley Thomson – copyright February 20, 2014. You can enjoy more of his work at:
*Chook – Australian for chicken!
*Tucker – supper!