What we are mourning here…
is the passing of two 99¢ goldfish.
In the spring of 2009, we re-purposed an old cast iron utility sink as a small goldfish pond. It would also serve as a makeshift water feature for the tiny 10 X 14 ft concrete space that we affectionately refer to as our “South Philly Backyard”.
Salvaged bricks frame the cast iron sink, which served as home for a family of five goldfish. Bertha, Creamsicle, Ice, Fish One, and Fish Two. — Bertha got his name because he eats everything. …and it shows.
We made good use of a discarded plant display rack from our local home center. The steel frame footing served as a guide for the bricks, which are loosely mortared together. (We rent, so nothing can be permanent.) The bricks support the sink and raised planting beds on either side.
The magic word here is upcycling. We spent very little money on our “back yard”, but the results are truly amazing. Our small concrete lot is transformed into an oasis as winter turns into spring.
It’s interesting how the addition of our little pond created a micro-ecosystem. Even though a small pump kept the water moving, some insects still found places to breed. Those insects became food for our fish and the birds who used our little oasis as a rest stop. Mourning Doves and Cardinals were a big surprise to me. Next year we’re going to try to attract humming birds.
If you follow me on twitter, you might have read comical grumblings over the winter as I performed the necessary task of chipping away at the ice that formed on the top of the water. — Even frozen fish need air.
Several weeks ago, we discovered a raccoon trying to hunt the goldfish. A Raccoon? Really? In South Philly?
After four years of heatwaves, blizzards, and chipping away at ice, we were not about to allow our goldfish to end up as a midnight snack for some wayward raccoon.
No sirree Bob! Not on our watch.
The simplest idea was to steak chicken wire around the open water, and lay a weighted board over the pond at night. This, along with sprinkling a raccoon repellant around the perimeter of the yard seemed to work.
After a few weeks, and no more signs that the raccoon was making nightly visits, we let our guard down. Three later, the raccoon had his meal.
Five summers is a decent lifespan for goldfish, but we’re still a bit saddened and somewhat incredulous. I’ve lived in or around Philly all my life. I’ve never seen evidence of raccoons.
I’ll miss those little guys. I’ll miss the way they come to the edge of the sink whenever they heard the backdoor open. I’ll miss chipping away at the ice in the dead of winter.
And yes, I’ll even miss the disturbing image of the eternally hungry Bertha with the occasional mouthful of the errant slug. YUCK!!
R.I.P. Bertha and Creamsicle.
…or was that Fish Two?