Spring Box Rebuild

 By William Thomas Ervin

Natural Spring

Water from the earth.


little by little



What’s been happening on the farm?

“The journey of 10,000 miles starts with the first step, even if it’s in the wrong direction!”



   Quite a lot actually, we are finding that starting a farm, basically from scratch, is a real challenge. The ability to multi-task, problem-solve, and simply use what the land and day give you, are the keys to slow and steady progress towards our goals. I find this to be the most basic formula for any goal one might have in life.

   Sometimes, we over complicate things to make them seem unachievable and give ourselves a perfectly reasonable excuse not to try.  Although I am a big fan of reasonable and practical thinking, this type of reasoning will not take you from ordinary to the extraordinary places in your life.  The journey of 10,000 miles starts with the first step,  even if it’s in the wrong direction!

   But hey, what has been happening on the farm?

   December has been a great month to finally get started on some projects that are vitally important to the life of a farm, water sources, and fencing.  Let me tell you, this has been a reinvigorating month for me, after spending the last couple months decompressing from the move, establishing a base camp for our family, and adjusting to our new environment with it’s daily living conditions, I was ready to see some real progress.

   After spending a few days cutting trees and brush to access the spring somewhat comfortably, and cleaning up the rats nest of downed barbed wire fence mixed with trash from previous unsuccessful attempts to harvest water from the area, with out digging out the old box; it was finally time to get to work on the spring box, which had completely silted in.  Upon further investigation of the remnants of broken pipe and trash, as well as a conversation with the elderly gentleman who built the spring box in 1977 and did a very good job I might add,  I discovered that the main reason the spring box was silting in, was that a couple of bored country kids had taken the concrete cap off and busted it up, 

   Despite the wreckage,  I was excited to start digging out the old spring box and start  really working on it because it will be the life blood of our reemerging farm.  The days that followed were filled with observation, discovery, problem solving, and hard work!  Oh yeah, and numerous trips down and up the nearly 45 degree angle hill, because contrary to the laws of gravity, here….what goes down must come up. 

   When you are working down in a holler (or valley) at the end of the day you have to muster up enough strength and energy to get back to the top!  What a great metaphor for life.   I have to admit that each trip up was exhausting, but with every trip, it became a little easier to pull my tired body back up.  I know the peace that I find down there working on the spring and hanging out with our kids is worth every step!

    So, you may be asking yourself, ‘what is a spring box?’ 

   A spring box is simply a dam built at the head of a spring to collect water and get it into a pipe which feeds into a  larger tank, to be re-distributed where the water is needed.  As far as rebuilding the damaged box, my first task was unearthing  the box inside  and out.  This was the most tedious part of the process, digging through clay packed rocks with a Maddox, shovel, and eventually my bare hands. 

   Once the water started collecting inside the box, the excitement started to build.  A friend compared the feeling of working on a live spring to having “gold fever,” and let me tell you, that is  100% accurate.  Even with freezing cold fingertips, rubbed raw from clearing the sediment and sand, you just want to keep digging!  Once the box was cleaned up, it was time to start to assess the damage and observe where it was leaking.  One of the main problems, besides it being silted in,  was that the old galvanized pipe was plugged.  Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I would need  to cut the pipe, drive it out, and replace it with a new PVC pipe.  After several more cleanings, it was  time to build some forms and pour concrete in them to replace the broken and missing pieces of block.  At that time, I took the opportunity to add an overflow pipe, which is recommended,  in case rain increases the flow of incoming water, to reduce water pressure on the box.  

   With the structure of the box restored, after I removed the concrete forms, I was able to apply hydraulic cement to the inside corners to create a rounded cove.  I also applied the hydraulic cement to the vertical surface, which helps create a waterproof seal inside the box.  With the weather changing, I decided to let the cement cure for a  couple days before I finished  the PVC intake pipe and added washed gravel to collect any sediment that might collect inside.  This step may be unnecessary on this particular spring, because it comes straight out of a fold of solid rock, but the gravel will also support the new concrete cap. 

   Even though this project is not quite finished yet, I am feeling much more confident about the spring production, (about 30 gallons of water per hour) and it’s ability to meet our needs on the farm.  I know 30 gallons per hour may not sound like much, but hey, we have at least two more springs to develop and a couple of ponds that need reworked!  That being said, I need to set this new found writing career on the back burner and get back to work.