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Pond placement and building

 
Posts: 213
Location: Beavercreek, Oregon
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I'm in the very early stages on planning my pond. I only have 2 acres of land so it won't be a huge pond, just enough for small fish frogs, and to provide nutrient-rich run-off for the nearby fruit trees and other plants. I have a couple cows that graze on a small pasture and would like to find a way for the pond to flood at least some areas of the pasture to fertilize it but maybe that's hoping for too much. I am planning to get a couple pigs to work the area where the pond will go in order to seal it with their hooves and manure. I also have lots of cow manure and heard that it works to help seal ponds. At this point I'm looking at an area which is furthest away from all the trees on the property so as the chance of roots busting threw the seal will be lessened. But since roots can go almost anywhere if the tree is big enough, are my concerns realistic? There are lots of trees on this property and the pond would be about 30-40 feet away at the most.

I'd love to hear anyone's experiences with sealing a pond with pigs, or cow manure.
 
gardener
Posts: 582
Location: Lower Mainland British Columbia Canada Zone 8a/ Manchester Jamaica
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The word your looking for is gleying your pond with manure as the binding agent.
There are more steps than just filling it with manure and then water, without those steps you could cause a malaria outbreak of mosquito's.

The manure is mixed by the cow's with green material, usualy you grow a crop in the pond then they go in to eat it and the poo and the vegetation is compacted. Or you layer it with quick to slime out vegetation like fresh grass, then seal it with cardboard or plastic so it doesn't break apart. Depending on the climate the material forms an anaerobic gel that seals the pond. The pigs do the same over a longer period unless you have allot of pigs. It can be done with vegetation alone but I don't have 12-15 inches of grass to lay over a pond sealed with plastic and cardboard. Is it a natural pond sites or are you planning to excavate in a dam wall style? If it's naturally a pond site it's probably fertile enough to grow a crop of pumpkins and root crop to get the pigs to till it down hard.
 
Kevin MacBearach
Posts: 213
Location: Beavercreek, Oregon
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There is no natural pond site. I would have to dig it out with a shovel best I can. I didn't know cows would be able to achieve the same results as pigs. The pond I'm planning would only be about 100 sq ft at the most so two cows wouldn't take too long I'm guessing. The spot has 4 foot high grass on it right now and I'm planning on rotating the cows to it in the next couple of days. After they eat the the site down, should I then dig it out the depth and size I want and put the cows back in with some hay to eat and spread around, or should I grow a crop of something in the soil there for them to eat? What's the difference?
 
Saybian Morgan
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Posts: 582
Location: Lower Mainland British Columbia Canada Zone 8a/ Manchester Jamaica
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Cow put down a much heavier psi for every step they take, do you ever wonder how those beast stand on such small feet. Pigs do it by tilling then walking on it with some water, Cows do it by brute force but won't work in water which is better to seal once it's filled with poo.
how steep are is the up slope, that's where cows wont work as well without vegetation. If where talking about a now thing, yes you could feed them hay but it doesn't turn into a gel at the base of the pond. It's got to be sappy vegetation like crushed pumpkins for example or allot of fresh grass.
It's really the shape that defines who's most appropriate for the job and right now it's sounds like pigs chasing food and when it starts to become bare soil and there going for the roots start adding water so it goes muddy, then a little more each day till there full on wallowing in the sun.
 
Kevin MacBearach
Posts: 213
Location: Beavercreek, Oregon
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Just a basic shape - a shallow end and a deeper end. Yeah, I can't image the cows being able to seal the side very well, even with lots a vegetation. But I do have cows right now and don't know when I'll be getting pigs. I would also be worried about a cow slipping in such an environment and breaking a leg. Since the pond would be rather small, I thing I could get enough fresh grass and manure for the cows to trample into the bottom. I'm just confused on how the sides would be leak proof.
 
steward
Posts: 7926
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Your soil type will be a determination in how hard/easy it will be to seal the pond.
A clay soil can easily be sealed, whereas a sandy soil will be difficult.

If you have a gentle slope in the pond, not only will it be easier to seal, but it will allow the animals to enter/leave the pond.
Steep sides are extremely difficult to seal, and can lead to animals getting stuck in there.

If your pond is filled by springs within its boundaries, you would NOT want to seal it.

If you plan to use sodium bentonite as a sealant, it is critical to determine your soil type. Your 100 square foot pond could be sealed with as little as 100 pounds of bentonite if it is a stiff clay, but if it is sand, it could take 500 pounds (or more).

 
pollinator
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Location: North Central Michigan
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do you have clay in your soil? If so, you should try to find the lowest spot on the property, and preferably one that has standing water from time to time, esp in the spring or in heavy rains. This would be your most likely pond site.

We have several areas as above mentioned on our property, we picked one of them for our pond..the blog site below will lead you to pond threads on how we have been building and enlarging our pond over 10 years
 
Kevin MacBearach
Posts: 213
Location: Beavercreek, Oregon
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John, our soil has a good amount of clay in it. When our cow walks in the same spot for a few hours while it's raining, the soil turns to clay. Would I use bentonite in addition to the cows? I'm fine with the sides of the pond being a shallow slope.

Brenda, It's hard to find a low spot since our house is at the highest spot and the property slopes down from it on all side all the way to the property line. I did look at your blog but didn't see where you talk about sealing your pond
 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 7926
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Generally, when using bentonite, it is recommended to remove as much vegetation as possible before applying it. So, if your cattle are going there to eat, it probably wouldn't work too well. If they are going there to drink, it would probably be great...it would save you from having to disk it in.

One of the big problems with bentonite is finding a local source that sells it at a reasonable price. I have seen 50# bags going for $4, and I have seen other places charging $20 for the same bag. You don't want to pay shipping on 50 pound bags!



 
Saybian Morgan
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Posts: 582
Location: Lower Mainland British Columbia Canada Zone 8a/ Manchester Jamaica
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Thats the trouble with bentonite it really deserves equipment to push it in so you get it right for all your money spent. A hand dug pond could be tamped in layers but where talking 1-2 inch per lift and your also the one moving the dirt.
I don't know what area your in but if you had a plant like okra that really goes slimey fast, you could wet the ground feed the cows in rows so they have to travel the whole pond each day, then slap down vegetation that goes really manky and slimey then cover it. The cows will do 85% of the compaction and you won't have to port clay back in. Dig till your tired then run the cattle routine so you can see them standing in each area. It doesn't have to be a perfect pond right at the first fill, but it should algae up pretty fast with the seeped manure and clog itself. Dam's have 1 impermeable wall but the back of the dam can leak allot till the landscape is saturated. All the better for the adjoining areas, the last step in really sealing an earth pond that's single handedly built is to put a flock of ducks on it till it seals then take the ducks off as a yield.
 
Kevin MacBearach
Posts: 213
Location: Beavercreek, Oregon
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After much pacing around outside, I think I found a possible spot for the pond. It's about a 100 sq ft area where there's a natural depression in the ground. Since it's so small, I think I would just need to put the electric fence around it with one cow for a while. That would be after I dig out the shape of the pond I want.

Couldn't I just throw in slimy plant material to rot in there and cover it with hay or mulch? I'm a bit confused about the dams. I was planning on having very shallow sloping sides all around it so the cow can really work the soil evenly.

I suppose this will be a learning experience threw seeing what works and what doesn't for my location. What do the ducks do to seal it?
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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i didn't have to seal my pond, it is dug entirely in clay
 
Kevin MacBearach
Posts: 213
Location: Beavercreek, Oregon
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Well, my soil is clay-like. Since the cows have just eaten down the proposed area for my pond, should I start digging? Is that the first step?
 
Posts: 168
Location: SoCal, USDA Zone 10b
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I have quite a few ponds with frogs. Frogs are the best for permaculture because they eat bugs, and they provide a food source for bigger critters (opossums, birds and lizards) that also eat bugs. Good call. Now regarding the pond, a 10x10 pond isn't worth stressing over. Dig a hole, make sure there aren't any sharp roots sticking out, throw in a liner and fill it. The liner will get coated with slime in no time so don't stress about plasticizer out gassing, etc. Toss in some tarrow, duckweed, lillys, lotus, and other pond plants, add some tadpoles caught in local ponds and streams, stock it with some talapia and you're done.
 
Kevin MacBearach
Posts: 213
Location: Beavercreek, Oregon
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I don't really want to put in plastic. I have a 1000 lb cow that could easily compact the soil with hooves and manure. Besides, I'm really interested to try this method of sealing a pond.
 
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