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Having been active professionally in the pond industry for more than 30 years, you would think that I’d seen it all and then some. Nope, not even close. Actually, when I think about it, it brings humor to my life, and that you just can’t buy.
I thought I’d share some of these anecdotes with you in an effort to serve two purposes; first, for your hopeful entertainment, and second, for your enlightenment, mixed with the smile on your face.
I’ve learned by seeing, assessing and fixing thousands of ponds, done by do-it-yourselfers or “certified” high dollar so-called “professionals”. There’s always some individual walking around with a rubber mallet, looking for another anvil to break. These highly qualified, enthusiastic budding ‘engineers’ (actually blooming idiots) never cease to amaze me with their new way to build a square wheel . . . upside down and sideways.
Having taught many seminars to potential “pond professionals,” I know from personal experience that many manufacturers and large distributors in our industry have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on hosting, training and educational seminars. There is no charge for many of these seminars, and for those who do charge, the fee is nominal. These manufacturers realize that by offering this training, they get a higher return on investment (ROI). Another thing it does is point out those who are interested in learning the right way to install and size equipment.
There has never been, well at least not in the last 10 or 12 years, a shortage of high-caliber professional contractors offering instruction and education, financially sponsored by major industry players. The problem has been the male ego.
I’ve got the T-shirt in my closet, given to me many years ago by a loving wife, that boldly states: “Real Men Don’t Need Instructions.” Just for giggles, I wear it into Home Depot every now and then. It never fails—I have always been stopped by more than one woman who has read it and wants to know where she can get one for her dad, father, husband, brother or uncle. That is a real problem in our industry that needs to be overcome. We do need instructions, especially when it comes to our profession. With new products coming out, we need to understand the differences between the old and the new, so that we can do a better job.
The most common thought process goes something like this—short and sweet: “How tough can it be, dig a hole, throw in some liner and rocks and add water?” I know, I’ve seen it and I’ve been there, even though it was 35 years ago. Wow, do they think a heart bypass is that easy, too?
You’ve got to become educated on water quality, bacteriology, fluid hydraulics, friction loss on pipes and fittings, fish health, aquatic plants, and how to determine the proper size of a pump, plumbing, filtration, turnover and much more. A one-day seminar does not a pond professional make. A lifetime of dedicated self-improvement will, if you pay attention.
How many of you have seen skimmer throat plates installed upside down? How about in the same skimmer they run the plumbing out the overflow opening, screwing up the leaf basket, and run the overflow out the plumbing hole with no bulkhead? What about using shallow soil pipe in the skimmer? Have you seen schedule 40 fitting, with flex PVC pipe, glued together with clear PVC glue? Didn’t the person that made that installation realize that it was the wrong glue? Didn’t he realize that after the one-year warranty runs out, three weeks later, it all falls apart? Oh, and the autofill is set to shut off 1/2-inch higher than the overflow pipe.
And yet, they continue to do it over and over and . . . well, I think you get the picture. By the way, I’ve recently repaired two systems with these exact problems. Within three days, these two calls came in. The unfortunate thing is, they were installed by a contractor who was “certified” by the manufacturer.
How about this one? A happy new pond owner, bubbling with enthusiasm, who’s buying three of every chemical offered at the nearest pond store and gleefully dancing around the pond like Johnny Appleseed, throwing in enough chemicals, ignoring label directions, to cause the pond to spontaneously combust . . . or almost.
Of course, the fish are the first casualties in this scenario. Then you’ve got the homeowner who power feeds his fish to the point that the water is so choked and green from algae that deer are drowning in it after trying to walk across the “meadow.”
He refuses to cut back because he feels guilty about starving them—they are so hungry all the time, they must need food. Not.
Anybody gone to a leaking pond and found the liner cut 1/2-inch lower than the level in the stream, or the pond? Have you seen 6000gph pumps on one-inch clear vinyl tubing? Or even better, with the barbed fitting that came with the pump used for a 5/8-inch garden hose?
Have you seen waterfalls that look like someone piled up an oversized stack of marbles and foamed them in with enough foam to insulate Carnegie Hall? Oversized pumps in undersized skimmers? “Pondless” features back-filled with small pea gravel that has clogged all the openings in the vault and has even filled the bottom of the vault to the point where the gravel has beaten the impellers flat? They couldn’t pump water any more, even if they could get enough from the top opening of the vault.
If you’ve noticed the high number of questions, and if you don’t know the answers, you need some education and information. It’s readily available if you can just get past your male ego and ask. The International Pond Professional Companies Association’s (IPPCA) INFO TANZA multiple-day educational workshops at this year’s Irrigation Show in San Diego, California, comes to mind.
In closing, there are many things that are done wrong in our industry. That doesn’t mean that they have to be done wrong. There is a plethora of high quality products from multiple manufacturers available to us pond professionals.
Many years ago, I built a website called Pondcleanout.com. It’s not a beautiful site, unless you’re there for information. That, its got. I included an article/seminar guide sheet in the related topics section titled Back to Basic Pondbuilding. In this article, I list the 16 most common mistakes made by pondbuilders, both amateur and professionals alike, that I’ve seen in my career. I could have done a top 100, but. . . . You might want to check it out. I’ve always felt it was easier to learn about our chosen profession than breaking an anvil with a rubber mallet. Of course, that’s just me. I’m not as talented as some.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Dave Jones is the owner of The Pond Professional, Woodstock, Georgia. In writing this article, although these are serious problems, Jones adds a little levity just to keep it light.