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My Progress Gleying a Pond With Pigs  RSS feed

 
Seth Peterson
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I'm loving the pond updates!!

sepp holzer showed us his trick to stop erosion on the uphill side of a pond. He seems to have trouble with ducks which forage, 'pecking' away at the uphill side of a pond, which causes erosion. His solution is to plant willow stakes along this edge, to secure erosion and prevent ducks from having access and tearing up the 'uphill shoreline' of the pond.

Seth
 
Michael Newby
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Seth Peterson wrote:

... plant willow stakes along this edge, to secure erosion and prevent ducks from having access and tearing up the 'uphill shoreline' of the pond.

Seth


Does he use dead willow stakes or is he trying to get the stakes to take root and become a wall of willow trees? I wouldn't mind having a nice little stretch of willow coppice for various projects around the property. The only things I would worry about are roots breaching the relatively shallow seal I've made (especially if they chase the water down as the pond empties over the summer) and maybe the fallen leaves being too much of an organic input to a pretty small pond. I guess if I coppiced them yearly I could avoid the fallen leaves issue. I'm 50/50 as to whether the willow roots would break the seal or if the roots would encourage another form of sealing due to the microbial activity and exudates associated with the roots of a tree. I might do the upper pond with the willow and that would give me more time to find a good source of bamboo for the others. I know that I can get willow cuttings from a number of different places.
 
Michael Cox
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Living stakes - they root really easily and do an excellent job of bank stabilisation along river and pond edges. Can't say if they will break your seal, although I suspect not, especially once they have dropped a few years worth of organic matter in to bulk up your anaerobic layer.

If you are planning multiple pond sites then perhaps a test is in order?
 
Michael Newby
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Michael Cox wrote:Living stakes - they root really easily and do an excellent job of bank stabilisation along river and pond edges. Can't say if they will break your seal, although I suspect not, especially once they have dropped a few years worth of organic matter in to bulk up your anaerobic layer.

If you are planning multiple pond sites then perhaps a test is in order?


This pond site pretty much is my test site. Right now I'm watching the site through different weather events and gathering options. I'm kind of leaning towards a few weeping willow (Salix babylonica) groups with stands of silver birch (Betula nigra) on the north slope and low growing shrubs on the south banks, which include the dam wall. So far my list of shrubs includes red and yellow twig dogwoods (Cornus sericea), Kerria japonica 'Plentiflora', Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica) and maybe some Reeve's Skimmia (Skimmia reevesiana). I wouldn't mind doing a pretty solid planting of very short bamboo on the actual dam wall just because that's a proven plant for dam walls that will hold things together without invasive root action. We'll see, I've got a few months of over-analyzing everything before it's planting weather again.
 
elle sagenev
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A real inspiration. I do have hugely clay soil but I am going to try this with the pond I'd like to build. Very exciting!
 
Seth Peterson
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Elle, In my limited experience clay soil is what you want for pond sealing. I've seen them done by digging a hole and running pigs in the hole, and I've seen them done by running the excavator in the hole to compact the clay. I'm, of course, referring to the work of sepp holzer, so if you don't know, definitely check him out and read up on his pond building techniques.


Hey Michael, yes sepp used dead stakes with live plants. The dead stake to create and keep the hole, as well as, allow moisture into the hole, and to decompose and feed the soil life. In that same hole he planted what I believe was grapes in one case and willow in another. I totally see your point of the willows going through your thin sealing layer vs. Causing soil life and exudate so that would seal it, and am curious, might be worth a try in your test pond since the info is invaluable in your situation. I could also see planting some shallow rooted plants that would fend off ducks, like the bamboo you mentioned. Are cat tails shallow rooted? I'll try and get some photos up next month of what I saw. Too busy this month.

Keep them updates coming, you rock!

And even if you do,

Seth Peterson

a permaculture chef
 
Michael Newby
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Well, thanks to a little vote of confidence from Seth and Michael, I went ahead and planted up the whole upper slope of the pond with a line of live willow stakes. I am utterly stunned with the success rate that I managed to get with these things! Out of roughly 45 stakes hammered into rocky compacted dirt there's only 2 that aren't doing very well, the rest are growing like crazy. I planted the stakes pretty thick thinking that I was going to have closer to 50% success rate and that I would be planting some shrub dogwoods where the willows didn't take. Now I'm thinking that I might just do a whole row of a few different varieties just uphill of where I've planted the willow. I'm also in the process of sourcing a decent medium sized bamboo to plant on the dam of the pond to get that covered a little better.

Another problem that I need to address is the almost total lack of groundcover surrounding the pond. The pigs did maybe a little too good of a job compacting the areas that they ran around on and now any pioneering little sprout that dares to give it a go is devoured by either the chickens or ducks (Did I mention that we have ducks in the pond now?). This should be a relatively quick fix involving temporarily fencing off the edges of the pond and planting it up with the groundcover mix that I get from OutsidePride.com.

We got 3 Rouen ducks from a friend and they are right at home on the pond. These seem to be a great egg laying strain because we're averaging 12 eggs a week from the 2 females. We also have 6 ducklings of unknown breeds that we're brooding in the garage right now that have a couple more weeks before they're ready for the pond. Once I have my perimeter fencing finished and the ducks have been penned at the pond long enough to know that it's their home base I'll remove the wooden fencing from around the pond and integrate it a little better with the surrounding landscape.

Glad people are enjoying the progress, I'll try to keep the updates semi-regular.

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Cj Sloane
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If they are weeping willows, I recommend you keep them pollarded. They grow quickly and can get away from you. If you keep them pollarded, it's also easier to harvest for fodder.
 
Mark Pressler
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Michael, great thread. I'd like to ask the opinions of the group: I'm hoping to acquire a property soon that is mostly wooded and mostly sloped. I'd like to have ponds installed on the slopes for water catchment and like the pig method. My concern is all the trees and the likelihood of uncovering lots of roots. I don't mind if some trees have to come down but I'm wondering if there would be problems sealing because of the roots?
 
Michael Newby
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Cj Verde wrote:If they are weeping willows, I recommend you keep them pollarded. They grow quickly and can get away from you. If you keep them pollarded, it's also easier to harvest for fodder.


What I have are a very shrubby variety that are found around streams and lakes around here, I haven't bothered to fully ID it yet other than it's a willow (pretty sure I have two different varieties actually, one with red new growth and one with yellow). The largest specimens I've seen locally would only be about 15' tall. I do think that I'll be coppicing these willows on some kind of annual rotation to get willow sticks for whatever (temp. fencing, basket weaving, making charcoal, etc.). Once the small shelter is moved I plan to put a couple of weeping willows over there to make an area for a hammock that would overlook the pond but I want those to be big show-off trees.
 
Michael Newby
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Mark Pressler wrote:Michael, great thread. I'd like to ask the opinions of the group: I'm hoping to acquire a property soon that is mostly wooded and mostly sloped. I'd like to have ponds installed on the slopes for water catchment and like the pig method. My concern is all the trees and the likelihood of uncovering lots of roots. I don't mind if some trees have to come down but I'm wondering if there would be problems sealing because of the roots?


It might take a little while but you can use the pigs to unearth the rootballs. Just toss whatever treat that you give them around the stumps that you want them to root out and they will concentrate their digging/burrowing efforts in that area trying to get the treats. Depending on the number/size of the pigs and the soil characteristics it can happen pretty quickly.
 
Mark Pressler
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Thanks Michael. I was concerned more with the trees themselves affecting the water holding abilities of the pond with roots growing and so on.
 
Michael Newby
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Mark Pressler wrote:Thanks Michael. I was concerned more with the trees themselves affecting the water holding abilities of the pond with roots growing and so on.


I do think that having decaying roots below the water line is going to take longer to create a seal but I don't think that it would completely eliminate the chance. One of the main factors would be whether the pond is kept full creating anaerobic conditions that favor the gley formation.
 
Cj Sloane
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Pigs really like eating Willow, BTW.
 
Berry Buiten
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Hi there Michael,

great progress! And great news for me too I'm planning to develop some land in Greece, and the soil type seems pretty similar to what you have there. I was worried I'd need to use EPDM or sumusch, but this progress is amazing! And in one year! Is it still going strong? Did they dig much with their snouts? Or was it only wallowing?

Cheers for the great work!
Bram

ps. more pictures would be very welcome! Especially if you sowed that groundcover you were talking about.
 
David Good
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Michael - this is brilliant. Thank you for the photos. When you're convinced totally that it's a complete success, I would be interested in posting some of what you've done on my website and perhaps interviewing you about the process.

Great work.
 
Michael Newby
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Berry:
The pond is still holding water well but I do fill it roughly once a week during the 90F + days. I'm thinking that I'm loosing about 90% of the water to evaporation, 5% to plant transpiration and 5% to seepage. I'm keeping ducks hoping that their activity in the pond will help with a final seal and have a few trees planted to create shade but it's going to be a while before they're big enough. I'm thinking about making a structure that I could stretch some shade cloth across on the hottest, sunniest days until my tree canopy gets a little taller. I also need to plant something on the dam or below the dam that will get tall enough to act as a windbreak.

The pigs did a bit of digging with their snouts, but not really that much, especially down in the water or at the water's edge.

I haven't had the time or resources to do a real groundcover but tomatillos, tomatoes and corn from feeding the pigs have all volunteered themselves all along the hill where the willow is getting established. I'll have to remember to get a more recent picture of the area but I do have some pictures from a few weeks ago. The other day I was down there and the biggest willow is now about an inch higher than I can reach, which is almost 8 feet.

David:
Thanks! I guess a lot depends on what you're calling a complete success: Could it be done/made better? Probably. Am I happy with the level of results that I got? Absolutely. I've still got years of fiddling with this system and learning from both my mistakes and successes but I'm happy with the trajectory right now. Feel free to re-post anything from here on your blog as long as you give me credit for the work and Paul credit for Permies.com. If you're serious about doing an interview I guess I'd be fine with that, I can't say I've ever been interviewed like that before.
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David Good
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It looks successful enough to me!

I link to permies.com all the time... it's my #1 recommended site for gardeners. And Paul... well, you can't say enough good things about Paul. Without him, there would be a massive permaculture-shaped hole in the internet.

Credit will be given - I will reference this thread. I'm totally blown away by what you managed here and I want more people to see it.
 
Noel Deering
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Excellent documentation and inspiration!

Well done!
 
Betty Lamb
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Michael, what a fascinating thread, thanks so much for sharing! So, if I get a few pigs in there, I could seal this pond? we have a good clay layer but this pond leaks (as you can see). I have never had pigs, but I've been looking into getting 3 Berkshires, in your opinion, would this be a good breed for this project? Pigs are magical it would seem....

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Michael Newby
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Betty Lamb wrote: Michael, what a fascinating thread, thanks so much for sharing! So, if I get a few pigs in there, I could seal this pond? we have a good clay layer but this pond leaks (as you can see). I have never had pigs, but I've been looking into getting 3 Berkshires, in your opinion, would this be a good breed for this project? Pigs are magical it would seem....


From what I can see and what you're describing I think that pigs would work great. You'd want to get those larger rocks out of the area otherwise the pigs won't want to wallow there and you're less likely to get a seal. You're also going to want to identify where your spillway would be and keep the pigs from that area or they'll root around there and cause problems.

As far as breed goes I can't say that I have any solid advice on what type would be best but I would think that heritage breeds are more likely to still have a strong wallowing instinct.

If you do go for getting the pigs I'd love to see another thread on here about your progress. Good Luck!
 
Chris Barton
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This thread is absolutely brilliant! My grin got bigger and bigger as I worked my way through the photos!
I'm hoping to be buying land in the next 12 months and I've sort of "heard" that pigs seal a pond but kind of didn't really think that it would be entirely possible. But blimey, if they can do it on that terrain then they can do it on the sticky clay mush we have where I am.

Sir, I salute you.
 
Michael Newby
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Chris Barton wrote:But blimey, if they can do it on that terrain then they can do it on the sticky clay mush we have where I am.

Sir, I salute you.


Thanks Chris! I'd have to agree that if you have any clay content in your soil at all then I think it would seal up even easier than my soil did.

 
Michael Newby
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Fish are now happily living in the pond!

A few months ago I put some feeder goldfish in the pond to help keep the mosquito population down. The ducks immediately had a field day chasing the new fish around and after a few days of not being able to spot a fish I figured that the ducks had gotten all the fish. Jump forward a few months and imagine my surprise when I was sitting by the pond and noticed not just a fish but a whole school of them, 50-75 of them darting around in the sunny shallows! Those original fish hadn't been eaten by my ducks, I just never saw them near the surface because they were too busy getting busy at the bottom of the pond!

Having a few days with a little time to myself I spent time by the pond and managed to spot at least 10 of the original fish that I put in the pond. They're already huge! I'm talking 10 inches for the biggest one, maybe 7 inches for the smaller ones. There's some really cool looking ones that are jet black on top with orange mottling all over the belly that remind me of Koi.

Here's a crappy video I shot of a few of the little goldfish darting around:



And a few attempted shots of the bigger goldfish. I don't have any kind of aeration going other than what little happens while filling the pond so the the water is a little murky and I couldn't get real clear shots of the fish but you can tell they're there!
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Golden blobs that are goldfish
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There's fish down there, I swear
 
Zach Muller
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Thats awesome! Are you planning to introduce any other aquatic species? What is the main thing that is oxygenating the pond right now? Wind?

Im sooo going to recreate this whole process with ducks rather than pigs. Kudos Michael.
 
Michael Newby
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Zach Muller wrote:Thats awesome! Are you planning to introduce any other aquatic species? What is the main thing that is oxygenating the pond right now? Wind?

Im sooo going to recreate this whole process with ducks rather than pigs. Kudos Michael.


In the spring I'm going to go to one of the local ponds and catch a few tadpoles to put in the pond, get my frog population going. There's also a lot of crawdads around here so I'm thinking that they would be a good fit and be a nice harvestable protein, too.

As far as oxygenation, yeah, just the wind, which there's plenty of here. My property is right at the summit of a mountain pass between some pretty big peaks so it's basically a wind tunnel here. Eventually I'd like to install a system like Lawton talks about with a solar powered pump recirculating the pond water over a rock-filled barrel for aeration. If I get rich and famous I'd love to install one of the windmill powered air-stones/bubblers in the pond but those are pretty pricey.

We've got ducks in the pond and they seem pretty happy. There's not quite enough going for the ducks to be fully self sufficient, I still have to give them feed. Once the willows put on a little more growth I'm thinking about making a wattle-and-daub type structure for a duck-house.

Thanks for the kudos, can't wait to see pictures of your pond project.
 
Michael Newby
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If only I were good with a camera! I've been trying to get some photos of the amazing amount of small birds that are always around the pond now but my cellphone camera just isn't up to the task of catching those flittering fluttering little bundles of energy. They never stay still! There's been so many different little birds frequenting the pond that I went out and bought a birding book to try and ID what birds there are.

So far I think I've spotted:
Brewer's Blackbird
Lesser Goldfinch
Dark-Eyed Junco
Varied Thrush
Golden Crowned Kinlet
Rock Wren
Bushtit
either Mountain or Black-capped Chickadee (they're so similar in the book!)
either Oak or Juniper Titmouse
American Crow
American Scrub Jay
Stellar's Jay
Hutton's Vireo
either Hammond's or Willow Flycatcher
California Quail
Hummingbirds moving so fast I can't ID them

Keep in mind that I'm an absolute amateur at ID'ing birds but I'm pretty sure that's what I've seen visiting the pond so far.
 
Rene Nijstad
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Michael, this is absolutely fantastic! We started with pigs a few months ago in an area we recently cleared, with the idea of them helping us to create "hugel swales". (The wood-walls are already put on contour, see picture below)

Because it's a very gentle sloping valley we planned to bring an excavator in to create some ponds or dams there, but your experiment shows a much better option! We'll try doing small earthworks with the pigs instead! It would mean more and smaller ponds than with machinery, but it won't cost anything...

We'll work out how we can try this and show you the results in a few months. Thanks!
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Marianne Cicala
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Thanks for this Michael - you have my mind working on a bigger undertaking~
I love this thread and am also a total fan of pigs~ We got 2 heritage breed (aka 250 lbs at maturity) last spring and the amount of work they do in incredible. We have/had much smaller projects - 1st gleying a series of rice paddies and now we move their "play pen", where they spend daytime, around to till and enrich our clay. After a week of so, in any given area, we move it again. My personal favorite addition to our farm pets~
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Devon Olsen
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wayne fajkus
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pretty amazing and thanks for updates. I was the negative nancy on this this but- wow! great job

I just had a pond dug and the rains came immediately. One event filled it, but its dropping about 1 ft per day. Buts its rained every week since so I don't officially know if its gonna hold or not, or at what level. Thinking about throwing leaves and horse manure in it. I wont get the trample effect but might get a good scum layer on the bottom.
 
Michael Newby
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Wow, love seeing all these pigs hard at work! Those rice paddies are pretty awesome, Marianne. I hadn't really thought of them in my design but now I'm thinking I have a spot just after the planned spillway from the final pond area that would be a great fit.


Renee - Looks like you've got a lot of work going on there, I hope those pigs help cut down on some of the work-load for you. I'm thinking that if you were to make your temporary pens with the lower fence line against the brush pile then there should be a good chance that the pigs will slough the dirt downhill with their rooting. Depending on how it's set up and how enthusiastic the pigs are in their rooting you might have to worry about the lowest wire getting grounded out.
 
Michael Newby
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Wayne fajkus wrote:Thinking about throwing leaves and horse manure in it. I wont get the trample effect but might get a good scum layer on the bottom.


Have you thought about ducks? If you have the means to keep them I would highly recommend getting some to keep with your pond. The duck manure is very fine and will help to create the final seal on the pond. Since the pigs have been gone I've been keeping 5 ducks in the pond and between the ducks and the other aquatic life going in the pond there's a scum layer developed that's at least 1" deep. This is the first fall the willows have been going but they've already contributed a good amount of organic matter to the pond with their leaves they've been dropping, so that should help develop my scum layer, too.



 
wayne fajkus
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It's literally 2 weeks old so currently lifeless. Do ducks need fish to feed on?

I figured the manure will add fertilizer. I can collect bagged leaves sitting on roadsides to add in also.

I have a well although it's probably 1/8 mile from the pond
 
Michael Newby
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I've been supplementing my ducks foraging with bagged feed for now. I don't have enough in place yet for the ducks to be fully self-sufficient, especially with winter coming on and killing off a lot of the bugs. As I get more systems established around the property I hope to be able to provide all my feed from the property but that will mean storing food for the harsh winter months here.

I think it has to be a pretty established pond ecosystem to expect the ducks to be close to self-sufficient living on the pond and I've got quite a ways to go before that. Between the ducks rooting around in the pond and how fully compacted the pigs got the soil it's been really hard to get plants to establish in the pond itself. I'm hoping that as the muck layer develops on the pond bottom it will be more conducive to the plants establishing themselves.


 
Walter Jeffries
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I have done this repeatedly. It works well. It is very important to choose the right spot with sufficient clay in the soil.
 
Michael Newby
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Hi Walter, congratulations on getting your slaughterhouse up and running all official-like. You've always been the pig guy to me on these forums, wish I was close enough to take tour of your farm.

Walter Jeffries wrote:It is very important to choose the right spot with sufficient clay in the soil.

That was the crazy thing with this little experiment - I never really thought it would work that well because my ground is pointedly lacking in clay content. I'm right at the base of a geologically new cinder cone and things just haven't had the time to go through the processes of forming actual clay. You'll find it collected in riverbeds and floodplains, occasionally there will be a big upwelling of it coming from deep below where the Juan De Fuca plate has been pushed down underneath us but there aren't any close enough to me to make it worth hauling some in. So to get back on topic, I've always read that you gotta have the right clay content to try this but couple my stubborn nature with the fact that there was already a pond-ish spot right where I wanted to keep the pigs and you have the makings of "screw it, might as well see what happens." The rest, as they say, is further up the thread.
 
Walter Jeffries
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*grin* The pigs are making their own clay (fine particulate matter via their digestion). Their point footed packing really helps. Patience and you have an instant pond.
 
wayne fajkus
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I keep thinking in the back of my mind- if I don't get pigs, I'll have to be the pig. But....I walk down to my puddle today and I see prints. Mainly deer , herron, and racoons. around the perimeter there's a print about every 6" at a distance from water line to 2 ft out.

The other observation is my pond found its current full mark. It stopped falling. I see an obvious band of black dirt going up 3ft from water edge then it turns back to clay. My guess is during the rain event, the clay washed down.

Algae is also forming.

 
Roberto pokachinni
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I'm bumping this post up, not only in this forum collection, but also into the list of sh*t I gotta do in the next few years. I've been looking for someone who actually did this in non ideal conditions for a long time. Awesome.
 
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