にしきごい … Empathy, Nishikigoi, and the Garden Pond

I said nothing.
And hung up the telephone.

Having purchased the house in September of 2009,
my wife and I ventured out during a sub-zero ‘cold snap’
one December morning,
to plan where to begin the work that would be needed
to rejuvenate its somewhat neglected garden.

Arriving at the far end of a raised portion of ground,
I paused and bent down to tug at the protruding end
of an old, partially buried … kitchen sink.

What I saw made me miss a breath.

There, in a corner, in the equivalent of about
two cups of water … were two goldfish
almost encased – solid – in ice.

I was deeply distressed by the sight;
disgusted that two fish had been
overlooked and forgotten;
and tried not to think of them dying like that.

Giving the ice a sharp tap in attempt to, at least,
remove and bury the fish properly,
I was shocked – when the block came loose,
to see ice water flow from beneath,
… and one of the fish move.

Trying not to actually drop the ice in my
what-can-only- be-described-as ‘controlled panic’,
I rushed inside the house and immediately
began filling a bucket with cold (ignoring the
overwhelming desire to want to warm the fish) water.

Adding a generous amount of chlorine neutralizing
drops, I returned to that disgusting, discarded sink
beneath the tree.

Placing ice and fish in the bucket,
I brought them indoors; sat cradling one in each hand,
and could not believe it when both
began to move and swim feebly on their own.

Genuinely upset, I found the house sale papers,
turned to one section in particular,
picked up the telephone
and called the woman whose house we had bought,
to tell her of my ‘find’, and that
her overlooked fish were alright.

“Oh,” she replied … “they’re still there?”
“We just let the fish freeze every winter,
and buy new ones in the spring.”

I was livid.
Said nothing.
Felt the silence.
Ignored her ‘Hello? Hello?”
And hung up the telephone.

They feel the cold,
they feel frightened,
they feel pain,
and they play when they are happy.

They are fish.
And, like any animal, they deserve the care
of any human being
who has them in their garden.

Nothing is as loathsome to me as Apathy –

the type of vicious, obscenity-spewing savages
that are lauded as “ real men” today
are brute beasts who openly reveal themselves
as such to anyone of maturity.

But self-centred ingrates who “use”,
and “enjoy”, or in any way ‘benefit from’
a person’s work, efforts, or good will;
or the loyalty or affection of an animal,
and yet refuse to go ‘out of their way’
to lift a finger in gratitude,

are the most repulsive of creatures:
characterless hypocrites who know to do good,
but CHOOSE to do nothing.

No one who has visited this site
and read its contents, will imagine
that I have any admiration for the Internet.

It is the greatest method (the television alone
excepted) ever invented by man to promote
Ignorance, Confusion, Conflict, and Cruelty
amongst human society.

It is the theatre for every form of narcissism;
the soap-box for every quick-buck con man;
and the podium for propagating infantilism,
arrogance and inexperience.

It is a labyrinth of nonsense
promulgated by those who are out to
to ‘impress’, amass ‘followers’, or sell
a personal agenda or business product.

Occasional truth … comes after wading
through a cesspool of fantasy, vanity,
malignity, and outright malice.

Common Sense, Empathy, and a
Compassionate heart, will do far more
for that one person endued with discretion,
than the massed hordes of Internet ‘experts’
combined.

By proposing a few thoughts from experience,
I hope to encourage one person
who would like to give and receive
the mutual enjoyment that comes from
caring for a garden pond.

Having moved here last November,
we found in the garden,
an unreasonably enormous deck,
completely covered by a double-walled,
hard translucent plastic roof.

It was an unnecessarily luxurious affair
which just happened to come with the house.

As we would never use the thing, it was obvious that
it would be the perfect location for a free-standing
pool which would give the fish a much larger home

– and one which would be constantly protected from
cold rain (and the occasional snow fall) in the winter
… as well as the heat of a blazing sun, in the summer.

The roof covering the whole deck would mean that
there would not be even the possibility of threat
from leaves, flowers, or seeds
that might fall from the trees overhead.

BUILDING a Home …

The first stop was to a specialist lumber yard
for the purchase of fifteen, 4x6x10’
heavy ‘landscape’ ties.

After doing our best to be assured that the deck
was solid enough to support the weight,
– (a pocket camera was held underneath,
and photos taken with flash specifically
to see what was holding the deck boards up) –

we began the process of building the shell …

a layer of rigid plastic sheeting
was placed on the deck itself
to ‘pad’ the pond liner …

Special attention – and excessive time –
is always spent ensuring the liner
fits snuggly into the corners;

and that folds are made with meticulous care
to make them as minimal, and smooth, as possible.

THE PUMP and POND FILTER

Now, a little word about all those remedies
and promises that will (I am sure) be found
on the Internet, on the subject of garden ponds,
algae, and ‘green water’ …

Yes, barley straw and ‘oxygenating’ plants are fine
IF you have a large, natural pond. The ‘field pond’
in our previous home filtered itself quite nicely –

there are, after all, country homes in Britain
and Europe, that use reed beds on boggy ground
as a sewage treatment centres
– and they do wonderfully well.

BUT once you move to smaller ponds,
the number of fish, resultant biological wastes,
sunlight, algae spores, and falling vegetation
all affect the confined environment
of smaller ponds.

Please take up my suggestion to INVEST
in a proper, quality filter
that will clean the water, neutralise the algae,
and remove waste from the pond itself.

Do Not frustrate yourself with the ‘advice’
promises, and do-it-yourself gizmos that
might work for one person in one specific location,

but will end up wasting your time, money,
and best intentions,
in a very short space of time indeed.

The Air Pump is thoroughly cleaned,
and all parts checked for signs of wear …

When considering airline hose,
the spiral ribbing is touted as being
much more resistant to crushing.

This it may well be, however, one must ask
quite Why anyone should be careless enough
to be crushing the hose in the first place.

( Those ‘valleys’ between the ridges
are a wonderful home for algae
– which can Not be readily removed
by washing alone …

here, the ‘clean patches’
are where the sponge has removed algae;
the remainder provides some indication
of the difficulty in
getting in between the ridges. )

I have never, in over 50 years of caring for fish,
found any difficulty or disappointment with using
a quality, smooth hose …

The POND FILTER

The filter here is a very ‘standard’ one
that is made for ponds up to 2,000 gallons;
it will provide a clean, happy environment
for both fish and you.

Clean and check the filter unit –

examine the O-ring in the top channel …

clean and set the biological filter bags in place …

clean and insert the actual filter …

secure the lid in place and connect
the ‘input’ line from the pond pump,
and the ‘outflow’ line, which flows into the pond …

( The third outlet is used when cleaning the filter
– a hose is connected, and green algae-rich
fish-fertiliser-soaked water can be pumped
onto the garden beds. )

FILLING the POND

Once both filter and pump are again cleaned out
and rinsed thoroughly,
Water is added to stretch the liner …


With the pond filling always ENSURE that crucial
de-chlorinating liquid has been ADDED
to the household water supply.

Once the pond has been filled,
test the pump and filter unit …

This is the time to scrutinise the edges
of the ‘natural’ pond: checking for leaks
from water that is flowing backward
and escaping through some area of
liner whose fold lies below the water-line.

With the water flow started, THIS
is where the relaxing frustration begins —
arranging, and rearranging the rocks:

In a “Natural” appearing pond,
this means making what appears to be a natural ‘fall’
or distribution of rocks around the pond itself.

In a Formal Pool, it means selecting rocks and plants
amidst which, the fish may play and hide
– and generally not appear to be in a quarantine tank.

After the essential de-chlorinating solution,
the waterfall reservoir is tested.

I follow the precaution of adding a final
deterrent to particles of muck getting through the filter
and being returned to the pond –

here, a piece of filter material is simply
slotted into place immediately before
the waterfall return:

Note the colour of the white filter barrier
just below the waterline … the results,
after three weeks, are self evident …

Plants having been added to give the fish
a ‘feel of their old home,
they are gently caught and placed in a large bag
to float in the new pool for a few hours
until the temperature in bag and pool are the same.

The whole project today has taken 10 hours,
and we are quite exhausted from our labours.

As cedar boards can be added later
to hide the exposed liner and act as a ‘top rail’
without any disturbance to the fish;

and additional stones placed gently, at leisure,
to provide a more ‘natural’ environment
in which the fish can play, and hide,
and generally feel secure …

not wishing to subject them to
an unnecessary stay in a container overnight,
the fish are gently introduced into their new home …

A Week later, with completed Cedar Rail …

If you are tender-hearted, patient, and compassionate
enough to want to give an animal a home,
simply remember that they fear the same fear, pain,
misery and contentedness as you … and treat them
with the empathy, care, and attention to detail
that you would like to have others afford you.

Even a fish will respond to care, and
the joy of seeing them swim towards you
at “tea-time” to feed from your hand
is truly, a wonderful thing.

P Livingstone
philiplivingstone.org

 

Author: Mr Livingstone

ひとりげいこ ... かなしみをまぎらす

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