Erosion Control Structure (September 2013)

When we first bought the original 10 acres (PlayHaven West), we knew that there were erosion issues. There is a ditch that is several feet deep that starts directly below the sewage lagoon of the neighbor to the west. At the time, we consulted the Department of Health for Lafayette County and they determined that the sewage lagoon leaked and the neighbor was required to fix their lagoon. (They were not happy about that; but they did it.) Since then we have no longer seen questionable waste on the acreage and we have been filling the ditch with old hay and branches to reduce the rest of the run-off that makes its way into the ditch. The hubby also put a couple of berms across the ditch so he can drive the tractor to the south end of the acreage. This seems to have helped some.

When we purchased the house and 10-acres adjucent (PlayHaven East), we also knew that there were erosion issues on it. The former owner put two stock ponds in the southern portion of the acreage, but they do not prevent much of the run-off from the south end of PlayHaven West. The previous owner put in large chunks of concrete as 'rip-rap' where the erosion was worst.

We have always intended to put a large pond across the two properties to capture as much run-off as possible and provide water for our animals. This will reduce much of the erosion issues. To that end, last fall (2012) I contacted the NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) in Missouri asking what they can do to help us with this issue.

My initial question was about putting in a pond and I was told they don't put in ponds... but they can help with Erosion Control Structures (translation: pond). The first step was to do a visual inspection of our land and see if we would qualify for assistance.

In May 2013 they were able to fit us in... Scott and Scott came out to walk the area and agreed that there is substantial erosion. Not enough to justify the NRCS helping to finance the erosion control structure, but enough for them to do a survey and provide us with detailed drawings/plans for us to use when hiring someone to build it.

As with most agencies, they are very busy and swamped with requests for assistance. So it was no surprise to us that it took several months for them to fit us in again for a survey.

Scott and his helper (lovely girl, can't recall her name, agh) came out with GPS-style survey equipment. Wow, no more stakes, lines and measuring tapes.

They started by making a base line at the gate on the fence the divides PlayHaven East north to south. The north edge of the pond will be near that fence.

Then they walked around taking elevation readings and placing bright pink flags at each location. They walked the perimeter and also the center of the anticipated location for the pond (sorry: erosion control structure).
It took all of maybe half an hour. Scott will take the information and create an elevation plan which he will provide to us for comment and changes. Between us, we will come up with a final plan and he will create drawings etc. for us to use with the contractor we choose when we can afford to put in the pond/erosion control structure.

We appreciate the assistance!

I don't understand why so many of the rural folk I have met complain about the NRCS. They seem to think the organization is there to give them grief; but I have only found them to be helpful and informative.

Thanks NRCS!!

UPDATE (April 2015): In February 2015, I met with the NRCS staff about applying for a grant to improve Conservation aspects of the farm. While I was there they showed me the paperwork that resulted from the survey. I can't share it with you because I don't get a copy of it until I find someone to do the construction of the erosion control structure. The NRCS provides it directly to the contractor so they can give me an estimate. Unfortunately, I could not understand most of what the paperwork said... so I don't know if the results of the survey are what I want to do. I guess I'll just have to find a contractor and see what the estimate comes to to find out.

Overwinter Cattle Setup (April 2015)

Since any water that is not artificially heated will freeze (in the trough and in the hose), it is necessary to make a winter water location that the cattle can get to that is also close to an electricity source.

The hubby puts the trough by the gate between the east and west pastures. He creates an 'no cow zone' on the water side of the gate using electric polywire so that we can open the gate and go into the area while keeping the cattle out of it and away from the electric stuff. It is nice to not have to worry about cows rushing you as you go through the gate... they stay on their side of the electric polywire.

The reason we put the gate between the pastures where it is in the first place has to do with the close proximity to the field hydrant and the garage (with electricity). It really does help to pre-plan when setting up your farm.

In the winter of 2013/2014 our field hydrant decided to stop working. Luckily it was closer to Spring than not and we only had to carry water from the house to the chickens for a few weeks. The stop-gap for the cattle was to use the hose from the field hydrant on the northwest corner of the west pasture (about 350 feet); which meant clearing the hose each time to avoid ice freezing inside it. (It was a pain in the tookus.)

The irritating thing about this is that the hubby had replaced the old field hydrant in the fall to keep this from happening. Once the ground thawed, he dug out the hydrant and determined that the problem was NOT in the pipe, but in the hydrant itself. He contacted the manufacturer of the new field hydrant and they were aware of the problem. They sent replacement parts and he got it fixed in a jiffy. We had NO problems with it during the winter of 2014/2015 (YIPPEE!).

The photo at left shows the 2013/2014 setup.

Last year, the heavy duty outdoor extension cord came through the north (meaning closest) window which let snow drift into the garage. This year, he took advantage of the hole under the west side at the north end created by rabbits. It worked quite well. Thank you, rabbits!

A second outdoor extension cord with a 3-plug end meets the long one that plugs in inside the garage and we used a pig-tail post to hold them up off the ground (looping the cord through and around the pig-tail). We need the 3-plug end because in addition to the water heater, the inverter for the polywire is also plugged into it. During the winter, we can't rely on batteries because of the cold. The inverter uses a transformer which is not rated for outdoor exposure, so we concocted a "house" for it using a section of large diameter pipe (only about 6 inches long) covered by a plastic "bag" that is cable tied on both sides of the pipe around the cords. This worked really well. When we needed to unplug the polywire, we simply did so where the two (2) extension cords met since we never needed it unplugged long enough for the water to get cold enough to freeze.

Last year, the water heater was rated at 1000W and was really more than we needed for the 100 gallon trough we use.

We removed the hose and auto stop feature soon afater taking this photo. It left water in the hose which froze solid.

The photo at left shows the 2014/2015 setup.

This year, our friend Eric Butler was kind enough to spray closed cell foam on the outside of one of our 100 gallon troughs (he is the guy who did the insulation on the house). Between the insulation around the trough and the 2 inch closed cell foam board that the hubby set the trough on, there was even LESS need for that big water heater. So the hubby found a 500W version that worked just fine (and saved us some money on electricity). He had planned to put an insulated cover over half of the trough (the polywire goes over the trough to keep the cattle away from the electric plug and heater, so the cattle don't surround the trough and basically take turns drinking from one end), but didn't quite get around to it. We think we can go to a 250V water heater when we put a partial cover on the trough next year... I'll let you know how that goes.

Field Hydrant Upgrade (June 2016)

Once again, water problems on the farm. I am really tired of the field hydrant breaking down (and the hubby even more so since he does the digging and replacing). First we replaced it thinking it was just old, then repaired the new one (at least twice) before putting the old one back in after repairing it. Obviously, the repair kits aren't worth the effort.

This time I contacted Ferguson in Independence (where we purchased our sump pump last time, very happy with both the product and the company) to find out if there is another type of field hydrant that can handle the amount of use we give it. The answer is basically... they are all the same design; BUT, there are varying grades of quality and duty use.

I purchased a ProFlo PFXAF7503. It stands 34 inches above ground and we needed a 3-ft bury depth. It's a pricey piece of hardware, but it has a warranty (1 year) and now that it is installed, I can definitely tell the difference. That is to say, it's much sturdier than the old ones.

The hubby is getting quite proficient at digging out the hole to work on this thing. He puts tarps down to store the dirt and gravel on while working in the hole so it's easier for him to shovel that back in after he finishes. He uses twine attached around the pipe of the hydrant and secured to two t-posts making a shallow "V" with the t-posts several feet beyond the hole. This keeps the pipe from falling over while digging.

The previous owner used a length of wood buried with the pipe to secure it, but the pipe always moved. So, the hubby used a metal t-post and used metal cinch rings to attach them to each other; no movement now!

Field Hydrant Replaced and Moved (February 2021)

The Problem and the Plan

We became complacent about the reliability of getting water outside the house during the winter... hard to believe that it has been five (5) years without having to dig up the field hydrant. Alas, all good things must come to an end and so it was that at the end of a week-long arctic blast of weather (that stretched even down into Texas with negative temps) the hubby used the field hydrant and instead of hearing a gurgle and then silence, he heard the hiss of water escaping below ground. (This was Thursday, the 18th.)

He assumed that the parts inside of the hydrant had frozen and broken (which was the best case scenario because it meant not having to dig up the hydrant to repair it). Unfortunately, stores were already closed for the night and getting the replacement parts had to wait until Friday and so we resigned ourselves to the water leaking for a day. Then, it turned out that the local hardware store did not have parts for the brand and type of hydrant and by the time we found THAT out, Ferguson (where we purchased the hydrant) was closed for the weekend.

Then, on Friday, the air temperature made it above freezing and stayed that way (during the days) through the weekend and beyond. On Saturday, the escaping water had made its way to the surface which proved that the ground around the hydrant was no longer frozen and the leak was also less constrained. We could see it bubbling up in a larger quantity than we had expected which also told us that the problem was less likely to be the guts of the hydrant and more likely to be that the fitting or pipe had broken where it joins the hydrant. This would require digging out the field hydrant to figure out what had happened.

The ground was SO saturated, that the hubby was able to pull out the split rail fence post just to the north of it BY HAND. You can see the remaining 2 posts in the photo at right.

The large flat stone in the image has been moved away from it's usual spot in front of the hydrant.

Knowing that the water would continue to gurgle up and find the path of least resistance to lower ground, the hubby created a channel for it to follow that leads to the culvert (going under our driveway) to the rain garden/wild area pond.

Even with the channel, we ended up with a mini-pond before it continued on the other side of the fence.

The culvert is located where the truck is in this image.

Beyond the cost of the water, the envrionmentalist in me cringed at the wastage. We discussed turning the water off at the meter and turning it back on when we needed to use the bathroom and such and then turn it off again, but I was afraid that we could damage the new water meter that had been installed... or worse. So, we resigned ourselves to a HIGH water bill and adding water to the rain garden pond.

Over the weekend we discussed whether the hubby would work on digging the pit himself or if we should hire a plumber. Part of the discussion revolved around the issue of where the hydrant was located (being just a couple feet north of the garage and always in the shade) and the fact that the ground was completely saturated and how difficult it is to dig while the water ponds in the hole. The hubby didn't really want to have to do the digging and I certainly understood that, so we opted to hire the job out. (FYI, this is pretty pricey and we are grateful to have had a good year so we could afford to make this choice.)

Since we were hiring the job out, there was no reason why we couldn't have them install the new hydrant in a different location along that pipe. The benefits would be several:

  • moving the hydrant further to the north would take it further away from the building and allow the sun to strike it for several hours a day (at least).
  • the ground would not be as saturated as the current location.
  • maybe we would be lucky and could locate the "T" where the pipe branched off to the house so we could add ball valve shut-offs to both branches (one to the house and one to the new field hydrant).
    (Yes, there is a shut-off where the water enters the house. We have had several occurrences over the years when a break in the main or some other event on the other side of the meter has sent air through the pipes drying out the mineral build up on the interior of the 300+ feet of pipe from the meter to the house. As soon as the water flows again, all that sediment is pushed into the filter at the shut-off to the house and even into the pipes inside the house to clog up the appliances, faucets, etc. It is an expensive problem to fix (replacing the filter and or internal fixtures) and a tedious process of flushing out the sediment from the exterior pipe side of the filter.
    If we had an external shut off near the field hydrant, we could flush the primary pipe without pushing all that sediment to the house. It would be just the pipe sediment between the exterior shut off and the house filter that would need to be dealt with. Anyway, that was the basis of the logic for an exterior shut off for the house.)
  • even if they didn't locate the "T", we could add a shut-off valve specifically for the hydrant.

By Monday morning, we had a game plan and (very gratefully) it worked really well. My first call was to the Public Water District (PWD) office as soon as they were open to report that we had a leak and

  1. ask about whether we could turn the water on and off at the meter ourselves .... NO, please don't! was the emphatic answer. They could send someone out to turn it off right away BUT (since we didn't have anyone to fix it yet) that would leave us without water entirely until the problem was fixed.
  2. ask if they could come out and mark where the pipe is .... No, once again. The reason why the PWD people can't mark the water line past their meter is because they are not responsible for that length of pipe. If our meter had been ON THE HOUSE, the answer would have been different. Since the previous owner installed the pipe from the meter to the field hydrant and the house, the PWD has absolutely no idea where they are. (Standard procedures for laying pvc pipe includes a metallic tape so the pipe path can be detected using a metal detector. Sadly, that procedure was NOT followed by the previous owner.)
  3. ask for recommendations of plumbers in our area .... No, sorry. They don't keep a list of plumbers, BUT they said to call the plumbing supply company in town who "probably" has a list.

Oh, and by the way, I was told: letting the pipe leak could cause it to BURST and that would be a BIG problem. As if I wasn't worried enough. BUT, my thoughts on that are that the fact that the leaking water is flowing to the surface and away means that there isn't undue pressure on the pipe, which is how I calmed myself. And I turned out to be correct. Phew.

After the PWD call, I left a message for with the company that put in the drainage system around the garage asking for a recommendation. Followed by a call to the plumbing supply company where I actually spoke to a person and they were happy to give me a couple of names. The second of which was the company that put in our garage drainage system, LOL.

Then came calls to neighboring farmers for recommendations. All of whom where SO understanding and condoling and also gave me names of people/businesses with whom they have worked.

I left messages with all the plumbers that had been recommended to me, save one. The first name from the plumbing supply company was Josh Goodman and HE ANSWERED HIS PHONE. Did you fall off your chair? I practically did. Not ONLY did he answer his phone, he made time to come out on his lunch hour to see what we needed done. AND HE SHOWED UP.

I don't know what your experiences are with contractors and construction companies, but it is amazing how many don't bother to return phone calls or show up for appointments. It really is sad.

Anyway, Josh came over as promised, gave us a quote, AND was able to fit us into his schedule THE NEXT DAY (that being Tuesday afternoon).

(I then left additional messages with the other plumbers to let them know they didn't need to return my call.)

Digging and Installation

The difference between a single person hand digging a three (3) to four (4) foot deep hole and a couple of people using a Bobcat digger and hand tools is PRICELESS.

They arrived just before 1:00 pm and (including a trip to the plumbing supply company for everything they needed) were done by 4:00 pm the same day.

In case you haven't read the rest of the website, I am ENTHRALLED by construction and especially digging in the dirt with heavy equipment. Luckily, Josh and Matt were not put off having me hang around, taking pictures (with their permission, of course), and chatting/gushing about their "toys".

The first thing they did was shut off the water at the meter (and the hubby shut off the water at the house).

Where is the new location for the hydrant?

Well, the assumption (dangerous things, assumptions) was that since the field hydrant was LITERALLY in line sight with the meter that the underground pipe was also laid in a straight line from the meter to the field hydrant and that the "T" to the house would be in line with the front edge of the house.

SO, the new location WAS going to be where the bobcat is in the photo at right, but since most of the time we find things to be NOT as expected, I moved it further south to where the tip of the shade is from the garage... a difference of about 12 feet.

This is because it is better to be BEYOND where the "T" for the house comes off the pipe than BEFORE it (leaving the house cut off from the meter).

The two (2) images above show the digger starting the excavation. We were pretty sure it was safe to assume at least a three (3) foot depth and that the line was located directly north of the hydrant in line sight of the meter.

Every so often, they probed (they called that tool "the poker") to test for the pipe even before they got to the three (3) foot depth. Better to be safe than sorry.

I was pleased to see how deep the top soil is in this area... about 24 inches. It was also interesting to see the roots from the Osage Orange tree 50 feet to the west. (They are the bright orangey sticks in the image at left.)


When they didn't find anything at three (3) feet, it was apparent (once again) that the installation of the pipe would be joining the list of things done out-of-the-ordinary on the farm.

Both guys started probing with shovels along the sides and bottom of the excavation and it appeared that the soil was less compacted on the west edge. They did take the pit down another foot at the original location and found nothing.

The photo at left shows the water seeping into the grooves from the digger "claws" and that the digger has been moved to the west to expand the width of the pit.

And viola! At the three (3) foot depth (or just shy of it actually), the claws caught the pipe and both broke it and pulled it from the hydrant.

I've put a circle around the broken pipe in the photo at left.

Strictly speaking, the claws should have slid along the pipe, but it was not travelling directly north from the hydrant causing the claw to catch on it as it angled off to the west.

Gratefully, this ripping and pulling did not cause problems because there was excess pipe to sacrifice.

In the image at right, you see Josh carefully moving dirt from around the pipe to find an appropriate place to cut it.

The shape of the broken end is from being pulled by the digger and is not indicative of the lay of the pipe between the straight portion and the hydrant.

Why is the pipe making a big bend to the west when the meter is directly north? Your guess is as good as mine. BUT, it did make us wonder if the loop was the main pipe going to the HOUSE and that the "T" came off it to go to the field hydrant. If this were the case, we would have just messed up the source of water for the house.

The only way to know for sure was to finish the job and pray that there would be water arriving at the house when we turned the water back on. (Fingers and toes crossed!)

Here you see the reciprocating saw being used to cut the pvc pipe.

The water you see is coming from the pipe.

This is tricky since the pipe is not secured and vibrates with the saw. It took both guys holding the pipe to keep it stable while cutting.

We finally were able to determine that this is a 1" pvc pipe. Knowing this was essential for purchasing the correct plumbing components; which is why they had not brought parts with them and had to go to the supplier to get them at this point.

Before they left, the guys decided to pull up the field hydrant so they would be able to

  1. see what caused the problem, and
  2. reuse any good parts.

In the four (4) photos at left, you see the chain being wrapped around the hydrant and t-post it is cinched to close to the ground.

Then the chain is slung over the "hand" of the digger so it is kept from sliding off by being between the claws.

Once that end of the chain is secured (forming a loop) the hand is lifted straight up pulling the hydrant up as well.

The last image shows that the hydrant head has turned 180 degrees and is swinging free.

This allowed the hydrant to be retrieved, unwrapped and set aside while the digger was lowered and the chain removed from it as well.

An inspection of the assembly showed that the fitting that attached the hydrant to the pipe had failed.

This did not come as a suprise, because it was the original fitting that was installed with the pipe.

Each field hydrant had been installed into that fitting rather than damage the connection between the fitting and the pipe. We assume that made the fitting at least 15 years old. Which, come to find out, is about the life-span of that particular grade of fitting.

We probably could have installed the same hydrant in the new location, but Josh wasn't familiar with the brand and wanted to install one that he knows to be reliable. We were fine with that.

They asked if we wanted them to dispose of the "old" one and the answer was no. We accumulate our discarded metal items and once we have a trailer full, we take them to the scrap metal yard to recycle it (and that gets us a little cash as well).


The trip to the plumbing supply place took less time than I expected and soon the guys were back prepping for the installation.

Above you see two (2) images of a 5-gallon bucket being adapted to house the pipe/fitting/hydrant by using the reciprocating saw to cut a pie wedge out of the bottom and then breaking that piece off at the tip. This hole is where the water pipe come in to be attached to the fitting and hydrant. Using the bucket as a barrier between the dirt and the fitting keeps soil from interferring with and damaging the connections.



The images above show how water pools in an available hole and this was only about 45 minutes. They used the digger hand to dip water out of the pit and pour it over to the west where the pile of dirt and the channel were. If you look closely at the image on the left, you can see the water dripping from the claws (the sun is shining on the drips making them brighter than the dirt).

In the image above right, you can just see the pipe at the top above the water and to the left of the bright patch of dirt. There is about 18 inches of water in that pit.


The images at left and below show the plumbing components (except for the bucket we saw above).

  • Brass fitting to connect the 3/4-inch metal hydrant to the 1-inch pvc pipe.
  • Merrill brand "Any Flow" Frost Proof Yard Hydrant.
  • 1-inch ball valve shut-off for pvc pipe.
  • Tube and cap access for the shut-off valve.
  • Solvents and glues for pvc connecting.
The image at left shows the ball valve connected to the newly cleaned pipe (starting with clean components is VERY important).
At right, you see the hydrant/fitting with a section of pvc pipe already connected placed into the bucket with the pipe going through the hole toward the ball valve.
A second image of the valve/pipe/bucket from a different angle just before it is cleaned off to make the connection using the pvc glue.

Once the pvc pipe sections are glued together and the ball valve tested, the hydrant is ready to be secured and for that the guys used the t-post and clamps from the original hydrant. Which is what the guy in the image is pointing out the location of for someone to retrieve (I got that honor, LOL).

And just how are they going to do that securing with a solid bottom bucket? You may be asking....

The hand of the digger can exert a great deal of pressure.

The hydrant is leaned (without messing up any of the pipe seals) out of the way while the tpost is "gently" pushed through the bottom of the bucket.

It takes a great deal of trust and care between team members to do this maneuver.

At this point, Josh figured out how long the green tube (access to the shut-off valve) needed to be and cut it to size. Then he cut two (2) blocks opposite each other so it would fit over the main pipe and so that the shut-off valve is surrounded by the tube.

While Josh worked on the shut-off access tube, Matt leveled the tpost and attached the hydrant to it with metal cinch clamps.

All they needed at this point was some gravel to put in the bucket to surround and cover the connections (additional protection from soil). Gratefully, I had enough left over pea gravel from a previous project that they were able to use. (See the image below.)

And NOW it was time to turn on the water at the meter and the house and find out if we had water in both places.

We started with the meter and the house turned off and flushed what little dirt/debris had made its way into the pipe.
Success at the field hydrant.

Then we turned on the water to the house and opened the faucet to the laundry room sink... drum roll, please...
WOO HOO! We have water in the house! (And since it took only 3 hours, there was no problem with sediment. Phew!)

All that was left to do was refill the pit WHILE keeping the hydrant and access tube in the correction positions.

Once again, trust between team members is essential. Here are a few images of Matt moving from one side to the other as Josh place load after load into the pit.

There was still quite a bit of water in that original part of the pit (where they had taken it down to a four (4) foot depth searching for the pipe). It was kind of fun watching the dirt being put into that area and every so often Josh used the hand of the digger to squish the dirt into the water. It is a good thing that Matt was wearing his wellies (LOL). They were very caked in mud by the time the installation was finished.

All filled in. This is five (5) days later and the ground is starting to dry out.

Having been through the whole digging out dirt and putting it back in thing... we understand that it is best to let the dirt settle in its own time. We don't want to create air pockets around the pipe et al.

Later this Spring, we'll get the rakes out and smooth out the area a bit so I can decide on things like stepping stones, garden additions, hose storage, etc.

You can see in these images that heavy equipment does disturb the surrounding area just by being driven over it. This is one of the prices of using heavy equipment. It isn't the end of the world.


Below are a couple of close-ups from opposite sides. As a photographer, I am still fascinated at how the light and shadows can make the same subject and location look SO different.




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