I didn’t exactly find a wet suit under the Christmas tree but, rather, a set of dive booties and a box containing a picture of a wet suit. I knew this signified Steve had shopped around and found a place we could buy me some gear that would help me work in the pond in winter.
So a week after Boxing Day we drove to the South Coast Surf Shop, a block north of Crystal Pier. A friendly sales guy directed me to the O’Neill wet suit Steve had earlier targeted, and I wriggled into one. I’ve owned a wet suit before, decades ago when we were playing around with scuba diving. Mercifully, the O’Neill was not quite as bulky and awkward to get into, but rather a thinner variety (3/2 mm) of the sort favored by surfers. That salesman assured us it should allow me to comfortably spend an hour or two in the wintry water.
It was raining that morning, as it has so often in the past few weeks. That’s been disastrous for many Californians, but the parade of storms hasn’t walloped San Diego too hard (yet). In fact, the rains have been wonderful for us. Early in December Steve figured out a way to channel all the rain from our main roof directly into the pond. We have that roof connected to a 55-gallon rain barrel, but more than 10 times that amount can run off our roof in a good storm. Rather than waiting until after a storm and then tapping the water in the barrel, Steve connected a garden hose to the barrel at the start of the first storm to capture all the flow throughout it. By the end of December, the pond was full to the point of overflowing (except that it has an overflow drain to prevent that from happening.)
We got a break from the rain last weekend, and the sun shone brightly — a perfect day to test out the new gear. Santa also had given me an inflatable chair I hoped would be a better work platform than the blow-up raft I got last spring. To complete my rig, Steve figured out a way to hang a scissors around my neck, which we hoped could prevent me from losing them.
I won’t lie. When I gingerly stepped down from the former swimming pool stairs, I gasped. But I reminded myself that any woman who can plunge into the Baltic Sea in October should be able to handle 60 degrees in sunny Southern California.
Indeed, within minutes I was reasonably comfortable and able to concentrate on cleaning up the flora while Steve toiled at using a long net to scoop out some of the gunk that accumulates at the bottom of the pond.
I learned some things as I worked. In the shallow end, the chair turned out to be more trouble than just standing, but in the deeper water, it worked better than the raft. I’m still figuring out the best thing to do with the detritus I collect. On this foray, it turned out to be easier just to make my way over to the side and dump it there, rather than trying to stuff it into a portable bag. What ultimately drove me out of the water was my fingers, which tend to lose circulation and turn white under the best of conditions. But they were okay for about an hour. Gloves might help in the future, but I’m afraid they would impair my ability to feel what I’m pruning and gathering.
So I consider this experience a success. I removed a lot of the worst decay and algae, and within days the water looked much more clear.
I’ll happily don my suit and repeat the exercise on another warm, sunny day. We may have to wait a while for one of those, however.