I was a ravaging barbarian this week. I went after the cattails in the pond with the Scythe of Death and sliced them off at their roots, dragging to the shore the dried leaves and stems from last year and some new green shoots that thought they would get the better of me. Ha!
Last year was the year to admire the slow spread of these marshland beauties and observe how they transformed the habitat in our farm pond. I learned through that experience that the cattails are happy to expand their territory relentlessly, even though it is a lined pond with not all that much soil available on top of the the thick rubber skin. They spread out a dense mat of thin roots that, as I found out this week, is quite difficult to pull up once it is established.
Sure, cattails are beautiful to look at and make life easier for the frogs to hide in, but I now understand that you need to keep them within certain boundaries. I researched various ways to control them and decided that before I went the chemical route, I’d try my best with the brute force method. I purchased an innovative tool for cutting them and raking them in. It is a “T” shape, with a long, sharp, serrated edge bolted at an angle onto a long handle that can reach out a good twelve feet into the water.
It took me a while to get the hang of the technique, but now I am quite good at it. You reach it out beyond the farthest weeds and let it sink to the bottom, then in short jerking movements you yank it back towards the shore, chopping the cattails right off their root system and sometimes snagging the root mat itself and pulling it out. It is very satisfying to see the leaves come floating up to the surface in surrender as you work your way back to the shore. Then you turn the rake over and use it to draw the floating debris back onto the shore into a big pile.
I discovered a lot of dead fish, unfortunately. I’d say 20-30 by now. I have seen a couple minnows but none of my big fish swimming yet, so I worry that maybe they did not make it through the winter. I do remember that it took a while last spring before they showed themselves, so hopefully a few 60 degree days may bring them back to the surface looking for me to throw them some pellets.
I have spent two days cutting and raking until my body about gave out and I had to come in to recover. Amazingly, I have not been unusually sore in the mornings, so I like to take credit for stretching well afterwards as well as the strong muscles I have developed from swimming. I have one more good day of work on the pond and then have to decide what to do with all the debris and stinky dead fish. Moving that will be a big, messy job as well.