Falling water

Woo hoo!  the silicon has dried so I got to test out the waterfall!  I checked several times and no leaks!!!

Next step is building the stone wall.

repairs & improvements

I pulled back the liner and underlayment from the stream and filled in the eroded areas with fresh dirt.  I realized that this situation could reoccur, not just from a leaking stream but also if I had a strong rain storm I could face more erosion. 

I went back to home depot (god do they have a lot of my money now) and bought a 20″ wide party bucket and a 10′ long 3/4″ pvc pipe.  My thought was to put the bucket underneath the waterfall liner at the bottom of the waterfall.  I added some additional pieces of liner underneath the waterfall box and along the top of the mound to redirect water into the bucket.  Then I took the pipe, attached it to the bucket and had it run through the hill and off into a flower bed to give the water somewhere to drain too.  Hopefully this will catch and safely drain any water runoff before it can damage my stream.

Next I worked on attaching the liner to the waterfall box.  The box had a little lip and a matching faceplate and the idea is you would sandwich the liner between these and then screw the faceplate to the lip, holding the liner in place.  The kit came with a tube of silicon which I generously applied to both the lip and the faceplate before attaching the liner. 

Unfortunately in the process of screwing this all together, a piece of the liner slipped out and did not get sandwiched like it should.  I realized this and raced to take the whole thing apart and put the liner in correctly before the silicon could dry.  Before long, my hands were coated in black silicon which is exceptionally difficult to remove.  Soap and water barely made a dent.  Sandy and I found ourselves looking through cans of chemicals, hoping to find something to help without also removing all the skin from my hands.  In the end we got the idea to use plain old vinegar and that worked like a charm at dissolving the silicon and my hands slowly returned to normal.

I put the liner and waterfall box back as I continued to fill up the pond with water.  I needed to give the silicon time to dry before I could try it out.  I wanted to make sure I didn’t have any more leaks before I began to build the stone wall for the waterfall.  So it was time to call it a day. 

Almost there…

I did some more digging last night…. my intention was to have a little step on the side that I could use to get in and out of the pond.  I should have had Mike do a little more digging when he was here but I think I was just too worn out on Monday so I told him he’d done enough.  What’s there now is much higher and bigger than I need.  Fortunately, it was too hard to dig out with the pickaxe and I was able to carve out the step I wanted in just a couple of hours.

Today I started to carve out the waterfall and stream.  Sandy thinks I’m crazy… all the dirt that I worked so hard to pile up in the corner, I’m digging it right back out.  But I did need to put it up there and tamp it down to make it the hill solid so that when I begin to carve the waterfall out of it, the dirt wouldn’t just crumble down.  And it worked, the hill was very easy to carve.  Early in the day I bought a sheet of hardie board, I cut that up into three sections and put against the back wall of the waterfall to give it a little more structure.  Later my plan was to build a stone wall against this.

I went to Merrifield Garden Center to get my pond liner.  I got two sheets, a 20′ x 30′ and a 6′ x 15′.  The bigger sheet cost $600 but I talked them down to $400 to match the price of another store up in Fredrick (about an hour away, so I’m very happy not to have to make that trip).  I had priced the liner out on the internet and found prices much cheaper, but it’s so heavy they’d have to ship by freight and that would add another $200 to the price.  It took 3 guys to lift and place the 20′ x 30′ liner into my car.  Fortunately back home I have a wheelbarrow I can use to move it about.  One mistake I made is I didn’t really need to buy the 6′ x 15′.  The 20′ x 30′ piece was much bigger than I needed and I could have cut a strip off of that to use for the stream. 

I put down the underlayment and then the pond liner.  The underlayment was lightweight and easy to lay down.  I cut some pieces off the corner and added a couple extra layers on the steps where I will be climbing in and out of the pond.  I thought it would be a nightmare putting the big liner into place by myself but it ended up not being to bad.  It took just another hour or so and I had the liner in place and began adding water.

I hadn’t attached the liner to the waterfall box yet, but I was anxious to see the stream run.  I folded the liner over the top of the hardie boards and brought the waterfall box forward enough that the lip was over the edge of the liner.  I then turned the pump on.  Wow!!  It looked great!  But boy it was a bad idea.  I let it run for a while, unaware that water was actually leaking underneath the liner.  It looked like the water was all going down the stream, but after a while I noticed the bottom of the pond liner bubbling up.  I knew from past experience that meant water was getting under the liner.

I immediately shut everything off.  At first I thought there was a hole in the liner.  The thought of having to pull it out and take it back to the store was depressing.  But as I was walking about I took a step on the stream bed and felt the ground sink under my foot.  I realized this is where the leak was and when I pulled back the liner from the stream bed I saw the massive erosion that had taken place underneath.  Argh!  I was exhausted… this problem would have to wait until tomorrow.

As much as I’ve enjoyed this project, I am looking forward to completing it and taking a break.  Everything is sore… hands, back , elbows, arms, knees, legs…. Sandy and I go to St John in a week… that’ll be a nice place to recover from all this work!!


Wednesday the electrician came out and hooked up the power.  He had to trench from where Mike left off to the side of the house.  He used a pickaxe and of course his trench was much smaller than the one the backhoe had dug.  In retrospect, I wonder if I should have had the entire trench dug be hand.  Of course, the big unknown is, how long and hard would that have been.  But it certainly would have been neater.  The trench dug by the backhoe was much larger than needed and the dirt made quite a mess on my brick walkway.


At a little after 12:30 the ground began to shake, I heard a noise like thunder, slowly growing louder and louder until from around the corner… here comes the Beast!  Well… actually Mike told me it’s the smallest backhoe you can buy. But it’s still about 10,000 times bigger than my shovel.

After discussing the plans for a few minutes, Mike went to work… Scooping out the dirt and dumping it to the side, scoop, dump, scoop, dump.  He was making quick progress at it.  

The backhoe wasn’t big enough to dump the dirt on the hill I was building, so he had to dump it to the side and then after a while he would spin his seat around and use the bulldozer half of his machine to re-scoop from the temporary mound and dump on my hill.

I quickly learned that I had been a little naive about how “clean” this would be.  The carefully laid out borders of my pond disappeared under spilled earth and I realized my grass was going to need a long recovery period.  It wasn’t Mike’s fault, he was very conscious of his surrounding, always looking around to make sure he didn’t accidentally bump something.  It was just the nature of the beast. 

It took about 5.5 hours to dig the pond out plus another 2 hours to dig the trench for the electrician.  Although the process was a little messier than I liked, at least it was done.  Or mostly done.  I still needed to dig out a little more in the hole, but that won’t take too long.

pickaxe v. pickax

After writing several entries discussing working with a pickaxe, I finally got spell checker to work and it flagged ‘pickaxe’ as a misspelling.  Grrr… I reedited each entry and fixed it.  Pickax just doesn’t look right!

Turns out you can spell it either way
but my spell checker doesn’t know that.  Look for this and other inconsistent spellings in the future.


Day 3 digging… maybe I should’ve taken a day off.  I went out this morning to continue digging and it didn’t take long before my arms started to feel like jello.  I’ve been breaking small bits of clay off with the pickax, shoveling it into the wheelbarrow, dumping it on the mound, and tamping it down since yesterday.  The pace is glacial.  If I didn’t have a job… and if I didn’t mind digging through to spring… I’d keep going.  But I want to get this pond built in my lifetime.

Time to call the experts.  Thank god for craigslist!  I found Mike, who has a small backhoe, and is available tomorrow.  Mike’s dug out lots of fishponds.  He says usually the homeowner starts the job himself until he finds out exactly how hard it is to dig in clay with hand tools.

Clay sucks

I’m sure my new neighbors must get occasional glimpses of me and wonder “what the heck is he doing to that nice flat lawn?”  Wondering if in 6 months they’re going to end up being interviewed on CNN saying “he seemed like a nice quiet man, of course we didn’t know him that well… we did notice him digging a lot in the back yard though”

Well the first few inches wasn’t too bad, but now that I’m getting 6 inches down, the ground is like rock.  I hate clay!  I’ve been using the pickax to try and break it up some but this is slow going.   Hmmmm…. maybe the day laborer idea isn’t a bad idea after all.
The hill’s really filling out.  I tamp it down after every couple of wheelbarrows of dirt to make it nice and solid.  I’ve got an electrician coming on Wednesday to put in an external outlet to plug the pond in.

time to break ground

Now that the distractions were out of the way, it was time to start digging.  We’ll use the dirt we dig up to build the hill for the waterfall.  I didn’t make too much progress the first day.  Mostly I just dug up the first few inches.  Sandy thinks I should hire some day laborer’s to do the digging… but I tell her it’s no problem… i can take care of it.

I do think I’ll have too more dirt than the hill needs…. guess I’ll have to find someone to haul it away.


okay… well I should have been working on the pond of course… but we had already scheduled a camping trip over labor day weekend.  We went to Locust Lake in PA.  Weather was perfect!!!  We didn’t see many animals but they had a nice variety of fungus.

we also saw a stick insect
and… not really sure what this one is… but it almost got to ride home with us on the tent.  at first we just thought it was a piece of fluff… but then it moved
also while we were camping my cousin Tim and his wife Glyna gave birth to their second child Owen… we visited them as soon as we got back…