Sunday, 8 June 2014

Pond Life

Pond Life

I think that a pond shows how diverse nature is and how quickly it establishes itself better than anything else that you can put into a garden. Everything requires water and by simply putting a big puddle with plants next to it into the garden it transforms into a fascinating place which is good to look at and helps bring wildlife into the garden.

Today I was looking into the pond and trying to count all the different species and evaluating just how diverse it is.

May 2013
Back in May 2013 just over a year ago the pond was made and wild flower seed was sprinkled over the banks. Several pond plants were bought and then pretty much left to let nature do what it does.

A year later and a lot has happened. The banks are covered with wild flowers that self seeded from last year. The grass has been allowed to run wild around the edges, birds have visited including a Moor Hen, and the wind has brought in beetles, Dragon Flies, May Flies, Damsel Flies and a host of other things. So much has appeared that I have decided to describe as much as I can about what is there now.

June 2014
Both photos are from about the same place. One of the interesting things is how the grass and creeping butter cups have crawled over the edge and are even growing in the margins. 

A camera phone can't do justice to what I spotted today and I'll leave for another day the photographing of all the separate species that are present but in one hour I found within the pond boundary:-

Electric Blue Damselflies, a dozen or more.
Broad Body Chaser Dragonflies, 2 at least.
Small Fruit flies (loads small long flies - can't identify properly)
Various different Hover Flies
Several wasps
Several different Bumble bees
Lots of Tree Bees
Gold Finches drinking, 4 of
Slugs, various colours
A frog
Several Butterflies
Newt (smooth male and female)
Baby Newts, 4 of
Frog Tadpoles
A leech
Horsefly Larvae swimming in the water
Diving beetles, of all sizes, hundreds of them
Pond Skaters
Water boatmen
Water Fleas
Red Water Mites
Dragon Fly Nymph
Damsel Fly Nymph
Freshwater Shrimp
Freshwater Hoglouse (like a wood louse)
Mosquito Larvae
Midge Larvae
Pond Snails, Thousands
Diving Beetle Larvae
Common Duck Weed
Greater Duck Weed
Canadian Pond Weed
Marsh Marigolds
Water Forget-Me-Not
Water Millfoil, in flower (small red flowers)
White water Lilly
Purple Loosestriffe
Corn Marigolds
Corn Cockles
Corn Flowers
Sweet William
Several different grasses
Ox Eye Daisies
Vole (bank Vole? or normal vole)
Yellow Flag Iris
At least 2 types of Algae, light green and dark green.
White Clover
White Campion
Bristly Ox-Tongue
Snap Dragons
Sow Thistle
Several different Spiders
A worm that had fallen into the pond or been dropped by a bird and hadn't drowned yet or been eaten.

8 or 9 other plants which I can't remember the name of for now (must update this)

If you count slugs as 3 different ones (different colours), Bumble bees as 2 different ones, 2 algae etc there are about 70 different "things" that I could spot within an hour in and around the pond not including multiples of each.

How many different areas within a garden or field could you spot that diversity within such a short time? As far as I am concerned the pond is the best place for wildlife and where nature can be seen at it's best. It's also a place that alters instantly when the wind blows and the sun goes behind a cloud since the insects rapidly vanish when the wind is there and it is difficult to see the bottom of the pond when the sun goes in.

There are also many different micro climates and micro habitats in and around the pond.

There is so much going on in and immediately around the pond. Just watching the diving beetles swim around and then slowly float back to the surface to get air was fascinating. The Horse Fly Larvae looks like a segmented worm or grub and was swimming on the surface. Damsel Flies were all over the place bringing a nice electric blue colour to the scene. Tadpoles swam in and out of view almost burying themselves into the silty layer and a frog was disturbed in the long grass at the edge. The newts are still there and loads of snails were busy eating the algae.

The amount of life which has appeared is quite amazing and how they get there is worth considering. I know when the Moor Hen visited last year it brought within Duckweed and snail eggs since I hadn't seen them before but within hours of the Moor Hen appearing I saw both where it has say on a water plant which wasn't there just before. Beetles and the various flies obviously get there via the wind and flight. Frogs and Newts seek out new homes and they have come from across the field from the dyke I would have thought. Exactly where the leech came from I don't know but presume a bird brought it in. All the plants bar the Duckweed I introduced. The algae I am guessing came from either birds, the soil or the air, maybe even Dragon flies and frogs etc.

The main thing about the pond is that I have done very little but within one year nature has totally colonised it and turned it into a wonderful wildlife habitat.

when I went on a pond course provided by the Wildlife Trust last year people were asking where do they get snails and frogs from etc and how long it takes to establish a pond. The answer was that a pond establishes very quickly and there is no need to introduce anything as it will just appear, and that is certainly what has happened.

It may have taken hours to dig, a few pounds for the pond liner but it has given so much more pleasure and introduced so much diversity to our little field that the effort to start the pond is clearly going to pay back for many years to come.

A pond is well worth investing in and serves many uses from being a focal point to sit and enjoy to giving birds a drinking source and insect source, to providing frogs and newts a home as well as attracting butterflies and bees to the flowers and giving me somewhere to drain water to when we have a lot of rain.  

A visit to the Wolds Woodland Farming Project

A visit to the Wolds Woodland Farming Project

Yesterday we had a visit to Deano Martin's place which was arranged in conjunction with the Permaculture Design Course I am on. I've read all of Deano's blog posts and have found him to be very interesting and someone who stands out from the general Permaculture crowd so it was nice to put a face to the writing. 

Deano appears to be different from many people that blog about Permaculture and it is the differences that I find interesting. Many people sing from the Permaculture song sheet and it is clear that it would be difficult to discuss issues with them because they buy into Permaculture teachings with the exclusion of all other approaches. Deano clearly buys into it but also questions things, tests ideas and makes up his own mind rather than regurgitating the same old teachings. While I like the idea of Permaculture I don't accept it as being 100% correct all of the time and I am critical of many things and many people who simply trot out the teachings and what is written without question. It was nice to see someone trying to live within Permaculture ideas while at the same time testing, experimenting and modifying his approach.

The visit included a good old fashioned soaking as the rain came down hard as we were shown around 4 acres of his well thought out plot. Not only did I learn a few new things but the visit also reinforced some of my own thoughts and allowed me to see into the future of what our own field may be like in a few years time. 

One of the problems that many of us face is the feeling that we wish we had more land. I personally wish that I had 4 acres and not half an acre but one thing that the visit helped with was to end that feeling. I struggle with enough time to manage half an acre and I can now see how much time, money and effort is required to manage 4 acres and turn it into a forest garden. Feeling content with what we have and seeing that we can achieve most of what we want with half an acre was a nice feeling to come away with. What Deano has created with the thousands of trees he has planted was excellent but is a step further than I could possibly manage.

Having excluded 3 and a half acres of his plot from my mind the rest of his plot would therefore be the same size as we have and it was this half acre which interested me the most. Deano has packed a fair bit into the main area where he grows food and conducts his experiments. 

It was also nice to see that, just like many people, he suffers from the same basic day to day problems that I have been facing. Slugs and Couch Grass encroaching into the vegetable areas. He made a few throw away comments about these more in passing rather than addressing the issue but this was one area where the visit helped me focus on my own problem. His comments here were nothing new, I'd heard them before and even came up with the same comments myself but seeing his vegetable area look the same as mine and hear him say the same things I had thought helped to make up my mind as to what I will do to address this most basic day to day issue. It's sometimes the little things that make a visit to places like this worthwhile.

Deano's experiments with grains and Soya Beans has also sparked a few ideas in me. He pointed out that this is an area which is normally over looked and I must admit I have never thought about growing grains on a small scale and had discounted Soya after talking to a farmer about the possibility of growing this in the UK. Deano has shown that both of these are possible. Seeing them in the ground, taking up the kind of space that I have available was quite an eye opener. The main thought I have about grain is that it takes an entire field, but not any more.

It's impossible for me to look at other peoples plots without comparing to my own and while it is easy to think I wish I had this or that I also came away with an appreciation for our own little plot and how we are progressing with it.  In this regard I feel it is very important, mainly for my own mental health, to appreciate what I have. It's too easy to wish that you had what someone else has and feelings like this lead to you normally spending a lot of time thinking that the grass is greener else where. If you can't appreciate your own plot fully then you will constantly want something else and never be happy. Part of my lifestyle is about learning to enjoy the cheap little things in life that I already have and the two main things that I felt that Deano's plot lacked were a wildlife pond and a big strawberry bed. Our pond is a focal point in our plot and our strawberry bed, in fact the whole fruit garden, is one of our success stories.

The visit to Deano's has given me a fair bit to think about, it has reinforced a few of my own thoughts and ideas, it has laid to rest the idea of having much more land and perhaps more importantly helped to reinforce that we are moving in the right direction. Putting a face to the name and his blog has been very useful as I now have more understanding of what he is about. His blog reports about his experiments will now have more meaning to me and I'll be continuing to read his blog but with more interest.

I think that Deano is providing a very useful service to the rest of us with his experiments and there is clearly a lot to be learnt from him and his results. If you get a chance to visit his project I'm sure you won't be disappointed.