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Developing a Spring

 
Posts: 85
Location: Franklinton, NC
4
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Hey there everyone, so I've found three springs on my new property, and probably a fourth but it went into some wisteria where I gave up following it (didn't have machete with me). I've chosen one spring by the creek as the most promising to develop. It comes out of a clay bank five or so feet above the creek, and maybe ten feet away. My first step will be to channel the water to the creek, as right now its channel is clogged with debris and dirt, so that the spring bubbles into a murky pool. Once I've drained the area, the real boxing can begin.
To this end, I've watched almost every half-decent youtube video on developing a spring. Out of that night's videos, one stood head and shoulders above, attesting to man's ingenuity, and the strength of his will to mold nature in a beautiful way. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jtd0o_lFIeA (If you don't have fifteen minutes to spare, just skip to 14:20 to see what he accomplished).
I noticed that the most common design which people use is a plastic shield around the water source, with perforated pvc to collect the water to the tap and the overflow, and a connected standpipe for shocking the system when necessary. People fill this in with gravel or rocks, then cover in plastic, then dirt, just leaving the standpipe exposed. To me, that way of doing it is all utility, no art.  
This fella made the simplest spring I saw, using stones and concrete. It only lacks a cover :D : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7tJh0a7k84
This is the best diagram I've found on a simple farm spring house: https://inspectapedia.com/water/Farm_Spring_House_Bennetts.jpg
For mine, I'd like to use what's in the area, and that's clay and stones and wood, and I am curious to learn if clay and stone are sufficient to box the water source, or if I will end up needing concrete and/or hydraulic cement.
If any of you have a good video or article or diagrams (or stories) about the development of a spring, please post it here. The plastic shield with pvc, gravel and a plastic tarp works, but it's not a fair testament to what a water spring represents. I'd like to see spring boxes which are temples.
 
Posts: 155
Location: mid Ohio, 40.318626 -83.766931
14
dog solar homestead
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Joe. are you going to be using the water where it is or are you going to be trying to get it somewhere else on your property.

could you also post a few pictures of the area.

Stone and CLEAN clay should work if your trying to get the water to pool in an area.

If you are trying to get the water to a different area of the property I've seen people build a cistern using pipes and  a box with pipes to divert the water. how far you can get it to go will depend on the water pressure.  

Regards Phil

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jz0m3HFjgs
 
Joe Banks
Posts: 85
Location: Franklinton, NC
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Hey Phil, I'd just use the water where it's at. It's below the level of my hunting shanty and I'm not planning on bringing in electricity any time soon (or ever). Good to know that clean clay and stones can work. I'd love to post pictures, but don't have the gear to do that.
I think the previous owner tried to make a little side pond at this spring, and hence the murky pool full of rotten leaves. The amazing thing to me is that, where my house is at, about forty five minutes away, there are barely any stones of any size anywhere. Whereas on this lot, there's big beautiful stones everywhere. Good for the spring box, and if I ever try my hand at building a cabin here, I could use slip-form for the walls. Much easier to process stones, than wood. More durable, too :D
 
Joe Banks
Posts: 85
Location: Franklinton, NC
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Update on the spring!
I spent the day on the lot, making fires and burning brush, then I went to the spring. I started where it feeds into the creek, and shoveled the accumulated sediment and leaves to the side, working my way up to the spring source. I did this twice, and this helped greatly to drain the area. Then I collected stones in a bucket. When I began digging at the spring I brought up grey clay, which I put into another bucket. For a while I tried laying my bucket of clay against the stream of the creek, to purify the clay, but later I got lazy and realized also that the flow of the spring would purify my clay just as well.
Using stones and clay, I built a dam around the spring, raising the level over the course of several hours. At one point I felt a twitching by my ankle (I was barefoot) and there was a tiny brown snake peering up at me. That made me jump. Later, when I saw it slithering up to the spring, I just had to bash it with a rock. I think I saw its mama a few weeks ago; a big brown water moccasin.
So my dam is a little over a foot high, with an overflow rock ramp in the center. and when I left the water was already beginning to clear. Because I harvested all of my grey clay (that stuff is magical) from the spring basin, my spring pool is well over a foot deep.

Now I'm debating running a pipe at the overflow ramp to the creek (fifteen feet away at the most) so that the area surrounding the spring can dry out more, to make working there less treacherous. While I worked, I kept a fire going by the creek, adding rocks around the fire as I found them. This really works for me. Burning brush and keeping the job site clean wherever I happen to be on the lot.

Next step will be bringing pipe, raising the dam, covering the pool, installing a spigot. :D
 
Posts: 11
Location: Clackamas County, OR (zone 7)
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Hey, one thing that I have discovered from messing around with springs is that small changes in the water level can cause problems down the road. The water is flowing underground through a porous strata, and it is finding the lowest point to drain out. If you dam it up even 1 foot, then the water will rise 1 foot in that entire strata. The area you want it to drain from might then no longer be the lowest point. My spring comes from a rocky layer that is sandwiched between clay. Whenever I would dam it up, the water would start to seep from the edge of dam, eventually cutting a new channel. If you can dig down to make your pool, that might be a good call. My conditions might not be the same as yours, and it was usually a slow problem. I ended up digging out the rock on either side of my dam for maybe 10 feet, and filling the trench with clay from another site on the property. Good clay will seal slow seeps with ease. Its been a slow process, but I love being down there. There is something magical about crystal clear water just coming bubbling out of the ground. I sure am glad we dont have water moccasins, though, that would make playing in murky water seem a lot less fun to me!
 
Joe Banks
Posts: 85
Location: Franklinton, NC
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Carl: You make a great point. The water does not just flow from this one spring hole, but at least two others in the vicinity. I didn't want to attempt blocking them all off, as I have read (and it is true) that damming a smaller area requires less materials and labor. Thanks for the reminder - I might have to dam it a little bit higher (due to the level this creek floods based on debris left behind at high water line) but I won't go any higher than the high water mark. Digging down where my spring hole is, it is gravelly sand mixed with clay, but back to the spring source it is all clay.
Where I was working, I was ankle deep in the muck (heavy clay, sediment mixture with leaves and twigs thrown in - the kind of muck where you have difficulty lifting your foot back out due to the clay vacuum). The baby snake was obviously only curious. And when I saw it dart up playfully to the spring source, my initial impulse was not to kill it. Only, on second thought, thinking of the mama, I realized that while we were friends now, later I could have real trouble, if I surprised it and it did what it thought it had to do, I would be in very serious trouble).
You're very right that the feeling is magical. This water is cold and pure and free. And the clay, God in Heaven I have newfound respect for clay. Its water-stopping capability is miraculous. I'm thinking that when I'm at the level of dam that suits, I'll run a pipe at the spillway (sealed with clay) which will run direct to the creek. Then I'll put a spigot in a bit lower.
Roofing it... I'm not sure yet. To enclose it properly, I'd need to bring in cement and make a proper spring house. I'm just not there yet. :D
 
Joe Banks
Posts: 85
Location: Franklinton, NC
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Update: Saw the spring today. A crawdaddy dug through the clay to get to that fresh spring water :D. Guess I need more rocks. There is a spring which runs to the creek, from several properties over. I haven't followed it all the way to its source yet. I'm considering following it and speaking with the property owner. It would be worth the money to me to buy the right to tap a spring (which nobody is using), then burying several hundred feet of pipe. In this way, the water to my future homestead would be gravity-fed, and electricity, hauling or hand pumping for water would be unnecessary. My spring by the creek, I think, has the potential to be a Spring House which I could use to keep my food cold. I'd need to pipe the water from the spring direct to the creek to dry out the area, then a slab with an inset basin/channels for the spring water, then concrete block walls and an insulated tin roof. It would have to be water tight up to a certain level, otherwise every time the creek flooded the food would be contaminated. Still brainstorming.  
 
pollinator
Posts: 1725
Location: Bendigo , Australia
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I think you are fighting nature.
Those comments are good, but drying out the area may cause other issues, and iuf you want a cool room the wider damp area may be a bonus.
As for killing snakes, you have to live with them, there are plenty more to replace any you kill.
bare feet etc may make you eligible for a Darwin award.
 
Joe Banks
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Location: Franklinton, NC
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Hey John, you nailed it. I'm definitely fighting nature here. For example, the front of the lot, on one side of the path in, is infested with oriental bittersweet. First I tried using a hatchet and a machete, but when I say infested I mean that I missed lots of the bittersweets on my first couple passes because they were as big as trees. When I looked up, I could see what they were up to in the canopies. Came back with a chainsaw and did a better job. Then I notice hundreds of young bittersweets growing up all around me. Planning to return with a string trimmer with a blade conversion. Fighting nature is what we do when we wear clothes or seek shelter. I think we all fight nature to the degree that we enjoy staying alive.
As for the snake, I agree that there will be more snakes. I like snakes. Just not around my feet when I'm working.
As for going barefoot, the muck was higher than my galoshes would allow, and the cool mud felt great. I have seen and met quite a few people with feet as tough as wood, and they developed their hooves by going without shoes. I'm not that guy, but I can see both sides of it. Normally I wear my leather boots, but this situation didn't call for it.
 
Carl Nystrom
Posts: 11
Location: Clackamas County, OR (zone 7)
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Joe BanksI'd need to pipe the water from the spring direct to the creek to dry out the area, [/quote wrote:

I have also tried this - but it did not work (at least when you area dealing with a spring in clay and fractured rock). The fact is, water seeps VERY well, and it will drive you crazy to try and stop it from doing its thing. Maybe if you had water gushing out of a crack in some granite, you could make it pour out of a pipe into a nice neat and tidy little basin, but in my experience, if there is soil, there will also be mud. What I ended up with was a compromise. I sealed up my spring, including a little brick wall with a pipe in it. My flow is only about 1.5gpm, so I have a little basin behind my brick wall that is about a cubic foot. I dug out all the muck behind the dam and replaced it with clean sand, gravel, and rocks. The pipe carries most of the water down to a concrete tank that I have my well pump in, and a little water dribbles over my brick wall into the mud. This also leaves the original stream more or less intact. I really dont use that much of the water, so I am really just borrowing most of it. I think fighting nature is a fools errand, as we are all part of nature. I have yet to meet another species that asks to use any of my stuff, though, so by all means, take what you need. I think its just when we get greedy that problems start to arise. And speaking of problems, if you have a spring on your property, it might end up being easier to fight gravity than stubborn neighbors. If you have even a few feet of head and a gpm or two, a ram pump might be just the thing.



 
Joe Banks
Posts: 85
Location: Franklinton, NC
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Carl Nystrom wrote:

Joe BanksI'd need to pipe the water from the spring direct to the creek to dry out the area, [/quote wrote:

I have also tried this - but it did not work (at least when you area dealing with a spring in clay and fractured rock). The fact is, water seeps VERY well, and it will drive you crazy to try and stop it from doing its thing. Maybe if you had water gushing out of a crack in some granite, you could make it pour out of a pipe into a nice neat and tidy little basin, but in my experience, if there is soil, there will also be mud. What I ended up with was a compromise. I sealed up my spring, including a little brick wall with a pipe in it. My flow is only about 1.5gpm, so I have a little basin behind my brick wall that is about a cubic foot. I dug out all the muck behind the dam and replaced it with clean sand, gravel, and rocks. The pipe carries most of the water down to a concrete tank that I have my well pump in, and a little water dribbles over my brick wall into the mud. This also leaves the original stream more or less intact. I really dont use that much of the water, so I am really just borrowing most of it. I think fighting nature is a fools errand, as we are all part of nature. I have yet to meet another species that asks to use any of my stuff, though, so by all means, take what you need. I think its just when we get greedy that problems start to arise. And speaking of problems, if you have a spring on your property, it might end up being easier to fight gravity than stubborn neighbors. If you have even a few feet of head and a gpm or two, a ram pump might be just the thing.




The night I devoured all of the spring videos on youtube, I got the chance to hear a ram pump working. If it was a typical example, I'd rather haul buckets of water for eternity than listen to it! :D
I think me and the crawdaddies made a good compromise for the time being. They dug into the base of the rock/clay dam, but the dam is still there, and because I dug out all of that clay, I have about a 1 ft x 1 ft x 1 ft hole of clear water behind it. Water is seeping to the right of it, but what's coming from the spring I targeted is already more water than I could use. Fighting nature is certainly asking water to defy gravity! I'm a bit of a deededee, and have a lot of things I want to do on the lot, but working six days a week sure makes it difficult/impossible. Your implementation of a concrete tank with well pump down from the spring sounds perfect. If I already had electricity there it would be the answer. Only, my concrete tank with pump would have to be watertight, since this creek floods over the level of the spring regularly. Now I've moved on to rocks. While I wait for my vine destroying light saber to come in the mail, I've been reading Ked Kerns' book on stone masonry as well as forums. Reason is, lumber is expensive, I don't have the tools to mill my own wood, and stones are everywhere on the property. Beginning of the book has a good quote (paraphrased): God gave us earth for food, wood for making furniture, and stone for building houses.
 
John C Daley
pollinator
Posts: 1725
Location: Bendigo , Australia
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Your invasive plant intrigued me.
I found this

While environmentally savvy gardeners seek to reduce pesticide use, this is one plant it would be best not to try to control solely by manual methods.
In combination with chemical controls, methods such as cutting or hand digging can be effective for established populations over time.
Herbicides can be applied to freshly cut stems or through other techniques.
Refer to a Michigan DNR fact sheet for best control practices of Oriental bittersweet.



Can it be contained in an area by mowing regularly along the boundary of having goats range along the boundaries?
It may be easier?

From List of bad plants for goats
bad goat plants

It seems goats maybe able to keep it at bay.
 
Joe Banks
Posts: 85
Location: Franklinton, NC
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John, I work too much to maintain a herd of goats for the property. The good deal is, the volunteer bittersweets will take longer to climb to the top of the canopies than it could possibly take me to nip them in the bud. I'm just going to have to keep doing it. As for herbicide, the cheap alternative I've heard is simply vinegar with some dish soap sprayed on the cut end, although I'm not getting that fancy... YET. They've killed many trees, and the ones not too rotten will be firewood for me, but the sad bit is that they killed four very old cedar trees at the front, and the biggest I've ever seen. Luckily, 3 of the 4 are still standing, and I know that their hearts are still good, so if I ever get around to owning a piece of heavy equipment, I'll be able to harvest the longest lasting wood in the country. (I believe only teak is tougher).
 
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