Filling the pond

The last layer of concrete has been in the pond two weeks, and the weather has been good, so it seems like time to have a go at filling it up. The pond plants are keen to get in there!

Pond plants can’t sit in a bucket their whole lives.

We need to test the integrity of the water seal and the efficacy of the pump.

Long ago we brought retic pipe up to the pond from a spot lower in the garden, near the clothes line. There will be a second pond in this spot eventually, and the pipe went in at the same time as the electrical conduit, which will bring power from the solar panel to the pond pump.

Over that time a creeper has grown over the two conduits so they’re no longer visible:

Look at that blackwood growing right next to the water heater. Cheeky monkey.

We attached a hose connector to the end of the retic pipe so that we could fill the pond from the water tank hose. I’m glad we did, because that pipe is now behind the wood pile. Good thing we can slip the hose through from outside to get them connected.


Now we’re good to go! We turn on the little green tap to allow water to flow into the retic pipe, and check all the connections in the pump box.


There were a couple of drips, but nothing major. The pipe clips were tightened to deal with it, but the drips were still a bit of a worry. The pump box is watertight to keep the rain out, but that also means that any water the drips inside has nowhere to go. Over time it could fill up. So we drilled a hole in the bottom and the little puddle of water that had collected in there drained away.

As predicted, most of the water went through the pump and out the screen at the bottom of the pond. A little bit was able to overcome the pressure of going up the hill, and came out at the top of the waterfall. Just a few drips.

I wasn’t sure that the water tank pump would have the head to get up there, but it’s doing OK. While the pond slowly filled, I went and fetched the solar panel.

It’s been sitting under the house for three years, so a bit of dust had to get cleaned off. The panel had been given to me many years ago when I worked in solar pumping. It was the only panel that had ever been returned under warranty, and no-one could be bothered sending it back to the manufacturer. One of the cells had burnt out, so I removed the cell and bridged the gap with wire. It works a treat, and the panel gets a 42V open circuit voltage.

I cut the back of the panel out and removed the cell. They’re thin, and glued in, so it’s more like scraping away until it’s gone as opposed to how I thought it was going to go (was expecting it to come away with the backing).

I carted the panel up the hill, with the maximum power point tracker, the multimeter and some bits of wire and connectors.


… and it didn’t work. I could run the pump straight off the panel, but the voltage is too high. The pump was ramping up, with a satisfying rush of water through the tubes, and then cutting out, probably under instructions from its little power box. When a cloud came over the sun, the pump actually worked fine for a few moments. In full sun and with the pump at full pelt, the panel’s voltage is 39V. It should be around 24V.

The maximum power point tracker is there to regulate everything and protect all the bits. With 42V on the panel terminals it shows 20V on the battery terminals and -1V on the load terminals. Huh, it looks like it has to have a battery attached to work. Maybe the battery sets the system voltage, who knows. I don’t have a battery, so we’ll have to pack all the electrics up for the day.

I went inside and had some lunch, and when I came out again all the water was gone from the pond! I’d only filled it about 15cm; nevertheless that water should have stayed right where it was. All the valves were closed, and there was no sign of a leak anywhere.

The water level had dropped to the level of the screen at the bottom of the pond, so my guess is that it had gone out that way. I refilled the pond and put a plastic bag over the screen so the water couldn’t get out that way. Bad luck, the level is still falling. Looks like I’m going to have to seal all the pipe exit points with silicone or something. Sigh.


As I travel east with my trusty fork, stick and spade, I find a spot that shall be called Rocksville from now on. Between two immovable boulders was a series of smaller boulders nestled in their beds of clay.

Out you come, kids, to get turned into steps.


Some of these were from earlier diggings, but we got four new nice square-edged blocks out of a spot only a couple of metres across. The roundy ones make good edges for the staircase. Can’t wait for the day that I can walk down this bit of hill after a bit of rain, confident that I’m not going to fall on my bum.

Rocksville, no longer so much so. The moved rocks left nice holes that were filled with good dirt and will get a tree later on.

We’re now officially out of the old sand pit area, and traversing what used to be a fairly treacherous access spot to the bottom of the garden.

The big rock at the left of the picture above is hidden underneath the little step-deck below the slide in the picture below (2 years ago, just after the sand had been taken out of the sand pit and moved up the hill).


That fish pond

Back in October a concerted effort was made to complete the fish pond up the hill. The hole was cleaned out, concrete was mixed, fixings were obtained for the pump.

But I took a break from hard work over November, and then once December came around the orchard level was  underway and the fish pond fell off the priority list again.

It had filled up with a bit of detritus over the intervening months, so that had to be cleaned out.


The bidgee-widgee is in full swing and had to be cut back, along with the Westringia on the left. Also pointy grasses. Much picking of seeds from one’s shirt, hat and hair was undertaken.


That’s better, now we can see what we’re doing.

All that is required is a rendering of brown concrete so that it looks a bit nicer. We used builder’s oxide to colour the concrete and a 4:1 sand:cement mix.

The brown oxide has a distinct purple tinge that we hope goes away as it dries. It’s probably not a biggie anyway, since there’ll be plants and rocks and dirt and pond scum covering most of it.

It only took a couple of hours in the end. We’ll wait a couple of weeks for it to properly dry out, then throw some dirt and rocks in there, and put plants on the ledge (in pots, to keep the soil together).

Not letting up

The more epic the vision, the harder it is to keep going and going and going.

To make the orchard level one continuous strip, the treated pine forming the old trampoline base needs to be taken out. We wanted to wheelbarrow some dirt from the west end to the east end, and the base was making a step we didn’t want to go over, so the treated pine on that side came out. Most of it just unbolts, but the posts are cemented in.

Can’t be bothered navigating the barrow over this one!

I was tempted to leave the cemented end there and just cut off the post, but thought I’d have a go at getting it all out. What do you know, they do come out.


With more dirt coming in, this section will soon be nice and neat, so it’s time for that self-seeded mountain ash to come out, too.


That just leaves the fruit trees and the baby blackwood (behind the blue tarp). This section is pretty much ready to receive mulch.

At the other end of the level, dirt is coming out of the pathway to be backfilled later with mulch.

Big pile of dirt to be moved to the other end of the level

This trench will catch the rain and provide plenty of water for the mulch to break down and produce lots of free nutrients.


Finding it hard to remember what the old sand pit even looked like!

Weed tea barrel

So weed tea is a thing. Our little plot makes weeds at an astonishing rate, and something to break up the weeds and get them composting faster is a good thing. Weed tea gets rid of hard-to-kill weeds like runner grasses and creates a liquid fertiliser. It’s made by steeping weeds in water for a period of weeks. There’s really just one rule: keep the tea aerated, to suppress anaerobic bacteria (bad) and encourage aerobic bacteria (good).

Organic gardener has a fairly detailed discussion about it.

A lot of the weed tea guides online start with a bucket. I have to laugh. A bucket wouldn’t even begin to handle the number of weeds we have, so I’ve gone for the wine barrel. It’s something I can stick in the garden and not feel like it’s contributing to ugly.

There is a very small leak just to the left of the bung hole, which is probably why this barrel was retired in such good nick.

This one’s a proper French job obtained from a Yarra Valley winery, with a fancy plaque on it and all.

I wanted to make a lid in the top for filling with weeds and water, and a tap out the side to extract the tea. I started out cutting a round lid hole, then discovered the jigsaw doesn’t do round so well, so reverted to a rectangle.

The barrel isn’t stained inside, so probably chardonnay. I may have stuck my head in there a few times unnecessarily.

I screwed some waste blocks of wood under the corners to provide something for the lid to sit on, and screwed another waste piece of wood to the underside of the lid to keep the bits together. There were nails in there, but it wasn’t very solid. Drilled a couple of holes and knotted a rope in to make a handle.


The top isn’t watertight, and I didn’t want rain pooling on there anyway, so there’s a hole in the top to let the rain run into the barrel and another at the side near the top to provide an overflow exit point.

A trip to the hardware yielded some ag fittings that would plug the bung hole in the side and allow a 13mm tap to be fitted. The smaller the tap the cheaper it is, and I have a thought to attach the whole thing to a bit of retic pipe later if it works out that way.

As usual, a spot had to be made on the hillside and some aggregate carted over to serve as a sound base.

It’s positioned over by Dave’s fence, just below the chicken run and just above the orchard level. All going well we’ll reticulate the tea onto the fruit trees. We’ll have to monitor it for smell and move it if it starts to pong.

That plant on the ground there is blue periwinkle, which is an invasive waterway weed around here, so I got to pop what I dug out straight into the barrel. Spent another half an hour collecting some more weeds and particularly a pile of grass that was made while cleaning up the pear tree circle.

Die grass die

There it is, all done. There are a few drips from the tap bits (the bung hole is 45mm across and it has to step down from 1¼” to 1″ to ¾” to 13mm), but it’s nothing major and experience says that they self-seal over time anyway.

This will need to be aerated daily for a couple of weeks: I’ll need to make a good spot to stand next to it and provide a tool for the stirring nearby so the process isn’t stymied by laziness (or busy-ness elsewhere).