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How do I fix a leaking pond?

 
pollinator
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the pounding of the machine or the pigs just stirs up the soil materials. the heavy stuff sinks and the lighter stuff goes up. when its up and on top it gets compacted to form a layer as millerdavidpatrick McCoy mentioned. hitting the bottom of an unsealed pong with a sledgehammer would take FOREVER! you would be better off with water boots and your feet stomping around in muddy water.
 
pollinator
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Go Rambling wrote:

Fill the bottom of the dried out pond with leaves. They form into a lamentation then break down into a sludgy humus, for lack of a better description. Cheap, easy.



Interesting idea!

1)  Do you put dried leaves or fresh ones?
2)  How thick of a layer do you put?
3)  Would it help to put any other type of carbon based material as well?
4)  How about also putting some type of Nitrogen based stuff to help with the break down?



Lots of people reference this method but I've not seen anyone actually do it.

Cheap and easy but has anyone actually DONE it?

 
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millerdavidpatrick McCoy wrote:

Benjamin Burchall wrote:So am I understanding correctly that Holzer's pond sealing method is basically to compact the soil that will serve as the bottom of the pond. If that's correct, I imagine a low tech no-pig way to do this would be to take a sledgehammer to the soil. Perhaps lay a small metal plate on the soil and hammer away on top of it? I could see this working on clay soils well.

I've seen work crews working with soil compactors to prepare the ground for building a road or sidewalk before. They look like jackhammers with a metal plate instead of a spike. I suppose you could rent one, right?



I don't think that Holzer's technique as he described it could be summarized as a simple COMPACTION. If you re-watch his description you'll notice that he illustrates the compaction as a shaking instead, using the bucket of the excavator to pound the soil "lightly" so as to allow the clay to sort itself to a single stratified hydrophobic layer.



Yes MillerDavidPatrick McMoy is correct. Holzer's method involves compaction and straitification of soils. Heavy large granules filter downward, fine silty clayey particles rise to the top. Each combo of compaction with stratification results in stabilized layers of soil types. A compactor won't quite have the same effect. If you visit his site you see very very large equipment akin to what in North America is called a track-hoe. Large and heavy. His ponds are also MONDO in size, not some 20x20 foot pond.
 
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I'm dealing with silty glacial till which percolates at several inches per hour. So I'll probably bring a dump truck or two of clay from town. I was thinking of how to emulsify this clay so that it could be poured into the water in suspension. I have a few different ideas for this.

These are all adapted from the various ways I'm considering to create earthen plasters.

1. A large cement mixer could be used with a few big rocks included. These rocks would bash around and break up the clay. Each time a new batch of slurry is dumped into the pond, the last little bit could be saved since it will contain all the pebbles.

2. Another means of mixing lots of slurry would be to mount an old outboard motor in a slurry box and have it thoroughly mix the ingredients. The freshwater intake(for cooling the engine) would need to run off a separate source since a thick slurry would clog the intake or cause other harm. I suspect this would be very hard on the propeller but I know it would work since boats which run aground stir up massive amounts of mud when the propeller is engaged.

3. Mixing with a Rototiller would ease both processes but the tiller would not be useful once material is thinned out hugely. It would serve to break up lumps.

4. A small power tamper similar to those used for packing rammed earth could be used to pound the material and the brisk motion should create plenty of convective currents. I could see this working in a large pail. The operator would straddle the pail and use the machine jackhammer style. This process should produce percussive shockwaves which help emulsify small chunks.

5. Any number of contraptions could be spun with the power takeoff from a tractor in order to mix up a good slurry. The simplest would probably be to use a tractor mounted Rototiller inside a big slurry box.

6. And finally one that would work for me but not for most people. I could attach a large paddle to the end of my crane arm and mix up the whole pond bottom simply by swinging the arm in a big arc. This would need to be done before the pond is completely filled since it's bound to create lots of waves. Imagine the joy ride that could be created by putting a tractor innertube on a leash attached to the crane.

After the clay has settled out for a few days I was thinking of adding some emulsified manure in order to jumpstart an algae bloom of mammoth proportions. I think that any small hole would tend to plug if the water is "pea soup" thick with microscopic organisms.

Does anyone have other mechanical means which they used to create large amounts of clay slurry?

 
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Benjamin Burchall wrote:So am I understanding correctly that Holzer's pond sealing method is basically to compact the soil that will serve as the bottom of the pond. If that's correct, I imagine a low tech no-pig way to do this would be to take a sledgehammer to the soil. Perhaps lay a small metal plate on the soil and hammer away on top of it? I could see this working on clay soils well.

I've seen work crews working with soil compactors to prepare the ground for building a road or sidewalk before. They look like jackhammers with a metal plate instead of a spike. I suppose you could rent one, right?



the reason i am looking at this thread is because i am looking into puttin ponds into a property that has very sandy soils, in cases such as this is know from experience that you cannot simply TAMP the soil down because sand does NOT compact, it simply will not
sepps method from my understanding is to fill with water, dig deep and shake the bucket/shovel as much as you can while you dig, this shakes the clay and such into the water and it eventually compacts from the weight of the water and your tampind device creating a natural seal
growing up in a lot of arid climates i often could tell when a puddle evaporated you could see that cracked light layer of clay on top of the sandy soil, this is what is left of that natural seal and if done right it won't drain out and leak

i do believe this thread answered my questions and pigs definately sound like a fun idea
if you run the pigs in the pond, how do you make sure they are fed without having to feed them yourself?
 
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My grandfather has a 200 acre ranch in kentucky, he had a pond that started leaking. He ran his cattle in the pond for a few days and it sealed right up. That was about 10 years ago, he hasnt had a problem since.
 
gardener
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paul wheaton wrote:There's something about the shape of a pig's hoof that makes such a great pond seal.  Plus, with a little damp once in a while, pigs will really pack the clay!

Lots of farmers don't want to put pigs on pasture because the water will then run off of the pasture instead of getting soaked in.



I was hoping to try some type of pig rotation on the land I purchase, but if this is the case then there is a real downside to moving pigs over the land in a rotation along with other animals.

I'd like to hear people's thoughts on running pigs on sloping land, especially with wet winters, they could be sealing a lot of the surface. What would the old-time farmers do about this?

 
steward
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Most of the old time farmers plowed at least once per year, often more.
That could mitigate the pig's compaction, but creates its own problems.

Compaction could be a real problem on wet, clay soils. Like paving with asphalt, if done long enough.
I believe that the seriousness of this is a matter of scale. A few pigs on a large pasture would unlikely cause a serious problem if you are also growing plants whose roots can break up the soil. Factory feeder farms can pretty well make a plot useless without major reworking afterwards.

 
Jami McBride
gardener
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Your right, I forgot about plowing. I won't be doing any of that.

Something to be aware of with rain, clay and pigs.
 
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On my property, there is a 40 year old pond with many trees on the berm.

Here is a picture of my favorite place.

webpage

Question: Shall I cut the trees, all, a few, or none?

The pond is leaking a bit, but with all the trees, mostly Black locust, any one can topple and make a hole.
 
gardener
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David Miller wrote:

Benjamin Burchall wrote:So am I understanding correctly that Holzer's pond sealing method is basically to compact the soil that will serve as the bottom of the pond. If that's correct, I imagine a low tech no-pig way to do this would be to take a sledgehammer to the soil. Perhaps lay a small metal plate on the soil and hammer away on top of it? I could see this working on clay soils well.

I've seen work crews working with soil compactors to prepare the ground for building a road or sidewalk before. They look like jackhammers with a metal plate instead of a spike. I suppose you could rent one, right?



I don't think that Holzer's technique as he described it could be summarized as a simple COMPACTION. If you re-watch his description you'll notice that he illustrates the compaction as a shaking instead, using the bucket of the excavator to pound the soil "lightly" so as to allow the clay to sort itself to a single stratified hydrophobic layer.



I don't have the book in front of me, but just watched the above video posted by Paul.

I agree with David here that the video of Sepp and his description of the pond construction method in his book is not simply compaction, but shaking. (Sepp does, I believe compact the bottom of the ponds as well, but the main point here, I think is the shaking.) The jackhammer with the plate or a landscape rock vibrator for packing sidewalk gravel underlay would probably work on a small pond.

HOWEVER; The thing about it from the description that I got is it's really a lot to do with the SHAKING, and is NOT as David just pointed out, LIGHTLY TAPPING. Think of it as really seriously jamming the excavator down AS IF about to scoop up a really deep bite (as describe by Luke Townsley below, with clarification by me below), and then, with the machine jabbed firmly and deeply into the soil, use the controls of the excavator and it's powerful bucket arm to jiggle and shake the bucket side to side and back and forth, thus causing a deep and wide settling of the finer materials.

Also just for clarification, this clay layer would not be hydrophobic as David states, which would be the case of say plastic which beads water and repels it, as if phobic or afraid or repelled. Clay draws in water, and expands as it does. It is a hydrophilic layer, which through it's absorbtion and expansion can stop downward or lateral water movement.

LUKE TOWNSLEY:

"On page 131 of the Rebel Farmer, Sepp Holzer describes his system of vibrating the bottom of the pond as it is filling up to seal it "naturally."
With about a foot of water in the pond, he has an excavator with a narrow bucket to take as deep a bite as possible under the water (18-36" deep) and shake the soil much as you would shake up a jar of water and sediment so that the particles separate causing a layer of clay and fine particles to form at the bottom."

Sepp also mentions in this video of putting some finer material in the pond, before this process if there is too much rocks and gravels and not enough silts and clays.

So the water is a foot deep (keep in mind in stonier ground you might need a large volume pumping into an unsealed pond at first to maintain a foot of water),and that foot of water is important, as it acts as a medium to settle the sediments in the finest layers, and under that foot of water-at the base of the pond's deepest area, the excavator bucket is jammed in a further 18-36 inches (or half meter to a meter)... that's below the pond's bottom. Then its time to get shakin'.
 
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I read where some one took "clumping" clay kitty litter and mixed it with native soil and it worked great. There is a youtube video on it somewhere. It has to be the Clumping type because of its absorption, it becomes saturated, and a barrier to water.
 
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I think there are three things going on here.
1. the churning in water allows whatever clay there is to separate, hang in the water and once it settles out it forms a layer of clay, which can seal things up, if there is enough clay.
2. Compaction, which can also, with enough clay, help seal.
3. Introduction of organic matter (like manure) which will decay and form a layer of gley which acts like clay. I lived in a heavily forested area (mostly birch) where the ground was glacial till and terminal morain (mainly gravel, some boulders and sand) Oddly enough there were ponds, I was told that the bottom was sealed by the build up of leaves washing in. I'm not sure that would make gley, but in that cold climate a thick layer of leaves would probably seal pretty well.

I'm theorizing that putting pigs in the future pond will work in all three directions. I remember reading Geoff Lawton that they used to use cattle in a similar way in Europe, grazing them in the pond area for a year or so.

I can attest that ducks work great, once you have at least a temporary pond, they will be in there swimming and crapping.

Might be best to jump start it with a couple of bags of bentonite after a hard rain, when it's already pooling,should at least get it started sealing, then I'ld let the ducks finish the job.
 
gardener
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Maybe I'm out of my league: I have a hog-wallow sized pond because well-yeah-urban. there's lots of clay and I used a tarp to hold water and smoosh down the clay. I figured as the tarp disintegrated, the clay and gleyed would help hold water and anyway - it was an easy, cheap experiment. What I found was that the small rodents did not appreciate the pond in that location - or maybe the just liked is so much they wanted to expand it. Regardless, I can't figure out how this is not a problem on larger ponds with only pig wallowing as a sealer. Or, maybe it is, but there's enough water it doesn't matter. I decided to try some semi-permeable cement in defense of rodents, but am sad I can't create other habitat because well- it's hard keeping a 9 cubic foot hole in the ground full enough for fish.

Still....how are your ponds not eaten alive by small burrowing critters?
 
Mick Fisch
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I think they would drown digging around my little pond.
 
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Bentonite works well. We use it when we lose circulation on drilling rigs it plugs up all holes in the ground that take water and it's a natural element.
 
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I was thinking that maybe the easiest way, provided the clay or fine particle content is high enough, is to rent one of those electric handheld concrete vibrator things, used for getting air pockets out of just poured concrete (https://goo.gl/j7qOhv). I don't know if you have these out there in America, but it's a fairly simple motor with a flexible part to shove into any foundation pourings. It works very quickly, so you need to keep it moving or else the concrete will separate into its different components. Now that is just the thing you need. Sepp Holzer in his video explains that he puts the bucket of the excavator into the soil and then moves it back and forth to get the soil to stratify. I'm guessing that concrete vibrator machine thingy would do just the same thing with little effort.
 
Mick Fisch
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I think you are absolutely correct.  I think you have identified the second best tool (best probably being a pig, so you don't have to do anything; but then the vibrator won't require perfect fencing lest it get out and destroy your garden.  Maybe you've identified the best tool after all!)

I'm pretty sure the concrete vibrator would vibrate all the fines to the surface (which is what it's doing with the wet concrete) and make a clay layer, provided there is a bit of water in the hole.
 
K van Velzen
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Glad you approve, Mick. It could never give the satisfaction and joy of a group of pigs roaming around in your yard, though. Yes, I did indeed forget to mention it would be paramount to have a little layer of water for this to work. I don't happen to own a leaky pond myself, so I'm waiting expectantly for someone to try it out
 
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