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tim matson

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since Jun 07, 2013
Pond designer and consultant; author
of the Earth Ponds book and dvd series.
Lives on a tree farm in Vermont.
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Recent posts by tim matson

agree about the test pit(s) to start... and wariness regarding possible observation there...
local fire dept interested in a hydrant from the pond? maybe they can help,
because they often work with ponds, know contractors, etc.
does the province have agencies that support pond work?
5 years ago
a complicated scenario with lots of possibilities,
but I’d have to see photos, drawings, maps, and
have a phone conversation to really tackle this,
or make any useful recommendations. at least that’s the way I like to work doing long distance consulting. ponds have much more complex ingridients
than say a garden or house building project that you can to and fro about in prose: soil type, water table and its annual variations, slope of land, vegetative cover, size of watershed draining to pond site, and more. Can you find a local experienced pond builder to help? perhaps the extension service or nrcs? sometimes a fire dept would be happy to have a fire hydrant hooked up to the pond, and might have some pond savvy to contribute. are there are nearby ponds with owners who could contribute stories of construction, etc. how about a biggish
(10-20 ft diameter) test pit to start with in your favorite site, and see what you can learn from that?
it’s the way most ponds begin.
5 years ago
I recently spent some time helping a friend build a small pond that developed over a period of several years, starting with a hunch that a wet area
might make a good pool... to bringing in a backhoe to dig a small test pit not much wider than the bucket and maybe 6-8 feet deep... that small
a hole will probably slump in .... and it did... and it did attract frogs and salamanders despite small size... anyway, it seemed promising in terms of
water supply, so the hole was enlarged to maybe 10 feet across again with backhoe (minimal cost as you can probably imagine)... and by now
was starting to really seem like a small pond... and maintained pretty good waterlevel... so next year (year 3 of project)... excavator build a
nice small pond maybe 20-25 feet diameter, with dam... spillway.... nice rocks from hole placed for landscape effect... seeded, etc... and now
a wonderful small pond full of frogs, salamanders, stocked with crayfish... owner is extremely happy with her new pond, which has transformed her
place... anyway, at all stages of development the hole full of water attracted frogs, etc... so you can do it tiny, small, etc... maybe if a small
pool seems especially nice, expand it... be aware that small waterholes will probably slump if sides are steep... if pool is not built relatively in the
dry so sides/dam can be compacted... and keep in mind what to do with inflow/overflow... to control erosion/flooding.... small ponds
have often been used for aquaculture.. but need a good water exchange or will become stagnant... that's perhaps one of the big caveats of small
water holes... will they become stagnant and mosquito breeders... I wrote about small ponds in a recent issue of Pond Boss, which I don't think
is available on internet... but perhaps you can get a copy... or subscribe.... in development of bigger ponds, one of first steps is test pits...
and increasingly I like to make them rather big (10 feet across or more) rather than just backhoe bucket width, which gives prospective builder
a mini pond to better evaluate water table, soil, etc... and enjoy a small pond while considering whether to go full size.
5 years ago
Liners need smart installation. They can be used with a dam. But you have to be careful that slopes are flat enough so that protective covering if used
doesn't slide to bottom of pond.. like small stone which is often used. Sand sometimes. I've seen people get in trouble with steep slopes and sand or other
protective covering sliding to bottom. However, I know contractors who put liners on steep slopes (including the dam).. with no protective
cover except the top 5 feet or so which is angled flattish, then the slope goes steep... that requires a shelf at bottom of the 5 foot slope, so the top
5 feet can be covered, in this case with earth, then the liner goes down uncovered. Many other aspects to liner installation that not all contractors adhere to,
but include underdrain(s) to drain ground water (if there is any) under liner, and piped to outside of pond... tricky to do but otherwise ground water
can lift liner and displace it... recovery of ground water sometimes a very helpful thing, so drain(s) have to then go to a cistern outside pond, to be
pumped back... mustn't neglect to mention protective underlayment (sand, construction fabric)... again, some don't use, but if soil has sharp rocks, well
you can imagine... of course liner itself should be thick mil, say 30/40 mil, and uv may be able to get good install info from liner suppliers..
or perfect world you won't need a liner but they do allow people to build where it wasn't practical before... and if wetland
permitting nixes best site, you can move to drier location and use liner... next question of course may be, what do you use for water if you've gone to dry site... another topic.
5 years ago
Well, small world... I just invoked liners in an answer regarding earthquake proofing a pond... and one of my first suggestions here would be
to consider, if you have little faith in water retention capacity of soil, is to consider a liner. Perhaps the primary question is, who's gonna build it?
You? If so, how much experience do you have, and what equipment? I rarely see folks building their own ponds unless they are pretty
accomplished dirt workers. And then they might not be asking those questions. Of course a simple hole in the ground might work. But if you're serious about a solid creation, I'd look around the
neighborhood for smart and successful builders, check out their ponds, see if they've done something similar to your project, and have them
check out your site. Here in Vermont and the north country, half the battle is getting a savvy pond builder on board. The other half is coming up
with a good site, avoiding permitting hangups, and paying the bill. I agree with the suggestion to check out the forum, read up on related topics, and
put out your questions there. That said, it's really tough to evaluate a pond site/plan long distance... although it can be done with phone calls,
photos, etc.
5 years ago
Good question! As in, I've never been asked that one before, probably because of the scarcity of earthquakes in Vermont. But my first reaction is to suggest that
if there's anything to prevent the cracking like an egg of a quaked pond, it might be something relatively new in the pond building world: membrane liners. I can
imagine that an earthquake would not have to be world shattering to fracture a carefully made dam, or the basin itself, in a strictly earthen pond. At the very least
a tremor might induce some hard to track down leakage... not to mention a larger quake creating a leak that turned into pond destroying erosion... but
a thick mil pvc or other flexible material liner might be able to rock and roll a bit and even if the basin lost a bit of its integrity... still hold water. Opting to go with
a liner is a big choice design and expense wise, so if not needed for water holding reasons, well, if quakes really got you quaking, I'd look into it.
5 years ago
I am brand new to this site/forum so please excuse the early toe in the water shot at a response to the mosquito question... I'm way more
at home in the field than on a computer... but that said... here are a couple of ideas... mosquito larva hang onto shore edge waterline vegetation, so if you remove same
you reduce their "nesting" sites... dragonflies eat mosquitoes, so if you can encourage them, do..... the deeper the edges the better, in general, to
discourage plants and warming water.... and if you can generate some wave action with say a splash aerator, that can help knock the larva for a loop...
I may have more on this as I get familiar with how this forum operates... (I do like the "get a new girlfriend" response...)... also in Vermont, a whole
bunch of cattails will probably be more friendly to mosquitos than not... in general, deep cool water, and lots of predators (insect eating birds, bats,
fish) help...
5 years ago