Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Sweet, Sweet Water
I was tossing and turning in bed last night, listening to The Winged Menace squawk at something or other, and I couldn’t get an image out of my head: a sparkling clean water trough.  I saw it on Pinterest yesterday when I was poking around looking for weird pictures of goats.  Anyway, this trough looks better than my swimming pool (no lie – but that’s another topic).  Who is this alchemist? 

How in the world does she do it?!  So, of course I clicked right over to her site.

Her first recommendation: goldfish.  Done.  A friend’s husband used to work for the local “Mosquito & Vector Control District” and he told me about the fish trick years ago.  The theory is that the goldfish eat mosquito larvae and algae – solving two common farm problems.
You buy a bag of “feeder fish” at the local pet store (10-25 cents each) and pour them into your trough and forget about them.  No drops to adjust the pH of the water; no acclimating fish to the water temperature; no fish food.  Nope.  Just dump them in the trough.  True, a few die the first day—they get weeded out (Darwin?); but the survivors are pretty hardy.  In fact, I had one goldfish that grew to SIX INCHES LONG!  No joke.  Sadly, a heron or something speared “Shamu.” 
But maybe I just didn’t have enough fish? 'Cause all three of my troughs looked like this:
Ewww.  I hadn’t thought about it…until I saw the sparkling clean water trough on Pinterest.  Who knew there was another way?  Our livestock dogs, donkeys, goats, chickens and Guinea Fowl all drink the green stuff.  Yes, David’s little Havanese doggy drinks bottled water (for Pete’s sake), but not my Farm Dogs.  And they are A-OK.  But that picture of the super clean trough got under my skin.
Her next recommendation was “Stock Tank Secret.”  She even included a link to the item on Amazon (thank you!).  Without even turning on the light, I grabbed my phone, logged on to Amazon and ordered 12 of them; then Amazon told me that people also bought the “Ultra Clear Barley Pellets,” so I bought two of those boxes for good measure.  With my 2-day, “Amazon Prime” shipping I should have it all by Wednesday!  Done.
So there I was at 3:00 am, lying awake, thinking about water troughs, and shopping on Amazon.  This is what my life has come to…
I devised a plan: three buckets, the spaghetti colander, and a scrub brush.  After I had my coffee, I donned my sunscreen and my hat and gathered my supplies.  Here’s the technique: you use one bucket to scoop up water and pour it through the colander into the next bucket.  Any fish that get caught in the colander get relocated into the third bucket, which you conveniently have pre-filled with water.

I have three big troughs.  Two are oval, 14” high, 4’ long, and 2’ wide.  The other is a circle, 5’ in diameter and 12” deep (that one used to be the swimming pool for my former geese – more on that story another time).  Combined, the three troughs hold approximately 320 gallons of water.  My little bucket holds about 2 gallons.  So, that’s… 160 buckets of water.  Each one of them carefully strained so that no fish is lost.
I set about my project with the pragmatism of a German Capricorn, mother of 7.  Scoop.  Pour. (Relocate fish?!) Clean colander.  Toss water.  Repeat.  I started with one of the smaller troughs.  It had a grand total of three fishies.  With the fish safely relocated in the blue bucket, I scrubbed the trough, its automatic waterer and its large rocks (habitat for the fish).  I reassembled the trough, added water and reintroduced the fish.  Such satisfaction.  Not only was my trough clean, but I had also watered my tree (terrible drought going on over here) and not one fish had died.  Oh yeah.
Next, the big one.  The goose pool.  I moved the hose, buckets, and scrubber over to the next pen.  This trough is 5x larger than the other two, but no matter.  I am a goat herder.  “Eat the elephant one bite at a time,” I tell my kids.  “One bucket at a time” in this case.
I had 5 of the little fish all tucked into their blue bucket, but one kept peeking through the surface to taunt me.  A tease.  But I got him, too.  Hah.  I flipped over the bucket to hose off the bottom (not sure why, but I felt compelled to do it) and there was a nasty gross bug.  I forged ahead.

Moving on.  Two down, one to go.
I got into a groove.  I imagined myself panning for gold; or excavating at an archeology site.  My livestock dog quickly learned to keep a safe distance from the bucket of flying water.  He’s no dummy.
Three hours later, my troughs were clean and my 14 little goldfish were all alive. Hallelujah.
When it was all over, I sat in the driveway with a clear view of one of the troughs (iPhone camera in hand), waiting for a goat to come over and taste the sweet, sweet water.  I waited and waited and waited for just one goat to venture over; 40 minutes passed according to my watch.  Stupid, I know, but, damn it, I needed some appreciation.  Some validation.

When I wasn’t imagining myself as a 49er or Indiana Jones, I questioned why I didn’t just empty the trough halfway and then dump the water, fish and all.  I could hear my Ex-husband’s voice in my head lecturing me.
In my “real life” I am a self-employed consultant, so I am keenly aware of how much I bill for my time.  And I know I could’ve bought 14 new goldfish for $3.00.  And I know I could’ve hired a laborer on the corner by the post office and paid him $30 to clean my troughs.  
But I just couldn’t do any of those things.
While Katherine is (still) at summer camp, the goats are my responsibility.  I identified a problem, devised a plan and executed it.  Not one fish died under my watch.
So here I sit with my back and butt aching from bailing 320 gallons of yucky green water.  But I feel accomplished and validated, and sometimes that’s all that matters.

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