More people seem to be talking about ponds leaking on their farm than normal. That seems odd in a year with as much rain as fell this year in most places. Yet the subject has surfaced several times during the year in various parts of the state.
We'll look at the scientific side of what may be happening later. For now, here's what old-timers say about making ponds hold water. Whether they're wives' tales or they work, you will have to decide.
Archie Sauerheber in Harrison County has several small farm ponds on his rolling property. He says some of them hold water, while some don't hold it so well. He believes soil properties have a lot to do with it.
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His older soils are underlain with clay, sometimes red clay with a high clay content. While it would seem like that would be ideal for holding water in a pond, he notes that it doesn't always work. Some ponds with this type of soil underneath still leak and don't hold water as well as you might think, he observes.
Old timers say the best remedy to get ponds to hold water, at least in that type of soil, was to buy a couple of old sows and let them root up the bottom of the pond before water fills in. Another alternative that some suggest is letting cattle tramp around in the bottom of the pond after it is constructed. The idea in either case, Sauerheber says, or so the story goes, is that once the soil is churned up and then packed, it is better at holding water than if it is undisturbed.
Whether these methods really work or not remains to be seen. If you have a pond where this was done and it holds water, you probably think it works. Stay tuned for more information on why ponds leak and what can be done about it.