A Backyard with a View
The pond outside their back door provides endless entertainment.
Story by Gena Husman and Photos by Robin Arnold, Port Clinton, Ohio
Two decades ago, we awoke in our new home to the honking of 54 (we counted them!) Canada geese. The sound was deafening. Welcome to our life near a pond.
Since that first morning, our backyard Ohio farm pond has been a focal point in our daily lives. The kitchen window faces the pond, so it's the first sight that greets us as we begin our daily routine.
Robin and I use the pond to tell which way the wind is blowing and how hard the rain is falling. On warm summer evenings, it's a gathering place to visit with friends or just listen to the frog chorus. On chilly fall nights, it becomes the setting for a crackling bonfire.
It wasn't always a backyard pond. In fact, 40 years ago, when Robin's grandfather had it dug, there wasn't even a backyard nearby. This space we now call home was in the middle of an open soybean field.
Except for a barn, the property was undeveloped until we moved our mobile home here 21 years ago. A few years later, we built a home, and the pond became our backyard.
Although we keep the grass mowed around the pond, we don't manage it. We have some logs in and around the water for various birds to perch on and for the turtles and frogs to sunbathe.
The arborvitae and pine trees that Robin's father planted years ago surround the pond. They serve as a secluded nesting area for birds in spring and as thick shelter against cold winds in winter. Occasionally, we'll even see beautiful flowers sprout up from seeds carried in and dropped by migrating birds or the wind.
As the water level of the pond changes, so do the types of plants and animals it attracts. Seasonal changes like heavy rains in spring cause the pond to overflow into the surrounding field. During these wet years, we've watched dozens of red swamp crayfish build their mud towers around it. If the spring is dry, the water levels drop, and the shallower edges of the pond become more like a marsh. Cattails thrive and provide nesting places for red-winged blackbirds.
During the drought of 1988, we feared the pond would dry up altogether, killing all the fish. We watched in dismay as it grew smaller and smaller until fall rains saved it.
Harsh winters have taken their toll, too. One winter, we had a major fish kill due to thick ice and deep snow. We noticed a decrease in the number of wading birds, such as great blue herons and great egrets, the following spring. But in spite of the hardships, the pond has still managed to survive through three generations.
Over the years, we've seen births, deaths, fierce battles and courtships on our pond. We have our own resident mink, a muskrat family and a green heron that fishes daily from the lower branches of an overhanging willow tree.
Migrating ducks stop by to rest for a day or two. And we've played host to a number of rare birds for our area, including a white ibis that visited our pond in the late 1980s.
With the recent comeback of the trumpeter swans in our area, we laughed until we almost cried when one briefly landed on the pond among our Pekin ducks. It looked like a giant next to them. After they got over their initial horror of this huge visitor that seemed to have dropped out of the sky, the ducks cautiously approached, perhaps wondering whether to worship it or flee.
Our idea of a backyard may not be traditional. We don't have flowering gardens or a manicured lawn with chairs in the shade. But backyards are simply places outside your back door where you can escape to sit and relax.
And what could be more enjoyable than sitting on a swing under a leafy maple while a family of Canada geese teach their babies to swim? To us, it's the perfect backyard.