Country Lore: June/July 2018

Readers’ tips on developing homesteading skills, building a backyard pond, constructing rodent-proof raised garden beds, saving time and money with thrifty finds, and more!

  • pond
    The backyard pond halfway through the building process.
    Photo by Kyle Chandler-Isacksen
  • pond
    Basking in the fruit of our labor, the pond set up is complete and waits to be filled with water.
    Photo by Kyle Chandler-Isacksen
  • labels
    I use craft sticks to label my mint while it’s drying. I love craft sticks because if I need to move the mint to my dehydrator, I can move the sticks with it, placing them on the dehydrator trays to keep the herbs labeled.
    Photo by JaLynn Knight
  • grow-box
    Bruce’s rodent-proof boxes, completed in preparation for spring.
    Photo by Bruce McElmurray

  • pond
  • pond
  • labels
  • grow-box

Building a Backyard Pond

Guided by a friend with pondbuilding experience, we were able to complete a backyard pond in just three hours with the help of a seven-person “worker bee” team provided by Reno’s Permaculture Northern Nevada group.

Through this pond, we sought to add the soothing qualities of water to an area of our homestead where we spend time hosting guests and eating meals. We also wanted to add another habitat that would diversify our land’s ecosystem — supporting birds, aquatic plants, and insects.

Building Steps

We began digging the dimensions of the pond, roughly 7 feet long by 4 feet wide, and 2 feet deep. We kept the edges as vertical as possible. The size of our pond was in part determined by the size of the recycled pond liner given to us by a friend. We made the pond a bit irregular — with one end wider than the other — to give it a slightly more natural look. We also added about 2 feet to each measurement for the liner, knowing we’d have to cover additional length over our sandbags.

We used sandbags filled with the extracted soil to raise up the sides of the pond. We stacked them two bags high to give us about 8 inches above grade. Sandbags are great for this, as they’re malleable, smooth (no sharp edges to poke the pond liner), and easy to maneuver into place.

We leveled the bags using a level atop a long 2-by-4, and then tamped down or fluffed up the sandbags as needed. On one end, we left a foot-wide spillway intentionally lower by a couple of inches. This will be the outlet should our pond overflow.

We filled in the gaps between the bags and ground with wet, clay-rich soil extracted from the pond hole. We cut back any roots that were poking through the base and edges of the hole. Then, we laid an old polyester-blend blanket at the base and up the sides as much as possible, to act as a cushion for the pond liner and reduce the risk of puncture.

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