Don’t play koi with me

Mostly, I remember that God-awful smell.

We moved into our house a year ago this coming March, and perhaps the biggest selling point was the backyard. That deck. The rolling hill down to an open field. And that little plastic-lined pond by the back door.

It even gurgled slowly to life when the real estate agent shut her eyes and eased the plug in.

My daughter squealed. My wife smiled. And no one gave a thought that the ground and most of the water was still frozen, that frigid February day.

Then I signed some papers. And winter melted  into a mud-caked spring. And the little birdies sat out back just singing away.

And good Lord that pond stunk.

So, what does this have to do with Hanover, you ask?

Well, tomorrow photographer Shane Dunlap and I are going to check out a place — and meet a guy — I surely needed back in those soggy spring days. He’s right here in our collective backyard.

Hanover Koi Farms, planted out toward Spring Grove on Moulstown Road, sounds like a bit of a hidden treasure. The website, put together by owner John Fornaro, says the operation breeds numerous varieties of koi and longfins, raising them on-site with no imported koi from outside sources like Japan, long the best-known source for the popular fish.

Fornaro speaks of the 6-acre site as a “24/7 endeavor,” one he gave up a successful contracting business to pursue. He’s also writing a book, from what I hear.

Hanover Koi Farms, on Moulstown Road, offers a full line of fish and backyard pond supplies. Hopefully, they also offer guidance for the handiness-challenged.

As I’ve said before, I’m endlessly fascinated with the array of businesses and unique interests in the Hanover area. And even more interested in the people that pursue them.

At a glance, this sounds no different, and I expect Shane and I will be in for a few hours of fun, and no small amount of education on something I know little about.

I see, too, on Fornaro’s website, in addition to specialized fish Hanover Koi Farms offers a full supply of pond tools and accessories. Everything you need for that perfect water feature out back.

Good for him and the handy crowd, if not necessarily for someone who can’t pick up a hammer without injuring himself. Me trying to create anything but a paragraph is a sad sight, I promise you.

Heck, sometimes I can’t even get that right.

But I have to say one sloppy spring afternoon last year I did, for once, rise to the occasion.

With a worn black wet-vac borrowed from my father-in-law and a pair of flowery pink gardening gloves swiped from my wife I took a deep breath, and took to the job. I ripped and pulled and coaxed and cursed until finally — a few smelly hours later — I pulled out that pond liner, and toted it out front to the curb for bulk pick-up.

The hole out back eventually got filled in (yeah, I managed to screw that up initially, too) and I ended up planting some basil, parsley and a few tomato plants in that spot, gardening being one of the few household chores I can sometimes handle. We had some pretty good spaghetti sauce this past fall, if I do say so.

But I couldn’t help notice just a few hours later that spring afternoon — after a long shower for my aching back and tender hands — something looked different, out there in front of the house.

Then it hit me: the pond liner was already gone.

Probably snatched up by some brave soul like John Fornaro — the type who always make me a little jealous.

I’m sure he has the patience and vision to see beyond something like a few buckets full of stale water. And I’m sure he has the creativity to come up with all sorts of brilliant backyard ideas, too.

So maybe I can at least pick up some tips and a few new tricks tomorrow, something I can use to impress in the coming days. If so I’ll be sure to pass them along.

Right now, though, I better go ask my wife if I can borrow her gloves.

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