The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Underground stream

Tiny sinkholeAre you the kind of person who sees a strange hole in the woods and has to poke your hand in?  I am.  That's why when the pathway between the blueberries seemed to have more give than I expected, I stamped...and fell into a hole up to my knee.

I usually think of water as dropping from the sky, slowly percolating through the soil, and ending up in creeks and rivers.  But our neck of the woods is full of caves that allow groundwater to flow more freely.  In fact, our creek goes underneath a ridge and river before popping back up on the other side.  Could my tiny sinkhole be the entrance to a large cavern?

Mark rolled his eyes at my "cave", and rightly so.  Although the hole itself was big enough to stick your head in, it quickly narrowed on either side to allow a mere trickle of water to flow through.  I guess now I know where the water comes from for the wet weather spring that spurts out of the ground near the goat path during really rainy spells.
Underground stream
Too small to tap for geothermal, I wonder what the best use of my hole might be?  I could fill it with wood chips to act as a sponge, soaking up water during wet weather and then releasing it back into the soil during droughts.  Ideas?

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Do you perchance live in a karst region?

In that case your hole could grow into a cave, given enough time. Don't hold your breath, though. :-)

I'm not sure if plugging up the hole would achieve much. Given the mechanics of fluid flow through poreous media (see e.g. Darcy's law, the groundwater flow equation and the path of least resistance), you are decreasing the local permeability, making another flow path have less resistance and thereby making that the preferred path.

Comment by Roland_Smith Mon Jan 30 17:37:42 2012

Yup, we live in a karst region. On the other hand, parts of our property are over sandstone instead of limestone, which is much less cave prone. I think this spot is on the dividing line.

I wasn't thinking so much of plugging up the area the stream goes through --- that seems to be tiny --- as filling in the hole so that we don't step in it. I figured if I added something like wood chips that the water could flow through, but which was too big to carry down the hole, we'd lose the hole and gain a bit of water saturation potential.

Comment by anna Mon Jan 30 19:44:03 2012
Why not just bridge the hole with a couple of cinderblocks? As opposed to wood, they wouldn't wash away or rot quickly.
Comment by Roland_Smith Mon Jan 30 20:51:09 2012
I like that --- or maybe a little wooden bridge across if I didn't think treated wood would impact the water too much. It would be nice to be able to look down at my underground stream. :-)
Comment by anna Tue Jan 31 10:15:55 2012

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