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Column

Wimbiscus: Minding waste in the pond and beyond

Well, it took nearly four years, but the twins are finally housebroken.

No more diapers.

No more training pants.

No more mandatory bathroom breaks at 10, 12 and 2.

No more potty chaperoning.

Because now they take care of everything themselves.

The day I’ve dreamed of has finally arrived: I’ve become a hands-free caretaker.

Still, cleaning up after the grandkids is easier than cleaning up after the dog.

The dog also took four years to housebreak, but recently he’s begun to regress. Now, at age 12, he seems to feel that the house rules concerning his daily constitutionals no longer apply under certain conditions.

Such as if it’s raining outside.

Or if we’ve just mopped the floor.

Or if he’s mad at us.

Any savings we’ve recouped on training pants and diaper wipes is now being reinvested in mega-packs of paper towels, Spic-N-Span and elbow grease since effectively cleaning up after the dog can only be accomplished while on one’s hands and knees.

Still, cleaning up after the dog is easier than cleaning up after the fish.

A 500-gallon pond dominates our back yard. Though pond is kind of a misnomer. It’s more like an open sewer. With fish. It’s home to one small koi and nine large goldfish. Up until last week it had 11 large goldfish, but then the neighborhood raccoon stopped by for a late-night snack.

It’s hard to believe how much mess one small koi and nine large goldfish can generate … along with all the leaves, grass and other assorted organics that fall into the pond and end up rotting on the bottom. The only way to dispose of the waste is to pump it through a filter. But once the filter becomes clogged, someone’s got to clean it out.

Cleaning the filter involves getting on your hands and knees, reaching down into the bottom of the pond (it’s about shoulder depth), pulling out the pump assembly and then removing the filter, which is basically a large sponge that keeps all the filth from being pulled into the pump and recirculated back into the water. The filth-encrusted sponge then has to be washed out with garden hose, squeezed clean and re-inserted into the pump-assembly.

At the best of times, the process is repeated once or twice weekly. At the worst of times, the process is repeated once or twice daily.

Still, cleaning up after the fish is easier than cleaning up after the tree.

Our back yard is dominated by one large tree: a hybrid honey-locust. Each spring, the tree sprouts thousands of little green tassels, each of which is covered with hundreds of little green flowers.

At some point, usually in late May, the tassels start dropping flowers in a frenzy of pointless pollination, blanketing the back yard and everything in it under a thick layer of sterile sex dust. Falling like rain, the little green flowers stop up the gutters, clog the pond pump and cover every square inch of the patio, which has to be cleaned daily with a broom and shovel. Otherwise they get into the dog’s fur and end up all over the inside of the house.

Still, cleaning up after the tree is easier than dealing with 24-hour urine tests.

Every other month I’m given a plastic orange jug by my doctor and told to fill it over the course of a day. The test parameters are somewhat stringent. Collection has to occur over the course of exactly 24 hours and the specimen has to be kept refrigerated at all times. The next day I take it into the lab, where the technicians use it to help determine if I’m still alive.

Over the course of my life, I fear at least one of two disasters will occur during the 24-hour urine collection phase: 1. I will drop the jug and spill it all over the floor. 2. I will mistake the jug for the orange juice container and accidentally drink out of it.

Years ago they used to have a saying: “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

But I guess it works both ways.

Because waste is a terrible thing to mind.

• Bill Wimbiscus, former reporter and editor for The Herald-News, has lived in Joliet for 25 years. He can be reached at news@theherald-news.com.

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