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Now I should be writing about more of this spring's plantings and other work projects that have already been finalized ... BUT ... the 800 lb. gorilla in the room beckons a mention.  Allow me to digress a little first.

The amount of work that has been going on at Red Hand has attracted the attention of many of the locals.  To paraphrase a Miranda Lambert song "everybody's famous in a small town".  

Well it doesn't get much smaller than "our" town.  Plainfield is so small that we have to use West Winfield as our address because many maps and GPS systems can't locate us.

So we've become a "small town" topic of conversation up these ways.  At least the Ranch has.  And for all the right reasons.  Local farms and neighbors appreciate that we are up on the property almost every weekend working and sweating to improve the fields and water drainage.  With an eye for the wildlife and the aesthetics of nature, we've had almost a 1/2 dozen neighbors and/or friends in the past few weeks tell us the land is becoming a "showcase".  Their word, not ours!  

So it was not surprising that a local logger/excavator stopped by 3 weeks ago to introduce himself and offer his services.  Ah the price for fame, hahaha.  

When we first purchased the farm, the US Dept. of Agriculture had an agent come out with all kinds of support for us.  Topo maps, soil maps, water ways, planting recommendation etc.  Our rep was Janine Harter.  She absolutely loved the land and complimented Marian and I for our foresight in acquiring it.  Very well prepared, I was able to glean a ton of information from Janine concerning our future plans.  

We both could see in our mind's eye what would transform the farm into a truly gorgeous piece of land ... a pond.  When I brought up the subject, she immediately became enthused.  In fact,  Janine volunteered the exact location that I had in mind.  Upon further discussion she offered to have the agency build it!!!  All I needed to do was place it in the wetlands protection program and they would put it in.  One major problem.  Maximum depth of 5-6 feet.  The reasoning was waterfowl migration and wetland flora.  I was willing to share costs if I could have 1/2 at that depth and the rest at over 10' deep to hold bass.  She said the USDA would balk and the Army Corps of Engineers might even give us some trouble because it is already wetland designated.  So the idea of a pond was put into moth balls, mainly because I didn't want a duck swamp.

Enter Jake Hilts.  An ambitious young man, Jake had logged the property for the previous owner years ago.  Now he was stopping by to see if he could establish a relationship with me for future work.

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The conversation jumped from logging to constructing a pond.  He also could see the potential for a pond in the exact same location Janine and I arrived at.  So when he offered me a price too good to pass up ... and with an "in" at the Army Corps ... we decided to go for it. 

The two pictures show the location of the pond highlighted in blue.  The area has some standing water ( a good thing for the pond, bad thing for construction) and lies partially in the wetlands (bad thing for getting it past the Army Corps of Engineers).  Well the Army Corps approved it and the construction is now underway.  Because the Army Corps allowed us, with minor restrictions, we've more than doubled it in size and increased the depth.  In typical O'Neill fashion, we now have a small lake being built.  Jake is using it as a showcase for his work and expanded it with our approval for a reasonable price increase.  Win-win for both of us.  Depth will be 14'-16' at the deepest, plenty for bass and even trout because of the cold, clear, spring-fed water.  

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The pond will be dug in front of the hedgerow. It will now extend past the tan colored cattails to the right and left of the picture. A depth of over 14' will allow a healthy fishery and some nice summer swimming.



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