My landscape garden abuts a man-made pond with about 200 feet of “shoreline”. The pond was the trumpcard ensuring my drive to purchase the property late 1973. True, the house was an uninteresting box and smaller than our Minneapolis home, but I was finished with city life. Hippies with all of their ugly, had invaded our neighborhood….and I had three children to raise.

The box was at the end of a cul de sac where the kids could play without disturbance, the folks who lived their were civil, and nearly the entire grounds was in lawn where I had plenty of space to plant vegetables and expand my interests in the art of landscape gardening.

However, the moment I saw the pond, I thought selfishly as a kid, my family had to live here, pondside, come hell or high water, as they used to say back then.

I was lucky in my marriage…..I think my wife understood the matter.

The shoreline has changed remarkably in the forty years of my stewardship. Most of all, however, the 2/3rds of an acre has been changed from lawn bothered by a few oaks along a back slope to a beautiful landscape garden grounds with a seven minute mowing lawn.

I have since lost all of the original oaks to oak wilt. All but the seven minute lawn mowing lawn I personally removed…..bit by bit, summer by summer, opening new areas for landscape garden cultivation as my time and energy each season could permit. These were very difficult years for me personally. I was lucky to become drugged by the potion I loved most in life, second to my love for my children, the garden.

I have been lucky in life.

No garden can collect the variety of northland birds as can a garden built by conifers. That is a given, and I knew it since I was a kid in Miss Marie Hart’s General Science class in 1947. The songbirds are endless in their variety and numbers and so, attract raptors who look down upon the little ones for lunch from time to time. Sorry gals, hawks are beautiful too, even if they are usually hungry while hanging around in the high trees above the pond across from my gardens.

Early in my residence we used to house blackbirds, both redwing and yellowheads. They enjoyed the wastelands around the pond where homeowners used to dump their household waste among the weeds. A civilized landscape has shooed them away in favor of cardinals, song sparrows, chickadees, catbirds, wrens, goldfinches, and hummingbirds, to name the regulars. Scarlet Tanagers have thrice visited here midMay over my tenure as chief gardener.

Muskrats and rodents of great numbers of varieties live in and around the pond….and the Virginia White tail is always a potential pondside visitor, especially in winter feeding on a mature crabapple producer at the shoreline. Deer, beautiful as they are, are always a landscape problem in the western Twin City suburbs. One spring I saw a fawn being born pondside at about 5 o’clock in the morning. The doe had already dropped it still in the placenta sac as I accidently approached the scene. The doe held her ground to stare at me, so I asked her what her problem was….why hadn’t she run off?…..and then I saw the answer still in its ‘casing’ wriggling to become free.

I felt like such a heal for interrupting this miracle of birth…..and backed off hiding behind an arborvitae, ‘tree of life’.

The doe returned to her task, ate some of the excess baggage to free her produce and within five minutes this awkward weakling, exercised enough to stand steady. A little love from ma, a push with her nose, and the next minute they ran off together into the darker part of my woods.

Another visitor, however, which I’ll never forget, entered the garden grounds running furtively onto my twelve minute (at that time) stretch of cared for lawn and suddenly stopped to gaze at me.

I knew the animal the moment it stopped to size me up. The only place I had ever seen a coat as beautiful as this animal’s was at the State Fair when I was a teen…..A mink was looking me over as if I might be something chewable.

Thank God I was too tall, for it immediately looked elsewhere for something more manageable and darted down to the pond, where it stopped to survey the menu whereupon I saw the sun backlighting the animal displaying its coat even more beautifully than when featured against the lawn.

For those who might be interested in visiting “Ray’s Glen”, the home of Masterpiece Landscaping, Ltd, please call 952-933-5777 to set up a time.