Zach was surprised at the amount of water. Day 1 is over. 3 mature cedar elms were removed including the roots. They were skimming off the topsoil where the keyed dam will be, keeping it separate from other layers. There are 2 piles, the biggest being ruffly 10ft tall. Several trees(3 year old fruit, nut, and berry) and tree cages were removed.
With all the little stuff out of the way, he should concentrate on digging tomorrow. The basic plan is to dig past the underground water flow until he finds dry clay. Then clay will be added back in to dam this underground flow. This will store water underground. The underground reserve will displace evapoarated water, keeping it full longer than a typical sealed pond. Underground water is also cleaner than surface runoff. This reserve will hydrate the surrounding landscape. The best way i can describe this is it will create a natural wicking bed around the pond.
Ill be gone most of the day. This morning i cut branches from the felled trees. The sheep love those leaves.
I noticed one is not a cedar elm. Looks like an oak. You know which kind Tyler? 2 years of trying mushrooms in live oak logs has failed miserably. This oak may be a good candidate. Logs should be super sweet this time of year also.
Today, the key of the dam was made. This is "go" time for the crew. It's like when you start pouring concrete, no time to stop so better be ready. This is evident in the test slice i posted yesterday. It went from a dry hole to 30" deep in a short time.
The readiness is having the clay at the right moisture content piled and ready. This was done by sorting the dirt as he removed it. The 3 piles in the previous post. Plus having room to place the excavated soil that is removed. They did a long line of " test slices". Each test slice was dug out. Zach was jumping in and out of the hole. He needed to dig past that underground flow and into dry clay. Once he determined the depth was good, it was immediately filled with the clay mixture. It was placed in and pressed down with the excavator. The slice was slightly wider than the excavator bucket and maybe 12 ft long. He then did another slice in line with the one he finished. I'm guessing 7 of these slices. They are arched to form the dam. After the full length is done (at ground level) the remaining clay will be added above ground. The bad dirt will be added to the front and back of dam. Zach doesn't want the clay to be at the surface. A clay core dam is better than an all clay dam.
Its beginning of day 3. I want to talk about Zach and Ben from Elemental Ecosystems real quick. As I am having my morning coffee, they are out there working. Both days they have been out there til dark or almost dark. Their work day is over 12 hours long because thats the length of our day. He said the projects where he kept to 8 hour days, he has regretted it. Like a rain storm shutting down the project. Had he worked full daylight hours the rain storm wouldn't have impacted his schedule.
Zach is JUST like you see in his videos. I remember one where he was knee deep in a pond in Ecuador, pulling select plants that may be overtaking the pond edge. A busy bee. No telling what he will do or where he will be any given moment. Here he is jumping in holes. As clay is going into the key trenches he is pulling big roots out of the mix. Day one he was pulling iris plants and fruit /nut trees so they wouldn't get destroyed.
During all this i have 100's of questions. He was answering them, then scurrying off to do something, then coming back to finish. I feel like i should leave him alone but the dual setup with Ben on the excavator and him "all seeing " works very well to hasten the project and allow time to interact with client.
He expressed that in other countries, where labor is cheap and they opt out of bringing Ben in (they just pay for Zach), its a much different flow. Zach is running the excavator, jumping out several times an hour to check the trench depth, pull roots from the clay, using site level to determine height of key dam. While it could be done without Ben, having him allows so much more education for the client and more accomplished each day. The machinery rental is a big cost, probably more expensive than Zach. So having the people to keep it running may actually save money on the project. The knowledge and experience i am gaining is 1000x's better than Pauls pdc course on water retention, which includes Zach doing a one hour slide presentation and question and answer. I think Paul would agree with that also. Doing vs teaching if you will. It gives a better understanding.
Morning day 3. This is the key dam. Its at ground level. Its been compacted again by the excavator tracks(driving over it). He has level marks painted on it. All the accumulated clay has been used. He is now excavating the pond itself in the same slow fashion. A little at a time so topsoil can be separated from the clay layer the new clay will be the above grade dam.
Close to end of day 4. Looks like the last segment of the underground key is being tamped in. The dam width seems about 20ft wide now and is higher than the original ground level. They said after day 2 things would look slow. Most of it is sorting and finding clay.
Its gonna get real interesting at some point. The sediment pond above this (not yet started) will not flow straight into this pond. The overflow will flow about 100 yards in a different direction then zigzag back to this current pond. It will irrigate a pasture as well as pickup adfitional water from my house area. The water at my house area bottoms out at a big shop i have and runs through it. This is the most brilliant part of his plan. Cant wait to see it done.
Beginning of day 6. I thought clay in dam was done. He is adding another ft to it which will bring it to 8 ft water depth. He is still excavating the pond and might get a total depth of 10ft. Sounds like the edge of pond will be terraced to create a shallow zone.
We are expecting 2 to 3" of rain tomorrow, with some rain coming today. The pond will have to be pumped out.
This is my ravine on the backside of the keyed dam. Water flow has been unprecedented (now) vs the 7 years i have been here. There has been a slow flow through this since october 5th due to a wet winter. Previous flows have typically lasted 6 weeks.
After damming the underground flow, there is no longer water standing in the ravine. It moved on down and no water to replace it. At some point, it should start again. When it does, i will have super hydrated soil on the pond side. The keyed dam will be holding all it can and start letting water creep around the sides underground. Good stuff!
Sounds like almost a lasagna method. Logs layered with hay. Zach suggested the ravine as the growing area. As soon as book comes in i will get a crash course and use the felled tree Tyler identified as a red oak to give it another honest try.
1.7" of rain overnight and thru the day. The day was a "wash". Pond was getting close to full. They have a pump running to drain it. Zachs leaving, Al just showed up to replace him. Work should start again tomorrow.
I think the current plan is everyone leaves May 2 for a conference, then Zach is back with them to finalize everything after the conference. Ben has been outstanding.enough that i told Zach i would have no problem with Ben heading up phase 2 if zach was away in greece or australia or just pretending to have a normal life for a while.
I think the pond would have overflowed had they not got the pump running while it was filling from the rain.
Looking at the debris line on the backside. Looks like it is currently 18" lower than its high. It should be drained today. This is not stopping work.
Ben is on the excavator. Looks like he is shaping the slope of the pond.
Al is on the skidsteer, staging the rocks to go between sediment pond and main pond. One of Zachs standards is having the water super energized when it enters the main pond. Not just travelling over rocks, but hitting rocks and turning and churning.
Progress of diversion swale. Second pic is beginnings of hugel to use up felled trees and trimmingd on property. Should use up everything on my property except cedars i cut into poles. Should be a big one.
Hugel is getting bigger. Al from elemental teamed up with one of my guys (Frank) and they are collecting all my piles. Pic is the last fresh cut, but they are now collecting piles (brush dams)that had been placed in water paths to slow it down.
The fresh cut made over 100 ft, we have a 200ft limit. I bet it goes the full 200 ft. This is wheaton style, maybe not as tall as he would like. By wheaton, its not straight and I spent an hour dropping random buckets of spoiled hay, manure compost and woodchips onto the pile. Random splats with no pattern.,
Wayne, why a 200' limit? Is this to prevent running afoul of some Corps of Engineers issue?
Thanks for documenting this. I am running into severe problems with my pond construction, due to the moisture in the soil. There is no way of making the key right now because we can't get even tracked machines in the area. Well we could get them in.... maybe not out! I already got my skid steer stuck and blew the relief valve, so good times. We are working with an ex and a dozer, and the dozer is going to run the swale system at the end and dump as much soil on the hugels downhill from the swales.
I'm interested in what Zach is up to there!
Standing on the shoulders of giants. Giants with dirt under their nails
200 ft limit is from fence corner to gate opening. Past that would be another hugel.
Its been amazing. 1.6" of rain and we just lost one day of equipment time. The next day they worked away from the pond but the 2nd day after that 1.6" they were back on the edge of pond running equipmemt.
The thing that confused me is the topsoil. 3 BIG piles of it from digging the pond. I thought all of this would be used elsewhere (like the hugel). I think they use is it at the pond edge so there is not a lot of surplus. Ben thinks we will be cutting it close to have enough for the hugel. While the topsoil may be 6ft deep in center, its less when you go up the slope. The wierd part is one side of slope has topsoil, the opposite side has hardly any. They still have the sediment pond to build. That area should be loaded with topsoil so we should be ok.
Oh, TJ, when Zach is done here he is heading to an area that sounds similar to your current situation, only year round. Its a marshy area here in TX. Instead of ponds, he is building elevated areas. Reverse ponds if you will. Possibly chinampas. Thats one i hope he documents. Sounds very interesting.
Starting to see pond become a pond. I'm unclear of all the bits and bobs but it should start becoming self evident. From what i can tell, there is a terrace around the edge. I think that can be seen by the small cliff on the backside. This is a zone thats only underwater with big rain events. Its a buffer/accumulations area to slow the overflow down. Regulate it. Ill update as i understand more.
You can see the big hugel in the background. Way in the back behind the dirt pile.
No rain since it was drained. Its still inching up from the underground dam effect