We have two ponds in our backyard. What we call the "lower" pond we had built shortly after we moved in. Later, Joe built the "upper" pond, with a waterfall, an adjacent bog, and a stream that connects the two ponds. We also installed a larger pump and biological gravel filter. At the same time, Joe modified the lower pond to make the sides steeper and also dug it a little deeper.

The ponds are filled with a variety of plants such as horsetail, papyrus, water lettuce, arrowhead. Some thrive and try to take over, while some just last a season. Of course, we have several varieties of water lilies too, and they bloom from April or May until October. Laura spends a couple of days each spring wading around in hip boots repotting plants and cleaning out debris. Every few weeks she dons her waders again and fertilizes the lilies and gets rid of old leaves.

The ponds are a wonderful haven for all sorts of animals. The chief inhabitants are the "eight-cent goldfish," descendants of a small batch that we bought from Petsmart. They have multiplied only too well and can survive almost anything. They do get occasionally raided by a great blue or green heron.

We have a fine crop of leopard frogs almost every year. We used to have many American toads and sometimes a few cricket frogs, but the recent drought has made them scarce. Snakes are mostly red-striped garter or checkered garter. Every once in a while, we get a larger kind of water snake. We've caught and released several of those.

Insects are abundant and include dragonflies and damselflies, water striders, and water beetles. Oh, and there are leeches, too.