I am digging several ponds on my property and I am using a mini-excavator (9000 lbs) that I have purchased. The ponds are in heavy clay but also not far from bedrock. The property has many rock outcroppings going up the hill. I'm looking for suggestions on how to pack the dirt in the dams. I don't have access to a sheep foot roller. I have been using the tracks on the excavator and the wheels on my tractor. Sometimes the clay is too wet to pack and it just, squishes, rolls, and moves. I have had the excavator stuck more than once. While working a full time job it is difficult to catch the dirt in just the right shape to pack. I have been trying to work the ponds with my work schedule and the weather. Anybody have any tricks for packing the dirt?
Mike Schroer : Look for topics on using 'Pigs to seal the bottom of your Pond' here in Permies !
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You don't really need to search for anything. The idea is simple: fence pigs into the pond, keep them there for a few weeks, feeding them and letting them wallow. It will seal the pond. But In my opinion this is extraneous advice for a dam construction. If you are building ponds on a slope and the dam is necessary to hold in the water (as opposed to excavating a pit on flat land) then I wouldn't trust the dam to some pigs. Also, not everyone wants to take on the chore of caring for pigs, or at least not in the pond site location.. so yeah, I am curious for advice on this as well. I wish there were more resources on DIY pond construction in situations where a dam is necessary.
check out forums.pondboss.com more info on dam construction than you can imagine. really nice folks too that are glad to help.
bottom line is large earthen dam construction really requires good heavy equipment, such as bulldozer, sheepsfoot roller, or track hoe. there are detailed techniques, such as keying in a dam core, and compacting the dam earth in small lifts. building a dam is not the place to skimp and go low-tech. much more expensive to fix than to do right the first time.
pigs are great for sealing the bottom of an excavated earthen pond, but I wouldnt think they would be adequate to seal a large, sloping dam. IMO not worth the risk of eventual seepage and dam failure.
Day in, day out, rubber tires compact much more than a tracked vehicle, which is made to distribute the weight. That said, and as you've noted, the soil moisture has pretty well got to be in the workable range for what you want to do. If you can get that clay workable, that is, not too wet or too dry, it's gonna pack in there like nobody's business. Will save you the bother of pigs, this ain't Hollywood, they get out (escape) and tear stuff up. You don't want to have to put the pigs in there. If you gotta, you gotta, but I'd try to seal it myself first by using proper methods. As stated above, small layers rolled in with rubber tires at the proper moisture level will make it fine. Best of luck to you! TM