Safe Harbor Farm's 61 acres were quite ragged when the property was purchased in 2005. Owned by a succession of timber companies, the land had been cut several times, but never properly managed. The result was huge piles of rotting wood, tree trunks all over the place and a jungle-like density of trees where too many pine, red maple & sweetgum saplings were fighting for space. On top of that, more than 12 TONS of litter needed to be rounded up and moved out.
A lot of work needed to be done on a very small budget, so the first investment our Board made was the purchase of a 44 hp Kubota frontloader & backhoe with a bushhog, box blade and auger. With such wonderful tools, volunteers could make great things happen without being dependent upon contractors.
Safe Harbor's Duck Pond
SHF has always been known for thinking bigger, and it was only a matter of time before we dreamed dreams well beyond the capacity of our beloved little tractor.
We wanted a pond, and not just a little one. We wanted a one-acre pond for fish, frogs, turtles, ducks and visiting egrets, heron & kingfishers. A pond would hold excess water during storms. It would beautify our rescue center, and provide us with many yards of soil to raise low areas. Our friend, Beverly Bell agreed, and with her generous contribution Safe Harbor's new pond, dedicated in the memory of Bev's parents, General and Mrs. Lee, began to take shape.
First, we cleared an acre of as much brush as our little Kubota could handle, then we called in the pond professionals. With their HUGE excavator and bulldozer, more brush was cleared and the digging began.
We were really excited to see the pond begin to take shape (above, left ), and were amazed to see just how much soil it provided for other areas (above, right, the site of our future hurricane shelter). The excavator dug, and dug, and dug some more until a depth of nine feet was reached. From there, the pond was tapered to a depth of six feet.
Would that be deep enough to sustain the pond during dry months?, we wondered. Our fears ended quickly the moment we discovered not one, but four little springs! We weren't sure at first, but yes, all the signs were there - the water was crystal clear; it was COLD, and it brought with it bright, clean sand, bubbled up from the depths of the earth. We were ecstatic!
The pond began to fill, in part due to a week's worth of rain. A pump was brought in so most of the water could be kept out until the digging was done. The pond reached 80% completion, then 90% completion. Somewhere around 95% completion, the skies opened up with almost two solid weeks of rain. With that, the pond contractor pulled out. "See ya next year, when the mud dries up," we were told as they packed up their equipment and hit the road, never to be seen again. We were left with a landing strip's worth of land, connecting the pond's island to its side.
Our Kubota to the rescue! After much thought, we carved out a series of small islands from the leftover land in a stepping stone pattern that reached out to the bigger island (above, left). One day, we planned, we'd have four small bridges connecting them together.
Around this same time, SHF got the offer of many yards of fill soil from another jobsite. Knowing we would use it all eventually and probably need more, we said, "Sure! Bring it on!" And the first dozen loads were wonderful: a useful mix of dirt, clay & small stones, and even a little topsoil. A little cautious at first, we used most of it to make a raised road to the adoption center (above, right) . Then we let our guard down, and we didn't watch the last four loads that was being trucked in and dumped.
Our mistake!!! Before we realized it, we had had four full loads of "gumbo" dumped in the middle of our road, just off the north end of the pond. If you haven't encountered this slimy ooze from the earth, imagine 1 part clay, 1 part seaweed and 1 part Silly Putty. Now picture 80 TONS of it in your driveway!
Okay, we'll just gather it up with the Kubota, we thought. Well, that didn't work. The stuff was too heavy to pick up and too thick for our backhoe to push aside. Enter one unsuspecting electric company excavator operator.
God put him in our path for a reason (tho' he thought he was sent down the road from us to dig a ditch for the power company). Thank God he was willing to be persuaded (picture Lynne on her knees here) to help push the top half of the gumbo to the side. The other half of the gumbo was left to dry, as a base for the road. It took three whole weeks and the donation of many tons of stone (thanks, Jean!) until a vehicle could drive over it
A year later, with new grass and some split-rail fencing (thanks, Don!), the pond is really coming along, isn't it?