Sunday, August 31, 2008

It's a dehydrated pond, just add water!

It was another typical week with lots of work to do. It did rain a substantial amount this week which was problematic but things are still moving forward. Give or take a little time, I have about 3 weeks of work remaining before I can finally slow the pace down with this 7 day a week non-stop effort. It will certainly be nice to take a break!

I continued working on building the sump cover platform. There are a few small touches left to finish it off but it's mostly complete. To add a bit of style to it, an old style pitcher pump was outfitted on top of the platform.
The pitcher pump will plumbed from two different water sources. One source will be from a fresh water feed which will be used to top off the pond during hot summer days when evaporation lowers the water level. The other source will be a pipe that pulls water from the pond. The basic idea is that if someone feels works the hand pump, the water will come from the pond. When I'm topping off the pond to handle evaporation, the source will be from the city water supply. A simple check valve will allow me to use two input water sources. I'll plumb the city water feed line between the check valve and the pitcher pump. The check valve will then prevent the city water from traveling back into the pond through the other intake line.

This weekend, I connected most of the plumbing for the water circulation pump. The water circulation system needs about another two or three hours of work before it will be ready to go. The next task I worked on was the liner for the pond. My next oldest brother and I spent a bit of time placing the underlayment over the bottom of the pond outline. That was a nasty job! We had to use spray adhesives to keep the underlayment in place. Even with the fresh air, the adhesives gave me a bad headache. But the end result was well worth the time and discomfort. The underlayment will do a very good job of protecting the rubber liner from being punctured by any sharp rocks that might push up through the soil. After finishing the work on the underlayment, we pulled the rubber liner in place and let it set over night.

Today, I had to bail out water from the liner as it rained overnight. Fortunately, there wasn't too much rain water but it was still a bit of effort to dry the liner. Basically, I needed the liner dry so that I could finish installing the bottom drain. The bottom drain required applying silicone sealant between it and the rubber liner to to prevent leaks. I applied the silicone sealant this afternoon and now have to wait about 24 hours for it to dry. Once it's dry I can slowly start filling the pond with water. During the process of adding water, I'll adjust the liner by pulling on it to help remove as many wrinkles as possible.

It's kind of cool that after so much hard work, I'll finally be able to see some big results. I started work on the pond over six years ago and never was able to finish it because for some unexpected problems. Being able to fill the pond with water is really a large milestone! It's been a very long four months but I hoping the results will be well worth while. I'll add some pictures tomorrow after I've started filling the pond with water.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

One step closer to filling the pond with water

The pond liner finally arrived last Monday. Unfortunately, it did not arrive undamaged. I had ordered three pieces of liner which I was going to seam together. One of the larger pieces of liner had a large hole poked through it where something hit it. The carrier had subtly hidden this damage by shrink wrapping all three packages together and putting the damaged side of the box facing another box so that it wouldn't be visible. Oh well, not much can be done about that.

My brother tried communicating with the vendor I bought the liner from, but it seems that the vendor never answered the phone after the first phone conversation. They had indicated the liner could be returned but they needed to call us back due to some minor problem at their end. Of course they never called back and after three days of trying to call them on the phone, it isn't looking good. Oh well again.

On the plus side, it looks like I only needed two of the liners so the third one that is damaged isn't necessary. Over the weekend, my brother and I seamed the two pieces of liner together. Let me tell you, that's a time consuming task. The chemicals involved are quite overwhelming too. It is best to do seaming in a location that has plenty of ventilation. The chemicals used to clean and bond the rubber liner will make you quite sick if you breath in too much of them. Fortunately, a neighbor allowed us to use his large and flat driveway for the task. The liner is now seamed and ready to install.

I would have installed the liner in the pond today but it ended up raining most of the day. Instead, I worked on the wood platform that covers the sump pump. I was able to finish building the platform and roughly layout a foundation for it. During the next week, I'll finish the foundation and place the platform on top of the sump pump.

Another task I spent time on last week was taking down another two trees. One of the trees had been planted right next to my water main. That was not a good place to have a tree growing because the roots could easily rupture the water pipe. If the water pipe breaks on my side of the meter, then I would end up having a very expensive water bill. So down came the tree! That was a pretty easy task. It took about four hours to chop down the tree because it was only about 15 feet tall. The second tree wasn't quite so easy. It was a medium sized Mountain Ash tree. It has lots of branches which were completely covered in berries. I'm still working on the process of cutting down that tree. There's only about a five foot section of the trunk left standing but the yard is covered with the branches. It will be a while longer before I have all the branches chopped up.

It's time for me to slow down for the evening and get ready to crash as the upcoming week will be busy again as always.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A birds eye view of my domain

It was a very busy weekend as usual. On Saturday, I managed to place mortar around the border bricks on the upper pond. The mortar isn't really for strength, but is more to provide a semi-smooth surface for the pond liner to lay over. Here's an overhead view of the garden pond without the liner.

I spent a bit of time trying to build a wooden platform to place over the sump pump. I had to give up on that task for the moment as none of the saws I have access to have enough precision and blade size to properly cut the 2x8 planks. I'll come back to that task at a later time.

On Sunday, I dug a trench for the bypass water pipe for the waterwheel. The trench was about 25 feet long, a foot deep and about 4 inches wide. It took the complete day to dig, construct the return line from 2 inch PVC pipe, and fill the trench back in. I finished up around 8:00 tonight and am winding down for the weekend.

Tomorrow, the EDPM pond liner I ordered will arrive. I'll be able to start placing the liner in the pond next weekend. I'm still waiting for the skimmer unit and still need to order the water pump. The waterwheel will be the last phase of the project for this year. Once the waterwheel is constructed and operational, I'll take break.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Working in the coal mine

The intent for today was to put mortar around the border bricks for the upper pond. I'll take a detour and work on other tasks as I can't tell if it is going to rain. Instead, the sump pump needs a trench dug for the output drain pipe. It looks like the dry stream bed will end up serving a functional purpose now as that is where I'll route the drain pipe to.

As for yesterdays tasks, I was able to finish work on the bottom drain. I hooked up the PVC pipe from the bottom drain and connected it to sump basin. The bottom drain and any of the PVC pipe that ran underneath the pond was also embedded in concrete to keep it from shifting and to protect it from the pressure of the water. The picture below shows the bottom drain and the sump basin with part of the plumbing in place. Just for a reference note, the bottom drain is in the upper pond.

I'm completely worn out at this point. There's still a lot of work to do before fall comes around. I must admit, I didn't realize the scope of the project when I started. It's been a long process as I've been working 7 days a week for since the end of April with the hope that I could have the bulk of the project complete by Labor Day. It doesn't look like I complete it by then but that's okay. I'll give it the old college try though. Another long day is about to start as it is time to go survey the site for the sump drain pipe.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Landscaping 8 bit style

There were a lot of "I am 8 bit" articles on Kotaku this week so it made me dust off a picture of my favorite landscaping icon in the yard. Enjoy!

Yummy 8 bit landscaping

Hey, since "I am 8 bit" is appearing everywhere this week, it's time for a refresher. What more can you ask for, especially when it comes in landscape form.

So much work, so little time

Progress on the water garden is advancing slowly but steadily. As of tonight, I finished pouring concrete for the lower pond border. The upper pond still needs mortar for the brick border but it will have to wait until the sump pump plumbing is in place. Also, the 2 inch bottom drain arrived today via UPS so I can can start work on the sump pump plumbing tomorrow. If all goes well, I can apply the mortar on Sunday.

Earlier this week, I ordered the EDPM rubber liner for the pond. I placed the order with Pond Depot but they do seem a bit slow in processing. It's been two days and they haven't shipped yet. Two days seems to be the average time for most places to ship but I have heard these guys are a bit slow. Their prices were good so it will be worth the wait just for the cost savings alone.

There are plenty of things I still need to obtain before I can finish the water garden. I've picked out a skimmer but haven't ordered it yet due to the very high cost associated with it. Another item I need is a sump pump for the overflow drain. A sump pump doesn't need to run much during normal conditions but it rains like hell out here during late fall. It would be wise to find an energy efficient sump pump to handle the late fall rains. That means its time to do a bit of research and find a sump pump that is energy efficient. More importantly, I need to find a supplier of flagstone so I can put a border around the pond. Hopefully, I can get around to finding flagstone sometime during the upcoming week.

On a different note, the banana tree put out a second shoot. That's pretty cool in my book! From the looks of it, I should be able to propagate a number of offspring from the tree. Now I can have a miniature banana groove. Cool!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Proud father of a bouncing baby banana tree

Well, my banana tree decided it was lonely and a small pup popped up out of the ground next to it. You can see the new pup in the photo. Nothing spectacular mind you but I thought it was pretty cool to see the banana tree propagating itself the first season it was planted. Later this summer, I'll do some reading on how to take cut and transplant the new banana into another location in the yard.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Is that a rock quarry or is it a yard?

Once again, I hauled more of the Roman stack blocks in for use in the yard. Initially, I had intended to use the blocks to build up a raised area for hide the pond sump pump. Unfortunately, I couldn't make the initial idea work due to existing utilities such a natural gas line being in the way. A solution finally emerged but it took a number of different tries to figure it out. I ended up trying about three different ideas to find a workable solution. The sump pump now resides in the space where the waterwheel would have been. The waterwheel will be set up a few feet away from the sidewalk.

I still have to solve the problem of how to route the plumbing for the bottom drain that will feed water to the waterwheel. The most difficult part will be making a trench for the bottom drain pipe. It has to pass under a one of the pond edge walls that is built on moderately soft dirt. Soft dirt has a tendency to collapse when you try to dig a narrow trench through it. The trench has to be about three feet deep and 4 to 6 inches wide so it will be a bit of a challenge to keep the trench walls supported. I'll tackle that problem next weekend.

I did manage to level all the bricks and blocks that form the foundation that runs around the edge of the pond. After I've finished routing all the pipes for the pond plumbing, I'll fill the blocks with cement and steel rebar to provide a stable pond wall. I will also use mortar to hold the bricks together. It's fairly important that the walls be strong because I will be placing large pieces of flagstone around the edge to help soften the visual appearance of the transition from the water to the soil.

For the upcoming week, I need to measure the pond so that I can order the EDPM rubber liner. I also need to place an order for the two bottom drains. The bottom drains are surprisingly expensive but they are a necessity if I want to add fish. The bottom drains help with circulating water in a manner that keeps the oxygen levels more consistent throughout the depth of the pond. Consistent oxygen levels means happier fish.

If everything goes smoothly with the project, I might have the pond built by the end of August. That will be another big milestone for the landscaping project!