Spring Projects

Every spring, I take on a significant landscaping or outdoor

project. After months of seemingly endless darkness, I crave working outside. Finally, the days have become long enough to get something done. Today, I installed the liner in my frog pond.

It was so satisfying to turn the hose on and watch the water rise while I tended to the edges and planted wild rice in the shallows. I hope the rice will give me a dinner some day, as well as provide a place for the frogs to breed.

On the south bank of the pond, I am piling rock in a loose heap. The stones will absorb the morning sun and give the snakes a safe place to warm themselves.

As the pond filled to the brim, water spilled over a low in the rock wall exactly where planned. My yard is an irregular hill of solid rock. Last spring I built a thirty foot rock terrace with plans for this pond and a garden beside.

Three years back, I dug the bottom pond into which the waterfall flows. All last summer, water cascaded as if from a fantom spring, but in reality was pumped through a hose I had buried for this purpose. In its flowing water, the Anna’s Hummingbird regularly bathes.

The birds love my yard. The walls of my house shelter the yard from cold winter winds. The edge is fringed with wild roses and native bushes. Several rhododendrons are thriving under the branches of a cedar. From my living room window, I am counting ten species of birds at this very moment while writing this article.

The flock of Junkos that winters in my yard has grown to over a dozen, and there are at least that many Bushtits in the flock, picking bugs from the tips of the cedar branches. Song Sparrows and Fox Sparrows, there is a pair of each – although I can never remember which is which. There is a Wren, with its thin curved beak, thoroughly inspecting the crevices between the rocks for spiders and other insects. A Varied Thrush, which is about the size of a robin, picks through the shadows of the rhododendrons where the Towees are busy scratching the ground. Chickadees and Nuthatches are zipping to and from the feeder while the Anna’s Hummingbird sips nearby.

I am trying to maximize habitat, but I am also building for food. My next project this spring will be a series of raised box gardens on the hill above the pond. There should be enough sunlight up there to grow some good winter greens. Of course, I will have to cover the boxes with a wire dome roof to keep out the deer, and in the winter this will also serve to support the poly that will extend my growing season. If I plan things correctly, I will be picking kale, spinach and chard this time next year.

This has been a learning experience for me. In my naivete, I built a greenhouse in the shade because that was the only space it would fit. I was hoping the glass (from changing the windows in my house) would concentrate the few hours of sun it does get… unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Hopefully, with a few modifications, my greenhouse will make a better chicken coop. I think that will be my project next year.

Chris Semrick, B.Sc, RRT, CRE is a Registered Respiratory Therapist, Certified Respiratory Educator and a Smoking Cessation Counselor.