Monday, June 18, 2012

Wishing well

One of the not-so-quaint features that came with our old farmhouse is a surface well (a.k.a. spring well), which comprises a wooden frame about the size of a casket sunk into the mud around a spring, and capped with a plywood lid. It lies a few feet from the road in the low point of our dooryard.

The spring is reliable and the water good, but the well case gets silty so we’ve had to install two fabric filters for dirt plus one UV filter for germs, all of which must be changed multiple times a year—or multiple times a month during heavy spring runoffs.

The time has come to rebuild the casket and cover for this well, but before investing the effort and materials, we decided to see if we could find a better location. Drilling is not an option; ergo, we must dig the old-fashioned way.

The backyard has two subterranean streams running through it that ooze up to the surface during periods of high water. If we could trace one of those streams to where it emerges from bedrock, and thus sink a collector uphill of the silty spring, then we’d be way ahead of the game in terms of water cleanliness and pressure.

So hubby made himself some dowsing rods and crisscrossed the backyard. At the appropriate spots, he revved up his backhoe and commenced digging. Before long, the backyard looked like a landmine had exploded!

Yes, we found lots of water. We also found the deconstruction debris from when the barn was torn down in the 1970s and the ell of our house built onto its footprint. One of those holes exposed a vigorous water source, but between the debris and the fact we’d have to mow around the casing, we let that option slide.

As well, we found an interesting and diverse combination of strata: muck, sand, topsoil, clay. Few rocks, and as yet no bedrock. The goal is to find a water source below the clay, but to date we’ve only found water running on top of it. One source was vigorous enough to undermine the clay bands as we watched.

Exploration stopped when one heavy load of clay bent the tractor bucket, thereby postponing other yard projects until that can be repaired.

So we’re still wishing for a well, and haven’t decided whether to keep digging until we hit the sweet spot or just head to the lumberyard and buy materials to rebuild the existing well case. Meanwhile, we’ve inadvertently created more sinkholes, since the water we disrupted a few feet down has sucked in the dirt, so that what was dug out no longer refills the hole(s) to the top. In fact, one almost consumed our plow truck as hubby attempted to shove the dirt piles back into place. Later, it grabbed a trailer being relocated in the yard.

The backyard has always been a bumpy place to ride a lawnmower, usually needing a visit to the chiropractor after a full mowing session. Now it’s a veritable obstacle course, with not much to show for the effort. But . . . nothing ventured, nothing gained, so we’ll probably press on until a solution presents itself.

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