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2020 VLOGGING TOUR WITH GREG WITTSTOCK

Exactly a week has gone by since our day with Greg Wittstock, The Pond Guy. Greg is the founder, owner, and CEO of Aquascape, Inc., headquartered outside of Chicago in St. Charles, Illinois. Tom, Matt, Tabitha, and I traveled together with Greg in our new Ford F-450 Crew Cab truck. Praise God we have a Crew Cab instead of our previous extended cab.

In early January 2020, we found out that our company would be included in Greg’s Vlogging Tour for 2020. Wow! What an opportunity for such a small family business like Kingdom Landscaping. I believe it was in March that we found out that our turn would take place in early June…and then the Pandemic became front and center in everyone’s lives. At any rate, we began planning and preparing for our BIG day. This meant choosing six to eight ponds to be toured, assembling our photos and videos of each project, contacting our customers and getting approval, having questionnaires and other paperwork filled out and uploaded to Greg’s Assistant, Amy, in addition to helping our customers prepare their ponds as well as our team preparing our facility.  Oh yeah, and all of this while maintaining our regular busy spring work schedule.  Whew!

In the four weeks up to the event, the word “busy” would be an understatement. I was not sure we would be able to get everything done in time, and I was struggling with sleepless nights…what was this going to be like, would Greg like the water features that we have built, would the weather cooperate…so many unknowns. You know what, it was one of the most funs days of work that I have ever experienced. What a blast!

PONDS CHOSEN FOR THE TOUR

Last month we showcased a list of ten ponds that were the finalists for the Tour. Unfortunately, we could not go to all ten, so we had to narrow it down to eight. Four of the ponds were removed from the list, and two locations were added to the original list.

Here is how our day started.

8:00 AM – KINGDOM LANDSCAPING (Sabillasville, Maryland)

The Pond Guy arrives at Kingdom Landscaping. Greg jumps out of his vehicle with his camera rolling and vlogging gets started immediately. We tour the main display pond in the front of our home, take a quick look at the view of the mountains and head down to our vintage playground. Greg excitedly climbs the ladder to the sliding board while recording his descent. Ha ha…he is just a big kid who loves turtles, ponds, and his job!

From the playground area, we ventured to our shop area and the display pond in front of our office. Once inside the office, Greg found an old picture of Tom and I on the wall from 1984 (who are those young skinny kids?).

Back outside, he spied Moriah’s old “Hippy” van that she is restoring, and Tom mentioned that we are restoring a 1980 Camaro Z28. Can I see it? Of course, and into the garage we went.

9:00 AM – AARON & KIM RITCHEY-HEADLEY (Sabillasville, Maryland)

Our next stop was only 5 minutes away. Aaron and Kim along with their three dogs. It was a beautiful morning. Greg handed his camera off to me and asked me to do a walkaround talking about the feature. The one thing I know about this guy is that he stretches people; that is what a good leader does. He takes you out of your comfort zone and shows you that you can do what you think you cannot do. We had a great time sitting around and talking about ponds, fish, family, and life. Now, on to the next stop.

10:15 AM – LOU & SUE ORSINI (Carroll Valley/Fairfield, Pennsylvania)

This was one of the new locations that was added to the list. We had just completed this amazing pondless waterfall about two weeks before the Tour. Because we were so pleased with how it turned out, we wanted to make sure that it was one of the projects to be highlighted on the trip. Lou and Sue are over-the-top in love with this gorgeous 24’ meandering stream with multiple cascades down their once unattractive front yard bank.

11:15 AM – DR. DANIEL FRANKLIN (Hagerstown, Maryland)

Due to Dr. Franklin’s surgery schedule at the Mid-Atlantic Veterinary Hospital, his daughter, Kate, and granddaughter, Ava, willingly participated in Greg’s interview. Greg got some outstanding pictures of Kate, Ava, and Dr. Franklin’s dog, Emma, enjoying the pond from the landing rock.

And then Greg challenged Ava to a cartwheel contest...

NOON – LUNCH TIME

The morning just flew by, and now it was time to try to find a restaurant that had outdoor seating so we could grab a bite to eat. We ended up at Café del Sol over in Maugansville. We sat at a picnic table and enjoyed a delicious meal. The temperature was definitely rising…our first 90 degree day of the season.

1:00 PM – KEITH & CINDY MOORE (Hagerstown, Maryland)

Keith joined us on his patio as we discussed his pond that was a Mother’s Day gift for his wife from him and his daughter. His wife always wanted a pond, and his daughter had a carnival goldfish that needed a home. What a perfect fit!

2:00 PM – SUE & DAVE WADE (Fairplay/Boonsboro, Maryland)

Sue was quite ecstatic to meet The Pond Guy, and she got her picture taken with him on her front porch. Sue’s pond is conveniently located on the other side of her front porch. She thoroughly enjoys Living the Aquascape Lifestyle!

2:30 PM – NUTTER’S ICE CREAM (Sharpsburg, Maryland)

With the temperature rising to a whopping 94 degrees, we could not drive by Nutter’s Ice Cream without stopping. Greg and Tabitha joked around about getting a large, and we all just chuckled. For those of you who frequent Nutter’s you know how small a large ice cream is at that place.  Twenty years from now people will probably wonder what was up with the masks.

3:00 PM – DON MACKENZIE (Sharpsburg, Maryland)

Unfortunately, Don was unable to be present for the interview; he was out of town, but he graciously allowed us to film his Aquascape Ecosystem Pond. We were in and out of this location pretty quickly and headed to the Catoctin Wildlife Preserve, but first Tabitha needed an Iced Coffee from Dunkin’ and Greg needed a hot coffee from McDonald’s. It was getting late in the day, and the heat was making all of us sleepy.

4:00 PM – CATOCTIN WILDLIFE PRESERVE (Thurmont, Maryland)

Callan and Brandie greeted us at the entrance, and we began our walk down to the Koi Feeding Experience Exhibit. Whoa! Wow! Look at this! It was stunning. The water clarity was incredible. The large koi were so friendly and beautiful. All of us had our cameras out and were taking pictures. Greg immediately got into the water with his wide underwater lens and began filming.

While up in the wetland filtration area, Greg opened one of the snorkel vault lids and found hundreds of fish fry swimming around. Then he took a waterlily pot and did a short demo on planting the lily directly in the gravel of the wetland area. And then a small northern water snake swam by. What a beautiful ecosystem pond filled with natural wildlife.

After spending a considerable amount of time filming the Koi Exhibit, Callan took us for a quick tour of the zoo. He got into the alligator enclosure and showed us how he handles the alligators. Greg and Callan hit if off right away, and were chatting back and forth about the mutual people they know in the animal world and such, the Tiger King show, how weird animal people are (haha), and at one point the conversation moved on to pet Alligator Snapping Turtles.

And then, Greg challenged Tom to this picture.  Yes, Tom was definitely "making history" at the Catoctin Zoo!

As we were leaving the zoo, Greg stated, “The first (Kingdom) and the last (Catoctin) were the best stops on this trip.” Yay, God. I believe he enjoyed what he saw and the artistry of Kingdom Landscaping.

6:00 PM – DINNER AT TYLER'S CROSSING, THE HOME OF KINGDOM LANDSCAPING

Our neighbors, Chuck & Carol Stambaugh, catered a delicious BBQ meal complete with ribs, chicken, potato salad, mac & cheese, and smoked cabbage wrapped in bacon. Greg jumped in the pool to cool off and take a quick swim. The rest of the Tyler Family gathered at the home, and we enjoyed a wonderful meal together. “Are you the vegan?” Greg asked each one of our daughters as he met them.  (For those who don't know, Miranda is the vegan.  lol)

Fun times…a very memorable experience that I will always cherish.

It's a Lifestyle! - Jodi L. Tyler