Something like 10 years ago, my husband had access to a copious supply of llama manure. He used it on his gourd vines, and they grew an absolute treat.
Now that we're adding new beds, I thought I'd see if I could find a local source for the good stuff. The South Central Llama Association was able to hook me up with some charming local farmers and their fetching camelids who let us shovel away all the brown gold we wanted. I think they were slightly disappointed that we didn't take more.
Llama poop is funny stuff. It comes in large, dry pellets that smell like a petting zoo (much less stinky than cow, horse, or chicken poop, for instance--more like goats or sheep, I guess?). They're very compact, and they neither squoosh nor crumble when stepped on. Kind of remarkable, really--might be suitable as insulation on the space shuttle.
The poop isn't composted. This seems risky, but there will be a lull of at least one or two months before the plants start to go in, so it should at least be weathered by then. Also, interestingly, the llama farmers actually grow their tomatoes and peppers in raised beds filled with nothing but fresh llama poop and a little sand! Apparently, it doesn't burn the way other kinds of manure do. Odd, but convenient.
You can see the poop in action below: we're wrapping a new bed around the pond, and we've sprinkled the area generously with llama offerings. Next paycheck (probably) we'll buy topsoil and mulch to raise the bed to the level of the pond ledge and hide all the black pond liner.
I can't remember if I've actually shown any pictures of our rock in action. Lovingly hand laid by local artisans (i.e. Matt & me). It was not quite as much work as it looks like, but it was fully every bit as expensive as you might imagine.
We put down groundcloth to keep back the weeds, added 1-2" sand, and laid the rocks on top. In that same paycheck in which we buy topsoil, we'll also buy crushed granite to fill everything in. Till then, the patio's a little dangerous--the rocks aren't at all stable yet, and they like to suddenly pop up and tip you over, as my scraped ankles and elbows attest.
Matt & I have started using it, all the same. The nights have been so beautiful all month that we've been lighting up the fire pit and sitting out by the pond. So serene. It's so strange to really do nothing--not read, not mess around on the internet--nothing. Just look at the stars, watch the fire, and listen to the water. I think it might be good for me.
Our other essential pond project is a modest amount of landscape lighting. We don't often get random drunks or zombies straying across the property, but should one lumber on over, I don't want them falling in the pond. Also, it's slightly easier to balance safely on the flagstones if you can see them (the flagstones, that is, not the zombies. Though those too, come to think of it).
We've got the transformer, wires, and a handful of fixtures, but we need about 10 more path lights and we still need to hook it all together. Still, you can see the two that will go at the edge of the terrace in the picture below. Hopefully, they'll be fairly unobtrusive but still effective. I'm not looking for the full-on LET-THERE-BE-LIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT!!!! Effect--just some subtle glowy spots to prevent bloodshed.
Meanwhile, amidst all this progress, some sad news: I can't find Safety First anywhere. I've looked for him every time I've been out there, but no sign so far. We haven't lost any of our adults up to the point--I wouldn't have thought the cautious Safety First would have been the first to go. But perhaps he sacrificed himself heroically, distracting a voracious heron that was eying the small fry. If so, it was not in vain--I counted over 30 baby/adolescent fish yesterday. You may be gone, Safety First, but your legacy lives on.