Two friends investigate the mess

Pulling weeds

Windmill compressor for aeration

The R.O.M.E.O. chainsaw crew

Pond jumping party

Josh & Brook net fish

When Nancy and I first saw the property that would one day become Timber Butte Homestead in 2006 one of the things that drew us to it was a one acre pond nestled in the midst of an overgrown grove of willows. Although it was covered at the time with slimy algae and inundated with matted noxious aquatic weeds it was a body of year-round standing water. Seeing it, Nancy immediately envisioned grandkids splashing around in what she believed could become a pristine swimming hole.

Vision can be a powerful motivating force.  Often vision is a picture that takes people out of the reality of the present to a dream of what could be.  True vision has the ability to stand the course of time; it can patiently wait for the resources, time and energy to be accomplished even if that time doesn’t come for quite some time. If it is in fact true vision it can even tolerate false starts, failed attempts and paralyzing procrastination,  which in fact was a good thing when it came to Nancy’s dream for the overwhelming job of restoring our pond. Not only was it a massive task but it fell well at the end of a long list of our homestead development priorities.  Roads, a home, a barn, a garden plot, an orchard, fencing, corrals and outbuildings all had to come first and year by year the pond continued to become increasingly overgrown and a thriving habitat for mosquitoes, frogs and rattlesnakes.

A few attempts had been made to better the situation along the way but none of them seemed to make much difference; what was needed required a major effort. Before we even started building our new home Nancy purchased a windmill powered aerating machine which had falsely promised to oxygenate the water and reduce algae.  Several good friends showed up and volunteered to put the machine together and erected it into the wind.    It looked kind of cool but never really helped the situation.  Early on she introduced a hundred feeder fish in hopes that they would eat the muck. Although they did thrive they didn’t make any noticeable difference either. Several hot  summer days she wadded out waist deep into the water pulling and filling our canoe time and again with the noxious weeds, but even that didn’t make a scratch.

Some jobs require a serious commitment of effort and it had become obvious that this was going to be one of those jobs.  We had come to the conclusion that we had two choices, either spend lots of money hiring someone to rectify the problem for us or to roll up our sleeves and take the job on ourselves.  Since money was not an option we did what we’ve always done, we made a plan to take it on with the help of family and friends.

The R.O.M.E.O.’s (better known as “Retired Old Men Eating Out” – See Entry Oct. 16th, 2009) are a group of guys from our church that love to help people in need. They are a group of retired men that get together not only to fellowship by eating breakfast together once a week, but volunteer to come to the rescue of folks that need a lending hand.  Every year they come to Timber Butte and donate a day of their time to Nancy and I, which for the past three years has been a wonderful blessing.  When they called me earlier this past fall to set up a date to work I immediately thought of Nancy’s pond project. I knew the job would require hours and even days of cutting out overgrown willow trees and brush if I were to attempt it by myself, but with their help it might be done in a single day. (As it turned out it took a day and a half.)

Our son, Brook, shared his mother’s vision to clean up the pond. He used the pond more than any of us had.  Over the past few years he had been inviting his mountain bike friends up for an annual pond jumping party at which time they rode at high speed down the steep adjacent hill launching themselves off a homemade wooden ramp which hurled them to tree top highs dropping them far out into the middle of the polluted water. (See entry #76) The last time they had done this however a number of his friends came down with unpleasant physical disorders most likely caused by who knows what kind of water born bacteria.  So Brook also volunteered some sweat equity working alone side the R.O.M.E.O. work party cutting and dragging brush.

After the brush was cut and piled for winter burning I set up a gasoline powered water pump to drain the pond dry. It took days for the water line to drop to within a foot of the bottom. To our surprise Nancy’s original fish plant had both grown and multiplied. Brook, along with his friend Josh, used tree netting to drag the remaining water capturing literally hundreds of fish putting them in five gallon buckets for transport to a neighbor’s stock pond.   After things began to dry out we raked aquatic weeds  and piled them for burning as well. All in all it was a huge project, but because “many hands make for light work” the task that I had procrastinated doing for five years was accomplished before the first hard freeze of winter arrived.  Day by day the pond began filling once again both from a subterranean spring flow and the runoff from the late fall rain and snow.  Although there is still much work to do the overwhelming feeling that paralyzed me from getting started on the project for so long is now gone and Nancy’s vision is finally coming to pass.