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Are bubbles a sign of pond health?

 
Posts: 618
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So, the property we are hoping to get has an acre pond that is Swale fed. It looks really healthy, saw some small fry in fall, went back to the pond yesterday and the ice has bubbles all in it. To me that is a sign that there are systems in place that are doing their jobs, am I correct in that assumption?
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pollinator
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Chadwick : Yes ! but not in any way you might suspect ! /////// See link below :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41scSZWj_Gw

as a pre-teen I used to wade around the perimeter of a large shallow pond 'frogging' with a bb gun, The amount of methane gas trapped in pockets in the ponds muck bottom

still amazes me all these years later !

While I do think that a man-made pond could be created that wood release the 'swamp gas' to a storage membrane floating just below the ponds surface, allowing for the

capture of that gas, Probably the necessary energy inputs would outweigh all the gains in the life time of the materials ! Big AL
 
Chadwick Holmes
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Yes, I thought it would be methane, but to me that says that there is vegitation and animals that are seeing lifecycles and decomposing. To me that is a sign that the system is working as a whole, like a natural waterway.

There are signs of fishing happening there in the form of litter under the grass layer so my hope is that it us at least able to be made healthy...I just wanted to ask you good folks in case the answer was the exact opposite


 
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Chad, how deep is this pond? That's a lot of methane, assuming that's what it is. Why is there so much methane there? If it's shallow, was it built over something that accumulated methane? If it's shallow, it won't be long before it fills in, and may have heavy growth of algae when it warms up. I spent the last two summers scooping algae off my 1-acre pond (which has never had this kind of bubbles in it) , and used it for composting. But the natural process of algae, duckweed, and plants coming in from the sides tends to fill in ponds if left alone. You'd have to stay on it to keep it a pond, but that's pretty true of all ponds.

There have been some parks built over dump sites where tons of urban yard wastes were buried, creating trapped methane, and when people sat on the grass with a lit cigarette in their hands suddenly flames would shoot out of the ground, it became dangerous, and they had to put pipes with vents all over the park to try to control it.

This may be an extreme version of what's going on there, but it may be from the same kind of phenomenon:

http://beforeitsnews.com/alternative/2015/06/exploding-pond-in-canada-is-vision-of-hell-as-methane-erupts-from-ground-miles-from-us-border-3174196.html
 
Cristo Balete
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Going back to just the health part of your question, I don't believe fish can live in that much methane. They are finding more and more fish kill related to the escaping used-to-be-frozen methane in ponds. A healthy pond is a ecosystem of critters, not just fish, that keep mosquitoes and troublesome insects under control. Just as a small example, if the pollywogs can't live in that much methane, you won't get frogs. Frogs eat mosquito larvae, and frogs are food for the birds and other animals that come to the pond that also help to keep it in balance. If the whole cast of pond characters can't live there, then it becomes more like a place for mosquito growth, because they can hatch and survive on the edges, which makes for a lot of mosquitoes.

Unless someone here has a pond where this much methane is escaping, and critters are doing just fine, they can give us some info on it.
 
Chadwick Holmes
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This property is as long slope down to the pond, it was used for cattle up to about seven years ago, for seven years it has been unused.

I think that the pond is still dealing with the nitrogen that came down the hill from the cattle, that's my guess, it is fairly deep 18 ft or so, I will introduce a shallow end. It is an excavator pond not natural.

I wonder if it may not all be methane as well. Each bubble is about the size of a quarter, so the lack of size reference might be throwing us off too.

Can't be too bad cause there are fish.....ill have to get it tested I suppose......tastes ok!
 
Chadwick Holmes
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My initial thought was anaerobic decomposition of a lot of organics but then there wouldn't be fish so.....that's why I asked.

 
allen lumley
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Chadwik Holmes : There is much truth in Cristo's remarks, All ponds, but much more noticeably man-made or dug ponds will Fill-in by settling or slumping ! Worst case

scenario is the pond with an island in the center !

The good news is that While this is a natural phenomena it can take decades . I have a favorite place to go to to gather Service/June berries and Elderberries , this is a

Decades old Beaver Dam that while continuing to be a Water Retaining Structure/Wall has changed over time into a Huggleculture Mound !*

The beaver pond behind that dam -by being a natural settling basin has slowly filled-in and is a grassy meadow with some brush and the tree guild mentioned above !

So- as a review , All ponds settle-in eventually, and all aquatic environments will contain Methane in their bottom muck ! Based on what I have previously seen, I think

that your methane bubbles in / under ice is natural ( endless list of U-tube videos) possibly stimulated by equipment / machinery vibration transmuted through the soil ?

For the good of the crafts ! Big AL.


* Not really surprising is 1st) the Ability of the Old Beaver Dam / New Huggleculture Mound to be a semi-pervious semi-permiable structure as if it were still a dam; and

2nd) the incredibly lusciously rich and black dirt with healthy mycelium hyphae present in place of the original wood/bio-mass structure ! A.L.
 
Chadwick Holmes
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So any ideas on timeline of an 18 foot deep pond? Should I expect to dredge it out two times in my lifetime?
 
allen lumley
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Chadwick Holmes : Its an article of faith with the permaculture crowd to set and watch everything for a couple of years worth of seasons just to be sure you know

What mother nature is trying to tell you about your pond ! Every pond will be different, than should not prevent you from using pond muck in much the same way

you use animal muck, only more of it ! You probably can create a deeper area of your pond that way - After you convince your self thats what you want.

Willows love wet conditions and firm up the banks if they are planted thick enuf .

That aught to be enough wasted words to allow me to sat - I haven't got a clue ! Best, Big AL
 
Chadwick Holmes
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Yes big Al, I did learn in my PDC to observe for a time, however my very small purse will aid in that as well! Hahahaha! Get it.... I'm too poor to hurry!

I actually just got permission to go to the land as much as I want to observe, while he decides if he will accept our offer. This way I can observe this winter and the effects of the crazy on and off winter we are getting here. It's only a mile from me so I can shoot over there to see frosts in the AM and anytime we get a big rain/snow as well. The bad part is I am falling for the land, and he may say no.....but it is more time to observe, and practice learning yet another property....this will be the fourth and smallest property I have maintained. The largest being a 288 acre campground, 240 next and this camp now is 101 acres. I have had five ponds but only used them for youth canoeing, so as long as they were wet, had at least docile alligators and not too many water moccasins....they were good! This will be the first that the health really matters, and the first I own.

I take observing as also researching, I see bubbles I want to not just see it but ask people who might know and look around for information on gaseous outputs of ponds and the causes....hence the question to wiser folks than I

I do know that a steep drop to 18' deep is not what serves fish and critters best, so I know I need a shallow end or edges, just a matter of observing where is best.
 
pollinator
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All older ponds have bubbles from decomposition. I think it's probably normal and not necessarily good or bad. Shallow ponds have too many weeds and too many dead weeds decomposing. I believe that robs Oxygen from the fish. That pond depth sounds great. The steep slope has advantages. The weeds shouldn't grow very far from the bank. Much easier to fish without a boat. Also it holds more waster in case you have a long drought. Some fish need shallows for nests so some shallows would be good. I don't think catfish care how deep. They just need a hole.

Unless you have got crop land eroding into it, you'll probably never need to dredge.
 
Chadwick Holmes
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Yeah, plus shallows can protect small fry, crayfish and shelter frogs/tadpoles from the larger fish, if and when there are larger predatory fish.

It's long and skinny rectangle so there is room for multiple habitats/depths along the 350' length.the first picture is my wife standing on the opposite bank with a white hoodie.for reference.
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Ken W Wilson
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I'd make the shallows by digging into one side instead of trying to fill in. Old pallets make great structure, especially for minnows. They like to lay eggs underneath the bottom of the boards. Lots of minnows make the bigger fish grow fast. Sometimes channel catfish can't find or dig enough holes. Short pieces of PVC pipe slanted up a bit so the eggs won't fall out make great nest boxes for catfish. Like a catfish canon. I learned that from an old pro fisherman named Jim Rogers. He had his own TV show in the 1970s. I've tried the pallets and pipes in a new pond, and they seemed to work great.
 
allen lumley
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Chadwick Holmes : I'm here for the money heat !!! any contribution I can add is mostly from the school of hard knocks ! Having said that,

I often find that turning to Geoff Lawtons free films are positively uplifting even when they do not directly apply to my situation ! He has several Videos on

small ponds , reviewing them is never a waste of time !He has recently revised his site and is asking people to sign-up again; but it is definitely worth the

whole minute that will take ////// See Link Below :


http://geofflawton.com/free-videos/

For the Crafts Big AL
 
Chadwick Holmes
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Nice thanks Al!

Ken, yes at does sound like a good idea to dig rather than fill, I'll look at where I can do that without disrupting the structure of the walls ( Berms ) that hold everything.

Before I lived here I would've said I don't trust what might be on pallets, but there is an Amish sawmill that does pallets right here and I know they don't treat the wood, heck they hand nail them!

The PVC however, I really don't need in my pond, if catfish wanna live here they gotta dig for it! Haha! I have a hard time trusting plastics and man made materials especially chemically engineered materials. I don't know if it's wise or not, but I feel like nature has solutions that if left there will return to nature. Maybe bamboo tied to a rock?
 
Ken W Wilson
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I wish plastic had never been invented, but my drinking water comes from miles of plastic pipes. It doesn't seem like a few feet of pipe in my pond would make much difference. Actually the bits of weed eater plastic string worries me more. Really wish there was an alternative for that . You could use clay tile for fish nesting, but you may not need more nest areas anyway.
 
Chadwick Holmes
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Clay tile us a great alternative!

I figure ever little bit helps, if I can find another solution to plastic then I might as well, one foot less us still less.

Ever try a scythe? It's a whole lot easier on the ears and runs on alcohol! Best string trimmer replacement around!

 
Ken W Wilson
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I use a cordless weedeater. It doesn't use nearly as much string as a gas powered and is easy on the ears. I wouldn't think you could get very close to a fence, tree, or building with a scythe. I wonder if anyone is working on a non plastic string? Seems like it could be possible.
 
Chadwick Holmes
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I can get right up to a fence building or tree they are ultra controllable, you would think I did my areas with a trimmer if you didn't know better.

It's more usefull to me because I cut and dry hay for my goats though.....
 
Cristo Balete
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Chad, my pond is similar to yours, it was cut out of a swampy place and is about 16 feet deep in the center. It looks like a funnel with one side cut out of a steep slope and the other is rather shallow. The previous owner "built" this pond, and it's traditional around here to plant reeds and willows on the downhill side for stabilization. I'm not sure how necessary that is everywhere, they are a lot of work. I don't think there's any problem with it being that deep or having a steep slope on one side. Mine has never saturated the hillside and made anything slide.

If you own the property downslope from the pond, you can plant a nice orchard and perennials, like berries, there and they will tap into the seep. You can just put a water line in the pond, run it over the edge and syphon it over the edge to water plants downhill from it.

I judge the health of my pond by the fact that there are tons of critters in it and coming to it. I think the herons have finished off the fish, but they still want the frogs. Sometimes the frogs are so loud all night long you need earplugs. Birds float on it during the day, and ducks fly in at sunset and leave at dawn. But I do keep all of the duckweed and algae off the surface with a pool scoop. I make sure that the droppings from the willows are pulled out. I've had mine for 22 years and haven't had to dredge it, but I spend at least 6 hours a week for four weeks when the water level is lowest cutting the reeds, cutting the willows back. This year I scooped algae off the top from spring to late summer, at least 10 weeks worth.

Birds and ducks will bring in water plants on their feet, there isn't much you can do about that, so it's likely to get covered with something like duckweed. If the duckweed dies and drops to the bottom, or any plant that grows on the surface, like Azola, that is what fills it in, plus if there is a creek dumping silt into it it will fill sooner. So if springs are feeding your pond and you get the surface plants out of there, it could be a couple of decades before you need to dredge it.

A nice dock and a row boat is a great addition and gives you easy, nonmuddy access to the pond surface.
 
Chadwick Holmes
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Thanks Cristo!
 
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If there is enough planting area below the pond you could siphon muck from the bottom to water and fertilize that area. This worked well for me when I was maintaining an irrigation water system above my property. The reservoir dam would accumulate more than a foot of leaf mold each year. I could just open the drain at the bottom of the dam but that resulted in creating an anaerobic muck on the beach in front of the house.
 
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I second Ken Wilsons responses. Bubbles are a. Natural part of ponds and are not necessarily good or bad. Decomposing aquatic vegetation leads to bubbles, methane or otherwise.

You won't need to dredge unless you are letting the land above the pond erode and fill the pond in.

Hope you're using some of you big acreage to grow foods and not just let people camp.
 
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if the bubbles are methane there's an easy way to find out- strike a match and pick the bubble open. Methane burns. The bubbles might be CO2 or Oxygen or?
Not much edge on that pond. Do you want to dig a whole lot? What about floating islands of giant bamboo baskets filled with empty pop bottles, planted on top with water-loving plants? What about live staking willows into the bottom and filling in with bundles of brush and adding muck or clay on top and planting on that, chinampa stylie. What about making fake stumps just off shore with slab wood boxes filled with clay and planted with Swamp Cypress? A wind mill which stirs and oxygenates the water? There's lots of ways to play edge games with a pond. But that's one boring pond. Even one floating island would add lots of wildlife action.
 
Chadwick Holmes
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No I need out of the camping gig, it's more corporate than you would suspect.....I might have a cabin for rent two at max, even then would try to keep permies and natural farm folks as the clients. Choosing your client is choosing the attitude that you deal with, people camping from big cities prove difficult.

Yes this pond has the least edge available! I believe it was built to water the cattle that one grazed the land, but I am not sure. It needs years of work! I am a real stump kind of guy, but I like a lot of your ideas! I really liked the floating duck house thread that was up a few days back, I think it was one of the dales if I remember correctly.

Being from Florida I never really saw water freeze in ponds and lakes, so this is all new!
 
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I want to say first off, I have no practical experience with this.
As I was reading your post, something came to mind about floating islands on a pond.
Not sure if I read about it or if it was maybe in one of Geoff's videos.
Anyway, a man-made island can do a lot for a pond. This is what I have in my notes:

Create a floating island.
- possibly a bamboo raft but empty in the middle
- covered in shade cloth and then covered in dirt
- plant fast growing edibles like kang kong (ipomoea aquatica) (fastest growing edible crop in the world) and water cress (Lebanese Cress)(nutrition dense food) <- adjust for what grows locally/zone/temps/etc
- add a small trellis over it with arched bamboo <- protects plants from direct sun and encourages wildlife to investigate
- add solar powered garden lights on the corners - attracts bugs for a few hours in the evening like moths and it feeds the fish
- shades part of the pond and creates fish habitat while it feeds us
- possibly a small windmill to help with pond aeration (winter)

Not sure any of that is of use to you, but maybe.
 
Rick Valley
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Yes! We all love water and ponds, no mystery there! What I see in the picture is a LOT of steep bank, so digging a shallow will yield less water per gallon of diesel than could be the case. But scalloping the edge and creating peninsulas and bays would be easier than making a single marsh- that's the thought behind my ideas.
As far as string trimmers go- sure, they work. But a sharp scythe cuts so well you don't need to sweat, especially if you cut when the dew is still on: it's easier to cut and cooler. You might have seen Simon Henderson in The Global Gardener or heard his "Permarap" at the end of In Grave Danger of Falling Food, the Mollison viddies. Simon died in 2004, but he had a story from when he was the garden manager at the Bear Tribe land near Spokane. He went to town for supplies, and when he returned he found his German intern reporting very proudly that he had "cleaned up" the entire 3 year-old dwarf apple orchard with the weed whip. Simon took a look and wept. The cambium at the base of every apple tree was irreparably damaged by the whip. Every tree died, but months after the German had gone. "Weed Eater blight" is a serious problem, and many who cause it don't know what they're doing. I place my trust in cold steel, well sharpened. And yeah, in scythe VS fence, fence always wins and the scythe wielder gets to sharpen or peen and sharpen before continuing. But if the fence isn't too mashed up and tangled, it's not hard to cut close, and if you've got your scythe sharp, you aren't swinging hard and instead you're being accurate. Heck, I regularly spare plants I want to set seed, like red clover or native wildflowers and keep on mowing.
 
Cristo Balete
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Chad, now that I think of it, I'm not sure what you mean by "health of a pond". Do you mean it's clear, drinkable water? Or water clean enough to swim in? Or water that is full of pond life, which mine is, and I would never swim in mine. We've got so many newts, that are poisonous, and there are leaches, tons of bacteria that is meant for the critters, not for humans. Mine is "healthy" in the terms of the real inhabitants of it, the critters, flourish there. The water is not drinkable, but it is a great tank of "compost tea" that when used as irrigation the plants really love.

There are daily passes by flocks of birds, and bats by night that eat mosquitoes and bugs. I've never gotten a mosquito bite near the pond, and it's spring fed, there is no moving water. Frogs and newts and probably a dozen other critters eat the mosquitoes and the larvae.

There's no need to attract bugs to the pond with lights. Ponds have their own bugs that either live on the edges or live in the water. Lights would attract the wrong kind of bugs or moths, and the bats that want to eat them have trouble getting the moths if they are clinging to the lights, which they always do, like a porch light. Animals, insects, rodents all do just fine without lights.

One thing I've noticed about lights at night, even low voltage solar lights, because it's so dark in a rural place, and I rely on the darkness to tell me whether someone is approaching with headlights or a flashlight who is unexpected or shouldn't be there, I want the natural light levels, which vary with the size of the moon. Lights light up the area in ways that make you think the sun is coming up, when it isn't. Animals can stay safer if they aren't blinded by lights that a predator is on the other side of, especially if you've got penned-up goats or small animals being lit up, and a mountain lion is lurking beyond a bright light.

 
Rick Valley
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It is curious to me what is attractive to some and not to others. When I was a kid, the best fun of all was total immersion in a muddy pond full of tadpoles and other creepy crawlies, catching everything I could. This has left me with an abiding pleasure in putting on a mask and snorkel and exploring any body of water that has abundant life in it. I helped build a pond at the teaching center I later lived at. Very low nutrient soils in the area mean that the pond has never really gotten green with algae. I actually added nutrients to help the tadpoles develop; the pond had begun supporting breeding of the threatened Red Legged Frog. It was also the warmest water around, and I swam in it often. One time two young women were walking by when I was in and one said to the other "how disgusting!" Well, I don't think she was commenting on my body, but the fact that she'd never been in anything but a sandy beach or swimming pool. But although there were aquatic plants, the water was clear and it wouldn't have been hard to get it quite potable. Try that with a swimming pool! Now that's nasty water. The most beautiful water I've ever been in was also the most dangerous- off the south end of Long Key on Glovers Reef in Belize. Sharks, poisonous fish and sea shells, big Barracuda, you name it. But what an amazing eco system it was. Put on a mask and snorkel and get in a small pond, and come up face to face with a diving beetle, a young turtle or a frog- it's amazing and beautiful.
 
Chadwick Holmes
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Thanks everyone, very busy so getting here late, great stuff up there!

Health of a pond....I'm easy...... stuff lives, stuff is healthy not just surviving, some food web with potential for more.....stuff like that.

I swam in swamps in FL, so it doesn't "need" to be clear for me, and I drink whatever is around.....not going to be afraid, been drinking natural water fir 30 some years ( I'm 36 so maybe 30 yrs) on the other hand I will not swim in a pool, ever, and I spent the last 13 yrs as the pool maintenance guy at camps......

Because this property was treated poorly my initial consern is not looking for amazing, it's looking for "not a desert", and potential.

Love the floating island idea penny! I'll see if I can do that!
 
Rick Valley
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There are few things as fun as playing with water. Glad you got the island bug! I'm wondering if the picture I roughly sketched is clear. By cutting into the steep bank I see in the photo, you can easily create a small shallow marsh, scalloped into the bank. the head of the cut would be near vertical, and that could be stabilized with withies, (willow or other flexible woody stems- Ninebark, Osier dogwood or what have you got?) I'd plant sedges at the top of the little wattle wall (wattle is more old English for bigger size withies) which would hang over and create a bit of cover for say, a duck or frog. The spoil- (the soil from the cut) could be tucked behind a wattle fence woven over live stakes pounded into the pond bottom forming a short peninsula next to the marsh. As seen from above the pond edge in that short section would change from "l" to "S", and all for moving maybe two wheelbarrow loads of dirt, and it would get a brushy thicket with some good cover. Or it could be a landing for a bridge to an island, if you had plantings that needed frequent harvesting. The shrubbery would need some clipping perhaps, but that can be useful stuff for more work of the same sort. Small floating islands of course, with a few sedges/rushes planted on them, can be excellent nesting sites for ducks or geese.
Trees are good near a pond because they provide fine perches, or supports for nest boxes. Muscovy ducks naturally nest in tree cavities, and like nest boxes. A nest box on a cypress in the water is safe from everything but a mink. I know a pond of similar size which has, without islands, quite a few water birds both wild and semi-domestic which do fine there despite foxes, raccoons and coyotes, and is full of frogs and big fish. it has edge which has mown grass, beach, cattails, brush and trees up to a foot in diameter in a good mix. There's a number of spots you can cast from.
 
Chadwick Holmes
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Location: Volant, PA
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goat forest garden fungi trees wofati woodworking
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New development, went over there a couple of weekends ago and folks have been ice fishing, must be decent fish to sit out there in the cold!
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Chadwick Holmes
Posts: 618
Location: Volant, PA
28
goat forest garden fungi trees wofati woodworking
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This guy was out sunning next to the pond today! Shell bigger than a dinner plate!!
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Location: Fennville MI
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Ken W Wilson wrote:I use a cordless weedeater. It doesn't  use nearly as much string as a gas powered and is easy on the ears. I wouldn't think you could get very close to a fence, tree, or building with a scythe. I wonder if anyone is working on a non plastic string? Seems like it could be possible.



You can get closer without girdling the tree with a scythe than with a string trimmer.  The precision is perhaps surprising, but very much there.  And, your plastic string concerns are completely eliminated.
 
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Check for the balance of your pond. Use  akit to check for ammonia,nitrate and nitrate levels. Trace amounts are acceptable for nitrogen but ammonia your pond cannot be cycled properly. it shows more waste is producedthan can be preocessed by the bacteria
 
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