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Hand-dug ponds  RSS feed

 
Posts: 13
Location: Lewis County, WA USDA Zone 8b
cat dog trees
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So, Hi!

I live in Western WA, and this is my first post besides the Howdy! one when I first joined this board.

I live within the city limits of a small town. I bought the property last October, and it's about .75 acres. One boundary is a river with a steep bank with nasty jagged boulders at the bottom. I think the city put them in there to prevent erosion.

I'm in the watching and waiting and thinking part with w/r/t handling the invasive black berries and constructing a path to the river where my dog and I don't break our necks. Okay, where *I* don't break my neck, because she's a lab mix that swims in it when it isn't fast. I'm also watching what plants and flowers come up from the previous owner's landscaping efforts. In the meantime, I'm sheet mulching the grass.

I'm spending this year walking around looking at the grades, where I can collect water (the house, the garage, the shed roofs), and there's this one area that was way over tilled (I'll have to go all Pythagoras to figure out the square footage, because it is a triangle), and is a natural divot where I'm thinking about building a liner-free duck pond for 2-4 ducks. I'm thinking maybe 4ft deep at the center. The divot (okay - HUGE depression) is almost at the bottom of the gradual slope of my yard - maybe 15 feet from the property line, river on one side, small road on the other.

I don't share any edge (is that right?), with neighbors. My property is also a triangle (hello, Pythagoras!) of river, a small paved rd, and a largish road with substantive day traffic, all chainlink fence except for the river side. I also have riparian rights to use the river water. Based on the size of my property, the city allows me to have up to ten ducks, but four should be more than enough. I'm looking to raise them for eggs and possibly meat. I'm trying to get away from the pet mindset - it's hard.

I would try to build the pond this summer, and I wouldn't buy ducks for a year or two.

I don't want to rent a backhoe or whatever people use (shut up ). Just me and a shovel.

Any thoughts or advice?

Gotta go to work - I'll check you out later and many thanks!

Beth
 
Posts: 71
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Digging by hand, people say you're crazy when you do it, i did it, to build my own pond. But they forget if a digger comes in the garden it makes a big mess, doing it by hand gives you the opportunity to really shift the different layers for later use, i came across a humus top layer, granite ,clay and sand. First used a hoe to cut a layer loose and then shove it into a bucket with a trowel or spade, then made seperate hills for later use. Worked a dream. I used a liner and went out to find different plants with the crappy canoe someone gave me. Many plants died, but some flourished and it was such a succes i'm helping my friend now to build a natural swimming pond. Which was dug by a digger, but still we have to fine tune for days by hand.
It's doable, but mind your back! Petit a petit l'oisseau fait son nit, as the french say: bit by bit, the bird makes it's nest. Good luck.
 
Beth Johnson
Posts: 13
Location: Lewis County, WA USDA Zone 8b
cat dog trees
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What are the pros and cons of a liner? The soil is super clayey, at least the top layer. I was hoping that plants would do better without a liner, the high water table would help keep the pond filled (as well as PNW rain), and I'm just a little put off by a liner. I can't explain why I'm put off because it's based more on feeling than logic. I try to use the latter, but sometimes the former wins.

Souvent je veux l'impossible
 
Hugo Morvan
Posts: 71
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Clay is better for environment, but i have my pond next to my veggie patch to water it, and not walk far with a watering can. The plants love the warm nutrient rich water. I did not want to risk losing any water ,which i heard one does ,when the soil is not very clay-e through and through around the pond. Water-levels tend to go down in summer , seeping out. My pond is fed by a rainwater catch system from the roof, so i top it up, daily. The fish like that cold fresh water as well. I don't think ducks care that much about low water levels. If my earth was clay through and through i would have at least given it a go without a liner.
 
Posts: 129
Location: Maritimes , Eastern Canada
6
fish food preservation forest garden homestead kids pig trees wood heat woodworking
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If you have clay all the down you have the best natural membrane available. You will know better when you get down to where you want the bottom to be. By hand digging you can also shape the bottom and sides "just so", although you may need a sump pump to help keep it empty as you work. 
I too believe in hand digging as much as possible, even thought I own machinery for heavier jobs. You will disturb the area less . If you don't already have one, invest in a short square blade garden spade with a "D" handle, as it will cut the clay nicely, with manageable "bites" which will do a better job than a "round" spade. It will  also be less strenuous , bit by bit as Hugo referred to.

If you do dig through the clay and find gravel or sand underneath you can use  clay you dug out earlier in a layer of about 6 inches to  seal the bottom so that water doesn't drain out on you. Of course, the local water table may be high enough that it would never drain.

Good luck!  Keep us posted .
 
Posts: 87
Location: Ontario zone 4b
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If youre river is at the same level as the pond i would consider digging swales surrounding some food that youre ducks can adorn ..if its a single pond youre considering i would dig it a considerable depth like 6 to 8 ft  and if there is clay line the bottom with it also spreading any overflow can be beneficial ...having a silt catch works well as a way to scrape out nutrient dense soil for any garden works you are considering on making. The incredible amount of precision and detail can be done by hand digging this can allow you to create steps and plateaus where water loving plants can grow. But working with a shovel is labour intensive but worth it. I would suggest taking a look at edible acres on youtube and watch his videos under ponds in the playlist he hand digs a considerable amount of ponds swales silt catches and vernal pools and utilizes them..check it out
 
Beth Johnson
Posts: 13
Location: Lewis County, WA USDA Zone 8b
cat dog trees
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Thank you all so much! The encouragement is great and much appreciated!

I'll look into the short square blade garden spade with a D handle, and I have seen some Edible Acres videos - that's what prompted me to come here and pose the question. It didn't occur to me that I can separate variegated layers of soil for specific uses, but that makes perfect sense.

Once the rains slow and the river falls, I'll provide updates and pictures. Meanwhile, I'm reading, reading, observing and feeling an excited kinda mellow. That's a nice change from growing up in Philly where we all were in the go go go! mindset.

Wonderful :-D

ETA: And yes to the sump pump!
 
Mark Deichmann
Posts: 129
Location: Maritimes , Eastern Canada
6
fish food preservation forest garden homestead kids pig trees wood heat woodworking
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Great !

Remember to always have a ladder down the hole with you and watch out for any sign of caving in. Keeping the hole wide and sides sloping but not too steep prevents this. Also avoid working in the rain and  keep it pumped out or it will all go mushy and be hard to deal with, if not dangerous.

Just wanted to add the "safety first " bit :)

Dig it!
 
Posts: 110
Location: Gaines County, Texas South of Seminole, Tx zone 7b
6
dog greening the desert trees
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Last may I started digging me a small basin/pond to catch water and don't have it lined and mainly caliche but with rains it stays full a day or to and depending on how much rain it dries up fast but this is the different in pictures.  had an abnormal amount of rain for area as this results happened.  I was surprised in the short amount of time the vegetation growth just from the water that was allowed to soak in.  I am still thinking of digging a little bigger and putting in rain catchment to route more water into this to fill full each rain.
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June 12 finished digging
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July 29th after a few rains
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November 15 before the first freeze.
 
Beth Johnson
Posts: 13
Location: Lewis County, WA USDA Zone 8b
cat dog trees
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@Mark D: Ha! I would never have thought of a ladder! I'll also post pictures of my full-body cast.

@James E: Awesome! Thanks for sharing these. I see your pups supervised and approved your handiwork!
 
Mark Deichmann
Posts: 129
Location: Maritimes , Eastern Canada
6
fish food preservation forest garden homestead kids pig trees wood heat woodworking
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He he , ya didn't want to see a post "stuck in the mud-help !"   Digging holes in a wet environment requires precautions thats all.

Good luck Beth! 
 
James Everett
Posts: 110
Location: Gaines County, Texas South of Seminole, Tx zone 7b
6
dog greening the desert trees
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yeah the dogs even enjoy it when its full of water.  they us it more for cooling off then the doggie pool.  Though right now I am creating more Vernal pools to soak in water due to water table being 80-120 foot down in the area.  over time I want to have one of my bigger ponds lined with something to have a longer pool with 30 acres hopefully I can pull something off good for this dry area.
 
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