Our Natural Swimming Pond Build: Sand, Cement, Water and one very irate woman!

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Well, well, well – three holes in the ground. (OK – so it’s an old and tired joke).  Actually, we just have one very big hole in our yard, with a factory second fibreglass pool in it.  See?

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that my dream is to give my girls a natural swimming pond. So far, everything imaginable has tried to turn that dream into a nightmare. Hubby’s got a lot to answer for and the big “D” word has crossed my mind more than a few times over the last few weeks. My patience and tolerance ran out at about the same time as our (very meagre) budget was blown! Things are not getting any better now that the pool shell is ‘in’ the ground…

The latest problem with the project
The latest problem with the project

Let’s play ‘Spot the Fault’…
Let me explain.  Our “friend” the expert, ‘done lots of holes for pools’ earth-mover, (the one without the ‘mate’s rates’) made total hash of the hole.  The pool should fit snuggly in the hole with about a 150mm (six inch) gap all the way around that is to be back filled with a sand and cement mix.  It should stick out of the ground by about 100mm (four inches). We’ve ordered – and budgeted, for this amount of sand and cement.

Is that what we have?  Well, not exactly! What we have is the Rift Valley in our backyard! The pool shell is in and there’s still room for an adult to easily walk the entire way around the pool – and I don’t mean at ground level! To compound the problem, the hole has been dug without any allowance for the natural fall of the land, so it sticks up WAY more than 100mm at the shallow end of the pool. In fact, we estimate that it’s about five times that!

I am one furious woman.  I suggest hubby rings excavator “friend” to come and see the mess he’s made.  Hubby and I have (another) serious argument.  We still owe ‘friend’ some money from the job and have the cash ready for him.  Surprisingly, I don’t want to pay him.  In fact, I am so angry, I want him to pay US since it’s going to cost a lot to fix up his work and this is already a “no budget” project.

He comes later that morning to collect some machinery he has left on our property. And of course, he’s looking for the balance of the money for the job.  I can’t bare to be near him.  He and hubby chat.  I’m waiting for hubby to go for the jugular.  Instead, he hands over OUR money on a promise that the excavator friend will “make good”.  Hubby reckons that since we live in a small town sometimes you have to suck things up rather than become the local gossip.  Mmmmm… do you think that improved my temperament or our bank balance?

Nonetheless I go about organising more sand and cement.  Who knows how much we’re actually going to need, but there is simply no other way to solve this problem.

It’s about the water…
I also have to organise a tanker of water.  It’s the first load of water we have ever had to buy, despite living with no town water for nearly five years.  The lack of rain while we were digging a hole and getting things in place was awesome, but we now have a serious problem.  Our household has swelled from five to nine with other friends also coming and going.  Our house water has depleted rapidly but we need 30,000 litres of water to fill the pool – not to mention the reed bed.  No rain is forecast for the foreseeable future. I discover that water is not cheap… especially when it is delivered by tanker!

But the pool has to be filled simultaneously as the hole is being back filled.  Basically the water pushing outwards and the sand and cement pushing inwards stops anything from collapsing.  The weight of the water will also make the pool sink slightly lower.  It is not a process to be rushed as you don’t want “air pockets” in the sand and cement.

We start mixing and barrowing and shovelling and compacting.  The pool starts filling. Wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow gets poured in around the pool.  We are literally watching money going down a hole.

We run out of sand and cement very quickly. The hole is insatiable. We’ve used every grain and can’t see much difference. I order more sand and another 50 bags of cement.  Hubby rings the excavator “friend” and asks him to come and mix the sand and cement with his digger.  He ‘generously’ also decides he will help to back fill Rift Valley.  He’s obviously late  for lunch or something because it becomes a rushed job done without humility or grace for the mess he has caused.

Every one of his buckets is at least three barrows and four of us are literally racing to try to compact the sand as he pours more in around and over us. This is not how it is meant to be done and I am – once again – at the point of tears.

We then convince him to drag his bucket a few times across the area where we want the reed bed. He ensures we know he’s doing us a huge favour and then departs without a backwards glance.  I tell hubby that despite needing our driveway graded and some dams cleared, I will never give him ,another minutes’ work.

But wait – there’s more!
We’re not finished yet. The Rift Valley still isn’t full!  Another load of sand and cement has to be ordered. Everyone is suggesting we need another two trucks worth. That’s another 25 tonnes of sand! Plus the cost of the cement to mix with it!  It is at this point that I do cry.    Our bank account can barely handle one.

My best friend gives me a cuddle.  I suck it up and order ONE more load.  It is enough (if barely).  We literally rake every last grain of sand off the lawn, getting the kids involved with their little buckets and rakes designed for the beach.

Like our safety fence?
Like our safety fence?

I’ve watched literally thousands of dollars go into this hole and despite the fact that there is water in the pool, we are a long way from the finish line.  There is a reed bed to construct, a retaining wall to be put in, paving and landscaping to be done, a pump to install, proper pool fencing to be erected and in amongst all that, three little girls to look after.

I’m thinking this was a really dumb idea.  And is it ever going to rain?

Have you got a shoulder for me to lean on?  Have you ever been in a predicament like this? Will my marriage survive the aptly named Rift Valley fiasco?  Share your thoughts in the comments box below.

Part 6:  Boys and their toys


This Post Has 32 Comments

  1. Avatar

    sounds like a real “friend” your husband has there, is the friendship really worth the, i’m guessing thousands, of dollars you have given him? i understand machines dont run for free, but favours go along way. im not saying the guy shouldn’t be paid, but he botched the job. and if i read right, he came back and mucked sh*t up again? if it was me i’d consider smalls claims court for the cost of the repair and any other subsequent charges accrued there after. and i’m sorry, but no friend is worth losing your home over.

  2. Avatar
    Jason barwise

    Ease up on your husband. He’s right to exercise restraint. Staying on good terms, dude might grade your driveway with the proper negotiation. Going in with guns blazing will get you nowhere but court, assuming you want to take it that far.

  3. Avatar
    College Kid

    I hate to say it, but you sound like you never grew up. You are supposed to be a mature adult that thinks about the needs of others instead of getting your own way. I’m sorry to hear about the misfortune you have, but as an adult you should be setting an example for your kids.

    I hope I don’t grow up to like you.

  4. Avatar
    Phil Smith

    …..1st world problems.

  5. Avatar

    If any of this is considered a problem in someone’s life then I do believe you are one spoiled brat and have one hell of a good life. Quit your bitching. You are constructing an epic luxury and are complaining it is costing money. Pathetic. Lastly you should have just rented a machine and done it yourself. Not very hard with today’s advanced machinery and a tape measure plus a level. Enjoy.

  6. Avatar

    Thanks for the feedback Jim. Clearly you have far more difficult circumstances to worry about than mine, that you should probably be getting back to.

  7. Avatar

    That they are Phil. We are very blessed to live in Australia.

  8. Avatar

    Yes, hubby is the calm and collected one and court is not an option.

  9. Avatar

    Interesting comment College Kid. Hopefully you can reflect on this comment when you are a “grown up”.

  10. Avatar

    Yep it was thousands and he did stuff it up again.

  11. Avatar

    Loving this story, Rebecca. You have a great sense of humour 🙂 Thanks.

  12. Avatar

    College Kid – I’m confused by your comment. I would have thought trying to build a pool/pond for your children IS thinking “about the needs of others”??? I would also think expecting a job to be done properly is also ‘setting an example’ for her kids. I thinks somehow you’ve missed the whole point here.

  13. Avatar

    Thanks. 🙂

  14. Avatar

    No Jim – she’s complaining about spending hard-earned money on a stuffed up job! Why wouldn’t she be angry? If the ‘mate’ had done it at a discounted rate or as a ‘freeby’ you’d have a point. But he didn’t. If I recall, his quote was about twice another quote they got but he won because of his self-professed expertise. Finally, as an ex-earthmover, I can tell you’ve never dug a hole for a pool with your rented machinery. You’d be there for a week scratching around with a three or even five tonne machine and by the time you pay rental and fuel + delivery and then move the spoil, you’ll spend the same amount as a good contractor will charge anyway. In summary Jim, I suggest you climb down from the pulpit and do a reality check.

  15. Avatar

    love it

  16. Avatar

    Thanks. 🙂

  17. Avatar
    Jason Jackson

    Great story and very inspiring to get a similar project organised..very organised.
    Come back to your heart Rebecca.. good decisions come from the heart. sounds like the original idea was with love, but maybe not so much after that. Tell hubby to be honest with the earth mover bloke. No need to be mean, just tell him your very unhappy with the work he did. I’m sure you will get there and pool will one day be amazing.

    To all naysayers, you need to find heart/love too. Don’t matter where you are, or what probs you got. Everyone’s gottem and we all need help to fix. third world or first.

  18. Avatar

    College Kid, I think you will grow to be a caring person. You don’t have the life experience yet to be so sure about judging someone else. I have been in Rebecca’s shoes. Stretching all resources past prudence to do something just plain wonderful for the family. Things will get done. Rebecca will recover. Her husband will look better when there isn’t so much stress. She has the weight of the world on her shoulders right now and is questioning herself. Give her some words of compassion.

  19. Avatar

    Thanks Pam for your kind words.

  20. Avatar

    Thanks Jason. Well said.

  21. Avatar

    love reading this! whats next???? I’m in the process of ‘thinking/wanting’ a natural pool, so glad you have put this on, given me some good things to think about 🙂

  22. Avatar

    Yeah maybe. But we live here, and it is a problem. So really, your comment does nothing but display your snobbery and lack of empathy.

  23. Avatar

    Trust me Kirsten – there’s plenty more. I just have to find the time to put it in writing. 🙂

  24. Avatar

    HANG IN THERE! It WILL get done and be wonderful. We have never done a pool, but we are big time DIYer’s and know how projects NEVER go exactly as planned, ALWAYS take LONGER and cost more than you budget for 🙁 And working with most trades people can be the MOST frustrating part of a project, as they have different ideas of “how things should be done”, and can be very lackadaisical about when they show up. And the bottom line is that they don’t have to live with the job they’ve done. Can’t wait to see the finished pond 🙂

  25. Avatar

    We have recently completed the construction of our natural pool and let me tell you, the fun has only just begun! It is difficult to find information about how to get rid of the muck that accumulates (it is very fine, and just pours back into the pond from the vacuum bag) as well as the leeches the ducks bring in, not to mention the algae that loves to grow just as much as all of the plants! Much of the information we have found is pertinent strictly to fish ponds or pools, and even then, we are finding that everyone has a different way of doing things. The learning curve is huge and we are just at the beginning. We seem to be missing a piece to the puzzle, but are determined to solve it. Watching the kids splash and play with their friends on a hot summer’s day almost makes it worth it, though my husband is still counting days for and against on the project that has been dubbed “The Mistake”. We live in Canada, so we also get the benefit of using the pond for skating! Keep it up and keep sharing maybe we can learn something from each other!

  26. Avatar

    Thanks Conni for your words of wisdom. 🙂

  27. Avatar

    Hi Shelley. You are right about so many things.

    Stay tuned though because in an upcoming post I’ll be sharing some links on reed bed filtration that relate to “potable water”, that might solve some of the “muck” problems.

    The dual purpose of skating on your pond sounds amazing – something our weather will never let us do.

  28. Avatar

    I can’t get over how many people are putting you down for wanting a good job done by a so called friend who obviously didn’t know what he was doing in the first place. The attacks on you for trying to provide something that will help your children as well as give them a place to enjoy life leave me gobsmacked. Sure there are people around who are far less advantaged but there are lots who have so much more. Why is it that in Australia the tall poppy syndrome exists. Rebecca I applaud you for giving it a go and look forward to seeing your next post .

  29. Avatar

    Thanks so much for your kind words Jennifer. In all honesty some of the comments made me not want to blog any more. But the show must go on. 🙂

  30. Avatar

    The big “D” word? Must be a shallow pool.:+)

  31. Avatar
    Maggie A. 'Spoon

    Took me forever to figure out how to post on here. I didn’t have an account.
    Anyway! I want to hear what happened! How is your marriage? Do YOU have leech problems in your pond? Did the small town gossip start get the best of you? Seriously I feel like I was reading an online soap opera and you cut it off. 😉

    Unlike some of the haters I do get how this “first world problem” as some say and be so frustrating to you. All I can do is pray for you as I am like a gazillion miles away. But you do make me reminisce the ideas of moving to Australia. We live in the US and feel frustrated and concerned about political directions. We’ve considered buying a farm in the middle of nowhere in Australia but all our family is here and that is a tough thought.

    Anywho… not about me! I wanted to encourage you. I hope it all worked out. Do let those of us who understand know what happened!! Have an internet hug, however I know its not the same. *hugs*

  32. Avatar

    Hi Maggie,
    Thanks for your kind words of encouragement. The story will go on. And yes, there are definitely some interesting political issues in the US at present. I feel very blessed to live in Australia, even with the ups and downs of life. 🙂

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