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Pond Hand dug in one month

 
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Pond project back in 2016. Dug entirely with a shovel, pick axe & bucket. Approx. 1 month entirely by myself. Average day about 12 hrs.
About 3/4 the way through, I felt like giving up as it was wearing on me. I had to finish however so, I pushed through till the bitter end.

Based on contour lines, upper & lower.
widest dimensions: 30 ft. x 15 ft.
narrowest: 8 ft.
depth: 6.5 ft.

click here for my second pond: https://permies.com/t/118974/Pond-Happy-Accident
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Jason Vath
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More progress pics.

filled with gravity-fed spring water & rain.
Pond-construction_2016-10-18.png
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gardener & author
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Very impressive! Did you need to do anything to get it to seal?
 
Jason Vath
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The Soil was fairly heavy in clay. I set aside the purest clay I found and packed it all along the damn wall using a sledge hammer and stomping in really hard with feet.
I also created a clay lock but, I didn't go as deep as official pond builder say to. I felt I'd see what I could get away with since the clay content was high. Mainly since I was doing this solo, I didn't have the energy to do it completely by the book.

However, where the original grade meets the above portion of the damn wall, there was a bit of original soil that I should've removed more thoroughly. This was covered over with clay but, not sure if the few inches of clay was adequate.

Overall, the pond holds water pretty well. Every so often (~ once a month) the pond level drops up to about 1 - 2 feet. I'm OK with that since it fills really quick and easily.
 
Kate Downham
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Thank you! We have a lot of clay where I am, so it is good to hear that this worked for you just with hand tools.
 
garden master
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That looks awesome Jason! It's so neat to see this done with hand tools!

I'd like to do something like this in the future. It might be a little smaller though, I don't know if I could make one as big as you did, so cool!
 
pollinator
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Having dug a much smaller one with hand tools, VERY nice! That is a lot of work but you will enjoy it so much because there is so much sweat in that pond.
 
steward
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So, when's the boat going in the pond?  

Seriously, that's an awesome amount of work.  Good job!
 
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According to the dates on your pics, this pond was built almost 3 years ago. How's it doing now?
 
Jason Vath
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Pond is doing well, I occasionally top it off with spring water.
Cattails and various other aquatic plants found their way in.

I have pics but, on my broken computer. I'll take new pics soon & post.
 
Jason Vath
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Here's a pic from 2017.

Pond_2017-07-18.JPG
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Jason Vath
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Pic from 2018.

Notice the wild growth taking over. I occasionaly scythe around the pond but, always leaving a border of plants near the water for wildlife habitat.

Pond_2018-10-02.JPG
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Jason Vath
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2019 pics.

no water maintenance - completely wild native aquatic plants.
Cattails showed up.

Pond is quite murky, brown. I want to get some areation going for it to keep it cleaner.
Thinking of using a simple water or air system. Perhaps a mini tromp pump up hill with air line to the pond ?

The ultimate goal is to have multiple ponds linked up. Bottom pond gets ram pumped up to top pond and gravity flows down through all ponds back to bottom pond and recycles.

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Pond_2019-07-26-(2).JPG
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You can build a complete ecosystem to clean the water and regenerate.   This pond would support several ducks although the predator situation might be that you have to put them up in a coup every night like chickens.  In China there is something called DUCKWEED which may be the highest protein plant on earth and they harvest it from ponds as people food.  It certainly will support ducks and perhaps frogs and minnows etc.  The minnows and ducks will keep mosquitos down as they will eat all the mosquito eggs laid in the water.   Go to an aquarium store and look at the plants available... Especially I am thinking about some special floating water lillies etc.
 
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Wow.  You have great foresight to envision such a project then to do it by hand.  That said, how can you tolerate the overgrowth taking over you pond?  It looks so much smaller in 2019 vs previous pictures.  That would be very disturbing to me.
 
Scott Perkins
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The overgrowth is LIFE...........  It has become a HABITAT.....    Of course there are sterile ponds as seen at the golf course and cemetery and some people like them.   Turtles, minnows, frogs, muskrats and ducks...and the growth that they depend on.......  They are all LIFE !
 
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This is truly a work of art and an inspiration! I don't think you need it but I have seen a blog about the miraculous pond sealing effects of clumping kitty litter.http://nwedible.com/can-you-seal-a-pond-with-clay-kitty-litter/
 
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Jason Vath wrote:Pond project back in 2016. Dug entirely with a shovel, pick axe & bucket. Approx. 1 month entirely by myself. Average day about 12 hrs.
About 3/4 the way through, I felt like giving up as it was wearing on me. I had to finish however so, I pushed through till the bitter end.

Based on contour lines, upper & lower.
widest dimensions: 30 ft. x 15 ft.
narrowest: 8 ft.
depth: 6.5 ft.

click here for my second pond: https://permies.com/t/118974/Pond-Happy-Accident



Wow what an amazing project. You should be extremely proud. We are going to cleannup and build a pond near a natural spring we have ghat over flows currently into neighbouring peoperty, but the clay soil has had us stopped on numerous projects. We were told clay wasnt this far north from who we purchased the property from... sure enough clay soil my plants cant push through and i was even able to extract the clay from the soil lol. Im glad to see this will be one project we will be able to muster thrpugh. I cant load all the pictures cause my internet sucks, but from what i see its inspiring and incredible.  Good job sir ! 🤗
 
Jolene Jakesy
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Jolene Jakesy wrote:

Jason Vath wrote:Pond project back in 2016. Dug entirely with a shovel, pick axe & bucket. Approx. 1 month entirely by myself. Average day about 12 hrs.
About 3/4 the way through, I felt like giving up as it was wearing on me. I had to finish however so, I pushed through till the bitter end.

Based on contour lines, upper & lower.
widest dimensions: 30 ft. x 15 ft.
narrowest: 8 ft.
depth: 6.5 ft.

click here for my second pond: https://permies.com/t/118974/Pond-Happy-Accident



Wow what an amazing project. You should be extremely proud. We are going to cleannup and build a pond near a natural spring we have ghat over flows currently into neighbouring peoperty, but the clay soil has had us stopped on numerous projects. We were told clay wasnt this far north from who we purchased the property from... sure enough clay soil my plants cant push through and i was even able to extract the clay from the soil lol. Im glad to see this will be one project we will be able to muster thrpugh. I cant load all the pictures cause my internet sucks, but from what i see its inspiring and incredible.  Good job sir ! 🤗



One other question,  are you able to/do you swim in it
 
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This is so cool how you've done this by hand! It looks wonderful.
Do you find it filling in with more soil from erosion? I've wondered about this with the pictures of ponds in Sepp Holzer's book, as I see constructed ponds in our city parks filling in and becoming swampy, unless they are regularly dredged with big machines, and I think he mentioned dredging as one of his maintenance practices?

My son had aquariums for a while that he aerated entirely with native plants. Our project was very small in scale, but it worked! We just transplanted them in from local ponds. Snails and bugs clean and clarify the water, and all the seaweed and duckweed aerate it. He also populated these aquariums with native fish, and the bottom feeders are really important for water quality. We began with the soil, and then plants, and worked our way up to more complex species as the water system stabilized. We got fish and salamanders from the bait shop, as minnows and efts. (They are usually wild-caught, not bred in captivity, and reintroduced into the wild anyway as bait.) I liked this more than getting things from the aquarium/pet suppliers, as they have rampant problems with parasites and bacteria we didn't want to be adding to our system.

I've wondered how one could use similar things outdoors, like healthy natural ponds and lakes do.
 
Scott Perkins
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When I was a weight lifting 19 year old I got a laborers job with a contracting company and they had mistakenly dumped a whole dump truck load of sand in the wrong location.  They gave me a shovel and said it all needed to be loaded back onto the dump truck.  Ever since,  I figured one dump truck load was the max productivity per day for a very fit hard worker.  Even then, I could not have done that job many days in a row.
 
Jason Vath
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Thanks everyone for the compliments.

Jolene Jakesy,
Yes I do swim in it occasionally. It's not really big enough to actually swim - more like cooling off & relaxing.

 
master pollinator
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I am not that easy to impress, but that is very impressive work.

I have always had the mantra that as long as you do a little every day, you can get a lot done.

Just yesterday I was on a tractor site, and though, "this is stupid. I have a tractor, and I am talking about it, instead of being on it." I have been meaning to redo my yard, but was waiting for an excavator. So I just went for it with my little Kubota, and I managed to shape the entire front yard in only two hours. No excavator needed! So it is amazing what you can accomplish moving a little earth, constantly.

Still, I cannot imagine what you would do if you had an excavator!
 
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Dude,
I get the joy and satisfaction of doing something by hand BUT, what you did here was ridiculous. Many hours x a whole month work by hand? vs a backhoe for 2 hours...
This is where the machine wins every time by a wide (logarithmic) margin .

Respect if you have philosophical/ financial or other reasons for not hiring a machine for half a day, but think of what else you could have accomplished in a month of hard labor.
As my brother likes to say: " never send a man to do a machine's job".

Just my 2 cents,
Andreas.
 
Jason Vath
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Good point about time better spent, I understand especially now after completing it.

I'm the kind of person who likes to try things the most hands-on and thorough way, at least once. Much can be learned that otherwise may never be.
The immense time & effort is somewhat of a meditation & therapy for me. Obviously a major workout physically, no need to spend separate time exercising.
I'm not too interested in doing this again by hand unless it's a tiny pond- (which I actually did early this year lol. It's about 8 ft. x 4ft. x 2ft. deep.)

There is a lot of free time in my life and I'm physically capable so, I did.
During this time I've been planting trees, propagating, scything, chicken tractoring etc... I keep myself very busy.

I do all this knowing that it'll be worth it in the future, then I can relax and enjoy the fruits of my labor.
 
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I’ve been known to do things the hardest way possible (I just built trusses for a garage because the local truss company uses shit lumber), but I think even I would have rented a backhoe! As I get older and life gets shorter, I have learned the value of prioritizing my time (something worth learning when you are young!), and digging is not a good priority of my abilities and skills. But hey, you did an awesome job, and if you like to dig...
I am searching all the pond info here because I just bought property that a) has a lot of clay at about 3’ deep and b) is on a gentle slope. I like your idea of the different level ponds and possibly a ram pump to return water to the top. I want one to be about 1/4 acre, so the moose will use it.
Question for you, the comment you made about plants- “no water maintenance - completely wild native aquatic plants. Cattails showed up.”
That just happened?!? You didn’t have to plant those? How do cattails know to just ‘show up’?
 
Jason Vath
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Julie,

I actually enjoy digging so, it doesn't feel like much of a waste of time for me.

About the plants:
Yes, the cattails and various other plants which I don't know the name of showed up several seasons later completely on their own.
I assume the wildlife & wind brought in the seed. Perhaps the seed was already there in the soil waiting for a disturbance to take advantage of ?
"If you build, they'll come"

Actually early on I did try transplanting watercress & some other water plant growing in amongst the watercress but, due to the constant level change in the pond, they died out rather quickly.



 
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