Welcome to our new house.
When we bought our house I had no idea that its existing inhabitants would be so much trouble and cost so much.
“And here is the pond,” said Steve, the then owner. “We thought at first that we would get rid of the fish and fill it in. But then, sitting here on a summer’s evening with our gin and tonics, listening to the waterfall and watching them slide around the pond was wonderfully soothing.”
The truth dawns!
It sounded idyllic. We bought the house with the pond and followed their feeding advice for a few months. Then came the Truth. Pond water became greener and murkier until we saw no fish at all. Internet research revealed a nearby water garden willing to clean ponds. So, Dave breezed in, declared the plants too big, the water too dirty and made unkind remarks about the “scent” in the filter. He sent us an eye-watering estimate (ker-CHING!) and after deep thought we decided to go ahead.
Biting the bullet
A deposit was necessary — (ker-CHING! again) – and a date was made for them to visit when my Indiana sister Vicki and husband Jim were here, so that it could be part of the entertainment of their stay. We know how to give our visitors a good time!
The day itself
Along came Martin, Pond Man, and Kirsty, Helper and Electrician in a normal sized van. Like Mary Poppins’ satchel, he pulled out more from that van than it could possible have held, but did. First came the holding tank he filled it with our dirty pond water. More equipment followed, then he and Kirsty pulled on boots that went up to their armpits.
HOW MANY ?????
Then – and here we saw his talent for dealing with fish – he netted and gently laid each one into the tank. I stood beside, counting the numbers as fast as I could. 47 in all.
When Martin brought out a fifteen-inch mirror carp, much distressed, he held it until it calmed down as he said, “steady boy, steady”, and the fish, soothed, settled down at once. “ I don’t know how to tell males from females so I call them all ‘boy’” he said. “Fish can live two hours out of water as long as they are kept wet. “
Fish Sludge (don’t try to say that quickly)
THEN came the sludge at the pond bottom. Kirsty carried multitudinous buckets of it, pouring it underneath the trees and bushes of our garden. “The plants love it” she said.
Among the people watchers we were privileged to have a little robin who would not be intimidated by human beings klunking about, and looked for bugs as the water was drained.
We also discovered a frog. It didn’t matter how far into the garden Kirsty deposited it, it found its way back immediately. I bet if you blindfolded it, turned it around three times, it would still be at the pond edge in seconds.
A job well done — no fish died.
Soon all was clean and new, the water treated with something from a bottle (ker-CHING!) Kirsty then took over, fitting a new filter and UV light (ker-CHING!) ker-CHING!) the holes in the pond liner patched by Martin (another ker-CHING!) and all was well.
Uh-oh now what?
Now we could see our beautiful fish very clearly. The only thing is, so could a heron, known to clear a pond of fish in one visit. Me: “I’ll buy a plastic heron to scare them away,” Martin: “Oh no, don’t do that. Another heron will see it, come down to mate with it, and eat the fish. ”
Will it ever end?
I smugly announced that I already had enough fish food to get them through to next year, but I was wrong. When we later brought the water sample to the shop, Dave said, “Winter food – you give them wheat germ and garlic” (yes really) “and we just happened to have a supply for only £11.80” (ker-CHING!). “Oh”, he added, “and here’s the bill for the remaining payment for pond cleaning.” (ker-CHING!)
We turned to leave quickly, but Dave called after us: “And soon you must buy some plants for cover (ker-CHING! yet again).
Sigh. Well, at least a waterlily will make the frog happy. But that summertime gin and tonic is rapidly fading into the distance.
Photographs kindly supplied by Indiana sister Vicki Harris and gratefully received!
My Fidget Pie
Imagine that you’re in an airplane flying above the clouds. All is fluffy and indistinguishable. Suddenly the clouds break and you see beloved Terra Firma below. That’s what this pie is all about. The break in this ridiculouly fluffy pastry reveals vegetables, ham and apples in a cider sauce. Sometimes called Huntingdon Fidget, sometimes Shropshire Fidget, but my adaptations will make it unrecognizable by citizens of either county. It was one of the menus – along with Turkish meatballs – I was going to make for my sister, but she didn’t stay long enough to eat everything I wanted her to.
Amounts differ depending on the pie dish you are using. Be sure it has a substantial rim.
Peel and chop one onion, one carrot, one stalk of celery (use potato peeler to shave off the annoying strings along the back before chopping). Saute gently in butter with a dash of oil. Add two small potatoes peeled and diced once these vegetables are tender. Cook until the potatoes are almost tender. Add 2 cups cubed fully cooked good quality ham. Slowly mix ½ cup dry cider with 2 tablespoons flour in a cup, ensuring there are no lumps, then add it to the ingredients in the frying pan. Stir until thickened. Set aside.
Place 3 peeled cored and diced apples in the bottom of the pie pan. Add the contents of the frying pan and mix well.
Roll out one packet puff pastry until it will generously cover the top of your pie. Then take strips of pie dough and place it in a continuous circle pressed to the rim. Wet the rim with water. Now carefully lay the pie crust on top, and gently press the top into the wet strips around the pan. Cut a big X in the middle of the pie, and fold back the triangles this makes. Brush throroughly with a beaten egg..
Bake in a moderate oven (around 375 degrees) for 55 minutes until gloriously brown and bubbly. To serve: cut a wedge through the crust, and remove. Then spoon out the contents underneath and place the crust on top.
Vegetarian option: Omit ham and add soaked sliced and sauteed dried porcini mushrooms,