The Natural Swimming Pool at Dragonwyck Sanctuary: The Story of the People Pond

July 19, 2009

Our natural swimming pool--a work in progress.

Our natural swimming pool--a work in progress.

Great news!  We found the two frogs that were missing and feared eaten by the night heron.  The female frog was finally spotted in the Ponderosa (picture at very top of page), and the male apparently emigrated to the People Pond (picture directly above in post).  So frog count today=3 large bullfrogs, 2 medium bullfrogs, 2 small green frogs, and one froglet.

About the People Pond

One day last June, during our vacation-at-home, we woke to find slaughtered goldfish strewn about the yard.  It was a ghastly sight.  For some of them, all that remained were entrails.  For others, they were intact with either a bite out of them or worse–just a puncture.   Both our upper and lower deck were covered with little fish-oily raccoon footprints.  We found evidence of at least 30 goldfish bodies, including Pig–one of our original (and our favorite) goldfish.  It was heartbreaking.

This was the first time we had ever seen any sign that raccoons had been targeting the fish, but that morning it looked as if a grenade had been thrown into the Ponderosa.  After cleaning up the extensive mess, we sat by the Ponderosa–and yes, I’m going to say it–we pondered.  I don’t remember exactly how it came about, but at some point we were comparing the lovely Ponderosa with the hideous old aluminum above-ground pool that came with the house.  (They were located about 20 feet apart from one another.)  We had tried to hide it with bamboo, but once we added the upper deck, it was all too visible.  At that moment, we decided we could not tolerate that hideosity any longer.  We tore down that awful pool and replaced it with a natural swimming pool. We braved merciless mocking and teasing by our friends and co-workers, but we persevered.  One of the women at work, who had aways been interested in the Ponderosa, began calling it the People Pond.  The name stuck, and we haven’t changed it yet.

It was the first day of our week-long vacation, so we had planned to spend the rest of the week constructing the natural swimming pool  The removal of the old pool was by far the easiest step.  Then we had to dig out bamboo.  The rhizomes were like an extensive underground steel cable network.  It was a grueling task, but after three days working in 90-degree weather, we got it out.  (By the way, we have learned our lesson with bamboo–never again.)  Our big mistake with the pool construction was to to dig by hand and not rent a machine.  The digging ended up taking months, and then we had a driveway filled with dirt, much of which is still there.

We dug a hole the diameter and depth of the swimming pool.  We also added a very shallow area, about half the surface area of the swimming hole, for the biofilter.  Note the picture above:  biofilter is comprised of the water plants that you see.  The round area behind that (underneath the tall bamboo) is the swimming hole.

Once the hole was dug, we had to purchase a liner.  We wanted the thickest rubber available, but the size of the roll we needed weighed in excess of 1000 pounds, so we opted for the second thickest rubber (a mere 750 pounds). We had difficulty with delivery, because the delivery men weren’t able to get the roll of rubber off the truck due to the weight.  Luckily our neighbors took pity on us and helped us all load that roll of rubber onto the driveway.  Several days later, a group of friends came over to move the roll of rubber from the driveway to the edge of the pond hole.  Unfortunately, there were only two of us to actually lay that monstrosity in place.  It took hours of rolling and pulling and scrambling to get it situated.  The biofilter was not in place yet, but we decided to fill that large pond.  We left the hose on all evening, through the night, and by morning it was nearly full.  It also had one frog (from the Ponderosa) swimming all alone in his glory.

We discovered bamboo rhizomes shooting through the thick rubber liner shortly thereafter.  This was particularly troubling because it wasn’t even the big grow season for the bamboo.  We couldn’t imagine how bad it would get.  So we patched the holes in the liner then dug a trench around the entire pond and installed a PVC barrier.  This was not complete until the spring.

In the spring of this year, we were finally able to plant the plants for the biofilter.  We planted bogbean, marsh marigold, cardinal flower, pennywort, watercress, water lily, flowering rush, horsetail, variegated glyceria, pickerel rush, thalia, cat tails, and several oxygenating plants.  They are still young (as you can see from the picture above), but they are growing well.  The biofilter is working well also.  The water in the swimming area is crystal clear.  You can see down to the bottom (nearly 5 feet in the middle).  We went for our first swim two days ago, as the frogs looked on from the perimeter.  A success–clean, refreshing, and beautiful!

This is the big gaping dirt pit that was in the yard for months.

This is the big gaping dirt pit that was in the yard for months.

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2 Responses to “The Natural Swimming Pool at Dragonwyck Sanctuary: The Story of the People Pond”

  1. Nancy said

    All your hard work paid off, the people pond is beautiful.

  2. Kayla & Brendan said

    The story is great! Pig was one of our favorites too. Sorry about him and all of the other goldfish. Please teach me (Kayla) how to make a website, how to play piano, and how to make the sherbert drink we made together. You are excellent! We want to go in your people pond. Hope to see you soon. We’ll write again soon. Bye!

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