An Accursed Piece of Ground

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In June 2006, with the big pond still no more than a big hole in the ground due to lack of funds to complete it, and after taking out the little preformed pond due to yet another failed pump over the winter, I decided to get a birdbath fountain to put where the pondlette had been. Around the birdbath fountain, I'd create a small flowerbed.

How hard could that be? After all, I'd hand-dug a HUGE hole in the yard for the big pond, and had gone through an amazingly frustrating experience while putting in the preformed pond. Surely installing a birdbath fountain would be no problem at all.... "Just add water," right?

I looked around in various garden centers and online, trying to find the perfect (and affordable) birdbath fountain. Many that I saw were solar-operated and I figured that might not be a good option, due to the dappled sun in that part of the yard most of the day. I limited my search to corded ones and finally found a nice little birdbath fountain on sale at a local store. Yes, I knew it had to be assembled, but I'm pretty good at putting things together.

I bought it, brought it home, and early that evening I got it out of the Jeep, opened the box (which was heavy....), got everything out and started putting it together in my driveway. The base attached to the pedestal with 2 bolts, and the top basin attached to the pedestal with 3 bolts. The cord from the pump (which was in the basin) pulled through the pedestal and attached to a longer cord (that had the plug on it) that exited through a notch in the bottom of the base.

Before attaching the plugged cord and adding the cover over the pump and the decorative "fountain" piece, I carried the whole business to the back yard (I believe I already mentioned it was heavy?) and set it in the perfect spot--in the center of the filled in former pondlette site.

Yes, it would look good there, and I visualized the nice plantings that I'd have around it. And of course the extra bonus was that I'd still be able to hear the sound of trickling water from the back porch. Life was good.

I attached the pump cover and the fountain piece, then got ready to connect the 2 pieces of the electric cord. Of course to actually ATTACH the cord, I had to tip the birdbath over a bit. And yes, I'm pretty sure I mentioned that it was heavy.

I found that I couldn't tip it far enough to connect the two cords while holding it with one hand. Therefore, I had to move it from the perfect spot in order to lean it against something to support it while I tipped it over.

Once the cords were connected, I moved the birdbath fountain back to the perfect spot, picked up the plugged end of the cord, and was shocked to find that I lacked a good 3-4 feet to reach the outlet on the back of the house! This was NOT a good thing!!

I scooted it a little closer to the house (grumbling that it would no longer be in the perfect spot), tried to reach the outlet again--and pulled the plugged end of the cord out from the cord within the pedestal.

Well damn. Once more I had to move it in order to tip it over in order to connect the two cords. It was at this point that I realized this was no longer a fun project....

And, as things seem to go whenever I'm in this little piece of back yard, it all went downhill from there.

You may recall (if you read "Saga of the Preformed Pond") that I had to build up the ground around the pondlette in order to partially submerge it. Well guess what? In order to reach the outlet, I had to start excavating to created a more level spot.

Sisyphus has his stone to roll for eternity. I have my shovel....

It was hot and humid, I was digging through a lot of red clay, and pretty soon I was covered with red mud. The whole time I was digging, I was rethinking the flowerbed that I'd planned. Since the birdbath fountain could no longer be in the perfect spot, I knew I'd have to decide on other plantings in order to balance the bed. At least thinking about flowers kept my frustration level somewhat in check.

Finally I had it level enough--not perfectly level, but having been this route before with the preformed pond, "level enough" would have to do.

And finally, finally, I was at the "just add water" stage. Hallelujah!

I filled the birdbath and anticipated either a gentle trickling of water--or a geyser. I'd set the pump to maximum (per the instructions) and knew I might have to adjust the setting. What I didn't anticipate, when I plugged it in, was that it would do NOTHING. Absolutely nothing at all!

I plugged it in to the other outlet and still nothing happened.

I tried resetting the ground-fault breaker--and nothing happened.

What if the plugged part of the cord had separated from the cord within the pedestal again? Maybe that was the problem.... So I dumped the water out, moved it again, leaned it against something so that I could tip it over to access the cords, and they were fine--still connected. I lugged it back to the not quite level, but level enough spot, and again went through the routine of trying the different outlets, pushing the reset button, etc. to no avail.

I am really quite a patient person and I'm not given to screaming fits. And I didn't scream. Honestly. I thought about it, though. But with no further ado, I started taking it apart--first the fountain piece, then the cover for the pump, then the top from the pedestal, then the pedestal from the base, and then....I froze....

With all the pieces and parts around me, I had a terrible thought: Was the birdbath fountain pump really defective? Did the pondlette pump actually fail?! WHAT IF BOTH WERE FINE AND THE OUTLET WAS BAD??!! Had I taken out the preformed pond for no good reason?!

Just before I DID start screaming, it dawned on me that I'd used the outlet earlier in the spring with both an electric hedge trimmer and a weed eater. Just to be sure that it was still working, I got an extension cord and the hedge trimmer and it worked fine. I trimmed some of the bushes along the back of the house while I was at it.

As an experiment, I put some water in the top of the birdbath fountain (that was sitting on the ground), plugged its cord into the plugged part of the cord, and tried plugging the whole business into the extension cord. Nothing happened.

That pretty well assured me that the pump on the birdbath fountain was, indeed, bad, so I started carrying it, piece by piece, back to the box that I'd left in the driveway. And just then, out of a clear sky, it started to rain....

Of course nothing ever fits back into a box the same way that it came out, and it's hard to do anything slowly and efficiently when it's raining. There was red mud all over everything, the box was getting soaked, and one flap of it ripped off when I was struggling to lift it and put it back into the Jeep. THEN I remembered the hedge trimmer and extension cord I'd left in the back yard (in the rain), so I retrieved those before going inside--totally wet, muddy, frustrated and discouraged.

Several friends have independently said that my house must have been built on an old Indian burial ground, based on the various adventures and misadventures I've had since moving here. Perhaps they're right, because sometimes this truly does seem to be an accursed piece of ground....

As a post script to the preceding rant, I returned the birdbath fountain to the store the next day. The woman working in returns asked if I wanted to exchange it, and I said, "NO!!" She laughed and said that she didn't blame me. She went on to tell me that she had a similar birdbath fountain that was now just a birdbath because the pump had stopped working after the first summer and there was no good way to replace it, due to the way it was mounted into the basin.

I told her that I was going to go "low tech" and just get a traditional, concrete birdbath. And I did:

New Birdbath-Shade Garden, June 2006

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