On the Pond

We are in the middle of implementing a plan.

We love the place we live. We have been here on the Pond and next to Ohio Creek since early in our relationship. We remember the day we moved in. It was Halloween. And as we carried in our belongings, a group of little girls in sheep costumes came trick or treating. It was very cold, as Gunnison can be in October. And the sheep costumes were not very warm, and the little girls were very cold and their cheeks were very pink. It was the Day of the Shivering Sheep.

Our house backs up on a large wetland area along the creek and around the pond. It is mostly owned by our Homeowners Association, is quite overgrown, and is rich with wildlife.

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One of the reasons we liked this place and moved here was the water (and the terrestrial) bird life. After all, Dr. Pedersen got her degrees in wildlife biology, and she loves birds. And the previous owners planted it with vegetation that birds like, and it is lovely.

When we first saw the house, there was a certificate on the wall with the signature of Luke’s friend and colleague Jay Hair. Jay was long President of the National Wildlife Federation, and after that, leader of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The National Wildlife Federation has a program under which people can get their back yards certified as wildlife habitat; the National Wildlife Federation issued the certificates; Jay signed them all. And our yard was certified habitat. And we have tried to build on that.

The land is considerable, and caring for it responsibly is a great deal of work. And Ellen is not now in a condition to do the heavy work she has enjoyed so much doing in years past.

We are fortunate to have a serious garden, with the capability of feeding us much of what we need. After fifteen years of soil building, the soil is wonderful. But it is so much work to produce the produce. And again, Ellen is not now capable of all the weeding and harvesting and conserving that she has done in years past.

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While we know we will leave here some day, we are not quite ready now.

So we are converting part of our garage to another bedroom. We do not need a three bay garage; the house has always been a bit too much garage and a bit too little living space for our taste.

We are thinking about having someone move in to this new room who is interested in trading rent for work; and helping us to stay and live here, in the place we love so much.

So the builders are working. And digging an excavation for the foundation.

And a few days ago, the workers came to work and the excavation was full of water and the ground was really wet.

And it turned out that the pond outlet was blocked, and the pond level had risen six inches in the night.

It is a long story, but there has been a long neighborhood discussion over the pond outlet and the beavers. The majority of the neighborhood, including us, really like having the beavers around.

But there have been several different iterations of the pond outlet, and a lot of money spent on it, and the neighborhood discussion about beavers has been very much influenced by the question of what kind of outlet to have.

Ellen has had a real influence on this process. She wrote a report for the neighborhood association; it seems that dam building behavior by beavers is triggered by the sound of running water; that young beavers are constantly migrating up and down creeks looking for a good place to live; that in short there will always be beavers around; and that there is a kind of outlet called a “beaver deceiver” that beavers cannot easily figure out how to block. You can see one barely above water in the next picture.

So Ellen talked the neighborhood into installing a beaver deceiver, and it has worked pretty well for the years since it was put in place. But it does need occasional cleaning to get the floating debris and algae out of it, and if the work is not done the grating clogs up and the water level starts rising and the pump in our basement starts going over and over, and parts of our lawn become part of the pond.

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But because of her illness Ellen is not able to do this work any more, and Luke has got really a long list of things to do in the current situation. So the beaver deceiver did not get cleaned, and it was really jammed up, and the water was getting very high, the highest since the time the beavers built the Great Dam, before the beaver deceiver was installed. So Luke went out in the little boat to clean it. And the water level in the pond started to fall.

But the next morning, the water was back up.

And it seemed that there were willow branches carefully woven into the grating. And then cattails woven around the willows. And algae covering that. And the willow branches were sliced off cleanly, as with a big knife, or the front teeth of a beaver.

We do not have time to be starting a power struggle with the beavers. But that is where we are.

In the daytime we clean the grating. At night the beavers find increasingly clever ways to clog the grating. And the excavation for the construction project is under water every morning.

Ellen is dealing with some serious challenges. She is less strong; she has real trouble eating and drinking. She is again losing weight. At times she has trouble being comfortable to sleep. She takes pleasure in people discovering the hard way how much work she has always done around here. Her sense of humor is as sharp as ever.

We love each other, we we love the place we live, and we enjoy being here together. And we want to share that love with all of you. Peace be with you.

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9 Replies to “On the Pond”

  1. Have you tried the Tertill, the weeding robot? I haven’t tried it yet, but it is quite inexpensive and gets great reviews. It is affordable, small, solar powered and stays out in all weather. You only have to protect very young shoots, under two inches high, I believe. Otherwise, you just let it weed in your enclosed garden. It could take some of the work out of your garden for you. I haven’t purchased one, myself, because my flower garden is now so dense that the weeds never see the light of day.

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  2. Dear Ellen & Luke,

    We were hoping for an update soon, and thank you for this wonderfully poetic, nature-filled, love-filled description of your current plans and beaver travails.
    You had me laughing at the same time as I was feeling the sorrow & weight of a very hard time for you both.

    Ellen’s sense of humor has not deserted her, nor has yours deserted you, Luke. I still remember (& sometimes quote) your description of the USFS or maybe BLM: “They’re like beavers—they have to cut things down or die.” More true now than ever, sadly. Hopefully that will be changing soon…..

    The pictures accompanying your post were just gorgeous. What an Arcadia you two have created, rich with water & greenery & birds & animals! What a pleasant place to spend these long summer days. That’s a wonderful gift, to yourselves & your friends & neighbors now, as well as to the future. In this dark time, there is much to be said for creating something beautiful & full of life, to be cherished & enjoyed now and hopefully for a very long time.

    You didn’t mention the name of the pond, so here’s a modest proposal: Ellen’s Pond: Seems the least that Dr. Pedersen deserves!

    May the days to come bring renewed energy & health to you both—no need to mention love, because that is already so obviously & abundantly surrounding both of you in its warm embrace.

    Much love & caring,

    Paul & Susan

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  3. What a beautiful store of tenacity and faith!!! Thank you for sharing. Puts our struggles with deer eating the young trees (and anything else) into perspective- they are not nearly so clever.

    Best to both of you and may your space continue to give you joy and keep you on your toes!

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  4. Wishing we could be there with you to help work on the pond.

    Sent from a small machine. Apologies for brevity, typos.

    >

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  5. in other circumstances we would be laughing about the beavers….

    reminds me that nature is stronger than we are – even when we give it our worst, it often comes back to win. I hope the Amazon can do that.

    Terry Beneke terry.beneke@gmail.com 214.632.2223 mobile

    >

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  6. I will be there in 15 minutes with my AKWhatever. Beaver bullets. Problema solved.

    We’re in Portland for the riots. Send beavers!

    Powerful love and staying power!

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  7. I love the beaver deceiver! I recently read a book about beavers and it included details of the beaver deceiver and all the hard work of convincing ranchers and others that there were other options for dealing with beavers. But it is a lot of work. I hope the pond gets resolved soon. But I hope too, that the birds continue to give Ellen some joy. They truly are our feathered friends, especially when life gets hard. Thanks for the story. Judy

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  8. Thank you for this lovely story, the gorgeous, ethereal photos, and the poignant metaphor for challenges you two are traversing with such fortitude and love. (Having cleaned the beaver deceiver once myself, I appreciate *that* specific challenge!) I hope the beavers can be persuaded to conduct their remodeling project elsewhere so that you can continue yours. Your looking forward to change on the homestead that will bring more ease to your lives is hopeful and cheering. May your love of your home continue to provide you with food for your bodies and nearness to the natural world to nourish your souls for many years to come! Lots of love and abrazos,
    Holly

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  9. We have read your story and continue to be amazed by the both of you. We are asking around for the right person and will stay in touch.

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