What can you buy for $10,000?
Julie and I drive a 10 year old Chrysler Town & Country. It is big enough that I can fit 4×8 sheets of plywood in it or a couple of 300 gallon tanks or, more simply, our 4 children with comfort. We paid $10,000 for our minivan a couple of years ago when we bought it used. Our previous van had been stolen (along with 5 dozen eggs, my favorite hat and my favorite knife)! $10,000 is about a third of the price of a similar 2014 van.
Our first house cost $30,000 and we had to put in $10,000 worth of improvements before we could move in including hooking on to city sewer and water, repairing the foundation, updating the wiring and replacing the furnace. $10,000 bought all of that…furnace, concrete, wiring and plumbing.
Now, I don’t know who you think I am. I don’t know what you really know about me. I’m not the kind of guy who keeps $10,000 just laying around. My pockets are only so deep. We had a couple of guys out to estimate a pond dam for us and they said $10,000…with more of a firm quote coming.
Can I afford that? I also need a loader tractor. The clutch needs to be replaced on our tractor. Julie wants to build a house…or at least put a roof on this house. I need to plant about a bazillion trees. I need to buy about a bazillion cows…well, maybe 5 or 10 more (easily $10k). There is no end of things I could spend money on…including replacing our minivan. I would love to buy Julie a new ring (lol). Can I really justify buying a 1-acre pond?
You know, I have found that I can justify just about anything. It’s just a matter of approaching the matter from the right angle. SO. Today I’m going to justify building a pond. I don’t know how I’m going to pay for it but at least I’m going to lay out why I think it’s a good idea for us. First, here’s a rough-out of the pond from the top down thanks to Draft Logic.
My friend Steve says I will never regret having additional water on the farm. I suspect he’s right but this isn’t the pond he was rootin’ for. He wants me to make a single, larger pond instead of a series of small ponds over time (this is just the first). I would like to have it higher on the landscape than this but still, it’s pretty high. There is a lot of bottom ground I could irrigate from this pond if needed. Beyond the extra water, we will gain a dam we can drive across to get to the pasture beyond. The hills here are pretty steep…steep beyond what I would be comfortable mowing. The creek beds are washed out to the point that it’s hard to get a tractor across them too. The grazing on the steep south-facing slopes is sparse and the steep north-facing slopes are covered in moss. Not much grows here. A couple of thorny trees, a little scrap iron and some sparse grass that went to seed early. There are dry dams on two of the three valleys that feed into the pond area and a pond dam uphill from the other so the pond shouldn’t silt in any time soon. Here is the proposed pond area as it sits today. The dead tree to the left is around 18′ tall.
And here is my concept of what the pond will look like. I spent a whole 5 minutes with mspaint making this picture.
What we are talking about is a serious benefit to the water cycle, a benefit to the wildlife, a benefit to the livestock, a beautiful feature that will improve my farm’s value and something of lasting value for generations to come. I joked in a post called The Return of Surplus that we needed to bring resources back to the farm and this is a perfect example. Further, by making this investment now we will be able to increase biodiversity and, thus, compound our return over time. Just think of the fish, frogs and turtles. Think of the bald cypress I could plant. Think of the way it will moderate temperature. Think of fried catfish! But the water is illiquid. I will never get my money back without selling the land it is sitting on. Once that money is spent it is gone. That’s it. It’s either pond or loader tractor. Pond or cows.
But once the pond is built and stocked it’s here to stay. There will be nothing more to do for generations to come. Similar to the ponds grandpa built maybe 60 years ago, I’ll be leaving the farm better than I found it.
Can I justify it? Yes. Can I afford it? Ugh.