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Howdy all,
I am a newbie around these parts. Actually started looking seriously a few years ago at redoing an old pond site on our property and, by chance, stumbled upon this site.

Gleaned alot of useful information here and decided to just go for it and try my hand at pond building after i decided that hiring someone around here would be an expensive gamble and, well, hell, i can do it.

Fast forward a few years after my endeavor started to the present...

So, did it work?
And if so, how did it come out?


A little backstory first.
My wife and i grew up out west in northern california. About 6 years ago, we decided we had enough of the wild west and were ready for a change. So we up and moved to rural west tennessee. Purchased 15 acres with a small house built in 1913 that needed some love. We are both sorta jack of most trades and have since finished a renovation, 90% with our own hands and are quite comfortable in our small piece of history.

shortly after we purchased the property, i sorta talked my wife into letting me buy a little mechanical helper for the property and its projects - a used kubota b3300su that came with a front loader and box blade, 110 hours on it. I ended up getting a whole smattering of implements and a matched backhoe for the small tractor.

The idea for the pond came the day we bought the property when the realtor pointed out a very overgrown pond site that had been active maybe twenty-30 years ago (found out from the neighbor later on). It was basically a depression in the ground filled with trees and some dirt edge sorta resembling a dam like structure. But the thought was placed in my head and i knew there was a rental yard nearby i had used with skid steers and mini-ex's. No problem, then. Besides, there are tons of farms nearby with dozers, excavators, and off-seasons when they are looking for little projects like this.

So back to the question, are you done? How did it come out? And did you end up hiring the job out?

Well, its a story you see. And i happen to be one of those guys who gets the idea to hire out but as i sit and fester on the ideas longer, i end up just saying "well, shoot. I can do that!"

Besides, i can rent the equipment and get it done even faster.

"Well, shoot. I got time and a kubota. I can do that!"

Uh oh..... Is he really gonna try and do it himself? With a small tractor and a chain saw?"

Yup.

Sure am.

So how did it come out? Or did it even come out?

Stay tuned....

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I like this guy. Believe you will fit right in here.


The people who say I can't do it can just sit the @^#% down and watch me. Friends call me Rusto I also subscribe to pond boss mag. http://forums.pondboss.com/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=504716#Post504716
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^ believe me, your signature line there has been uttered by myself more than a few times in my life

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You should be a writer in your spare time….. like the story so far.
If you gonna dig it out with a 33 hp then might want a tiller on the back of it to loosen then scoop up what you tilled. Especially if you get into clay. I have a mx5100 Kubota and that works great to break the clay where you can scoop with bucket. Well worth the money

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If you have read my thread you would know you can do it with a 33 but not sure I'd recommend it. Myself if I was to do it again I would get my idea of my end results on paper. And hire or rent the bigger equipment. I spent many hours (150ish maybe) it can be done. It oh my you can get so much more done and faster with the right equipment. I didnt get near as deep on my shallow side as I would have liked. It did seal pretty good I will say. Prolly more to do with good ol kansas clay. But I was stubborn and said I can do it with wht I got and I did 90% of it.


The people who say I can't do it can just sit the @^#% down and watch me. Friends call me Rusto I also subscribe to pond boss mag. http://forums.pondboss.com/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=504716#Post504716
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I wondered, during my dig time, how a tiller would have worked. Probably would have sped a few days up. Instead i resorted to my backhoe and worked it like there was no tomorrow..... But i am getting ahead of myself.

I hope i attached a few pictures successfully to this. They will help tell the tale.

The plan -
To build a pond with what i have, for as little out of pocket as possible.

There are a lot of really nice ponds on this site. I mean, REALLY nice.
And this will not be one of them.

The primary purpose of this pond will be for our viewing pleasure and stock watering when i finally finish fencing the property for sheep and goats (mostly to keep the growth down as i clear the thick, unmaintained acreage) and the misses wants an island in the pond so her ducks have a place to hang out. Fish? maybe, but not really anything of interest as We have a recreation spot down on the tennessee river so i have plenty of good fishing alternatives.

As you can see by the highly engineered plans loosely scribbled on some lined paper, i am planning on expanding the already present depression in the ground, leaving an area for an island, and fixing the dam which was breached at one time and now the reason why it isnt holding water. The dam will get higher and the depth will get greater.
[Linked Image]

The player-
My name is Pete. Went to school for and a 20+ year career in the health care industry on the practitioner side. I am crackin necks and cashin checks as a physical therapist. Did a three year stint in road construction early on in college and late high school where i learned to operate heavy equipment and secretly fell in love with big equipment. Looking back now, should have stuck with that as i would have made more money and had more fun. Looked forward to the day when i had land and my own equipment.


The property -
Rural west tennessee between memphis and nashville. Farm land and logging all around us. The soil is primarily clay that hold water like a bucket filled with bentonite so that works good for my plans, made for alot of work getting the misses garden spot established. Our property has a natural holler where the pond is that gets a good 11 or so acres of watershed. Tons of runoff during those massive gullywashers that occur here on a regular basis. Mostly woodlands on our property, lots of thick overgrowth. Do have a year round stream that is farther back in the property and that may be pond site #2 later on. The attached picture overhead shows where the pond will go and the watershed coming from the hills and the neighbors hay field.
[Linked Image]

The ptractor -
(Couldnt think of another p word)
I went through a lot of debate. Could have rented equipment, almost bought a few dozers/crawler loaders, quotes on hiring, etc. but in the end, decided to 'run what i brung' in the form of my low hour kubota. B3300 su, backhoe and cutting bar. Ended up putting alot of hours on it. I mean alot. No, really. A lot. Would i do it again the same way? Lets see by the end of this tale. How much did it cost in the end? We will see.... Pics of my "field office"
[Linked Image]

So thats the beginning.
Remember, this build attempt has already come and gone, so suggestions may be appreciated but wont be implemented. Its just my account of this process, the pitfalls, mistakes, successes, and learning opportunities for others.

And away we go

Last edited by PLF Ranch; 01/17/22 10:22 AM. Reason: Pics added
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These are the above images
[Linked Image]
[Linked Image]
[Linked Image]


The people who say I can't do it can just sit the @^#% down and watch me. Friends call me Rusto I also subscribe to pond boss mag. http://forums.pondboss.com/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=504716#Post504716
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Thanks for that, just figured out i can host the images and get them in the post...for next time

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Before i get to the build part, there was lots of prep just to be able to get down to the site.
Between our house and the pond site, there is a small grass field before it drops into the wooded low spot area. This low spot wa significantly overgrown. We basically bushwacked our way just to get down to the old pond site. Thistles, vines, saplings, full on hardwoods, 65' poplars, etc.

This is how it looked during the summer months just after we purchased the property.
[Linked Image]

The proposed pond site is sorta down the hill, over the top of that hubcap that is somewhat pefectly placed in this shot.

As things thin out during the winter months, it doesnt look much better heading down the thick slopes.
[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

So for the most of 2017 and 2018 i got to it. Spent on average 1-2 days a week with a chainsaw and clippers busting out lanes i could finally get the brushog down into. Beat the FEL up using it as a push bar and made piles and burned and did it all over and over again.

Sure, i could have hired or rented a skid steer with a mulching head and that would have saved me alot of time and effort. But in the end, it was me who did it. With my hands, my tractor and my stubbornness. Initial cleared space of approximately 3 acres.

Cost to date -
Husquavarna bars and chains, drive sprocket - $200ish
Stihl ms310 i got at auction - $245
Fuel - probably $300 (i am still amazed at how little fuel that kubota uses for the amount of work i get out of it)
Medical treatments - poison ivy and thorn stabs - $50
Busted brushog hose - $55
Physical toll - ughhhhhhh.....
Looking back assessment - hire out for a forestery mulcher. Well worth it.

I should have more pictures as this process went along but i went through a few phones and lost a bunch of pictures, and i am also a slacker about taking pictures as i get single minded focused at times.

Next up - the old pond site is finally uncovered. But the physical prep work is not done...

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Quick show of hands -

How many of you just said "ok, this guy may be crazy"???

Yep. Probably. But think of how boring this story would have been if it was all done easily with the proper machinery?

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Originally Posted by PLF Ranch
Quick show of hands -

How many of you just said "ok, this guy may be crazy"???

Yep. Probably. But think of how boring this story would have been if it was all done easily with the proper machinery?

I thought some degree of "crazy" was a requirement to be a member of the Pond Boss community! grin

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If you are satisfied with just a hole in the ground you should be able to get that accomplished with that 33hp machine. A hole in the ground can remain fairly full of water if it has ample watershed. With a pond in a wooded 'valley' expect significant amounts of tree litter in the pond even during summer. In this type of pond it will be a real challenge to get regular pond fish such as bluegill and bass to live in it year round especially after 5-8+ years. I think it could be a very nice wildlife, amphibian, and invertebrate pond, but not one for producing a long term quality fishery. Choosing the right fish species to tolerate periodic low pulses of dissolved oxygen will be the secret to long term fish survival IF that is a goal.

Last edited by Bill Cody; 01/17/22 11:45 AM.

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I especially like that you have included the price of these items:

"Medical treatments - poison ivy and thorn stabs - $50
Physical toll - ughhhhhhh....."


I have also done a lot of work at my farm while close to being broke and therefore hard labor was the only option.

My rule has been to start the job with the tools that I have available, until I am experienced enough to determine my "best" rate to accomplish that task. I then go on to Pond Boss or youtube to find out the best way to do it with better tools or more horsepower.

It frequently turns out that more horsepower is a good value, if I value my time and physical toll at anything more than minimum wage. We have several good equipment rental places in town. They are too expensive for things you will use more than once (for example, buy your own good chainsaw), but they are great for horsepower.

I don't even own a tractor yet, but I can rent a 33hp kubota - and frequently do. I can also rent the attachments that I only rarely use. However, I also rent mini-excavators, backhoes, cement mixers, etc. and use them on the weekend so I can get a lot of work accomplished and only get charged for the 8 hours on the engine meter.

I can then step up to the commercial rental places for bigger equipment. I can rent a D8 dozer or a 365 excavator, as long as my credit card allows their deposit requirement. (My area does not have steep slopes or rocky terrain, so they will rent to people with zero training. I don't know if that holds true around the country?)

I have learned that there is almost always a "right" tool for the job. You just need to be able to determine when you have to pay extra for the exact right tool, and when you can get by with the less than perfect tool, but can still safely accomplish the job.

Good luck on your project!

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It took a good chunk of time in 2017 and into 2018 but i got the hillside and the valley cleared out and bushhogged so grass started started taking over. It was alot of the same - cutting, chainsaw, pushing into piles and burning. Cant remember how many hours but it was a ton. Luckily, i am sorta weird in the way that clearing land is extremely personally satisfying and rewarding.

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

About 100 yards up the valley from the old pond site, there was a huge area of tangled vines, old slash piles, and overgrown vegetation that looked swamp-like, except on a small hill.

[Linked Image]

After cutting the big stuff and beginning to move it, one fairly dry and uneventful day i was nosing in to grab a bucket full of cuttings and the front end dropped to the frame rails. I was able to back it out with the FEL and the backhoe assistance but left a deep, soupy and muddy mess of a hole under what used to be a maze of vines. It started to all make sense after the hole filled with water in 30 minutes.

I took the backhoe and dug out a 4x4x7' deep pit, once again it filled in about an hour. Perhaps an old spring site had been uncovered, and in a great place to just drain down the hill and into the pond.

[Linked Image]

I made a mental note and continued on into the old pond site.

A few words about uncovering old trash dumpsites. Good Lord, there is a lot of trash. This county is notorious for the last 50 years of very little landfill use. I found at least 4 fairly good sized dump sites in the 3 acres i cleared. Filled a good 18' trailer twice. Still finding junk to this day.

Ok, old pond site.
You can see the trees have taken hold and grown well. A few of those poplars were a solid 60-65' tall. I ended up dropping all of them over a long span of time. Had a few milled up into boards, cut a solid 6 or so cords of the hardwoods for firewood, and ended up burning a few giant piles when i just got sick of spending so much time processing wood. Some of the stumps were removed, some left for habitat. (A bigger piece of equipment would have helped here, and with the depth as explored later on)

[Linked Image]

You can see standing water in the old pond bottom depending on the time of year that some of these pictures were taken.

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

On the far side is where the old low dam/berm (about 3' tall) had been breached at some point so on gullywashers, the water would drop into the pond bottom and fill to maybe 8" before spilling out the breached site.

[Linked Image]

I am not one to reinvent the wheel so the plan was to improve and deepen this site, cut a little more uphill to make the island, raise the dam, fix the breach and any other part of the existing berm/dam, make an emergency spillway and call it a day.

More cost, add in:
Fuel - $150ish
Chains - ebay, a bar and 2 chains for $49, lots of sharpening time.
Tractor tire patch from a nail/200 hour service - $145
First aid - free ice packs, advil and bandages $30
My time - lots and lots. But i consider it in exchange for going to the gym, and extremely satisfying so for me it is a wash. But it was hundreds of hours.

Thoughts looking back - yes, bigger equipment and i would have easily been done by this point in time. But for me it goes back to doing stuff on my own instead of writing a check for someone else to do it. Pride maybe. Personal satisfaction. Something like that. I dig figuring out how to do something and then doing it. Even if it is wrong at first and i have to correct it. Its a learning and experience thing for me. In the end it has done us well. We have remodeled a few houses we have lived in over the years and taken on more and more jobs that we used to hire out. By now, we are satisfied with our work and can do it fairly well. The house we are in now was probably in total a $75,000 remodel that cost us out of pocket a third of that as we did most of the work ourselves. Sweat equity is my obsession.

But 100% agree, this is the hard route.

Next up, the site is clear of trees and start the dirt work

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[Linked Image]

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This question is for Bill Cody. Why is this not going to be a good place for bluegill and bass? I'm not saying your wrong at all just want to understand more.


The people who say I can't do it can just sit the @^#% down and watch me. Friends call me Rusto I also subscribe to pond boss mag. http://forums.pondboss.com/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=504716#Post504716
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More great work PLF!

I found two large trash sites on my farm after I started working in the remote heavy cover. Only later did I realize that both were places with significant erosion and the junk was acting as baffles to slow the flow of water. (I don't know how effectively the junk piles worked for erosion control?)

l think Bill's worry is about the high accumulation of organic material in a forest pond that could lead to an oxygen crash event - and would therefore harm almost any kind of mature fish population. (Hopefully, he will clarify since he is an actual expert.)

We have lots of tallgrass prairie on our farm. The leaves from our forested areas do not spread very far because our multi-level grass growth is very efficient at catching leaves.

It does look like you can establish good grass at your place if you clear the trees back far enough to let in the sun. Perhaps you could clear the trees a little farther back from your beautiful forest pond and plant a mix of grasses that includes some tall varieties or bunch grasses? That might enable you to have a forest pond WITHOUT leaf debris.

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Question from RStringer was: " Why is this not going to be a good place for bluegill and bass?"

My comment was - "In this type of pond it will be a real challenge to get regular pond fish such as bluegill and bass to live in it year round especially after 5-8+ years". Number one is I did not state it is not a good place for BG and LMB. I said it will be a challenge. Number 2 was "to live in it year round". It will be a challenge because of the excess tree liter that is in a pond. The challenge becomes directly related to the amount of tree liter that enters, sinks and decomposes. Decomposition of organic material consumes dissolved oxygen (DO). The more organics trying to decompose the more oxygen that is consumed. Both are closely related. Dissolved oxygen is absolutely needed for survival of BG and LMB. They require around 3ppm or 3mg/L of DO in the water. Some fish can survive in lower DO such as 1-2ppm compared to other fish. BG & LMB are not in the low DO requirement range.

Woodland ponds are normally shallow. Shallow and small pond means less average water depth. PLF is digging or has dug this pond with a small tractor that IMO means relatively shallow pond. Less water depth means less average pond volume and a high surface to volume ratio means less DO that is available even on the best day compared to a deeper pond.

Sunshine and plant photosynthesis it how ponds generate their biggest amount or percent of DO into their 'bank account'. Large amounts of organics in a shallow pond with a high surface to volume ratio means that during several days of cloudy days very little if any DO is produced above the total required for all pond respiration. DO production is then a lot less than DO demand and after several days of no sunshine,,,,, DO loss is significantly more than production and this equals DO starvation to critters that need DO to survive. Suffocation happens pretty quickly.

The pond appears to be too far from electric for any artificial aeration that can add some DO. In a wooded area such as in this thread, this pretty much rules out windmill and solar aeration. In these types of ponds during extended cloudy days, even aeration is not enough at times to prevent large DO losses when large amounts of muck sludge and organics are on the bottom. Overall bacterial decomposition and respiration oxygen demand is a lot greater than that needed by fish. Thus as the pond ages and years and years of annual high amounts of organic tree litter continue to accumulate, significant DO sag periods to less than 3ppm will occur and will become more frequent as time passes. This DO problem will probably be noticed first during winter. Large DO sags in shallow woodland ponds will most likely first occur in winter when snow cover, lack of sunshine into the water during cloudy days will result in large DO losses to create the common 'winterkill' problem for BG, LMB and most other fish. I know of no fish that can survive very long in 0 DO.

Last edited by Bill Cody; 01/19/22 02:59 PM.

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Thanks for putting that in dummy terms for me. You explained that perfect for me. Hopefully he dug it deep enough to not have to much of an issue. Time will tell.


The people who say I can't do it can just sit the @^#% down and watch me. Friends call me Rusto I also subscribe to pond boss mag. http://forums.pondboss.com/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=504716#Post504716
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Whew. Lotta info in there. Very interesting on a highly technical level.
Well above my pay grade and probably well above this small time build.

I am just using what is available to me, including the land I own.
I do have it very clear now with sacks of pasture grass waiting for spring time. The valley has pretty much gone back to grass this last summer and I will keep on spreading that for the animals to come.

As for fish, it’s a ‘whatever’ type deal for us. If something goes in there, cool. If not, cool.

We just spent the day at our recreation spot on the Tennessee river/Kentucky Lake, a few miles from Pickwick Lake. Our dock is right on the river. Crappie, bass galore, giant cats….

[Linked Image]

Honestly, I can get a better fishing fix there then anything this pond would ever hope for so it’s no big deal if that ends up not working out.

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I don't think the pond can be dug very deep because of the grade (slope) that tractor can climb up with a load of dirt.

I would throw some Fathead Minnows in there at the very least. That will give you a head start on developing a forage base if you want to put anything else in there, plus they can survive very low O2 events. They will also eat mosquito larvae too.


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3/4 to 1 1/4 ac pond LMB, SMB, PS, BG, RES, CC, YP, Bardello BG, (RBT & Blue Tilapia - seasonal).
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Great story, thanks for sharing! Fun read.

I was also stubborn about clearing out roughly 5 acres of heavy brush, many <10" diam ash trees, and lots of Virginia creeper and grape vines, my nemesis. I could not get a leg up on the brush without the right machinery. It was just too much work. It did allow me to eat anything I wanted and drink craft beer with impunity. I was making nice dents in parts of it, but other parts got so thick, I couldn't even get through it.

Fast forward: I finally purchased a nice 50HP Bobcat compact tractor with the FEL. Suddenly I started making amazing progress and got the first acre cleared in a couple weekends. Right up until a sumac stump popped up under the engine cover and smashed in the oil filter. The odd side-effect of that was 2 weeks of inoperable head-scratching. Turned out it was nothing more than a blown fuse, but the last thing in the world I would have expected. Just a lot of sweating that it blew something critical and serious.

A week later after changing the fuse, I was letting my kid give it a shot. He was being very very careful about using the tractor, just a nibble at a time. I let him go for a while until I got frustrated. I swapped places with him to show him "how its done!" 5 minutes later, I ran over another sumac stump, it sprung back up and it went up into the engine compartment. It promptly dismembered the radiator fan and poked a small hole in the aluminum radiator.

So after 8 weeks of waiting for a new radiator and fan due to parts shortages, and spending ~$1500 for a fix, I stopped being stubborn and hired out an operator of a skid-steer with a forestry mulcher to get 'er done. Cost me less than the radiator repair, and got the entire area cleared in 8 hours. It wasn't nearly as much fun for me though. Next time I am renting the mulcher and running it myself. I will probably have trouble getting the s*&t eating grin off my face though!

If things go well I may get another 8 acres of swampy land in dire need of new vernal pools for skeeter control annexed to my property this spring. *crosses-fingers* and then I will have another project very similar to yours other than starting right off with a mulcher.

Enjoy!

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I left a ramp coming out of my dig. If theres a will theres a way. Its takes a long time to move dirt up hill for sure. I don't see why you couldn't go as deep as ya wanta with it. Just takes time.


The people who say I can't do it can just sit the @^#% down and watch me. Friends call me Rusto I also subscribe to pond boss mag. http://forums.pondboss.com/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=504716#Post504716
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That's how I did it too. 3/4 yard at a time up and out. Git-R-Dun

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Small surface area holes requires very steep side slopes for making the hole deep. PLF's new pond appears to have a small surface area. Thus there is a limit as to how deep one can excavate using a small tractor and front bucket. the old original pond was just 3ft deep.

Last edited by Bill Cody; 01/26/22 08:11 PM.

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