[mou] In Praise of Water

Thomas Maiello thomas at angelem.com
Sat Apr 21 14:17:43 EDT 2007

Wow!  After many year of searching for the properly priced and easy  
to install and haul water feature, last Thursday I happened into  
Sam's Club.  There, before my skeptical eyes, was this incredibly  
priced fountain, dual pool, waterfall, pump and hoses set up that was  
the answer to my tight wallet dreams!  It was posted as a one time  
buy and at only $99 or so and after much consternation and  
examination, I swooped it up.  The box was too big for my  
girlfriend's van so I emptied the contents, gave the box away,  
stuffed the bare elements inside and drove off my birdie nirvana.

Now I am not a huge proponent of the Sam's and Walmarts of the world  
nor their adverse impacts to communities and small business owners  
and I am a huge fan of small business which receives a lion's share  
of this birder's budget.   So I feel I did bite the bullet of guilt  
when I bought this item I had long searched for.  You see, I had a  
huge divot / depression / hole / canyon / space / people-swallower /  
perfect-pool spot in my yard from the removal of a big dead tree.  I  
had dreamed of a water feature for a long time and only found highly  
complex and intricate and costly solutions.  So I decided to give the  
$99 wonder a try. (This sorta gives my tree-hugger guilt simplex  
around Sam's and a 'hand caught in the cookie jar" feeling a 5 cent  
rationalization.  It's my story and I'm sticking with it!)

Anyway, once home, unpacked and standing inside the hole with shovel  
in hand, no intent on measuring and an eagle eye only a self realized  
person would profess, I began digging down into the heart of the hole  
to create a nestle for the larger of the two black, pale-material  
pools.  The larger pool is approximately 6 feet by 3 feet and needed  
a dual-level dig to make it fit low enough to have side support and  
look like a natural feature.  I dug a bit and tried the pool, dug a  
bit and tried the pool, dug a bit and tried the pool until finally  
the bottom fit well - still had too much sticking up but that would  
work out later.  Then I got a relatively straight 2x4 and my trusty  
level and checked to see if the pool was at something less than a 45  
degree angle.  It wasn't - so more digging and leveling.

To address the "sticking out too much" issue - I dug and raked loose  
soil and rounded the edges of the hole into a gradual, inviting,  
"golfcourse-looking" water trap - artificially sloughing the steep  
sides into a pastoral slope.  I kept at it until the soil snugged up  
along the sides of the pool and the level came close to the top.  I  
felt like a new father and "damn I'm good" did creep into my  
consciousness if only for a moment.

Then I set out on the smaller and upper pool.  Less digging but equal  
amounts of trying, followed by more digging and raking and making  
sure the overhang position was good for a water fall effect, and,  
after raking and digging a bit, I was done - sorta.  I started  
packing the loose soil down along the sides with my foot and quickly  
realized that there were voids under and along each pool.  I also  
quickly realized that my foot packing wasn't getting the job done -  
so I did what any self-realized person would do.  I took a break.

A few hours later and many grinded thought processes followed, I went  
to the garage and dug the hoses out of winter storage - I would need  
them anyway to fill the thing up - why not use them to help with the  
installation.  Hoses hooked up and winter shut-off valve opened -  
water power flowed and made quick work of the soil as it was washed  
into the voids.  Then as any over zealous self realized person would  
do - I overdid the water.  And how, might you ask, can one over use  
water to settle soil?  I managed to float the entire lower pool like  
a bobber on a lake.  So I did what any respectable self realized  
person would do - I looked around to see if any one noticed - and I  
took a break.

A few hours of water seeping into the ground and a much less buoyant  
tub, I went to see if my worst fears were to be realized.  Had I  
washed the soil up under the pool and would I have to dig in mud and  
struggle to prevent the packed side from caving in once I had removed  
the empty pool?  I grabbed the level and with dread pulled the 2x4  
across the top of the now stable pool.  And Yes!  It was still level  
- OK a little off but this is spring and the vegetation will cover a  
world of inaccuracies.  I paused amidst this "I should do it  
perfectly and it might turn into a 3 day nightmare" thinking and  
finally, like any self realized person would do - I let go of the  
things I have no control of and let the universe have its way - and  
Lo!  It was perfect after all.  So I took a break.

A little while later I got the pump and tubes and hoses out then the  
long enough extension power cord and went to admire and complete my  
handy work.  Well, I'll be - it was perfect!  A bit prematurely, I  
put the water hose into the top basin, turned on the water and fed  
the hunger of the overly rushed desire to complete the project.  With  
water ticking and a measurable finish point looming, I took the tubes  
and hose and cord of the pump ensemble and spread them out and easily  
hooked it up, without of course the aid of instructions, and placed  
the pump assembly into the large, still dry lower pool.

The assembly wouldn't  stand up, and now the water began overfilling  
the upper pool and cascaded into my work area.  I got out of the pool  
and got on my knees in the slightly wet landscape soil and realized I  
needed a weight to hold the pump down.  Sadly, after many months of  
removing rocks from my yard, I could not find a rock for a weight  
(water still running).  The only rocks available were the "pretty"  
rocks my roomy had collected to majestically and beautifully line  
paths and set potted plants on.  With a little fancy rearranging and  
taking advantage of her absence this week on a trip out of town, I  
had my rock.  It worked beautifully.

As the water filled the lower pool and covered the now anchored pump  
assembly, I plugged her in and Voila!  I had a fountain - no water  
being pumped to the upper pool - but a significant fountain - in fact  
a bit much of a fountain as the water sprayed over the edge of the  
pool and onto my knees and surrounding soil.  I hadn't hooked up the  
hose through which the pumped water would recirculate into the upper  
pool and create a perpetual waterfall.  So I grabbed the hose and  
went to attach it to the little nipple on the pump assembly that I  
had noticed earlier.  I doubt that it would have been shown on the  

Now, I am a male of the species and in my life I have noticed that  
males often do things in what at least is the direct way, if not  
always the easiest, smartest or neatest way - and at the time it  
seems like the easiest way at least.  So did I unplug the pump before  
I started messing with the hose and fountain?  I will leave it to  
your imagination and will also note that tap water at this time of  
year is "damn" cold!  As my sleeves became more and more showered and  
saturated from the really pretty fountain spray, and my skin goose- 
bumped, and my torso began to get wet as did the ground beneath my  
knees - which also became soaked with ice cold water - the entire  
assembly fell apart in my hands.  It is at this point, as I look  
back, I could have easily admitted stupidity and unplugged the power  
line from the pump - but NOOOOO!  So as a self realized man, who was  
soaked from the waist up on my front and from the mid-thigh to below  
the knees, also on the front, I didn't take a break.  In fact I  
loggicked that since I was already wet, what the heck.  (Note to  
reader - I will again leave it to your imagination and my self- 
protecting pride to let you visualize how much spray and facial  
squirts and clothing absorption took place over the next few, though  
eternal in my mind, minutes.)

Bottom line - It worked great and looks great and the best news?  I  
had over 20 birds flock to the water within the first hour of setting  
it up and turning it loose.  Now today, less than 24 hours later - I  
have had yard visitors I have never seen before - a Yellow-Bellied  
Sap Sucker and a Song Sparrow - along with FOY Ruby-Crowned Kinglet,  
what appeared to be a Swainson's Thrush (ID not confirmed) and many  
phalanxes of robin's, grackles, goldfinches and the usual cast of  

So I highly recommend the cheap and easy to install pool system  
currently as Sam's in Fridley (or is that Blaine) at University and  
81st.  Moreover, even though I have always had bird baths and water  
available, the sound of water is what they are attracted to - based  
on results and non-drinking observations.  I praise noisy water in my  
quest for birdie nirvana in Spring Lake Park.

Thomas Maiello
Spring Lake Park

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