Saturday, September 25, 2010


Autumn already! - But why regret the everlasting sun, if we are sworn to a search for divine brightness, - far from those who die as seasons turn.
Rimbaud, Farewell

For several years now, I’ve been planning to install a shishi odoshi, or “deer scare” adjacent to the old pond where we had one many years ago. Here is the site before I began: the water feature is in the deep shade beneath the palm leaf, and behind the potman on his little chair.

The shishi odoshi has a large bamboo rocker arm closed on one side and open to a small stream of water at the other. The arm is then mounted so it pivots at the balance point. As the tube fills with water, it slowly overfills and tips; emptying the water and making a lovely sound as the bamboo strikes the rock. The sound of the hollow bamboo tube, knocking on a large rock every time the tube fills with water, pivots, and tips to empty is strangely peaceful. I doubt that it scares anybody, but unlike every other standing water feature in my yard, birds do not seem to drink from this new installation, so maybe it does scare them.

We got a new shishi odoshi several years ago at a local craft fair, but I finally got around to beginning the project to hook it up. The challenge isn’t plumbing so much as excavating, cleaning out the overgrown spot where ginger colonized in the shade of an old palm.

The site held several years of accumulated weeds and dirt, rocks, as well as black widow and other spiders. This is one of the few tasks that I will only undertake wearing good garden gloves. When moving stones and rocks, gloves are necessary to protect my hands from being cut, and to avoid encrusting the cuts with dirt, but more importantly to protect me from disturbed spiders as I evict them from their lairs.

The water drip is fed from a small submersible aquarium pump inside a completely contained reservoir that re-circulates the water – we have electricity nearby to power the pump. Because of inevitable leaks and drips, the entire arrangement must sit on top of the reservoir. This assures that water is lost only to evaporation and not to drips that don’t return water to the reservoir.

By the time I was done with the preparation, excavation and placement of the reservoir, I realized the black plastic storage box was too small to contain both ends of the shishi odoshi AND the drip-line of the sounding rock I had chosen. Since I really wanted to use the hollowed out hypertufa pot as the source of my mountain spring, I was forced to choose either the shishi odoshi or the hollowed out rock itself. I went with the rock, and Tech Support Guy drilled a hole in the bottom for the tube leading from the reservoir. He also drilled a handful of small holes in the lid of the plastic storage box/reservoir to allow the water to drain beneath the rocks and return to the reservoir.

I even took some of the plentiful moss from the ground beneath the big old pine tree, and smooshed it into some of the grooves in the tufa pot. I’d love to see the moss naturalize itself here. I have found that I get algae in the other tsukubai, and have to pour in a splash of Clorox in once in a while to keep it from looking greasy with algae. Since the tsukubai gets direct sun half the day, I think that may be the source of the algae problem. The new water feature is in full shade all day, so I’m hoping the moss will thrive and the algae won’t.

Later, I’ll try to install the shishi odoshi elsewhere in the garden, perhaps at a spot where it can be powered by a solar pump. But meanwhile, I now have an inviting cool spring bubbling qieetly over moss, near the place where the new stone table and benches will go, replacing the old decomposing stone table and benches - but that's another project.


Martha in Michigan said...

Say, I request a close-up of the bamboo tube in action. Soon, perhaps, I will post some before-and-after of the removal of my in-ground pool. The breakdown of the pool surround left me with tons (literally) of paving stones and curved edge blocks. I gave many to neighbors but used quite a few to edge landscape features that now look much more calculated than naturalized. Not sure I like it ... but darn sure I don't want to haul all those rocks again anytime soon!

walk2write said...

One of these days when we finally get settled, I'd like to have one of these features. You make it look easy to install. Would you consider uploading a little video of it in action? Oh, you've used one of my favorite words--smooshed.

Martha in Michigan said...

It was 113 degrees in LA on September 27! What is this, the apocalypse? How hot did it get in Dan Diego?

Annie in Austin said...

Oh, a bamboo deer scare is something we've wanted for years, Weeping Sore...saw them at a couple of different Japanese style gardens over the years.
I wonder if the squirrels would be intimidated enough to leave it alone here or if they'd still chew the end of the bamboo tube.
After seeing your post I know the shishi odoshi will stay on the wish list.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

PS Isn't it odd that shishi odoshi translates to Deer Scare but Shishi Gashira (the camellia) is translated as Lion's Head?