"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Dam fun - part 1 :)

Our dam was dug when we first purchased our smallholding - along with the original incorrect foundations for our future house.  They say that a dam takes 3 years before it will hold water.  We purchased in 2008 - and it's now 2013.  The maths doesn't work LOL as it's held water, but not continuously.

So, in February we had to get the digger loader in to sort our the building rubble left over from the build.  While it was here RMan decided to make our dam deeper.  Oh, dear, does that mean another 3 - 5 year wait?
Building rubble - unsightly and, due to it's chaotic
pile, a potential snake hiding place
The building rubble was sorted in the wink of an eye...
The digger loader made light work of the pile of
... nice and tidy again :) (I think I'm in love with digger loaders...)

Then, the digger collected all the dry renoster bush we have so far removed from the land and piled it up next to the "rubble" pile.
The renosterbush we removed is now all
in one spot, instead of scattered round
the land
A few b-i-g scoops of clay from the dam were placed on top of the dry renoster bush - hopefully, the renoster bush will break down and create a sort of hugelkulture mound [hint: there are two separate links giving information on hugelkulture - on both the hugelkulture and mound words :) ]
Objective achieved
On the mound created by the building rubble we have thrown a slab, and have sited two 5 000lt rainwater tanks on top of it (with space for another two should we decide to add them).  This is the highest point of our relatively flat property, and, when our lower rainwater tanks are full, the water will be pumped up to the higher tanks, as it is the ideal spot to gravity feed rainwater down to the lemon trees and veggie patches next summer.
The digger loader at the start of the dam
With that sorted, the digger loader proceeded to dig the dam deeper - at least double the depth to 3.0 - 3.5 mtrs deep.
Dam deepening in progress
You can see from the photo below how deep the dam is - I can barely see the digger loader in the dam from the front verandah.
Can you see the digger loader?
MKids dog, Mandy, thought this was brilliant.  Once the digger loader left, she went to investigate.  She is absolutely moggy about piles of sand - of any size -and a newly dug dam - well, that's just one big sand pit :)  She ran, and ran, and ran - up and down, round the side, up and down - as though she had a skateboard beneath her feet LOL
Mandy - in doggy heaven
In the event of the future global warming drought scenario, we want to be as water secure as much as possible, so together with the 35 000 ltrs of rain water, and a 25 X 10 X 3.0 mtr dam (750mtr3 or 750 000 ltrs of dam water), we should be OK through dry seasons.  I think of it as bulk storage with a difference LOL

A few days later, whilst sitting and contemplating the dam from our verandah, RMan had an idea.

Briefly sketching it out to me when I was busy with something else, and wasn't listening properly, he proceeded with his plan...
Rugby posts?
Rugby posts in a dam.  What?!?!?  I can't remember the conversation...
To give you perspective, those gum poles
are 4.6 mtrs high (less 600 in the ground)
Leaving the cement  to dry round the base of the poles, he visited a Bentonite mine in Heidelberg - just down the N2.  Bentonite is an eco-friendly natural substance with a multitude of uses.
Zeolite inifo
Not only do they produce Bentonite, but they also mine Zeolite. Zeolite is the substance nearer the surface of the ground - Bentonite is further down, below the Zeolite.  (Clicking on the two pages of the phamplett which I scanned, you can see how useful they both are.)
Bentonite info
Having collected a mtr3 of bentonite noodles in our trailer...
Our trailer can hold 1.5 mtrs3 
...which got distributed via a wheel barrow...
One gets different grades of Bentonite -
the finer the more expensive.  We opted for the
cheaper Bentonite "noodles" - hopefully it will

perform as we anticipate
... RMan proceeded to "line" the newly deepend dam with the bentonite...
... more rugby posts...?
He was told to spread it out to 6cms thick and then to mix it with the surface clay - this was achieved with a rake - on a cool day - and even then he worked up a sweat :)
Bentonite mixed with red clay
Obviously, some of the principles from the General Science classes I attended as a primary school child stuck.  I had to try an experiment.
Lumps of Bentonite clay
So - 20gms of bentonite were placed in a bowl, and to that I added...
Bentonite and water
... 42 grams of water.
Bentonite and water slurry
After a bit of a stir with my (unscientific) finger the zeolite became a white muddy mess - well, it is a form of clay - just finer in structure - and white coloured :)  I added more water, and double the amount of red to white clay.
Settling of the clay / bentonite
Separation of the water from the two clays took no time at all...
The Bentonite / clay mix is much lighter
coloured than plain red clay
... roughly about 3/4 hour.  Far quicker than when one mixes plain red clay and water.  Bear in mind that our dam stayed muddy the entire time it held water, and the longest that lasted has been 4 months.
The mix is almost moonscapish in appearance
Not that easy to see, so I placed it into a glass and added more water.  Can you see the surface of the bentonite / clay mix underneath the water.  It looks amazing.  Sort of moon landscapish...
We very happy with this result -
one can clearly see the adhersion of
the red and white Bentonite clay :)
How hectic is that?!  The bentonite and clay soil has "binded" together, and the water is basically as clear as when it came out of the tap.  And this settlement took just a short while - seriously just 35 - 40 minutes.  It bodes well for our first heavy rain when the flood of water into the dam will cause a swirling, mixing effect...

We both can't wait... :)

Judging from the experiment, when, and if, we have water in the dam, and we need to pump the water out in the future, providing that we "scoop" out the upper layer of water, our pump should suffer no ill effects from the clay content.


Quinn said...

Love your science experiment! And now I will wait patiently for the rains to come. Fingers crossed!

1st Man said...

I swear, every time I come to your blog I learn something new and fascinating. Thank you!!!

We've got a natural pond site on our property, though it will take much clearing to get to it. I love that you've got the rainwater tanks too. I worry about future droughts and associated global warming issues. I need to get cracking on water storage for the future.

Dani said...

quinn - If we're goiong to compare, then we need a control LOL

Yeah - we can't wait either...

Dani said...

1st Man - You're welcome :)

Without water - there is no life...

African Bliss said...

I enjoyed reading that Dani. Def some interesting and useful info. i just have to add that many a night since youve posted your latest stove blog we have thought of your beautiful stove while we have been cooking.

Dani said...

African Bliss - Trust me, the Rosa is a beauty. Once lit, it uses 1 split log of wood per half hour. And the room is gorgeous and toasty. Doesn't get better than that :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for joining my blog. I have joined yours! and it looks great! good job! look forward to hearing from you in the future. the rat

Anonymous said...

Oh, almost forgot. Happy Mothers Day! I hope you had a great one!

Dani said...

Mohave rat - welcoe, and thank you - for also hitting the followers button :)

Thanks for the wishes - hope Mrs Rat's day was equally great.

Farm Fancies said...

Lol, and here I am thinking of ordering bentonite clay to use in making shaving soap! I do hope your dam is "drought proof" as our 3.5m dam ended up a wet smear during the recent 6 year drought in Australia but the other dam, with the deepest end being 7m, always had water in it and saved us from needing to buy water for us and the animals. I had to let the vege garden die though. Our dams have their own natural filtering system in the form of water lillies around the edges. This also comes in handy as cattle and horse feed in Winter and is handy chopped up and dried as mulch or added to the compost pile.
Cheers, Robyn

Dani said...

Farm Fancies - Bentonite in shaving soap, haven't heard of that?

Yeah, the dam should probably be deeper but that was the deepest that the digger loader could handle (i.e exit out of). No heavier earth moving equipment round here LOL

kymber said...

i'm with 1st Man on this, Dani - every time i visit, i learn something new.

because we are on a small island filled with rivers, lakes, estuaries, underground springs, etc., and the fact that no one here has ever heard of a well going dry (in fact, anytime we have asked someone they look at us very quizzically because they can't even comprehend such a thing), and the fact that we have 2 80 litre rainbarrels, plus a pond, a hug river and the ocean nearby, and the fact that whether it rains or not, there is always moisture in the air, and the fact that jambaloney gerry-rigged two 5-gallon buckets and then screwed in 3 berkey water filters (we have a lifetimes worth of berkey filters)- water is not a big concern for us. so it is always interesting to discover the ingenious ways that people who live in drought-prone areas come up with. and your dam is deelishous! i can't wait until it starts filling up! keep us all posted!

your friend,

kymber said...

Dani - i commented to your reply to 1st Man's comment above. wow gurl!

your friend,

Farm Fancies said...

When I make the shaving soap, hopefully within the next couple of months, there'll be a post on my blog :). We took advantage of the drought by having a scoop digger "clear" 2 decades worth of fallen in dam edges, from cattle and horses watering there, as well as a bit extra from the bottom of the 3.5m dam and heightening the dam wall by about 3/4m with it. Wish we'd known about bentonite then as it took a couple of years for that dam to not look muddy.

Dani said...

kymber - You're very fortunate - having all that water available :)

Yeah, water here is precious, even without global warming entering the equation...

Dani said...

kymber - I replied to that comment :)

Dani said...

Cool - look forward to reading about it's use in shaving cream :)