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Paradise Lost?


Upon seeing our backyard for the first time, some have described it as a “Garden of Eden.” A very peaceful spot centered by nice, cool blue water surrounded by a screen of greenery that cocoons you from most of the outside world. But it didn’t always look this way, nor has it been easy to maintain.


Our efforts transforming this backyard began over 17 years ago and a detailed chronicling of its history can be found here.

At times, it seemed that our backyard paradise suffered almost biblical-like plagues. First came the winds, in the form of remnants of Hurricane Katrina that took out one of my favorite trees, a weeping willow.


Then one year there was the ice storm that took out a couple more trees along with part of our fence.

Fallen Cypress

Another year, an extended freeze of single digit temperatures killed off our prolific rosemary bush and the top of our mammoth fig tree.


But Mother Nature wasn’t the only culprit that wreaked havoc on our backyard.


Not as severe as biblical locusts but what originally looked like cute little pinecones, were bagworms that happen to love Leyland cypresses and now we discover Arborvitae as well.


This latest attack comes on the heels of us just having to remove three of our mature arborvitae infested with these little critters and replace them with ones less than half their size.


While there are sprays that can be used to treat these pests, one of the more effective techniques is manual removal by hand followed by a flushing down the toilet to prevent their return.


And just this year, a biological disease infected our ornamental cherry tree that required its removal, leaving yet another gaping hole in our green cocoon.


Over the 16 plus years that we have battled with and reacted to these mini disasters, I have been the “pool boy” maintaining the oasis at the center of this garden. Only in our first year did we close the pool so for me, this has been a year round endeavor. This we decided that first year as we looked out on the tarp covered pool with the water tubes along the deck as anchors, that it resembled a superfund waste site needing a major clean up. The beautiful blue surrounded by snow was our reward for keeping it open through the winter.


But my efforts at keeping the pool clean and chemically balanced over the years have not gone without significant effort on my part. I cannot begin to fathom how many trips I’ve made to the pool store to get a water sample tested and if needed purchase more chemicals for treatment. Or the numbers of times I have removed and cleaned the cartridge filters with high-pressure water.

Whenever things blew into the water, the original Polaris did a fine job of getting up larger pieces of debris but that, which was to small to be captured by its mesh bag I had to manually vacuum, another activity I’ve performed too numerous times to count.


Thanks to the recommendation by a friend, I purchased a low voltage vacuum system with a finer mesh bag that does a much better job of cleaning the pool, even picking up granules of sand that often blow into the pool. Think of it almost as a Roomba for your pool.

I’ve also dealt with algae growth periodically, a Mustard variety being the worst. As the trees and shrubs grew around our yard over the years, there was additional potential for things to blow or fall into the pool, providing more organic matter upon which the algae could feed.

In spite of my many efforts over the years, I think of all the money we have saved by me performing the pool maintenance, money that no doubt went into some of the landscape to make this a paradise-like setting. But this year, even my best efforts have been thwarted.

Much like the 17-year locust plague, this has been the 17-year algae plague. As I write this in mid-July, I have yet to get it fully under control. It was a major challenge just to get the pool ready for Memorial Day when all our family was in town.


Whether it has been the fault of an early heat, or stronger winds blowing even more algae sustenance into the pool, or a combination of both, it has been an infrequent day when the sparkling blue waters have invited us in for a swim. More often, we are faced with a cloudy pool or a green pool. In spite of my comments to my wife that even in this state, it’s still cleaner than swimming in a lake, she hasn’t ventured into the unsettled waters.

Green areas still to be vacuumed

One Saturday, I spent over nine hours vacuuming the pool. Only to be left by the end of the day with a cloudy pool that I still couldn’t see the bottom for all the fine particles I had disturbed.


For me, not being one to give up an effort, it was my wife who finally called in the professionals—the pool company. What they said was most interesting.

Understandably, there are no doubt differences of opinion as to how best to maintain a pool. One of the selling points by our pool contractor for installing cartridge instead of sand filtration was that vacuuming through the cartridges followed by cleaning them eliminates the loss of pool chemicals by not vacuuming to waste which basically flushes pool water to a storm drain.

But the pool professionals disagreed. In fact, they commented that some of the algae might be so small as to not even be caught by the cartridge filter membrane. If that were true, that would certainly explain the cloudiness when I vacuumed, which resulted from me just redistributing throughout the pool, the dead algae that had settled on the bottom. They also thought that we didn’t have good water circulation at the bottom of the pool and even though chemically the water at the surface was fine, what was below was deficient and allowed the algae to grow. When I found out what it would cost for them to treat and vacuum the pool, my nine-hour vacuuming hell quickly prompted me to agree to their offer.


This is what the pool looked like after their two visits. And although some dead algae accumulated not long after they came, I used their technique and vacuumed to waste. It took less than 30 minutes to get rid of the dead algae leaving the pool looking like this.


Admittedly, I had to add water for several hours following my vacuuming to waste, but it will still be well worth it to keep the pool looking nice and blue. In fact it was not only nice enough for my wife, but our granddaughter as well.


Paradise regained!

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