About Susi Lovell

Susi Lovell lives in Montréal. Her short stories have appeared in Grain, The Fiddlehead, Stand, carte blanche and other literary journals. She has an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Lesley University, MA, and an M.A. in Contemporary Dance from the Université du Québec à Montréal.

Beginning Fall Clean-Up of the Pond: Who’s Living In The Water Hyacinth Roots?

water hyacinthThe mist is lifting from the mountain and the sun looks like it might break through. I’ve been scooping leaves out of the pond. Not too many have fallen yet, but as the pond is in woodlands the whole surface will soon be covered.

I like to leave a lot of the pond clean-up until all the leaves have fallen but some things need to be done now, such as taking the water hyacinth out of the pond.

The roots are great for helping keep the water clean but if the plants die and sink, they’ll add to the sludge on the bottom.

When I buy them in spring, I tie them into circles of tubing to prevent them sinking in the fall, but this summer has been exceptional for water hyacinths and the five original plants more than trebled with new offspring breaking away from the tubing and floating off in the pond.

When I pull out a batch of hyacinths, tiny frogs leap off, and a little yellow face peeks out of the dense black roots – a salamander. Another salamander, this one tiny, struggles through the roots to see what’s going on. Spidery beings, wormy beings, fishy beings, all sorts of swimming, creeping insects appear. Such strange shapes. A huge tadpole falls out (must be a bullfrog tadpole). I’m amazed by how gelatinous it looks. I would have expected something more solid.

I feel terrible at disturbing these creatures. I quickly replace the hyacinths in the water, scoop up the tadpole and watch it wriggle away into the pond’s muddy bottom.

What to do? I don’t want to destroy their habitat, but the pond is old and will fill up with sludge if I let leaves and hyacinths decompose in it.frog in water hyacinth

Finally I decide to rest the tip of the mass of plants on the bank and leave the rest in the water. Tomorrow I’ll pull it a little higher up on the bank. Let’s hope that will encourage the residents of the water hyacinth roots to relocate.

Watery Labor Day Weekend!

frog fountain with tiny frog friend (on the rock at the base)

frog fountain with tiny frog friend (on the rock at the base)

Labor Day weekend – and the rain came down. Usually I’m happy to see the rain at this time of the year because the water level in the stream and pond is so low but that’s not a problem this year, given all the rain we’ve had through the summer. In fact there were floods not so far away.

self-composting toilets at Frelighsburg Festiv'ArtDiscovered an interesting water alternative at Festiv’Art in Frelighsburg where the public toilets were the environmentally friendly kind where one uses sawdust instead of water. The waste is then composted with straw, leaves and so on. Important to use a ratio of 1:1 waste to other natural  materials, I was told, to avoid unpleasant smells. A more productive (ahem!) idea than the suggestion in a letter in the Globe and Mail that people should conserve water by stopping to drink it!

Just Once: Nature’s Surprises

caterpillarEvery so often something different appears or happens near the pond.

Last year it was a Belted Kingfisher. What a commanding presence with his big handsome crested head, his strong beak. He sat on the lowest branch of the spruce over the water, making a terrific din. Below him was a large dead snake in the water. I thought the kingfisher might have found the snake too big to handle and had dropped it into the pond and was now trying to retrieve it, but I’m told that is highly unlikely. He stayed there all day, then that was it, I never saw him again. I had to fish the snake out with my net.

Another time the surprise was a beautiful red fox. No hanging around. Just slipped past.

Then there was a bear – but fortunately that was on a neighbor’s property!

This year, there was the turtle. A bee sting was new to me too. And today: two fairly young deer with antlers. We see a lot of deer including, once, a three-legged deer, but I’d never, in the more than twenty years I’ve been here, seen antlered deer. The antlers were about eighteen inches, knobby rather than spiked points. Just beautiful. I reached for my camera, but they were already gone. Good. Hunting season is not so very far off.

frogs in water hyacinth

Nature’s Course

garter snake

garter snake

Did I see two garter snakes? Or the same snake twice? The first was under the pump cover. It was small and wriggled away in an instant.

The other (or the same one) slithered over the patio as I was trying to clean some of the mossy paving stones. This one looked bigger – or was that because I saw more of it?

An agitated squeaking from the edge of the pond. The grasses rustled and I caught sight of another snake – with a tiny frog in its mouth. More squeaking. I know I shouldn’t interfere with the course of nature but I stamped my foot, hoping that would frighten the snake off.

The snake leaped right into the air, tiny frog still in its mouth, landing in the pond. It rippled over the surface of the water towards the outlet. By the time it slid over the rocks, red tongue was flickering in and out, the frog was gone.

Scarlet Spikes Beside the Earth Pond

lobelia cardinalis - cardinal flowerScarlet spikes, brilliant against the dark green water and green leaves: lobelia cardinalis, cardinal flower.

My mother bought the seeds when she was here on holiday the summer after my father died. They had been his favorite flower and she was going to take them home to plant them in her own garden. But then she worried about whether it was legal to take seeds into the UK. Suppose she was arrested? She decided not to take them back. Instead she wanted to plant the seeds beside the pond. Over the years the flowers have flourished and spread. It’s always a special moment when I catch a glimpse of that dramatic scarlet. And the hummingbirds love them too.

The Firsts of Summer

earth pond with fishSo many wonderful firsts of summer: the first firefly, the first croak of a bullfrog, the first flower, the first swim in the earth pond… This week? The firsts that say fall is on the way: picking the first ripe blackberry (early this year), the first red leaves appearing on the trees, the first buds on the Japanese anenomes, a first something in the air.