THE "BIG DIG"

About 10 days ago I was mowing when I looked up to see a massive tractor on tracks coming down the lane pulling this enormous box scraper. It was a friend of mine named Scott Plummer who was there to start putting in a pond for us.

Coincidentally, the area I was mowing was the same place where the pond was going to be, which was great because the uneven ground bumps you all over the place. Formerly a bunch of scrub brush and scab trees, we knocked it down a few years back to start the process.

The first few years we lived there, we used to walk all over it dreaming. There was a small ravine with a couple of run-offs that converged in a low place just right for a pond. It took me a couple more years but finally I’d cut down all of the scab trees, leaving the bigger hickory trees.

It was kind of ugly, all those stumps sticking up the next couple years, but things take time, and we kept thinking about how nice it was going to be when we got the pond in. Finally we had a guy come and take out and bury the stumps, giving it a cleared but rough appearance.

That’s when I started mowing. All but this ugly center part, because there was a broken field tile in there somewhere that kept it pretty wet, so the ground started eroding, little by little each year. We also got a bunch of wetlands grass that stood around eight feet tall in the summer, along with a bunch of other varieties and even a couple trees that started growing back.

The ugly part slowly started taking over, a little more each year, so I’d keep mowing around it. Every time I mowed, the bumps would knock me all over the place, and I’d tell myself, “It won’t be long, and I won’t have to mow this anymore.”

When Scott told us he’d be there sometime in August to put in the pond, we got pretty excited. Now when I mowed, it was “just a couple more times” until finally, “this is the LAST time I’ve got to mow this!”

So you can imagine how I felt seeing him come down the lane with his big scraper, even bigger excavator and bulldozer! He wanted to do it while it was dry so he could work the ground better—plus we’d stand a good chance to see the pond start to fill in once the rains come later.

It was pretty entertaining, watching him work. We sat on the front porch with iced tea as he made trip after trip with the tractor pulling the scraper. He’d fill it up with clay from where the pond was going to be, and take it to the edge of the property where he was building the dam.

I mean it was hundreds of trips. After an hour or so, you could tell he’d built the dam up a little bit, but there was still a long way to go. But little by little, trip by trip, he kept scraping dirt from the bottom of the pond and moving it to the dam.

One afternoon he showed me how he used the laser to locate the edge of the pond, all the way around. It also showed him how high the dam had to be to hold the water. It was hard to get perspective until you actually went out and stood there.

Scott had to excavate a few more trees in a few places to make it all work, and shape the rest of the property so it would help drain into the pond. He used his excavator to haul the wood over to my wood cutting area and saved some of the stumps for the fish to use for nesting.

After about three days of moving dirt and clay and packing it down, we had about a two acre pond. The dam was now big enough to keep the water back, but with contours on each end to release water if it got too high.

Scott also found and released the water flow from the field tile coming in there, and viola, we had water. It’s still flowing 24 hours later, so I can’t wait until it rains and really gets going!

The water will be about fifteen to eighteen feet deep by the dam, with the rest of it gently tapered, especially up closer to the house, by the swimming area. It’s a very gentle grade down so you can just wade out there, with no big drop-offs. I mean this guy thought of everything.

He was telling me about grass carp, one of the species of fish we need to put in next year after it fills up. Apparently, you get about three of those guys, hybrids that are neutered (how do you neuter a fish?), and they’ll grow to around 2-3 feet and eat the algae and help keep the pond clean.

We learned about putting in some bluegill, bass and catfish, along with a bunch of little feeder fish, so they don’t eat each other. Then, once the bluegill get old enough to have their own babies, the bass will start eating them, and the pond will find it’s own balance.

One of the hickory trees we saved has a big branch that’s just perfect for a rope swing at the deep end of the pond. I was also thinking back to YMCA summer camp years ago where I’d swim out to a diving platform anchored out in the lake. Hmm.

As I sat out there on the swing each afternoon watching Scott work, it reminded me of a couple things about my job. First of all, when we needed help, we got an expert (maybe even an artist) with that excavator and scraper.

I would never try to tackle our “big dig” myself. I don’t have the tools or the knowledge. And people don’t need to try and figure out how to take all that weight off on their own. With a little help and the right equipment, it’s pretty easy (except for the hard work part).

It also occurred to me that just like Scott moving that dirt, taking the weight off is kind of like him taking another pass with that box scraper. That dirt’s not going to move unless he moves it. Likewise, you’ve got to show up and get your workout in. Get enough of them in and you’ll start scraping away at it.

In some cases, people want to tone up and put on some muscle. To me, it was like when Plummer was building the dam. It took some time before we could start to see it growing. After a while, though, it started taking shape, and finally, it became pretty robust.

And he kept working at it until it was exactly the way he wanted it. That’s how it is in the gym. You keep showing up, and keep chiseling away, until you’ve reshaped your body the way you want it.

I think back to how that ugly eroded part of the property had started taking over, each year getting more and more out of control. It’s the same thing with our weight. Take a break from working out, quit watching what you eat, and the next thing you know, you look down and discover you’re fat!

But now, with some expert help from Scott and his life-size Tonka toys, we’ve taken an eyesore and irritation, and turned it into something we’ll be able to use and enjoy for many years. It’s kind of like getting your body back. It takes some time, and it takes some work, but it’s definitely going to be worth it!

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