Last summer we had a well drilled, 180 feet deep, at the front of the property right near the site where our new house is being finished. We trust that the well will be able to serve our needs in the house and, with the back up of a trickle pump and cistern, the needs of livestock that we keep near the house.
But the majority of our pasture is quite far from the house. The 60 acres property extends about 2,000 feet back from the road and it has no stream or pond. For over 150 years the farm had direct access to water in the lake but, in the 1970’s, the building of a lane and subdivision of the shore land into waterfront cottage lots cut off that access.
So our farm plans call for a new source of water. We took advantage a week or so ago of the return of the excavator to the house site to work on a dugout for livestock. A dugout is like a pond but is deeper than most ponds, has much steeper sides and is not as wide, all of which makes it look less attractive than a pond. Its main purpose is to store fresh water to be pumped out for animals. In contrast, the pond at the front of the house, created to provide needed fill around the house, should be more attractive once it is full. (See 3 weeks to move-in! and future posts)
We chose for the site of the dugout a low spot near the middle of the property that remains quite wet in the spring. Our hope was that it would be easy digging there, far from the rocky ridge on which our house sits. The operator suggested a spot that would avoid taking out some bigger trees and which would give better access. But, it was very discouraging when he hit rock only 3 feet down. The sound of that big shovel scratching across a solid rock surface was very disappointing, to say the least!
The operator asked if I wanted him to stop, to avoid wasting our limited funds. But, offering a prayer for assistance, I asked him to keep trying; we needed the water and the 3 foot hole that he had dug was only enough to serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes in the spring. It wouldn’t provide the water needed for livestock.
It was exciting to see, after several minutes of working at the surface, that he found a crack in the rock. He used a tooth of the big shovel to pry and pull and the layer of rock eventually lifted, buckled and broke apart! He was able to work his way several feet deeper, peeling layer after layer of limestone rock (which looks like a hard shale). After a while, water began seeping in from the seams in the rocks!
We were encouraged enough with the progress and with the water seeping in that he went to get his heavy-duty rock breaking equipment (which nearly doubled the cost per hour!)
At about 8 feet in depth, a real trickle of water started coming in and we stopped at a depth of 9 feet. The operator assured me that that would be more than deep enough and, at $200 per hour for the excavator and rock breaker, I had to agree.
It has been exciting since then to see how the dugout is gradually filling with ground water at a rate of about 6 – 8 inches a day. I had thought that we might only be collecting and storing in the dugout run off water from rain storms and spring snow melt but am pleased to be getting ground water. Not only is it cleaner but it is possible that it may keep coming in all year long through those seams deep down. I estimate that the water level is now at least 5 feet deep.
We had always planned to put up a protective fence to keep wandering deer, thirsty livestock or curious children from falling in and drowning. But when our Toronto daughter-in-law saw this weekend how deep was the water and how steep were the sides and how easily the children and dog could fall in, the fence became an immediate priority. Jonathan and I had it finished by late Saturday afternoon.
Hopefully, the dugout will become nearly full soon and remain so throughout the year. In the meantime, we are investigating solar water pumps and systems of gravity-fed water distribution. The pile of rubble from the dugout might likely become a platform for a water holding tank from which water lines will supply the pastures and orchard.
We’ll see how that all goes but we are very grateful that we have made as much progress as we have on this project.