Monday, January 19, 2009

Lake Marie

I took time from digging to give the dam a fine grading and try to flatten the top a little. I was wanting it to rain before I did this, but the rains have not come. My days are sliding together as all I do is focus on the pond. I really was not planning on taking off so much time this early in the year, but the weather is prime for a pond. A tree trimming company has been trimming limbs on the high lines. They came down our street while I was off. Every truck I saw and even the trimmer operator was flagged down by me to ask if they would trim the lines on my property. They trimmed a few, but I have more that they didn't bother with. The boomed trimmer on tracks is an awesome machine. The operator's compartment pivots with the boom, so the operator is always looking straight ahead. The boom itself can stretch up to about 70 feet. I have been hauling so much clay, I have been adding spoils to the pile at a level of about 12 feet. I have one big clay ramp leading up to the pile. I keep forgetting to stop and take a photo of my Mahindra on top of the pile. I am sure it would look awesome. With Christina's help, we surveyed the pond elevation and marked it all around the shoreline every 7 feet with orange paint. Then we lined up the the water hose level to level out and stake the position and elevation of the spillway pipe. It will be a 15 inch diameter culvert running under the dam and my driveway. I will use chicken wire over the inlet until I can get a steel grate made. This should keep the fish in if it floods and fills the pond to capacity.
I posted photos of the water hose level on A bunch of online friends stated the water hose level is a low cost way to find elevations of the pond. Erik, from Kansas asked if I wanted to use his laser level. He sent me a private message to ask for my address. He sent it prepaid by UPS. I tried it out this morning, when I got home from work, but the sun was way to bright. So I went to bed and after spreading topsoil around the pond this afternoon, I got the laser out and started playing with it and learning how to utilize it. I found the max waterline level to the gully (130 feet away) is right at 10 feet difference in elevation. So I now know I can drain the whole pond, if I want to buy and bury 130 feet of pipe. I was planning on a 6 inch drain, but with all the cost of pipe, it may have to be 4 inch pipe. The generous loaning of this laser level is one reason I like the tractor community so much. People bend over backwards to be friendly and lend a hand. Genuine friendliness, going beyond words of encouragement to help out in one way or another. It doesn't matter what color your tractor is either. You can tell you have their respect and attention when you post about some project you did and forget to include photos. That is when someone speaks out by posting...."This Thread Is Totally Worthless Without Pictures".
I went back to work after a week and a half of digging and working on my pond. It has been right at a month since I started my pond. In that one month our area is already behind in rainfall over 3 inches. I know the Lord is holding the rain until I get rye grass seed out and maybe until I get all the piping and valve in. But the first night back at work had me worried. I had been talking with Rebecca that morning. I was worried because she kept repeating herself and talking non stop. She was in the early stages of another bi-polar episode. The last one was way back in 2003 when she was in the first week of her freshman year at the University of Texas. Bless her heart, it caught us all unaware. As the reality set in, it devastated all of us. Luckily back then Rebecca was still on my health insurance. But now she is 23 years old and will hopefully be released from the hospital next week. She will be having weekly appointments with her Doctor that she has seen for the last five years. This Doctor's office visits are $140.00 each. So it looks like I will be forced to work some overtime. Which will cut into finishing the pond and getting seat time on my 6520.
So tomorrow, before I travel back to Austin to visit her, I plan on finish spreading the topsoil and packing it down, then spreading rye grass seed. I bought ten pounds of seed, so I should get enough grass growing to keep erosion in control until I can seed with Bermuda grass seed. We are forecast with rain for Sunday, so I pray it comes and helps the seed germinate. Wish me luck. No, say a few prayers for Rebecca. She will have a difficult time until she gets back on her own and not having one of us parents watching over her. It is very stressful for all of us in that respect. Pray for me that I will get tractor therapy when I need it. Stop back later to see how the grass grows here. Also, check out some of the new photos I uploaded here.
hugs, Brandi

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Typical January Weather

Typical January weather for this part of Texas is 35-40 degrees and raining. This combination gives you a bone chilling cold. But this month hasn't had any rain. Yet. The dam is basically finished and I have been digging the pond down to 10 feet. I screwed up and dug straight down about 2 feet from the dam at the drain end. What was I thinking. I did this for about 15 feet around the dam. I am digging the non dam sides down to 5 feet. When I get finished digging to depth, I will go back and finish these sides from ground level. I will slope them down to 5 feet and give the shore line a more curved shape. I really wanted to purchase a neat laser level to site in the water line. But this is a few hundred dollars I do not need to spend. Instead I bought clear tubing and water hose connections. I installed about two feet of clear tubing on each end of my 100 foot water hose. I clamped one end to a wooden stake driven into the ground and filled the hose with water until I saw water at each end. Then I marked the water level on the stake. Then I just walked around the shoreline with the non staked end and sprayed orange paint in the dirt at the elevation of the water. I did this about every 15 feet. I was surprise to see my eyeball guess was within 6 inches of the paint marks. In aviation I work in hundredths of an inch tolerance. I have always heard in house construction that 1/4 inch tolerance is okay. So I guess in pond building 6 inches will be good enough until I start sitting the overflow and drain pipes.

Murphy seems to always visit me about dark thirty when I am trying to get that last minute of work done. I started hearing a ticking sound at idle. I drove over to my workshop and shut the engine off. I took the engine side cowl off and checked it over. It sounded like the alternator going out. I cranked the engine back up and I grabbed a long screwdriver to listen to the engine. I put the handle to my ear and the blade on the alternator and hydraulic pump. The noise wasn't coming from either one. So I shut down again and checked fan belt tension. That was good. So I thought Murphy was going to have to break it so I could find it. I went back to the pond. I had just turned on the backhoe's lights when all electrical quit. Then the battery light came on, followed by the over temperature light. I stowed the backhoe with the stick I made. I found having a 3 foot long stick with a leather loop works great to raise the backhoe when I am using it as a tractor stop. At first I was using a Mahindra yardstick, but it fell off the back of the 6520 and was ran over by a rear tire. Oops! With the slope down into the pond, the tractor would roll with brakes on and the loader bucket down. So I put the backhoe stabilizers down to stop any accidents. I just reach around and push on the stabilizers levers with the stick and instance firm stopping. I limped to the barn with just the two warning lights on. I raised the loader to the rafters and shut the Big RED Beast down. Opening the hood and side cowl, I saw my problem. A pulley was laying in the bottom of the engine frame. But which pulley. I was sure my alternator froze up and took out the fan belt. I could see dollar signs when I saw no pulley on the hydraulic pump. On closer inspection, I saw that the pulley had broken off the pump gearbox hub and the 4 mounting bolts were still attached.

By the time I figured this out it was 6 o'clock. Rats! Top Flight closed at 5. So I buttoned the Big RED Beast's engine up and called it a day. I was at Top Flight bright and early the next morning. I kinda figured they wouldn't have the pulley, but was praying Mahindra's Houston warehouse would. It took us an hour to ascertain that Mahindra did have two pulleys, but what they had and what I had were different. Gosh, if only the mechanic could talk to the guy on the other end of the phone. I had to take my broken pulley into Houston to see if they matched. The reason the parts manual and my part didn't look the same is the new pulley came with the spline gear hub. So I have an extra spline gear now. Mahindra's parts warehouse is in a maze of business warehouses in Northwest Houston. It took me about 45 minutes to get there. I was surprised to be greeted with my parts order ready to go. After talking a while with Mike in parts, I headed home. After buying 30 more gallons of dyed diesel, I was home just after two. By 3:15 my 65 horsepower Mahindra was purring like a kitten. The rest of the afternoon is a blur now. Man, it sure is hard being accustom to sleeping in the day and being up all day while building my pond! I was getting up at 6 or 7 and working past dark. Each day I was getting up and turning on the TV to get the latest weather forecast. The Lord must have favored me building a pond, because it hasn't rained when it was forecast to rain. I am really sweating it out finishing the digging before all that nice dry clay gets wet. As you can see in the photo below, it is really tight inside the pond for the Big RED Beast to dig, make a pile of clay and get back out. +
It took a lot of careful thought and slow turning to  get the clay out safely. Sometimes it was stressful, but I still had a huge grin on my face. I have always wanted my own pond since I was little when Dad raised Mallard Ducks and Ring Neck pheasants. Dad would clip one wing of the ducks with Mom's pinking scissors to keep them from flying off. I still can see the Mallards flying in circles and always returning to our wet weather duck pond. Oh yeah, I am going to honor my Mom and use here middle name for my pond. But I will not call it Marie's Pond, but I will name it Lake Marie. Now I know it is way to small to be called a lake by any means. But after all, I built it! Booger has been keeping his distance while I am digging in the pond. He was reluctant at first to come see me in the pond. But now he makes regular visits into the pond when he wants attention. Otherwise he is laying in the sun just a few feet from the future shoreline.

Check out the newest photos I uploaded here. Please stop back later to see how Lake Marie is coming along.

hugs, Brandi