Country Living Series

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A pond on the horizon!

One of the biggest issues we have here on the homestead is water. We have abundant, delicious water... but it's more than 600 feet down inside the earth. Our well pump is aging and powered by electricity. When we lose power, we lose water.

The lack of easily obtainable water has been a constant concern for us. In fact, it's our biggest Achilles heel. We've discussed endless options for bringing that well water to the surface, but every option -- wind, solar, mechanical means -- is wildly out of our price range. We finally invested in a 1500 gallon water tank (as yet uninstalled) to be filled by the well (when power is available) or roof runoff (when power is not available).

1500 gallons of water is fine for household use and with care will last us through a few dry months... but it's not nearly enough water for livestock (who can suck down 50 gallons a day) or for irrigating the garden. What we need, in short, is a pond.

And rather unexpectedly, the opportunity just came up. Don has a friend who is out of work. This fellow operates heavy equipment and has the skills and time to come dig us a big hole in the ground, and he'll do so for a bargain price. Whoo-hoo, we're going to have a stock pond!

The pond will be filled with roof runoff from the barn. We'll have a drain outlet leading to a natural swale in our pasture, feeding the pond on a nearby property. (You can see the other pond in the distance in the photo below.)


Don did numerous calculations and came away with plans for a pond 50x50 feet, shallow at one end and ten feet deep at the other. Water at that depth won't freeze, which means we can pump water from the bottom for the livestock all winter if necessary. Since the pond will be right next to the garden (where the men are standing in the photo above), we can also pump water to irrigate the garden. We can stock the pond with fish for an additional food source. We can even use it for swimming and skating.

Don's friend is anxious to start the project and will come out next week to dig. Don and I are so tickled with this unexpected development that we're practically sputtering incoherently. A pond! What an incredible addition to the farm!

21 comments:

  1. How exciting! I must admit I have a bit of pond envy. Merry Christmas to you!

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  2. Your family is truly blessed with this development. good for you.

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  3. If he is available now, and working on the cheap, I would seriously consider making it bigger. Good idea though, glad to see you're going to get it.

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  4. That's fantastic news Patrice. What a blessing to have Don's friend prepared to dig it for a bargain. I can "feel" your excitement.

    My parents have a "spring-fed" dam. (I guess that's another version of a pond but perhaps deeper?) They bought the property 30+ years ago and I believe it was the best decision they ever made to have this dam dug out. It has never run out of water, even during the dry "Aussie" droughts and they've used it to water their orchard, gardens and even lawn around the house to keep it lush and green.

    I'm looking forward to seeing the photos which I'm hoping you will post for those of us who love viewing your blogs.

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  5. You may need to add a Bentonite "liner" to keep the water where you want it.

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  6. You may also be able to get a grant through the extension agency in your area to help offset the expense. I know its different eveywhere but maybe worth looking into. We hope to have a pond(s) eventually on our farm.

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  7. Patrice,
    Congratulations! What a wonderful primary resource and reserve of water for your family, your farm, and your beloved livestock!
    Do consider a liner on the side closest to where it will gravitationally leach by osmosis toward the neighboring larger body of water.
    If you need to, install an overfill pipe to encourage any surface water over the pipetop to overfill into another lower lying area.

    notutopia

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  8. oh good grief, second time I've accidentally tried to sign out of a profile and lost a comment. I need to learn by my past actions.
    I do want to learn about this pond business, as water is next up (there are sort of a lot of next up items though) on our "get cattle" agenda. We have previous pond building experience on this property but not the hoses and tanks and freezing type experience. Very interested in your progress and hoping for pictures and specifics. Thanks.
    Brenda

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  9. Being British 'being short of water' is never a problem (currently trying not to drip on the keyboard after a short evening dog-walk). Our water table for some of the land is usually 'at or above' ground level for most of the year :-)

    I thought immediately about those old wind-powered windmills from the movies (hey, I'm a foreigner). I googled and then boggled - $7000?

    Times like these make you truly appreciate friends (and hopefully he will get further work from others who see the work he does with you).

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  10. Actually, Able, I inquired from several reputable companies specializing in deep-well windmills, and for our depth well, a windmill would cost $18,000. 'Fraid we don't have that kind of money hanging around!

    - Patrice

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  11. What a great idea. I was planning to purchase two above ground tanks, one for water from the community system and one for roof run-off. I like the pond idea for irrigation water better than a second tank.
    BTW, our community water system recently drilled a new well and we're nearing the pump install stage. Well is 800' and the pump install alone is $13K. Glad we can divide up the cost.

    PSST! Could your new pond become classified as a wetlands area?

    Redrock

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  12. A farm pond is a great idea. They aren't maintenance free, but with a little work you can keep it healthy and intact. Just a word of caution, make that spillway/drain bigger than you think necessary. The quickest way to ruin a pond is to have inadequate drainage after heavy snow runoff or rainfall.

    Hope you take lots of photos, this should be another very interesting project. Thanks.

    Anonymous Patriot
    USA

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  13. I will happily admit to knowing nothing about windmills, other than they turn when the wind blows. However, with Don's experience with all things wood, why can't he build a windmill just like they did back when the west was being settled? At least for emergency-emergency. JanieB.

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  14. go a little deeper on the pond if you are going to put some fish in it. Over time, it will naturally fill in some and 10 feet won't be enough for the fish to winter over. My dad ended up redoing his pond for this reason. God bless, Ann

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  15. Patrice
    Sorry - that'll teach me to read the description a bit more thoroughly - that was just for the windmill I looked at, no tower, pump, etc.

    May I ask how are you proposing to transport the water from the holding tank to the house, and how you intend dealing with the pressure needs? What about filtration? (I normally visit to view, learn and compare - this will be more learning than most)

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  16. I would love a pond! Unfortunately, no room for one here. When I was kid we had just a little pond once. It was just where the ditches and mountain ran off to. It wasn't deep at all but we loved ice skating on it in the winter and it did have fish.

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  17. Able, we have a hand pump left over from our Y2K preps (when we lived in Oregon, our well was on 70 feet deep and a hand pump was a viable option).

    Our plans are to plumb the 1500 gallon tank into the existing pipe leading from the well to the house, so we can switch over when necessary.

    We'll take the hand pump and drop a pipe into the deep end on the pond, with a filter at the end of the pipe to keep out rough particles. This arrangement will be suitable for pumping water for livestock and irrigation. If we're ever to the point where we need to drink roof runoff water or pond water, we have a filter that will render the water safe for us to drink.

    - Patrice

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  18. That's a great addition! I hope you have great luck. When my parents moved to their current location, they decided to expand an existing pond. Ten years later, after several attempts all ending in leaking, dried up ponds, they flattened it out and gave up. Fortunately, they have a few others on the property. But, I wish you luck! I think stocking it will be fantastic! What fun.

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  19. Here in illinois the NRCS (i think) will come to your place and plan your pond. they test your soil to make sure it can support a pond and things like that. The ones here work out of the extention office but I don't know what its like where you live. Are you going to put fish in it?

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  20. I'm not familiar with pond liners, though I have heard of them. Here in GA people usually line their ponds with kaolin, rather than pond liners. I do know that some ponds won't hold water, have had one such experience. We think there was a sink-hole, from an old dried up spring. I've also heard that the soil type plays a part, so maybe take some samples to your Extension Agent. If there is kaolin where you are, you may want to look into it. Anonymous Patriot also makes a good point about having a bigger spillway than you think you need. Had a not so great experience with too small of a spillway once too. All the best, I love pond fishing!!
    MaryB in GA

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  21. I agree with others that the pond should be deeper than 10'. We had one dug last year to 16' and the silt and run-off quickly filled in a couple feet. It's not what we desired, but will have to do. Big bucks to re-do after water is in the hole. I'm concerned that ten feet is not deep enough - especially for fish - in a multi-use pond. As for getting help from USDA, you have to dig your pond EXACTLY as they prescribe (and it's not at all to an appropriate depth for your uses) to receive any $$ from them. And besides, then they know exactly what you have.

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