Saturday, April 6, 2013

Spring has Sprung and the Goldfish survived. . .

I've been a slug about my blog, again, but nothing much happens around here in the winter time.  We're starting to gear up for some spring and summer fun, though, so I thought I'd better dust off the blog and get busy again.  Things are finally starting to heat up, here in central IL.  My bulbs and perennials are starting to come up  a few early flowers are starting to bloom and my pond has finally thawed out.  The pond was very fun to watch this winter, as it's the first year I've had "gold fish" in it.  I knew I was taking a chance of whether they would survive the winter or not (after all, here in Central IL, water freezes in the winter) but I had heard, most of my life, stories of gold fish being able to survive, so we took the chance.

But, to start at the beginning, this is what the pond looked like when it was first built in the summer of 2011 by my wonderful son N.This is part of my perennial garden in front of the walkway to my front door.  It has one waterlily and some other unknown water pond plants.  The large fake waterlily in the center is a fountain to circulate and aerate the water.
The reason this pond was built in the first place was due to a disturbance we had one evening at our house.  Our living room has a large bow window with a large enough area that the grandchildren often build, display, and play with their lego creations on/in it.  
One evening while playing in the window area, one of the grand daughters, L, started to scream and I mean she was SCARED screaming that there was a monster in the window.  Of course, her Daddy, N, and I went rushing over to see what on earth she was talking about, we looked out the window (which has lots of bushes in front of it so no"body" could get close to it) and didn't see anything, but she kept crying and insisting it was still there.  We finally insisted she get close enough to it to show us WHERE this monster was, and there, at the base of the window was this horrific monster:  a "teeny tiny" little tree frog, not even 2" long.  Here is a picture of him/her through the double paned window, so excuse the poor photo, but it was the best I could do.
Now, looking at this picture, ENLARGED, I can see why she thought it was a monster, LOL, but at the time, we just laughed and reassured her it was just a little tree frog and told her all about frogs and toads, showing pictures, etc.  Until that night, I didn't know that tree frogs even lived in IL, let alone that we would have one near our home (we have no natural source of water anywhere near us).
We've always had lots of toads around and I've rescued my fair share of toad eggs and tadpoles from large puddles etc.  So, being the "kooky" person I am, I decided we had to have a pond for the poor creature.  Poor Mr. C, as usual just rolled his eyes and helped me figure out what I needed, as long as N and I did the work, Mr. C didn't care.  So, we got the materials we needed the next day and poor N went to work (I supervised, as usual, LOL).  He dug and dug and dug, until he got it roughed out the same size and shape of the preformed pond liner we had chosen.  He then put it in place, filled in around it to keep it in place and placed large special rocks, petrified stone, amethyst crystal rocks, etc. (all from my paternal grandparents many years of rock hounding around the country that we had "borrowed" from my Dad's house where he had moved them following the death of my grandparents).  Then we planted some new perennial flowers around it and put some pond plants in it and waited, in hopes our "monster friend" would find it.  Doesn't it look nice?
Apparently Mr/Ms Tree Frog, as well as resident toads, liked it because we had TONS of adult toads doing things that of course, had to be explained to curious little grand daughters, LOLOL and subsequently tons of toad eggs and tadpoles and baby toads.  We never saw the tree frogs IN the pond and never saw if they had young or not, but we learned the songs/sounds frogs and toads make and the older of the two grand daughters, E, learned to mimic the sound of the toads, which is a VERY shrill trilling.  The tree frogs have a different sound and tempo to their song.

We knew they were still around and there were more of them the next year, summer of 2012, as we saw them around the house and heard them on all sides of the house.  They enjoyed hiding behind our decorative shutters, it became a game to try to spot them.
In the summer of 2012, all the grand children were visiting and decided we needed to have fish in our pond.  Yes, I know that may limit the frog/toad population, as the fish will probably eat the eggs and tadpoles, but. . . we went out and got some very inexpensive feeder goldfish (not sure they would even live in our "wild" little pond and actually figuring they would be gone by the next spring and not affect the toad/frog population at all, LOL).
When we got these gold fish, they were 1 to 1 1/2" long and pretty colors so they could show up in our unfiltered pond.  Fast forward to the winter (actually spring) of 2013.  It was a cold winter and the pond was solid ice most of the winter.  It was interesting, though, we could still see the fish (now 3-4" long) still swimming around, even UNDER  the ice (and I mean solid ice, several inches thick).  The other three grands; A, K, and J, were living with us this winter and often checked on the gold fish they had helped place in the pond the year before.  When we would have enough of a thaw that there was a hole in the ice, they would throw some gold fish food into the pond for the poor fish to eat.  I thought I took some pictures,but apparently I didn't, because I can't find any, anywhere.  We had hardly any snow during the winter of 2013, until March 24 (notice, AFTER Spring officially started :-(  )  The pond is in the left center with the solar lights around it.  As you can see, it is covered with snow, which means it had to be almost solid ice to have the snow lying on top of it.
This past week has finally been getting a bit warmer and more spring like with temps in the 50s during the day.  The pond has completely thawed out, yesterday I noticed my crocus(es) are blooming and my other bulbs (planted last fall) are coming up.

 My garden is always so bare and dead looking after winter I decided to plant (well, have dear Mr. C plant) a bunch of bulbs last fall.  Tulips, Daff-a-down-dillys (as our family has always called Daffodils and Narcissus), grape hyacinths, and crocus to give me a bit of color following the winter.

I even bought myself a little sight of spring to cheer myself up, before I noticed the crocus.

So, to get on with this story, that has now seen 2 years worth of distraction, LOL.  The snow and ice are now gone, our temps have been in the 50s off and on for the past week, so maybe spring is finally sprung, I hope.  I was looking around the garden and pond, but thought this last snow and ice covering had finally done the gold fish in, as I didn't see any of them.  So,I got to work clearing out the dead leaves and other debris that had fallen into the pond over the winter and I'm not sure who was more surprised, apparently those gold fish were down in the bottom of the pond in the dead leaf litter because they suddenly started swimming madly about and there are about 10 of them there, around 4" long, as bright and cheery as can be.  I wish I could get some pictures of them, but they aren't cooperating.  So, I am here to tell you, gold fish can indeed live through the winter in Illinois in an unfiltered, unheated pond and apparently thrive, as they are big and bright as can be.  Edit:  Whoo, Hoo, they let me get some pictures this afternoon.  They aren't very good ones, because the pond was stirred up and not clear, but they show there ARE some gold fish there and even shows some of their bright colors:

Today it is almost 70*, I can hardly believe it.  It is horribly windy and a grey cloudy day, but I have a lot to do as we have started preparing for our next big adventures, which I will tell about in my coming blog posts. Thanks for joining me in celebrating surprises of spring here at the Castle.  Hope you'll join me for further adventures.  Smiles, Sue C


  1. Such a fun story. Your granddaughter was too cute screaming "Monster" at a wee tree frog. Funny the frog was looking in at her. Sounds like your fish are multiplying fast. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Enjoyed the stories, Your grand babies are so special, and so funny at times. LY! Gail