Sunday, December 28, 2008

Plans for the New Year

Christmas wasn't too noteworthy. Luke and Rebecca exchanged gifts with me two days before Christmas so they could be up at my ex mother-in-law's lake house Christmas Day. Again, I cooked a large meal, meaning to take a couple of plates to Dad, as he didn't want to come over from the nursing home. I called before his supper time and asked them to hold his, as I was on my way with his Christmas dinner. I was really let down when he was eating ham sandwiches when I arrived. It hurt to see that. Come to find out the aide didn't give Dad a dinner tray, but someone else did when they saw Dad didn't have any dinner! So I bought it home and took it back the next morning. His nurse took the plates and put them in the ice box for later in the day. I really don't know if Dad got to eat the meal I cooked for him or not. I made Christina a ferret cage for her new fuzzy, Dancer. I gave it to her for Christmas. I had around 40 hours in its construction. So add in labor and this cage was expensive!

The Monday after Christmas, Rebecca and I put poinsettias on Mom's grave. then we drove by the lake in the cemetery to see the ducks. I got excited about the ducks and wanted my own. There was a mud duck doing it's diving ritual. Rebecca liked that diving duck and told me to get one of them. Right then I decided to start my pond, for ducks and fishing! The very next day I started digging. I have been putting it off for a while now. I couldn't decide where to put it. For years I wanted to put it in the curve of the driveway with a overflow pipe going under the driveway. Then I cleared the land just down stream from the driveway, near my fence line and thought I might be able to put a larger pond there. But it was always wet there and too close to the deeded easements for rain water runoff. If I could tap into one of those wet weather streams, I would always have a full pond. But I would need written permission from the engineer that originally plotted the easements. I figured that would be worse than pulling teeth. I always thought I would need large amounts of dry weather. Well, that would help for sure. But inside the curve of the driveway it is way higher than down near the wet weather streams.

After much deliberation, I decided to dig my first pond in the smaller spot. Call this the trial pond. I can learn a lot digging it and can always build a bigger pond down on the other side of the driveway. I have wanted to have my own pond for years now. Over 20 years ago I contacted Texas A&M University (TAMU) about pond designing and building. TAMU responded by sending want I requested and detailed information on what fish to stock it with. It will be a big learning curve with all the trees near my pond. I started by taking out about half a dozen trees, then digging out the top soil. This took up the first day. I also trimmed a huge limb from the bent oak tree I want to be able to sit on while fishing. I had to cut one of the two upright limbs as the oak was starting to uproot. Not good when you want the tree to stay alive so you can sit on it and fish! I can just see me getting the pond just right and that bent oak uprooting and splashing into the water. Or taking out the power line to my house!
The removal of the topsoil went real fast. I had a pile taller then the Big RED Beast can dump, so I started rolling up into the pile to dump it. Then I got the lawn chair out and stared at the stripped ground. I had no plans or design. I just took all the information I had gleamed over the years and started digging a dam keyway from scratch. The keyway basically locks the dam in place and doesn't let the water shear the dam and push it sideways. Since my dam will only be three foot high and hold back only two feet of water, I dug my keyway down two feet into the clay with my Backhoe's 24 inch wide bucket and filled it with clay removed from the pond basin. I wasn't sure if the key way needed to be straight or if it could bend a little in direction. I needed to dig it in a slight "s" shape as it had to avoid the cedar tree I love so much. Filling the keyway had no real look to it. Basically I dug a trench and filled it with sticky clay. After the keyway filling came packing. I would load my KMW loader bucket with clay and drive over the keyway. This weight on the front tires really packed the clay in tight

After the keyway was packed, the real fun began. Digging the pond basin. I though most of my digging would be with my backhoe, but the digging started with my loader bucket's cutting edge being parallel to the clay and just trying to cut two or three inches of clay and letting the clay roll over and over in the bucket. This is the way big dozer operators do it and it really worked with my 6520 4WD pushing it. My dam took shape fast, but when packed down, seemed to disappear just as fast. After about half a day of piling clay and packing it, I could definitely see a dam.

After 3 days of construction, I decided to install a bulkhead around the cedar tree. I removed my thumb and backhoe bucket and installed my Danuser hydraulic auger motor and 9 inch auger to dig the 4 post holes in the solid clay. Before I did this, I dug my first post hole, that I would use, in the barn for a walk through door frame support post.
I really got excited how the auger and backhoe worked while digging a hole in the barn up against wall boards. I then dug the four post holes for the bulkhead. Christina gave me a hand sitting the posts and building the bulkhead. It really was great to have her there spoting for me when I got the loader bucket too close to the new bucket while back filling it.

After the bulkhead was up to two and a half feet high, we stopped going higher. I am planning on the dam being 3 feet high, so the top of the dam will be 6 inches higher then the bulkhead. That way rain run off will flow off the top and water the tree. I hope! Next on the agenda was to remove one driveway culvert. The dam had made this culvert useless where it was located. This culvert had 12 feet of black corrugated pipe and 4 feet of concrete culvert. I had crushed concrete over it. The crushed concrete, after 14 years of being ran over, was solid like concrete! It took a while to dig through it. Once we had the culvert removed, we moved it up the driveway and installed it in the ditch near the dam, connected to the other driveway culvert. Now I can pile and pack the dam higher. The existing culvert was just a little short when pulling my 20 foot gooseneck around the curve of the driveway. If I didn't pay attention, I could drop a wheel off the end of that culvert and that could be costly if the Mahindra was on board.

As I dug the pond basin deeper, its narrow width shortcoming was really showing up in that the big Mahindra is a little long to be in that narrow basin curvature. So far I have been careful, but one turn of the wheel to far with a loader bucket full of clay in that curved basin and the ground could come up to meet me real fast. So we are off to a good start with a week of little rain and dodging a really big storm yesterday. Now I get to wait all week before continuing digging, piling, and packing. Check out the new photos I uploaded here. Stop back later to see where the pond spillway goes. Oh yeah...Happy New Year!

hugs, Brandi

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