Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Candid Discussion With My Son

I wanted to delve into all of this today with Caleb - my son.

How is school going?  How are you doing in JROTC?  What about work?  How are you dealing with this pretty-intense schedule? 

Oh, I did the same thing at his age I was working, going to school, getting into trouble and all  kinds of stuff. I got up early and went to bed late.  But, Caleb is his own person, I wanted to hear how it's all going, school is more important than a job - or is it?  No, I think they are both very important pre-cursors for living life as it's going to come at him. 

You and I know life isn't easy at times.  When you're young, it can seem like hell.  You learn over time how to deal with the things that come up against you, but - not everything of course.  Still, work is pretty much a baseline for most everyone.  Rich or poor, you have some kind of work you must do in order to receive your financial recompense. 

He says he's doing fine - his mother says his grades are good, he doesn't appear fatigued or out of it and he's loving life right now.  He's on top of his world in JROTC - he's a commander with a platoon of 35 cadets under his command.  That's pretty awesome, really.  He went into GREAT detail today - more than I have ever heard from him - of what's going on with the kids under him.

Number one, you must understand that Caleb is a BIG boy.  250 pounds - works out regularly, but large-framed and yes, he has some fat on his body.  He is going to have to lose some of that to go into the military, but I know he's aware of that and I don't bring that subject up - he's going to have to deal with it.  If he wants me help, gladly, but, he needs to bring it up, not me.  He's very touchy about that subject.  Still, there is a LOT of meat under that skin, he's very strong and the kids under him aren't even going to think about messing with him, ie: disrespect, trash-talk, all that junk. 

What he expressed was that there were numerous kids that show no respect, whatsoever.  Not surprising to me, I have seen plenty of this in the last decade or more of kids whose parents don't seem to give a damn about how their kids talk to authority figure or even each other.  Punk, trash, diss talk that I find GREATLY annoying at best. 

So, he had a great idea: separate the whole lot of them. Take the kids that are totally into it and put them into one company and take  the kids that are totally OUT of it and put them together in another. 
Well, it's a long story - not going to go into all of it, but he has a good mind and he is definitley showing leadership quality and I will watch with great interest where this goes.  He apparently has great latitude to do whatever he feels necessary to bring them all into line and get them - out of this s*** mode. I just hate what's been happening into our society for some time now with kids that learn no respect for much of anything and grow up into "adults" with that same mind-set.

Yup, Caleb left for work - about 2 hours ago, a 6-hour shift.  Undoubtedly, I will get a call from him after he gets off with the request that he can hang out with his friends.  I know most of his friends and more importantly, I know most of his friend's parents from Little League days - I was coaching baseball, umpring baseball, a board member, this that and the other thing - for a decade I was involved with that. 
Good kids, great parents, I have no issues with them hanging out together.  Are they perfect, lily-white angels when they are together?  Undoubtedly NOT.  But, as long as they don't get into trouble, I can't monitor my son 24 hours a day and I don't WANT to.  He has to learn life like we all did: the HARD way. 

Today?  I was working outside - yes, I finally got back to work on digging out the ground for the bigger pond.  BEAUTIFUL weather, at least by my standards.  It was warm, but NOT hot.  I also called county Animal Control on my neighbor's dog.  It gets out - almost daily - through my yard - destroys some of my plants in the process, the owners don't care.  This has been going on for quite some time now, today I had enough when my newest tenant came out and declared that it was DIGGING in my front yard. 

Animal Control showed up out there about an hour later.  My dogs alerted me to such fact.  I stood out there for half an hour while this officer got the attention of those in the household - he wasn't entering their locked, gated, fenced yard, got them out there and started "educating" them.  I could hear a few things he was saying, most of it was unintelligible. 

Meanwhile, the crew of Jehovah's Witnesses showed up.  They went to every house on my street except mine and my neighbors  I wasn't involved with what Animal Control is doing, no, I was "blacklisted" by these people some time ago when I started asking them pointed questions about their beliefs and how they - in the affirmative - correlate to the Bible/Word of God.  I will never subscribe to anyone's  belief that Jehovah's Witnesses are ANYTHING but a CULT.   I had thought they were going to come to my house - not - they went all the way up to my neighbor's house on the other side and then, left  I was going to be very polite with them  if the did come - thanks, guys, not to be offensive, but I do not subscribe to the belief system of JW's and I will NEVER subscribe to such - but I didn't have to go there. 

That's done and over with. I will call Animal Control every time I see that dog out there until the situation is dealt with. 

Now? Yup, I'm going outside again.  It's absolutely beautiful out there.  I missed it too much, it's a thing I will spending a great deal of time doing while the weather is nice  -which should be for another, ohhhh - 6 months or so.


Setting Up A PreFormed Pond

I've learned the hard way about some of this stuff concerning setting up pre-formed ponds.
I scoured the internet and could not find the information I needed.
It's ridiculous, really.  I mean, there are some well-meaning people giving out - bad - advice, but the
majority of the advice to be found is for a flexible pond liner with much larger ponds, NOT for smaller, pre-formed ponds.

So, here it is.  If you came here wondering about filtration and and pumps, which is what dominated my
searches on this topic for quite some time, then you have come to the right place.

I am, btw, no expert.  I had to spend the money on small pumps and attempting to build my own filter and this, that and the other thing until I finally "arrived".  I have it down, I  definitely do.  I have 5 ponds, 3 of them in use, the other two pending.  Actually, one of the 2 that I am not using I am actively building a rather
elaborate setup for.  It's about 300 gallons, which is small for pond's sake, it's quite enough for me, for now anyway.  It's MUCH larger than my other, pre-formed ponds, ranging from 120 gallons to 165 gallons. 

So let's get into this.  You can probably figure out how to dig a hole for the thing.  I mean - not that difficult excepting where I live - you try to stick the shovel into the ground and literally, you will hit rock every time.  It's painstaking work to dig out endless rocks, I hope you aren't going through that as well. It IS a great workout, so, it's not a total loss.  I do recommend putting sand on the bottom as everyone else does, it's just a further help to make sure that nothing with a sharp tip, ie: a rock, doesn't end up protruding through the hard plastic of your pond.

I am taking it a step further.  I bought the large, pre-formed pond cheap - people are getting rid of this stuff in this horrid, foul, acrid economy of ours.   In fact, off the subject, but relevant: look on Craigslist in your area and keep looking.  I have been to numerous pond shut-downs with people who are buying short-saled homes with ponds that - they don't want.  They either give the fish away or they sell them very cheap.  Same scenario with a homeowner that is losing their home and want the fish to find good homes:  sell them cheap or give them away.  Back to this paragraph's subject, I went to ebay and found a flexible liner for this pond. 

Why?  Because, I have bought other preformed ponds and have had leaks. I found a good patch that will permanently seal that sucker, but why have to bother.  You have to take out the fish, plants, drain it to put in a patch.  Instead, I am going to put in a brand new flexible liner INSIDE the hard plastic preformed liner.  The hard liner is still intact with no leaks, yes, I checked.  But, I don't want to have to deal with a leaking setup, it really is a PAIN to have to remove everything.  You can find flexible liners that will fit these small, preformed liners for cheap on ebay.

Back to filtration.  I was fortunate enough that with the purchase of these pre-formed liners I bought, 3 of them came with a waterfall bio filter.  Yes, indeed, it made the bargain that much sweeter, those things aren't cheap.  I thought the things awfully large, frankly, for such a small pond, but, I put them up and used them anyway.  Water is pumped into the bottom of the plastic shell.  There is an open space down there with no filtration material.  There is a divider and then you hit the bio ball setup.  Bio balls or equivalent are a necessity for your pond.  It's that or endlessly add chemicals or, have to do huge water changes frequently to keep toxins from building up in your pond/s from fish waste. 

Here's the part I didn't have a clue, but have learned.  Pump size.  You would think a 300 gallon per hour (GPH) pump would be enough for a pond that has 120 or even 165 gallons.  NOT.  I actually started out with a 130 GPH pump - umm, a waste of money.  300 gph, waste of money, don't even go there if you are going to have fish in the pond.  No, I have a 800 gph pump on my 165 gallon pond, pumping through the waterfall filter.  I have a 750 gph pump on my 135 gallon pond, also pumping through a waterfall filter.  I have a 550 gph pump on my Fish Mate Bio Filter - the small, green, rectanguler setup.  That's right, a 550 gallon per hour pump going through that "small"filter. 

It works perfectly.  I had a 350 gph pump on that thing and it was NOT keeping the water clear, the fish were stirring up particles and it was cloudy and there was a lot of stuff floating around in there.  I'm just giving my opinion - learned the hard way.  That 550 gph pump in the first 24 hours had it's openings clogged with all kinds of debree but was STILL pumping water.  I simply pulled the housing off (no tools necessary, at least on the one I bought) - cleaned it off and cleaned out the pre-filter. This was the first pump I bought that has a course filter in it on a pump that small.  It is INVALUABLE.  That thing was full of grunge after only 24 hours. 

There IS no downside to having "too much water" flowing in your pond.  Your fish will thank you for it. 

Now, I bought the used pumps off of Craigslist, the new ones off of Ebay.  I would advise that if you are going to buy a pump off of ebay, make SURE it has a warranty on it.  This junk about having a 14 day return and nothing else or whatever policy is for the birds.  This is yet another learn-the-hard-way deal.  I found a guy selling pumps on there that is giving a 2 year warranty on all of his pumps - 1st year covered by manufacturer, second by him.  No guarantees he is going to be around forever, but, he has a great feedback rating and 1 year of a pump running continuously, 24 hours a day is good enough for me, anyway. 

He's under tinypondpumps.  I am not him, I stopped selling on ebay a long time ago and I just got into this ponding business, what, 5 or 6 months ago? No, I just like to recommend good sellers. 

Be prepared to have your pumps running 24 hours a day.  You should never shut them off for the filtration system (except to clean out the fitler, of course).  Also, buying aerators for your pre-formed ponds I highly recommend.  You can get them at WalMart for $9.90.  Yes, I have those receipts as well.  They do not use a lot of electricity and is good assurance that your water is well aerated. It is also a great back-up - if your pond pump fails, you will still have aeration from the air pump.  Aeration is MORE important than ANYTHING in a pond.  But, a good filtration system is just below it - you get too much toxins in the water and your fish are going to start getting sick.

Here's an answer to another question I had: do you HAVE to set a preformed pond into the ground? NO!! is the wonderful answer for many people.  You DO have to support the shelves that stick out from the main body of the pond, but that's easy.  I used pavers for such purpose.  Whatever you have.  If you don't, when you fill up the pond, likely the shelf will fail under the weight and yes, the water will all dump out the side.  Amazing that even apartment dwellers have ponds on their balconies.  Yes, you can have the soothing sounds of water flowing out of a waterfall into the pond, plus fish, plus water plants - it's amazing therapy - right on your apartment balcony.  You may, of course, want to discuss that option with the landlord first, but, it's a totally cool option as long as it isn't restricted. 

There is much more, really, I'm just at the end of this blog entry.  More later.

Interesting day. Up early - 4:00, jolted out of deep sleep by the ridiculous phone alarm - annoying as all get out but that's the inten...