No pain, no gain

I spent about 3 and a half hours reacquainting myself with my pitchfork and shovel today. 100 degrees in the shade, heat index of 105, thank you very much (I am woman, hear me sweat) so I’m amazed I got anything done at all, much less was able to drag myself back inside afterwards.

I was ankle-deep in muck, raking out all of last Fall’s lovely half-rotten leaves from the – now seasonally dry – pond. I figured I could put them to some good use building up the soil that is so low in what I call the “back 40” (my nickname for the daunting amount of cleared-but-yet-uncultivated land overgrown with vicious weeds that are just daring me to think that I stand a chance of ever really reclaiming this plot from Nature, and I’m not anthropomorphizing my land at all am I?).

That’s the pond on the right, and the black blotches on the left half are all the 12 brimming wheelbarrowloads of leaves and muck I pulled up out of it. I’m planning on running over those piles of leaves with my mulching mower just as soon as I can reconstitute myself into a functioning human being again – perhaps next week.

Doesn’t look like much, does it? The scale of it all makes the most Herculean efforts seem downright pitiful.

The plan was this: by taking out all the half-rotten leaves and icky-smelling nutrient-rich decomposing mud from the pond, I could not only deepen the pond (good for drainage, perhaps) but put that stuff to good use building up the soil around it. I could use the pond soil to fill the deepest ruts left by the Bobcat, and spread the pond’s leaves over the most infertile patches and – slowly, as I can hobble out there a little bit each day during Sofía’s naps in the muggy 100F heat – shovel them under bit by bit. Dear Lord, please send me a tiller so I don’t need a walker before I’m 32.

Self-pitying side note: I have this big ole blister on my hand – well actually I have lots of blisters on both hands, but this one is a doozy – and that blister actually got another blister on it today. I have blisters on my blisters, y’all. I didn’t even know that was possible.

So see this, below? All of this needs to be built up. All of it. It may not look like much, but it sure seems to take a lot of effort.

It’s so close to the level of the water table. Because the land actually slopes downhill from the pond, it seems to me that digging dirt out from the pond to build up the land makes a lot of sense. I mean, maybe a deep pond could even have water year-round, and then we could have ducks!  (Of course, I hate to think about how many wheelbarrowloads it would take to cover 1,500 sf of land 1′ deep in borrowed soil).

Two things happened. One, as soon as I had finished the leaves and started deepening the pond, I hit a thick layer of pure clay about 6-8″ down. I couldn’t throw it out into the garden – I don’t want clay in my soil – and besides, I can use it for other things. I only dug in a small spot so I have no idea how much clay there really is, but I’m hoping there might be enough to make bricks for a smallish patio or a brick-oven-type structure. I’ve laid the chunks that I’ve unearthed so far out on a tarp to dry; as soon as they’re dry they will dissolve easily in buckets of water so that I can sieve out any big rocks, sticks, leaves, and other impurities, then dry it out again on plaster slabs until it’s the consistency I want. Then I will pack it into brick-sized molds and set those out to dry in the sun. I will do the firings myself bonfire-style in the Fall, as they did way back when, and will use the wood we cleared from our own land and split by hand. Then I will give myself a big old SELF-SUFFICIENT BOO-YAH! and look around embarrassed to make sure no one was watching.

So that was a good find.

The second thing that happened was that my wheelbarrow’s tire found a nail to die upon and promptly flopped over on itself, utterly defeated OF COURSE just as I was trying to push a full wheelbarrowload of clay uphill over the lip of the pond. So that was the end of that day’s work – and good thing too, because I might have kept working otherwise and I think in another 30 minutes I MIGHT HAVE DIED.

I remain undaunted. It’s too late now for a trip to Lowe’s to fix the wheelbarrow, but as soon as that’s done I plan to go right back out again.

7 Responses to “No pain, no gain”

  1. heidi Says:

    hey,
    don’t kill yourself!!!
    but the muck-dirt sounds good as do the adobe bricks I forsee rising from the pond..
    you really want to recycle,. don’t you.
    just watch out for your back–pushing all those firewood wheelbarows-full up the hill here to keep you warm in winter may have started the decline of my back…
    love you keep active–keep hydrated too…

  2. heidi Says:

    Hey, Diana!
    Maybe too late, but don’t try to fix that stupid wheelbarrow! Buy an new one and use the old one in the garden to frow plants on or set it upside down for SXofia top play with the wheel. Wheelbarrows go for about $100.00. The ones with the metal tube handles are best because you get a better grip. But they may be more expensive. A cheap one will work for years.
    Your Da’

  3. heidi Says:

    Hey, Diana!
    Maybe too late, but don’t try to fix that stupid wheelbarrow! Buy an new one and use the old one in the garden to from plants on or set it upside down for Sofia top play with the wheel. Wheelbarrows go for about $100.00. The ones with the metal tube handles are best because you get a better grip. But they may be more expensive. A cheap one will work for years.
    What did your neighbor say about you digging up “their” pond…? :-)
    Your Da’

  4. Richard Hendrix Says:

    Hi there. I read thru your post about digging out your pond, they clay you discoverd and your plans to make and fire bricks. I would be happy to walk you thru it as best as I can from afar. Its alot of work to do for a brick, but if you remain determined, I can offer pointers. Talk to you later.

  5. diana Says:

    Hi Richard – thank you so much! I’m emailing you now to pick your brain about a couple things. :)

  6. Lauren Says:

    hey! we have a tiller. if you have a vehicle to retrieve it, you are welcome to borrow it!

  7. diana Says:

    Hey – it’s a long drive, but I may just take you up on that. Thanks for the offer! (this is Lauren K, right?)

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