Thursday, May 05, 2005

Koi-Dependent? Take action now!

I tell you what. It was tough. I had it real bad. There were days when I would leave work and go straight to the pet store. You see. I was once koi-dependent. I know. I know what you are thinking. But there is an explanation. And there is hope for those of you out there who might be suffering as I did.

Here’s the deal. I lived in the edge of a forest on a ten acre lot at one point in my life. My home had been somewhat custom built, and I began to landscape the property. Right off one corner of my home, directly off the living room and its wrap-around deck, I installed a butterfly-shaped koi pond. I surrounded the liner with blue flagstone and then planted a variety of conifers and perennials around and water plants in the pond. As soon as the waterfall was flowing and I had the landscape lighting installed, I was ready for the arrival of my first few koi.

I stopped by the pet store on my homeward trek one afternoon and contemplated the price and variety of koi at the pet store. Since they got more expensive the larger the fish, I settled on a single pair of large butterfly koi and a whole bunch of small koi ranging in color from mottled-yellow to orca-pattern orange and white. The smaller ones averaged less than five inches in length.

As soon as I arrived home, I floated the bags for half an hour to allow the water temperature in the bag to adjust gradually to that of the pond. I opened the bag and emptied the fish into the pond. I saw them flush out of the bag, some fighting against the flow, before they would swim tentatively off in an arc for 3 or 4 inches. As if suddenly startled, each one would then dart off into the dark water depths, never to be seen again. I stood there for minutes, waiting for the fish to re-appear. Nada.

Meanwhile, I had set the landscaping lights to illuminate immediately and automatically at dusk. The local frogs heard the flowing water, saw the landscaping lighting and migrated en-masse to the front quadrant of my yard where my koi pond was located. Once the sun dropped behind the horizon, it was as if the frogs had hung a disco ball and declared the place a singles bar. Their songs were defeaning. I could be on the couch inside my house watching television and not be able to hear for the din of the chirping and croaking of the frogs. Some of them were getting plenty of action, as the froggies went a-courting. I quickly found that dipping out massive globs of fertilized frog eggs was one of the least pleasant jobs involved in koi-pond ownership.

After 3 days of lacking the gratification of seeing my beautiful koi swimming gracefully around inside the pond, I decided it was time for action. I left work and went immediately to the pet store one afternoon. I found several large koi and a whole slew of smaller ones. I even bought a bunch of feeder goldfish and released them into the pond. This quantity and selection of fish was more apt to pose for the occasional sighting. As time went by, however, the sightings grew to be less and less frequent.

Soon I found myself stopping by the pet store every day to see what they had in stock. The store owner called me by my first name. That was a bad sign. I was using a popular software package that tracks purchases by category when, one day, I did a pie chart to see that a significant portion of my pie was koi-flavored. I began to have a soupçon that I might have had a problem developing.

One weekend, I noticed a terrible stench coming from my fishless koi pond. I decided that I needed to remedy the situation since the stench was right off my deck and near the entrance to my house. I brought a small water pump around to the pond from my pool and pumped the water out. As suspected, there were no living koi to be found. There was, however, a rather large, rather angry and rather smelly snapping turtle sitting at the bottom of what had been his diner and the partially eaten body of a large butterfly koi. I fished them both out with a long pole and a net and trudged down to the creek that ran across my property, only to find the creek bed was mostly dry. I found a small pool among the rocks and sand and deposited my best customer among more natural surroundings. On the way back to the house, I saw a raccoon licking his lips and a hawk circling directly over the koi pond.

It hit me. I lived in a freaking nature preserve and I was helping the local denizens survive by feeding them koi. Briefly, I flirted with the idea of installing an electrically charged chicken-wire fence across the top of the pond to protect against the predators, but instead I learned that I was powerless against my addiction of purchasing koi. I surrendered my stubbornness to a higher power (my financial situation) and decided to stop the madness.

Years later, I was at a local garden shop buying massive quantities of plants to replace the ones that the deer in my yard had eaten and I saw a man and his wife eyeing a beautiful pair of solid white butterfly koi in a pond at the garden center. I heard him ask. "How much are the koi?," to which the salesclerk replied "They are only $200 each!" As she waltzed inside to fetch her net and a plastic bag, I walked slyly by the gentleman and quietly whispered "Hawks! Raccoons! Snapping turtles!"

He looked at me as if I were insane, yet his face suddenly lit up with understanding. When the lady returned with her net, he said "You know, I think I need to pass on the koi!". As I walked past to load the back of my pick-up with plants, the gentleman in question looked knowingly at me and winked a thank you my way. I felt so very gratified at having helped another poor soul in his fight against addiction and koi-dependency.

I have heard that if you take Irish Spring soap and cut shavings of it off into your garden, the deer will actually stop eating your shrubs. Others have suggested planting rosemary. Let me think, how many rosemary plants will it take to surround half an acre? Perhaps if I hit the plant store right after I finish writing this, I can get a good deal. After all, they do know me by name and they tell me I am one of their favorite customers! I am so lucky, though, to have beaten my koi-dependency. I hope no one I know ever has to deal with it themselves.

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