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The Resilience Hub & Portland Maine Permaculture Message Board › Lining small ponds with granite dust

Lining small ponds with granite dust

Tyler O.
Greenbush, ME
Post #: 45
I am looking for feedback and advise on an idea. I have seven yards of granite dust from freshwater stone in Orland. I have already given every perennial and garden bed a few shovel fulls. I am contemplating using some of the rest to line a small 4'x11'x2' rain gutter and grey water fed pond in our garden as well as a 12'x12'x4' gutter fed duck fertigation pond. I have already dug the holes and just need to do some final shaping and plumbing. I live on part of an esker, and those two pond holes have loose gravel as subsoil. I'm thinking the clay-like qualities of the granite dust will work quite well to seal the ponds when applied in a 3-6"layer. I am also thinking the amount of granite dust that does become suspended in the water would be a great benefit during over flow events and will create water similar to glacial runoff but just not quite as diversely mineral dense and energetic. Both of the ponds are designed to overflow across swales and over and above terraces rubbing up against lots of plantings. At freshwater stone the granite is cut with rock saws creating shards so tiny it appears as dust. Energy is concentrated at sharp edges and these edges are the access point for the enzymes manufactured by bacteria. Granite dust is second to basalt in paramagnetism, and I'm thinking water held in ponds lined with paramagnetic dust might be more energetic, which makes me consider the shape I should make the bottom of the pond which might influence this effect, concentrating shapes perhaps, with the overflow shape being dispersive. Like the towers of Ireland concentrating cosmic energy at certain points within them as well as radiating it out into the surroundings (See writtings by Philip Callahan and others) and the various other earth towers created around the world for similar reasons. All man made ponds in the northern hemisphere should be built with a south facing slope to take advantage of the thermal conveyor created by the sun's energy to cycle the water. This technique is greatly enhanced by adding thermal mass to the north side of of the pond to absorb and radiate more heat . The water moves in a slow conveyor current, heated as it rises up the slope and then it travels across the surface and cools drifting down to the deep end of the pool. Besides this conveyor design and creations like flow forms and other ways of energizing water, can we use pond shape and materials to concentrate cosmic energy into water and if so will it have a similar effect as the towers on the health and productivity of the surrounding landscape? I believe absolutely when combined with good design for the dispersal of that water passively through the landscape.

Jesse S.
user 29709632
Harrison, ME
Post #: 113
I've not heard of rock dust being used so...but clay(bentonite in particular) or clay/organics mix ie, gley has long been utilized to seal ponds, canals, dams. I think Ben and Jesse lined a pond built during a permablitz with bentonite, maybe they'll share the results come springtime...I've been wanting to dig out a small pond as well, mostly for the wildlife, and plan to try sealing with a gley mix.­
Shaping the pond's contours to encourage natural currents and mixing of layers deserves some thought-how to provide that aeration which could make the water habitable by a wider variety of creatures.
Greg M.
user 3541854
Acton, ME
Post #: 629
You may want to do a test with a five gallon bucket with the bottom cut off. Just put the bucket on the ground, pack in the stone dust like you'd do for your pond, and then gently fill it with water and see how long it takes to drain. If you have some clay you can do a comparison.

Have you found any studies that show benefits from high paramagnetic soil additives versus a suitable control? I haven't been able to do so. It'd be nice to find some well done studies as the interaction of paramagnetism with plant biology is not at all clear to me. Even if we don't understand all the fine details, we should at least be able to demonstrate an effect with and without controls and be able to repeat it. Thanks.
Lisa F.
Group Organizer
Portland, ME
Post #: 2,370
Re: the paramagnetism, there was an organization tabling at NOFA-VT conference last February that was completely dedicated to rock dusts and paramagnetism NGO. I'll try to track them down. If studies exist, they would know.
Jesse M.
user 25646832
Westbrook, ME
Post #: 34
We did (Ben and I) dig a pond this summer. Ours is about 14x8 or so, sloping down to six feet deep. We transitioned through a few inches of loam, then a slightly sandy clay mix, and finally at the very bottom right to clay. We spent a lot of time shaping it, and tamping it down. We tried to use our ducks to muddle it, unfortunately they were a bit too daft. We have a hundred pounds of bentonite, which we did not get a chance to put down before it was too late. However, we did find that even with just tamping and utilizing some clay we had, the pond held several feet of water. Our plan this spring is to do more forming, then work in all the bentonite. Its very powdery, so we'll spread it, and then work it in. After that we are sowing rye in the whole thing, and will keep it moist until that sprouts. The bentonite swells to up to 20 times its size, and the rye creates a natural gel like barrier, which should eventually break down and create (with the bentonite) a pretty solid barrier. We're hoping to see some results throughout the spring and summer....though we didn't plan on having a completely usable pond for a couple years. Its definitely an experimental work in progress. There will surely be updates as it progresses.
Tyler O.
Greenbush, ME
Post #: 46
Awesome I love hearing the experiences of other small pond builders!
Good idea with the bucket test Greg, quick and simple.
Besides the other ponds I am working on I also have plans to use the gleying technique to seal a depression that will become a 10'x40' rice paddy that will catch the over flow from our garden rain/grey water pond after the water travels 25' or so across the slope above four peach tree polycultures with grapes trained along a fence just below the peaches. I planted the depression last summer with a mix of rye, 3 types of clover, buckwheat, daikon, rutabega, peas, vetch, and oats. The depression is located right next to our beehives so the covers provided great late season forage for them. I would like to spread some granite dust in the depression and fence my ducks in that area or maybe borrow my friend's pigs to help muddle the vegetation layer down and manure it, maybe put some more granite dust down and some clay or clay loam if I have it. Then I planned on putting 5 layers of non corrugated cardboard down over that layer of muddled vegetation and manure etc to create an anaerobic environment where the vegetation, manure, and cardboard will turn to gel mush and help seal the depression. I then will spread and tamp down some manure/old wood chip mix and and compost on top of the cardboard as a planting medium for the rice which will be grown from seed harvested from 5 gal bucket rice I grew last summer from seed grown by Ben Falk and crew. I will build a small gate dam at one end of the depression to regulate the water level. The depression will flood and overflow above a terrace and into the hugel swales. I might employ a similar gleying technique to the other ponds if it works well in this depression. Gleying works best on shallow sloped ponds, so might not work on one that has steeper walls, so I will keep growing cover on the steeper walls until I can modify them or they erode and create a shallower slope before I can effectively seal it. While mountain biking this last summer Heather and I did come across a large seam of marine clay exposed in a local gravel pit operation and I have considered using some of that in the mix as well. I do have some clay gravel at the foot of our property above the lowest part of our property where there are vernal pools. I am sure part of the reason these lower vernal pools hold water is because of the natural gleying action that occurs from the biomass accumulation and low oxygen levels. If I had a machine I would be more tempted to gather some of the clay soil layer from the lower area of our property above the vernal pools, but that is a future possibility, and would most likely be used in pond construction lower in the property.
I am familiar with the use of bentonite for sealing ponds. What kind are you working with? Sodium, calcium or potassium bentonite? Most likely sodium bentonite. Some sodium bentonite sold as pond liner sealer has been chemically altered. A lot of the high grade sodium bentonite is being strip mined in Wyoming and South Dakota and like a lot of strip mining operations it has it's detrimental ecological and social aspects. There is the argument that sometimes these areas where these materials (bentonite, azomite, sodium nitrate, rock phosphate, guanos, etc) are mined are unsuitable to plant growth as is because of the high concentration of these materials and by mining them and reducing the concentration you could grow plants there, but I think that way of thinking is flawed in many ways especially when the mining practices are examined. I think some pottery supply shops in Maine carry bulk sodium bentonite but it can be pricey and its heavy to ship. Also I have read that ponds lined with bentonite, unless they have a substantial gravel or soil layer over the bentonite, will have bottoms so mucky that it would be hard to pull your foot out after stepping into it. I can foresee a similar effect with the granite dust/ clay/ gley mixture just minus the added expanding effect of the bentonite. I have also experienced this effect with most ponds, bogs, swamps and other natural wet areas, but apparently bentonite can be really sticky. All water features can be hazardous but this extra suction sticky effect from the bentonite could be especially dangerous for children, livestock, wildlife, etc.
I recognize the benefits of the expanding physical structure and minerals contained in volcanic ash bentonite, but also recognize the implications of its extraction and processing just like with any of the mined materials we use in agriculture. Really, is there an ecological, economic, socially just way to extract these materials? Probably not. Are there more ecologically sound and socially just ways than the current methods? Absolutely. The benefits gained from applying these materials with good intention and design are absolutely worth considering. I tend to think about them in the "use 'em or loose 'em" category referring to the current relatively low cost and availability of these amendments and the future uncertainty. Maybe we should extract and disperse these materials to create more fertility. Maybe we should focus that energy on regenerating instead of extracting. We know how to create fertility and seal most ponds on site, but there are advantages importing the right amendments.
Jesse M.
user 25646832
Westbrook, ME
Post #: 35
We are using sodium bentonite. I have no idea of the source, and honestly I hadn't thought about it. I just knew it came from the midwest-ish area, and was insanely expensive to ship from there. But Portland Pottery will sell it to you for .40 to .45 cents a pound. If they don't have enough in stock they are more than happy to order as much as you'd like, in 50lb bags. The more you buy, the cheaper per pound it is. They also have Macaloid and Bentonite L-10 types, which I know nothing about other than that they are significantly more expensive. We had been thinking of putting down a sand or gravel layer after all was said and done, because the deep end is meant to be a plunge pool, and it would be nice to be able to get out!
A former member
Post #: 1
My husband pointed out to me that granite is radioactive. Since the grits I had bought for my ducks were granite, I was quite disappointed. I know you can't avoid all naturally occurring granite, but I would use caution adding it to a pond.

Tyler O.
Greenbush, ME
Post #: 67
My husband pointed out to me that granite is radioactive. Since the grits I had bought for my ducks were granite, I was quite disappointed. I know you can't avoid all naturally occurring granite, but I would use caution adding it to a pond.
The granite dust I have comes from a quarry in Orland, Me which is metaluminous granite and generally has a low radioactivity. The kind of granite you are referring to is paraluminous granite and it is mostly in western, Me. Para luminous granite contains uranium and more than half of the bedrock wells tested in western Maine contained uranium in the results. https://bangordailyne...­
A former member
Post #: 3
Thank you Tyler, I did not realize that there was a difference. It was through Bill Mollison that I had first heard about the uranium in wells throughout New England, but I did not know that it was mostly Western Maine (figures though, sigh). I'm very interested to see how this works for you. We're still trying to decide on an environmentally safe and economical liner for our ponds. Most importantly, I worry about leaching of chemicals. One of our ponds will be for growing biomass (for us, ducks & mulching/composting) and a much larger one will be a natural swimming pool. The rest will be rice paddies and duck ponds. I've been looking around here and there, but haven't decided on a method yet.
Do you know what Ben Falk uses on his ponds and paddies? Maybe we could move the discussion to the PDC fb group to see what thoughts Ben and others have.?.
Have you been able to try the bucket test yet?
Any thoughts on clay soil gathered in a mostly granite pit in Western Maine?
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