Garden pond with stock tank heater is an oasis for wildlife in the winter

This has been cold winter for us in Ohio. It seems like we’ve been shivering forever and that spring will never come. Our garden’s avian visitors are eager for food and water, frequenting our feeders of black oil sunflower seed and drinking from our garden pond. One of our guests is a flock of dark-eyed juncos. They’re members of the sparrow family. You can identify the slate colored dark-eyed juncos by their dark grey heads, grey bodies, white bellies and white outer tail feathers. They are winter visitors here in Ohio, little birds we love to see make their appearance each year. We love watching them hop around in the snow.

Here are two photos of dark-eyed (slate colored) juncos:

They leave these tracks on our pond when they come to drink.

bird tracks on frozen pond surface


The floating stock tank de-icer you see thaws the surface enough that there’s a hole even in the sub-zero temps we’re experiencing this year. Brrr! If you get a stock tank de-icer, make sure it’s safe for plastic if your pond is a formed pond or has a rubber liner.  They’re great things, ensuring the local wildlife has fresh water and lets oxygen into the pond so our pond fish don’t suffocate under the ice during prolonged freezes. There are raccoons and neighborhood cats drinking from the pond as well. So far, no deer have ventured up, at least not as far as we can tell.


We had our last heater for six or seven years, maybe longer. We finally had to replace it for this season. Even if you don’t have a garden pond, it’s possible to provide water for wildlife in the winter. You can either keep a hole chipped in a container of water or get something like we used to use, heated birdbaths. There are traditional bowl-shaped models as well as more natural-looking birdbaths that just sit on the ground, patio or deck. Here are some examples:


At some point, we should find an alternate way to aerate our pond in the winter that is more cost-efficient. Our pond heater pulls over 1000 watts when on compared to the smaller heated birdbaths that only use the equivalent of a light bulb. However, the little heated birdbaths don’t necessarily keep the water thawed down to frigid temps like we’re experiencing this winter.

Garden walkabout July 4, 2009

The footage shown at the end of each week’s CBS Sunday Morning always has us transfixed. The pastoral images are just beautiful. I thought I’d make my own pastoral video and share some footage of the plants in our yard. The jazz music in the background is “No Good Layabout” by Kevin MacLeod.

I wish I could better duplicate the videography I see on TV, but my camera’s a little Sony pocket cam, a Sony Cyber-Shot Sony DSC-W150. It’s not a proper videocam, but its image quality is very nice. We’ve recommended it to several friends and they’ve been happy with it and its closest models.

It has its limitations as such, such as no way to zoom while shooting. I must walk around and physically move the camera forward and away from the subjects if I want to “zoom”. I do that, then use my video editing software’s features such as pan and zoom to give the illusion of more sophisticated shooting techniques! For editing, I use Windows Movie Maker 6 from Microsoft. It comes free with Windows and for the price, you can’t beat it. is a great site with all kinds of info about it, plus user forums.

Someday I would love a real videocamera and some higher end amateur video editing software like Pinnacle. Maybe I can pick both up used somewhere.  In the meantime, I’ll do like I’ve always done and learn ways to get the most out of the equipment I do own. I learn more that way, anyway!

God sent me balloons

windchimesarah-velcroToday was the first time this year Howie and I had breakfast together on the patio. The morning was chilly enough in the shade I wore my sweatpants and donned a fleece jacket, but I soon changed into shorts and ditched the extra layer. There’s a strong breeze this morning and the beautiful windchime Rebecca gave me is playing all kinds of melodies.

It’s not a good recording, but I have a short soundclip of them for you. Early some morning, before the crew fires up the heavy equipment,  I’ll have to record the chimes and the waterfall so you can hear what we listen to through our bedroom window at night.

lily-of-the-valleyThe outside construction’s in full swing at the nearby school now that the weather’s good, and theferns02 rumble of machinery is punctuated periodically with a loud BOOMS, presumably as stuff is dropped into an empty dump truck bed. Those booms are very loud, like claps of thunder, and Sarah’s in thunderstorm Velcro-Dog mode.

The lily of the valley is starting to bloom and the last of our hostas are poking up through the dense carpet of shosta-waterfallsweet woodruff. The ferns are also sending up fresh green fronds. I love how green everything is in the spring, effortless on my part. Summer brings with it the chore of watering the gardens in the heat, so spring is kind of a freebie as a gardener and sweet-woodruff-hostaI enjoy it!

The fish have gotten more active now that warmer weather is here. They especially like hanging around the waterfall at the end of the pond. Our yellow iris roots have gone crazy and spread out beyond the confines of their pot in the pond, but I leave them that way since the fish like the swim around in them. They also make a good spot for the fish to lay eggs, which I think they may already have done.


So what does this have to do about balloons?

You thought I’d forgotten about those, didn’t you?

As Howie was getting his bike out of the shed and getting ready to ride to work, I noticed unfamiliar movement by the back corner of our house. This was Howie’s last glimpse of me as he left for work:


Balloons! Three huge balloons, two black and one hot pink, anchored by a foil-wrapped weight and pink ribbons. When I saw this, I called out, “Hey, Howie! God sent me balloons today!”.  I prefer to think of it as a funny surprise from God. I wonder what the occasion is.