Last Licks with the Excavator

On Thursday in the rain Leon finished stumping the back acres. The entire landscape is torn up like a war zone.

Again, however, if you are close you can see the neat windrows. Some of these piles are over my head.

Leon just says, “A lot to push!”

The excavator will be exchanged for a bulldozer today. (Tom at the rental place is being very kind and allowing me to trade my paid-up final week with the excavator for a CAT D3C, at no charge.) Tomorrow Leon will start bulldozing the logs and stumps to the edge of the field.  I’m picturing a fortress wall, fifteen feet high, all along the southern edge. Oh well. With any luck in a few years it will be covered with green brush and merely look like a strange geological feature.

In his last hour on Thursday, and then yesterday while I was in Vermont, Leon worked on the pond.

I actually have two ponds, neither of which holds much water due to my gravelly soil. One is “Allen’s pond,” a tiny scoop between boulders at the foot of the north pasture. The other is “Neddy’s pond,” an enormous crater at the bottom of the south pasture.

(It’s odd how things get named around here. Allen actually excavated both ponds. He on the excavator and Damon on the bulldozer dug the big pond in 2005. However my mental association with it is of my wonderful dog Ned, who adored that open water and always dashed down the hill and dove in. Ned was my best dog ever, and even after he died of Lyme disease the following year, I thought of the pond as Neddy’s. The pond in the driftway became Allen’s in my mind after I drove into the farm early one morning and saw Allen hiking up out of the hollow where it is hidden. He had been inspecting the water level. I so rarely saw Allen out of the excavator — and coming up the misty rise out of the trees, he looked exactly like a little forest gnome. Thus Allen’s pond.)

In five years Neddy’s pond has both grown and shrunk. Realizing that it was a natural gravel pit, Allen saved me thousands of dollars by excavating gravel from it to use elsewhere on the farm. Pond gravel surfaces my driveway, floors my barn, underlies my house foundation, and covers the rock peninsula. Slowly the crater grew bigger. Meanwhile, however, cattails moved in, choking the shallow water. Then, knowing that I’d never be able to afford a pond liner large enough for the half-acre hole, last fall Allen began filling in the north end with excess boulders. This spring he told Brian, the Yuke driver, to dump stumps there. The pond contracted.

I told Damon that what I’d really like to do is excavate the low, south side into a smaller, round pond (for which someday I might be able to buy a liner) and use the excavated material to fill in and smooth the now-ragged north side.

Damon looked skeptical. “You’re gonna dig one hole to fill another hole?”

I laughed. Well, yes.

I don’t have money to devote to this project but we did have one spare day with the excavator. And though I had lots of little projects that Allen could have done if he were there, Leon doesn’t know the property and this was a easy single assignment for him in my absence.

Here he is late on Thursday, starting to dredge out the cattails on the south side of the pond.

Last night when I got back from Vermont the excavator was parked at the top of the driveway, ready for pick-up. I walked down to the pond. Leon has dug out about a third of the eventual new hole. There are giant piles of muddy fill heaped along the edge.

If he has time after bulldozing the back acres next week, he will back-drag the fill over the stumps and boulders on the old north side of the pond. Then maybe next year, when we excavate the house basement, we will have another “spare” day with the excavator to devote to this project. It seems likely that it will take a few years to complete. But eventually we will have buried half the old pond and created a new one.

I wonder what its name will be?


One Response to Last Licks with the Excavator

  1. Tammy Cupp says:

    I can see you have been incredibly busy this summer!

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