Monday, October 29, 2018

2018 Weird Job: The Big Dig

We usually try to find an unusual seasonal job each year to stimulate our senses for a month or three. This year we decided to skip the paid work and hire ourselves for a pond building project on our property.

We spend a lot of time in the spring summer and fall each year maintaining and improving our forest, wildlife habitat and recreational access to our property. It's actually more fun for us (at least for now), and definitely more physically demanding, than just about any hiking or other recreational activity we could do.

Due to some poor logging jobs done about 30-40 years ago and terrible land management over the past 80 years, there's always improvements to be made on our property. Clearing brush, thinning trees to remove disease and select for the best genetics is always on the agenda. During this process, we discovered a natural depression in the landscape about 50 yards to the north of our boondocking spot. It is a perfect spot to build an entrapment pond.

It took about six months (over two summer seasons) of part-time work to clean up the area by hand and go from this:

To get to this:

It wasn't all just hand work. We also made a new 52 HP addition to the family this year.

But we had gotten as far as physical labor and a 52 HP tractor could take us, so we called in the heavy equipment to finish the job. After one day of digging we finally had something that was starting to look like a pond.






We even dug into some seeping groundwater veins. Surprising, considering what a relatively dry site we have. 

After laying down 27,000 pounds of sodium bentonite clay, it was time to roto-till it into the soil to create the liner.








Of course, all of this work, the hardest parts of the project, ended up being done on the hottest, smokiest days of the Summer. But after we were done, the first little bit of rain we'd seen since April came down and started filling the pond...and the liner held.

As it fills, the pond looks like it wants to have the emerald green color characteristic of the lakes in this part of Idaho. Since we're only putting rainwater and filtered well water into the pond, it's still crystal clear. The aerator can still be seen down in about five feet of water.

We actually won't know if the liner is holding until we come back from our Winter travels next March. It can take several wet seasons for a bentonite clay liner to develop and hold water on a permanent basis. We've added an additional 15,000 ponds of bentonite in certain sections to improve the liner further. We're counting on the snow and rain of Winter/Spring to do the heavy lifting and get us closer to full and the potential depth of 15'. We're ready for a five month travelling break from this work!



10 comments:

  1. I’m tired after reading this.
    Looks great though.
    Hope to see it in person sooner than later.

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    1. I am extremely please to see that your new equipment addition is GREEN. How far to the Southeast are you heading this winter?

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    2. Try to guess who the comment about Green equipment is from?

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    3. We're still tired from it too. We call it North Idaho Pilates.

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    4. We researched all the colors for years. Red, green, yellow, orange. We weren't even going to consider green since we were told by sio many people it was over-priced. We looked at Deere at the end of our search just so we could say we covered all the bases. After almost going with Kubota, we ended up getting a great deal (less money, more power) from a Deere dealer about 35 miles away from us.

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  2. Wow! You guys have got the energy of 30 year olds! What I want for a "base" is somewhere that either has all the work done already, or that I can hire somebody to do for me. I just want to putter in the yard. You are MUCH past "puttering"... Looking great!

    Renee Zittel

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    1. We tried hard to hire some high school kids to help. We finally found a couple of guys willing to work one day for $14/hour cash. We worked with them and I think we almost killed them. Teenagers don't seem to be as tough as they used to be. I wouldn't have let anybody in their 50's outwork me when I was that age!

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  3. My, my, you two have been very busy! Looks like it turned out great. Can't wait to see it full of water. All I know is the older we get, the more hydraulics we need.

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    1. "All I know is the older we get, the more hydraulics we need."

      That's classic. I'm going to need to appropriate that one!

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