Garden Pond Part 3

September 12, 2018

Part 1 and part 2 detailed some of our garden pond work. Now it’s time to add some fish to this fish hole! Currently we have a handful of goldfish that were originally for mosquito larvae control. They’ve been doing pretty well and getting bigger just eating bugs and algae. We’re not sure when we’ll add more or what we’ll add, we’re taking it slow!

The pond is about 40″ deep when full. According to various books and websites, this *should* be sufficient for hardy fish like koi and goldfish to overwinter. We will likely add a heater and/or aerator to maintain a hole in the ice. We’ve put various artificial caves near the bottom so smaller fish can hide out and (hopefully) avoid getting eaten.

Another addition is something I’m calling the fishdome. These are also known as inverted aquariums or fish observation towers.

Essentially it’s a bigger version of inverting a cup in your sink and pulling it up to trap water above the normal water surface. The ambient air pressure above the pond holds the weight of the water in place against the negative pressure inside the sealed container.

An article on the physics of this can be found here: https://www.wired.com/2016/12/not-impossible-fish-tank-just-physics/

And a video demonstration of how to do this is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0njOh04cUOU

Incidentally, we didn’t really plan this fishdome thing… it came together as a result of hoarding and wasting time on the Internet. I had previously dumpster-dived a giant Pyrex bell jar, simply because it looked cool and with no plan for what to do with it. Later I came across the video above, and realized what we could do with the jar!

The dome rests on a stand made from ABS pipe. I love working with ABS and PVC, it’s like giant tinker toys for adults! I think some of my favorite uses have nothing to do with plumbing…

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Shopping for stuff like this definitely confuses hardware store clerks. No one can seem to understand why I might want a 4-way 2″ ABS tee with identical sides or a 3-way 90-90-90 elbow… Since those things don’t seem to exist, I had to make do with the design above using 8x 90-degree elbows, 8x sanitary tees, and a lot of straight pipe. Everything is epoxied together so it won’t wiggle, and I drilled some holes in the final creation to let in water and help it sink. It also has some sand ballast in the bottom so it won’t float away while I set it up. I also added some bolts at the top to keep the dome in place and prevent it from slipping off to the side.

The dome does tend to get a little scummy inside, as algae grows on the inside of the glass. I’m hoping that the addition of more algae-eaters will help with this. For now I just take it out and scrub the inside if it gets too bad. I plan to remove the dome once it starts getting colder, as I doubt it would survive freezing.

Having an open body of water in the yard has immediately attracted more wildlife. We have more birds than ever visiting the garden, and the local toads and frogs are attracted to it as well.

Another update is that the pond seems to have all major leaks taken care of. Previously I had an intermittent leak that would come and go, which made locating it very frustrating. After reading about the possibility of wicking/siphoning around folds in the liner, I added sealant to all the major folds. This seems to have done the trick, as the water level is much more stable! I’ve also adjusted the edge a bit more to try and divert overflows to a specific side, and to make rock edging easier. Next up is re-laying all the flat limestone rock around the perimeter!

Since limestone can leach into the water if submerged, I’m trying not to put any directly in the pond. We’ll probably be using other rocks to create fish hides and hold underwater planters in place. Those updates will show up soon in a future post!


Garden Pond Part 2

August 21, 2018

Part 1 of this project covered some initial construction of our garden pond. Now it’s time for some photos with water!

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The pond and swamp pool take quite a bit of water to fill! I haven’t calculated the exact volume, but between the 300gal and 150gal stock tanks, plus liner extensions, and minus filter media, I’m guessing we’re in the ballpark of 500 gallons. We’re trying to avoid any chemicals to that might stress the fish, so most of the water comes from our rain barrels.

According to various websites, moving water loses about 0.5-1% per day of the total gallons pumped per hour, so we’ll have to occasionally top this off to maintain the water level. We’re pumping 1000gph so can expect to lose something like 5-10 gallons per day to evaporation. Another way to calculate water loss is based on an archaic government-issue kiddie pool. It’s all a bit fuzzy and dependent on surface area, cloud cover, and humidity, but after eliminating any detectable leaks we’ve noticed water loss consistent-ish with both these measurements (about 5-10 gallons per day).

The smaller swamp filter pond is a little higher in elevation than the main fish pond. As mentioned previously, “dirty” water gets pumped from the fish pond into the bottom of the swamp, where it percolates up through gravel, screen, and mud. To get the filtered water back down, I could have done a stream or waterfall, but decided to do a canal instead. Naturally a canal needs a set of lock gates to allow boat navigation between the different water levels!

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The lock gates are hand-operated, and work pretty well. They aren’t particularly watertight, so enough turbulence and splashing develops to help aerate the water.

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The swamp pond has a miniature dam with some extra filter media behind and below it, to help keep mud from migrating out of the swamp into the main fish pond. So far there’s been a little mud slipping through, but it clears up fairly quickly. I imagine we’ll have to clean things out and relocate the dirt periodically.

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As I’ve probably mentioned in other posts, we have some pet waterfowl (ducks and a goose). While they’ve been quite interested in the process of digging this pond, we’re not planning to let them use it. Ducks are just too messy and destructive for a small fish pond like this. They rapidly pollute the water, tear at the liner and plants, eat the fish, and drill holes everywhere with their beaks in search of bugs. Our birds have their own private pond with an oversized filter, which I’ll detail in another thread.

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Apparently the local wildlife hasn’t heard about this “duck-free” idea, as we’ve already had a wild mallard hen land in the garden for a swim!

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In the next update we’ll try to make this hole in the ground look prettier and add some actual fish!


Funter Bay History: Tugboat “Nimrod”

June 15, 2018

I’ve mentioned this boat in a few prior posts (here, and more detail here). Most of my photos have shown the boat in various stages of decay as an abandoned derelict on the beach. When I was in Juneau researching Alaska history last summer, I found a photo of the boat in better days.

‘ Nimrod, Waterman T.B. Co. Small diesel tug. Port bow, speed, racing “Ben Hur” ‘. From Lloyd Bayers collection, album 9, MS 10, Alaska State Library Historical Collection.

Close-up of the above photo.

As mentioned before, the Nimrod was built in 1903 and served a variety of towing companies in Washington State, including the Waterman Co. It showed up in Funter Bay sometime in the 1960s as a fishing boat owned by local resident Elmer P. Loose. It’s been pulled up on the beach since approximately 1965, evolving from a boat shape into a more relaxed pile of wood and metal, slowly returning to the soil.

It’s always nice to see the “before” photos for something that’s well into the “after” stages! Plus it adds a special extra dimension to a familiar object or site from childhood.


Monorail Museum Updates

May 10, 2018

I’ve added some “artifacts” to my miniature monorail museum, located in the head car of the former MN Zoo Monorail that I bought a couple years ago.

While I’m trying to keep the monorail mostly original, that big hulking power box in the back of the driver’s cab was just begging to be turned into a display case. A little dremel work and a plexiglass window and it’s much nicer than before! Plus the mice don’t chew on my toy trains now! (Keeping mice out of this thing might be impossible, it even came with some free zoo mice when I first got it 😛 )

The Baron, as a former monorail driver, has moved up to my upper shelf of MN Zoo-related memorabilia. The lower shelf is more general monorail “stuff”, since people keep giving me monorail toys and whatnot that they come across. In addition to the obvious Disney monorail, I managed to find an HO scale Von Roll MkIII model that’s pretty darn close to this one! The MkIII was in the same family as the zoo’s UMI Tourister, just a little more developed and streamlined.

The wall displays document monorail tech, MN zoo history, and other monorail-related tidbits.

And outside the monorail I’ve stuck a “historic marker” for random visitors. Although the train is on private property and not open to the public, we do get some friends and acquaintances stopping by who are curious about it!

 


Railbiking

March 27, 2018

I’ve been mildly interested in rail bikes for a while, but too lazy / busy to build one myself. However, when one popped up at a local estate sale I couldn’t pass it up.

Before the safety-conscious railfans jump on me, the track I’m testing this on is fully disconnected from any live rail and is on public land in a city park (The Trout Brook Nature Sanctuary). It’s part of a former industrial spur and was incorporated into the park as a bit of decoration by the designers.

I’m not sure of the origin of this contraption. It’s obviously homemade, but when and by whom are a mystery. The bike has a little side saddle “sidecar” on the outrigger, suitable for a passenger or cargo. The bike itself seems to have been built in England, or at least parts of it were. The nameplate is worn off and everything is pretty rusty! I’m guessing it’s from the 1950s or 60s, but whether it was a hobbyist or a railroad employee who built it, I don’t know.

The bike required a little work to get it going. Namely a new rear wheel, new crank and pedals, reinforced weld, new chain, and some minor adjustments.

It barely fits in the car, and requires the rear hatch to be open. This could get annoying if I want to transport it very far!

My initial tests showed that it does pretty well on abandoned track in decent condition. However, any bends, dents, large gaps, or major bushes on the rail will derail it. It kind of goes through switches in one direction, but tends to fall off the frog going through the other way.

A short (<1min) video of my early test runs can be found here:


Forgotten Railroad Updates

June 27, 2017

I recently traveled to Juneau, AK for some research on obscure Alaskan railroads. The Alaska State Library and Archives were incredibly helpful in pulling materials for me. I found enough material in their catalog that I estimated I’d need a week to go through it all, but they had it so streamlined I was able to get through my list in only 4 days! Of course in the meantime I generated another list just as long of related collections, additional sources, and expanded lines of inquiry! Hopefully I can get back to Juneau again for further research. I’m almost ready to turn this into a book, although I’m still hoping to find a way to visit some of these remote locations in person for photo documentation.

I’m slowly updating my railroad page with details, photos, maps, and other documents from this archival visit as I sort through the material. In the meantime, here are a few interesting tidbits!

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Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, PCA 12

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Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, MS 999

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Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, PCA 119

 

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Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, PCA 119

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Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, MS 39

 

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Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, MS 999


Funter Bay History: Fire on the Morzhovoi

June 22, 2017

Fire is something wooden boat owners respect and fear. Between the fuel and the varnish-soaked hull, an overturned lamp or loose electrical wire can get out of hand rapidly. In June of 1955, things got very out of hand on the cannery tender Morzhovoi.

Photo from Alaska State Archives, MS 10, Postcard Album 7.

Built in Seattle in 1917, the Morzhovoi was first owned by the Sockeye Salmon Co of Morzhovoi Bay, AK. It was later sold to the P.E. Harris Company, which operated the Funter Bay cannery after 1941. The vessel originally had a 110hp gas engine, changed to 165hp diesel by the 1950s. It is described in various documents as between 80 and 86ft in length. The vessel was of a fairly standard design used for freight service in the Pacific Northwest.

From Pacific Motorboat, Vol 12, No 9, June 1920 (date in caption likely a typo)

 

From Pacific Motorboat, Vol 8, No 3, December 1915.

I have yet to find details of what transpired in June of 1955, but there are a number of photos in Captain “Kinky” Bayers’ files in the Alaska State Archives. Official wreck reports state that the ship burned on June 10th, but the photos are dated June 15th.

Photo from Alaska State Archives, MS 10, Postcard Album 7.

 

Photo from Alaska State Archives, MS 10, Postcard Album 7.

 

Photo from Alaska State Archives, PCA 127

In some of these photos you can see small rowboats around the burning hull. These may have been curious sightseers like the person who took the photos, or they could have been cannery personnel guiding the boat away from other vessels and docks.

The Morzhovoi is a good candidate for the identity of a burned-out wreck found on the beach of Funter Bay today. The wreck is about the right size and features about the right type of engine, but is in such poor condition that verifying its identity would be difficult.

More photos are in my previous post about local shipwrecks.