Almost 20 years ago, back in early 1990, I was struggling to come up with a new way to earn a living. Due to a leg that was misaligned during surgery, I was beginning to develop arthritis and was losing mobility in my hip. I was no longer able to work successfully as a carpenter or pipe welder due to the physical limitations that my hip put upon me. During the course of a meditation, I received clear guidance that I should develop a spring on my property as a source of bottled water. That the water was healing water and that I should deliver it by mail order. At the same time, I received the name HappyHill Spring. I added the word Works to it to indicate that more than just spring water was available. I had known about this spring on my property since before I purchased the property. I didn't initially know where the spring was located because the property was so overgrown. I knew it had a strong source because further down the hill the water has cut a ditch about 6 feet deep. When it is a small steady stream, it takes a lot of water, over a long period of time to cut a ditch this deep. This guidance, though clear, seemed not to take into consideration how much water weighed or how much it would cost to mail it. I immediately thought of bottled water on grocery store shelves and I decided to proceed in a step by step process toward that goal.
I was rather naive and thought that because I had received this information during a meditation it would be a slam dunk to accomplish it. It wasn't.
I wanted to do things right, so I contacted the N.C. Dept. of Agriculture because they are the ones who issue the certificate allowing the water to be bottled as spring water and sold on grocery store shelves. They referred me to the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources, Division of Environmental Health, Public Water Supply Section (DENR), to oversee the approval of the source. In North Carolina, there are very strict requirements if the water to be bottled is from a spring. There is a multi step approval process overseen by DENR. The first step is approval of the spring site. A representative of the DENR conducts an initial site investigation to determine if the site meets general safety requirements including hydrological and geological features, potential for surface water contamination, etc. etc. If the site approval is granted, then plans are drawn up by a licensed engineer to show how the water is to be collected and stored at the site. These plans along with a site plan of the site are submitted to the Dept. of Environment for approval. If the plans are approved, then the engineer has to oversee the entire construction process signing off on the different steps along the way. After the spring collection box has been constructed and all approval forms issued, then begins the intensive water sampling and data collection in the most severe environmental conditions with samples submitted on a regular basis to a certified lab for testing. Well, I never made it past the first step. The engineer from Raleigh with DENR. made several trips out here to look at my site and finally said that he was requesting that his supervisor from Fayetteville join him on my property to investigate the spring site. He cautioned me that his supervisor was very strict and tough and would probably turn my site down off hand. Well, to make a long story short, when she was here she said, "Mr. Hildebrand, in all the time that I have been investigating spring sites I have only found two that I thought had commercial potential, this is one of them. Would you be interested in selling the property?" I told her no. It turned out that a bottler down on the coast was trying to find a source of spring water closer than the mountains. She wanted to consult with the engineers from up in the mountains who had done a lot of spring sites before issuing the site approval so we arranged a day and time for them all to inspect my spring. The representative from Raleigh and his supervisor from Fayetteville and two representatives from up in the mountains at Black Mountain all got together at my property to inspect my spring and its location. I showed them all around the property and answered all of their questions.
After they left, I locked up everything and drove back to Chapel Hill where I was completing a degree in Psychology. On the way, driving the back roads, I passed all of the folks from the DENR who had just been out at my property. They were out of their cars and all talking on the side of the road. I blew my horn and waved at them and continued on to Chapel Hill.
Over the next several weeks, I kept expecting my letter giving me my site approval of my spring site so I could continue on to the next step of the process. After a month or so and I still had not received any word, I called the Supervisor in Fayetteville and asked her when I should expect to get my site approval. She was shocked that no one had contacted me. She couldn’t believe that I had not been told that the group of them had decided to leave the decision up to the new geologist as to whether or not I received the site approval. This geologist had been employed with their agency for one week when they visited my property.
I contacted this geologist and asked him when I would receive my site approval. He stated that he wanted to get more information before he gave me my site approval. He stated that what they wanted to see at a spring source was the water coming out of a rock face.
My spring water was coming out of a spring box constructed of rock and cement that had been built over a hundred years ago. At some point, one of the previous owners had run galvanized metal pipe up to the spring box and used this pipe to distribute this spring water around the farm where it was needed. My neighbor, whose grandfather owned this land at one time, told me that she knew that it used to be used to keep the watering troughs filled and overflowing with water. I have removed quite a bit of this old metal pipe from around the farm, but to my regret (and my lawnmowers detriment) I still encounter it from time to time sticking up out of the ground.
The geologist asked that I hire someone with a backhoe to dig down at the spring site so that he could determine what the underlying ground stratum was like and he requested that I notify him when this was done so he could come out once again and inspect the spring. I hired a man with a backhoe mounted on his case tractor to come out and dig up the spring box. I hated to destroy the original spring box because of the historical aspects of it but had no choice if I wanted to follow my guidance and develop the spring as a source of bottled water. I did take a photograph of the spring box prior to its destruction (The link bar labeled photos to the left of this page shows a photo gallery of the springs development from the original spring box to the backfilling of the hole and sealing of the Terra Cotta well casings). Much to my surprise, as soon as the spring box was removed it was obvious that there was a solid rock face underneath. The back hoe bucket was clanging into rock. It turned out that there is sort of a rock shelf where the spring water was coming out. There was a crack in the face of this rock from which the spring water was flowing. To the north of the spring source was a wall of rock. To the south of the spring source the ground was basically earth and clay. The backhoe operator eventually dug a hole next to this rock face adjacent to the crack in the rock where the majority of the spring water was flowing forth. It became apparent as he dug deeper, that there were also other fissures in the rock where the water was flowing out. When he had gone as deep as he reasonably could with his bucket, he then opened up the ditch to the same depth as the hole to allow the spring water to drain out. The spring site is on the side of a hill and the ground drops away quite steeply as the spring runoff came down the hill. The grading tapered out to the original spring runoff level not too far from the site of my house which is downhill from the spring.
I contacted the geologist and in time he once again came out to look at my spring site. I had a ladder available and he climbed down into the hole and examined the rock and picked up sample pieces that had been broken by the backhoe bucket. While I was waiting for his schedule to clear so that he could come back out to the site, I was cleaning the hole of the loose material left by the backhoe. I would clean it out one bucket full at a time. Eventually, I had it cleaned it of all loose debris and mud and rinsed off the rocks with a water hose so that you were looking through crystal clear spring water and seeing the rock beneath. The geologist stated that he still could not make a decision about my spring site and wanted me to hire another back hoe capable of digging much deeper than a regular tractor backhoe. He said that he was going to order some geological maps of my area and take the rock samples back with him and that once I had the hole much deeper, to give him a call and he would again come out to inspect the site.
I hired a tracked backhoe. One of those big back hoes you see on large construction sites that are mounted on bulldozer tracks. He came out and dug the hole much deeper. I also got him to keep working at the cracked rock where the water was primarily coming out and he ended up breaking loose some of the large boulders that comprised the rock wall so that I ended up with an opening into the rock face where the strongest flow of water was coming forth. We could not lower the previous drainage ditch to the new much lower level of the spring. It would have required way too much ditching to do so and I did not want a ditch that deep across my property. As you can guess, I ended up with a big hole in the ground that filled up with water until it reached the height of the earlier drainage ditch and then flowed out downhill. I still wanted to look through the clear water and see the rock underneath but to do this now; I had to buy a gasoline driven semi trash pump with a two inch discharge hose capable of pumping out a great deal of water in a hurry (about 8000 gallons per hour) to pump the water out so that I could get down into the hole and clean the loose debris out once again. When I was down in the hole working, I used an electric sump pump to keep the water pumped out so I could work. If I didn’t keep the pump running, it would not be long before I was sloshing around in some mighty cold water. I used shovels and picks and trowels and gardening tools to get as much dirt and grit out as I could. I also used hammers and chisels to break out some of the less dense rock. All of this mud and stuff was placed into buckets and then I hand carried it up the ladder and along the little goat type trails that I had made along side this big hole in the ground. It did not take long for this to get to be too much. Keep in mind that I had a knee stiffened by adhesions that formed while I spent about a year in a body cast and a hip crippled by arthritis. I finally realized that I could save myself considerable labor if I would place concrete culverts into the ditch and then build bulkheads on each end of them and then dump the buckets of mud and debris on top of the concrete pipes. I did this, and filled the ditch up to about ground level before having to get a tractor backhoe out here a couple of times and dig the mud and stuff back out of the ditch so I could continue to fill it in. I could not even begin to guess at the thousands of hours I put in working up at the spring. I was doing hard physical labor but I was actually enjoying myself because it was a labor of love.
I did experience many discouraging moments while working on the spring. Before the tracked back hoe came out to deepen the excavation, on several occasions I had cave ins. My goal always was to have the spring cleaned of all loose material so that you were looking through the crystal clear water (I keep thinking of the word limpid from an old college class) to the underlying rock. I would diligently work toward that goal, a bucket of mud at a time until I had achieved it. And I did reach that goal on several occasions. It was always a shock and discouraging when I would go back up to the spring and discover that there had been a cave in along the south bank and the excavation was once again full of mud and rock. I would start all over again, a bucket of mud at a time, emptying the spring of the caved in dirt. I attempted to stop the cave ins by building bulkheads to hold back the bank on the south side, but the weight and volume of the dirt when it collapsed would overwhelm them. When the tracked back hoe came out, I had him terrace the south side so that it sloped back from the spring so that the actual ground level above the spring was about 30 feet back from the excavation with the water in it. By doing this, I was able to bulkhead at the spring head without the crushing weight of all the dirt overwhelming the bulkheads in case of a cave in.
The geologist did come back out after I had the hole deeper and cleaned up. But he still would not give me the site approval I needed to move forward. He said that he was concerned because I had too much water coming out of my spring for my recharge area. I am up high on a hill, and based on the topographical maps of my area, there was not enough land higher in elevation around me to function as the recharge area for my spring. He wanted me to hire an engineering firm and have a series of test wells drilled on my property and on the property of the adjoining land owners so that the engineering firm could certify exactly where the source of my spring water was coming from. Needless to say, I did not have the money to do that. I tried to argue that surely the extensive testing required after the catch basin was constructed was more than enough evidence to prove whether the source was a good source or not.
All of this occurred in the early 90’s. I could not begin to guess at the number of hours I put in trying to put into application the guidance I received about developing the spring as a source of bottled water. Over the years, during the course of several psychic readings, the psychics would sometimes spontaneously bring up the fact that I had healing water in my spring. Once, a speaker at the Spiritual Frontiers Fellowship in Raleigh gave me a spontaneous reading out of the blue about my wonderful water. A friend had asked me to give her a ride home, that she wanted to talk with this speaker following the program about her son and the lady that she had come with had to leave. I agreed, and following the program several people were talking with him and I was standing to the side waiting. I realized that I was sort of towering over him so I sat down next to him. When I did so, he turned and slapped me on the knee and said Heyyy!, Like I was a long lost friend or something. When he had finished answering questions from the other people there, I asked him about something he had said during his lecture about spiritual entities liking to travel through veins of water in the ground because it was very easy to travel that way. He then proceeded to tell me what a wonderful healing water source I had but that it was dirty and I needed to clean it up so that people could use it. It was a big hole in the ground that was full of water and the leaves from the many trees surrounding it. The bullfrogs and crayfish loved it. There is just something nice about the sound of a big throated bull frog doing his thing. I have always loved to hear the sound of bullfrogs and owls. Something I had plenty of.
It was after his comments that I decided to build a greenhouse over the top of the spring to keep all of the leaves and such from falling into the water. I purchased a roll of greenhouse plastic and spent several days constructing a greenhouse suspended on a steel cable from a winch. I wanted to be able to move the greenhouse up or down and move it out of the way in case I needed to get another back hoe in to do further excavation. I used plastic water pipe T’s suspended on the steel cable on which ribs were formed using electrical conduit. The straight part of the T slid over the cable and then on the 90 degree end I attached electrical conduit forming a series of ribs similar to rafters in a house. It worked great! I was able to work inside doing my cleaning and be quite comfortable in shirtsleeves while outside it was freezing. We had some heavy snows and everything on the outside was buried in snow, while on the inside in the spring it was nice. One morning, upon arising I looked out the window up toward the spring and something didn’t seem right. Everything was covered in snow, but something was different but I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what was different. After dressing, I walked up the hill to the spring to see what was different. When I did so, I discovered that I no longer had a greenhouse cover over my spring but now had a plastic pool liner down inside my spring. During the night, we had had an ice storm. The greenhouse plastic was already covered with snow and as all the ice built up on top of this snow the weight finally became too much for the ¼ inch steel cable I had used on the winch to support the greenhouse. The cable had snapped and the snow and ice covered greenhouse plastic fell into the excavation. The steel pipes and stakes that I had used to support the bulkheads down in the hole were now sticking up through the plastic. Needless to say this was discouraging.
Not only had I physically worked on the spring over the years but I had a detailed set of plans drawn up which an engineer had signed off on, as to how the spring water was to be collected and stored. You could not build the collection box until the plans had been approved by the DENR. It was in the regulations that if you did so, they could require you to tear it apart and start over so that they could be assured of its being in compliance with everything in the plans. A set of plans was submitted to DENR by my engineer who received a letter back with several comments on it, the first of which was that I needed a site approval, and then a couple more to the effect that a project vicinity map, site contour, and grading plan, showing all the fencing around the tanks and the details of the pump house and loading station also had to be submitted along with the collection box plans. The geologist was still holding firm on the fact that he was not going to give me a site approval until an engineering firm had drilled a series of test wells on my property as well as the adjoining properties to have it specified where my spring water was coming from. I decided that I would not spend the extra money required to have a site contour and project vicinity map prepared by a licensed surveyor when I knew I could not afford to hire an engineering firm to drill that series of test wells that the geologist was requiring to obtain my site approval.
So the water continued to flow up and out and down the hillside day after day, week after week, month after month. At some point, I totally gave up the idea of getting it approved by the state as a source of bottled water. I just didn’t have the money that it was going to require to do so. But this was great water. Not only did it taste great, but like I mentioned earlier, numerous psychics brought up its healing capacity spontaneously during readings I had over the years. It didn’t seem right that this water should be wasted, so I decided to see if I could find some terra cotta well casings like they used to use on old hand dug wells. Years before, at another place I used to live, I had cleaned out an old hand dug well that was not lined with stone and used some of these Terra Cotta well casings to line the well after I had finished cleaning it out. I tried unsuccessfully to locate a place to obtain this type of well casing. The company that used to make them had gone out of business and to my knowledge they were not being made anywhere at the present. I had a friend who was quite good at searching the internet for things, and after an extensive search he informed me that the terra cotta well casings that I was looking for were unobtainable and that I would have to use large plastic pipe instead. He gave me a list of places I could obtain the plastic pipe.
There is a Chinese restaurant in the food lion plaza in Siler City that used to give me 5 gallon buckets of table scraps that I would take home and carry down into the woods and dump it out for whatever critters wanted it. One day, as I drove around back of the restaurant to pick up these scraps, I saw a wrecked stainless steel tanker truck, parked out behind a garage. It was pushed up against the bank and all I could see was the top and part of the front of it. I started thinking about the possibility of buying this tanker truck and welding up any leaks that it might have and burying it in the ground up at my spring. After all, I had this gigantic hole in the ground full of water. My thinking was that I would bury this tanker in the hole, (it didn’t matter if it was wrecked or not, no one was going to be looking at it), and let it fill up with the spring water. I started thinking along those lines but had not acted on it yet by actually going to see it and find out what it would cost me to buy it. One Sunday, as I was approaching the road that cut off and went down to the garage where the tanker was parked, I felt a strong urge to go look at it. I ignored it and drove on past the turn off. But the urge to “go now” and look at the tanker was so strong that I turned around and went back and made the turn that took me down to the garage. When I drove around behind it, there were these fresh tire marks in the grass where something had recently been driven over it. The tanker was gone. But there, in close to the bank, impossible to see from anywhere but where I was standing, were all of these terra cotta well casings. They were just what I had been looking for, glazed terra cotta pipes with an inside diameter of 30”. The first thing that popped out of my mouth was “Thank you Father”. I knew I had been led to exactly what I had been looking for. The well casings had been there for so long that one of them which had been set down upright had a tree with a 6’ diameter growing up through it. Needless to say I was excited and wanted to immediately find out how I could buy some of these casings. But it was Sunday and I would have to wait until Monday to talk with the garage owner about purchasing some.
On Monday I talked with the garage owner and discovered that the well casings did not belong to him but to two brothers who owned the land and ran the business up in front of his. The gates into the brothers business were closed and locked so I got their names and number from the garage owner and called them and left a message that I would like to talk with them about the well casings stored out back of the garage. When they called me back, we talked for a while and I discovered that when the terra cotta pipe business down in Gulf went out of business the brothers had purchased all of their outstanding stock of well casings. We talked for a while more and when I tried to find out what they would charge me for some of the well casings, they informed me that they wouldn’t sell me any of the casings, that they saved them for people who had springs on their property. I told them that was what I wanted them for. And they said they had misunderstood, they thought I wanted to buy them to use as culverts underneath a road, they got a lot of calls from people who wanted to use them as road culverts. They said they wanted to come out and see my spring before they would agree to sell me any of the well casings. We set a time and I told them how to find my house. When they arrived, I showed them all around the spring and then explained some of the different trials and tribulations I had experienced thus far in trying to get the water cleaned up so that it could be enjoyed by more than just frogs and crayfish. At one point, while I was telling them some of the stories associated with my work up at the spring, I mentioned the time I had plugged the concrete culvert that I had placed down into the ditch. I had made a plug out of a piece of ¾ inch plywood cut in a circle that would fit inside the bell of the open end of the culvert. To this plywood circle I had added a handle on one side to which I tied a rope and on the other, attached a piece of 1” thick Styrofoam. I covered this circle with a piece of plastic and then plugged up the pipe just like you would put a stopper in a bathtub and watched as the water level rose higher and higher in the hole. I finally pulled the plug because I was afraid that the pressure might build up so high against the plug that I would not be able to pull it. At that point one of them said, “Son, that ain’t no spring, it’s an artesian well. There is no way in the world that a spring would ever build up enough pressure to come up like that”. That was the first time it ever sank in that my spring was an artesian spring. Duhhh? In my enthusiasm in talking with the engineers from DENR I had talked about how even in the severe drought we had back in the late 80”s, my spring never went dry. It kept right on pumping the water out every day without fail. The brothers explained that a regular spring was formed when rain fell and soaked into the ground seeping through until it reached a layer of clay or rock that it could not pass through. At that point the water would travel horizontally along this impenetrable barrier until it found a way out, generally as a spring along a hillside. That if spring water met with any obstacle whatsoever it would just go somewhere else to seep out. But that an artesian well came from a water supply deep within the earth that was under a lot of pressure and the water was being forced up to the surface of the earth. At one point when I was digging the mud and stuff out of the spring I saw a place in the muddy water where clean pure water was flowing out of a solid rock . There was about a 6"crack in a solid rock that angled down into the spring hole. Water was coming out of this crack. As I dug deeper and kept the water pumped out of the hole at an ever deeper depth this water stopped flowing out of this crack and I forgot about it. Later as I began to fill the hole in, once again water started flowing out of this crack. In an attempt to stop it, I used hydraulic cement to seal the crack. Well, I didn’t quite get it all, because the next day when I went back up to the spring there was a steady stream of water shooting out of this rock in one spot like a water fountain. A steady arching stream.
After satisfying themselves that I indeed had a viable spring, the brothers agreed to sell me 10 of the well casings. Each casing, made of baked clay and glazed, had a 30” inside diameter and was 4’ tall (4’3’including the bell flare lip). The wall thickness was 2 3/4 inches. Having these as the artesian spring box is like having your water in your favorite pottery cup.
I got busy once again on cleaning out the spring and trying to break out more rock in the area where the majority of the water was flowing in. In order to work in the spring, I had to keep a sump pump going continuously just outside the area where I wanted to capture the water. In the somewhat softer material to the south of this rock face, I had dug down much deeper in a small area and kept a sump pump going.
As I continued to work in the bottom of the spring area, I encountered big sloping boulders of solid rock that were separated from each other by less dense material that I could break out. Over time, always in search of a stronger water source, I had removed this less dense material so the bottom was very irregular. Sort of like mountains of solid rock with valleys between them. I eventually got as much rock out as I feasibly could. I have pictures that I took at the different stages of the spring work. I again removed all of the loose material and then used a water hose to wash down the rocks so that there was no mud film left on them. I ordered a load of large gravel, about ½ the size of your fist, and using chutes that I had made, filled in the irregular bottom of the alcove. I had decided to install two columns of well casings that would be connected to each other via the gravel underneath the concrete. As the water filled back up when I discontinued the pumps, it would rise up in both columns of terra cotta well casings thus giving me a larger storage supply of spring water.
Prior to filling in with gravel, I had plumbed in a 2” water line to the strongest water inflow and installed a stainless steel shower drain. I blocked out the gravel in this area by using a water cooler that I had cut up. This was down in the bottom of one of the valleys I had made by breaking out the less dense rock with a hammer and a chisel. I ran this 2” water line out of the main collection area through one of the valleys in the rock and to a commercial 2” valve. I cemented all around the line to hold it in place and to make certain the water would not run out under it. On the outflow side of the valve, I continued the 2” water line keeping it as low as possible until I had to install elbows to rise above obstacles. Prior to filling in the hole in the ground, I positioned a 20’ long 6” well casing over the square handle of the valve so that I could open or close the valve at will. If the spring ever needed cleaning, I wanted to be able to open the valve to drain the spring downhill. I was also thinking in terms of gravity fed water down hill. Like a town uses a water tank in a tower to increase the line pressure by gravity, I was thinking that if I had that intake at the very bottom of these two columns of water, I might have quite a bit of pressure available further down the hill.
Because each one of these well casings is extremely heavy, I had decided to cover the entire bottom of this alcove with concrete to seal it off and make a stable level base to set these Terra cotta well casings on. I built forms to insert in the concrete so that when the concrete was poured and then the forms removed, it would leave behind a socket in the concrete that was 6” deep and had a level bottom and a 1” space all around the pipe once it was set in place. I had a time getting these forms stabilized and level and then braced to hold them in place, but I did manage to get it done.
When it came time to pour the concrete, one friend and some hired day laborers helped make a tough job go smoothly. We used the same chutes that I had made to get the gravel down into the hole to get the concrete placed where it was needed. It was quite a job. It was impossible to get the chutes to every place in the hole the concrete needed to be, so it required a lot of shoveling concrete by hand to where it was needed. I used to work as a form carpenter, so I was familiar with concrete placement and the need to vibrate the concrete around the forms. A lot of beating on the forms caused the vibrations that allowed the concrete to flow under the forms and back up to where it needed to be.
After allowing the concrete to set up overnight, I stripped the forms loose before they became too locked into the concrete. The sooner you can get the forms removed after a concrete pour, the better off you are. When I broke the forms loose from the concrete, I was pleased to see that we had had a successful pour. The sockets that I had hoped for were cast into the concrete. I now had the perfect place to start placing the terra cotta well casings so that they would collect the fresh pure artesian spring water.
As I talked of my progress on the spring with friends who knew me well, several fussed at me for always doing everything myself rather than paying someone to do it for me. This became a major issue as I tried to figure out a way to get these extremely heavy well casings down into the hole. Listening to their advice, I was planning on hiring a crane to come in and to set the casings into the hole for me. I had already investigated how I might be able to do it myself, but the trees that I needed to support a steel cable did not line up correctly. Something lowered from them would not go into the sockets that I had cast into the concrete. At about the same time that I had decided to listen to the advice of my friends, some other people, whom I had just met, asked me if I had ever thought of doing it myself rather than hiring someone to do it. More than one person whom I had just met and told of my work on my spring asked me if I had ever thought of doing it myself. I realized that if I hired a crane to do it, I would have to set all the well casings at once. That would mean that I would have two twenty foot tall stacks of very heavy well casings that I would need to brace off securely. Not only would this be difficult to do but the bracing required to do this would be in my way as I tried to backfill the hole. One day as I was in meditation, it came to me very clearly that if I wanted to set these well casings myself, all I had to do was leave a lot of slack in the cable that I attached between two trees to support the weight of the casings. Then I could use other cables attached to other trees through a winch or come along and pull the support cable to where I needed it. That’s what I ended up doing. I had one cable with a come along attached to the support cable going to a tree east of the hole. I had another cable attached to the pulley that supported the load line attached to a tree through a winch south of the hole. This allowed me to move the pulley back and forth in a north south direction as needed. I likewise had another winch attached to a tree west of the hole which I used to move the load line in a westerly direction or let off and allow it to move in an easterly direction. The cable that actually raised the well casings up or down into the hole was attached to the warn 8000 pound winch I had mounted on the front of my jeep pick up truck which was parked north of the hole. To actually set the well casings in the well, I would move them over with my tractor close to the edge of the hole. I would then attach them with nylon slings to the hook on the cable that went through the pulley that was supported on the load line between the two trees. Using the warn winch I would pick them up until they cleared the ground. I then went over to the south side of the hole and using the winch attached to that tree, I would begin to pull the pulley toward the south over the hole where I wanted to set the casings. As the pulley moved to the south, it would raise the well casing up as the cable attached to the winch on the truck got shorter. I had to move back and forth between the winch’s and come along to position the well casing where I needed it. By deciding to set the well casings myself, I did not need a lot of bracing. I was able to set two casings at a time, one in each socket. Cement it in place and then backfill with red clay and tamp it down. I would fill in until I had almost reached the top of the well casings and then set two more. Each time I set a well casing, I would clean off the receiving surface and then spread a thick coating of food contact grade silicone caulking to set the incoming casing into. I did this all the way up to above ground level. Also, each time I backfilled up to the level of the joints, I would place fine granulated bentonite clay into the well casing bell, filling the joint up to level of the female flare. Then all the way around the joint itself, I would pour a heavy layer of the coarser bentonite clay.
Bentonite clay is purchased dry in 50 pound bags. When it is exposed to water it soaks it up and expands 15 -18 times its dry size and forms an impenetrable barrier to water. A lot of landfills use it because it is impenetrable to liquid leaching out of the landfill into the ground. I used it in conjunction with the silicone caulking at each joint, to make certain that the joints were tightly sealed with no chance of water getting in or out.
It took months of hard work setting these well casings and then backfilling with red clay. A lot of shovel work had to be done as well as continual tamping. Clay forms an impenetrable barrier to water when is it is densely packed. As I placed a layer of clay back into the hole, I would use a metal tamp to compact it so that it was tightly compacted. There was also disappointment after I set the first two well casings in place and cemented them in and shut off the pumps. I had expected to come back the next morning and find the water overflowing over the top of the well casings. That is not what I found. The water did rise up inside these well casings a foot or so, but it also was leaking out of the rock face that surrounded the alcove where I had placed the well casings. That rock face was full of fractures in the rock. The water had come up about a foot or so on the rock face and was leaking out of several fractures. I used hydraulic cement to seal these fractures. The next day, the water level would be higher inside the well casings but it would also be leaking out higher on the rock face from different fractures. This pattern kept repeating itself, until I finally realized that I was wasting my time trying to patch all the fractures in the rock. I had to keep a sump pump going to keep the water pumped out of the spring or the water would leak out of the rock fractures onto the clay that I was using to backfill and make mud. You can not compact mud. The water was going to come out where it wanted regardless of my attempts to confine it. Even when I filled in the hole and kept raising the height of the bulkheads in the ditch, the water kept breaking out. I would work down in the ditch area compacting the clay to staunch the water flow as well as adding bentonite clay. When I finished working in the evening, I would have stopped it. The next day however, there would be a little trickle coming from around the side of the bulkhead in the ditch. If left alone, the trickle turned into a steady stream of crystal clear water pouring out above the bulkheads. Here too, I finally realized that I was not going to be able to confine all of this water flowing out. It was being pushed by too much pressure. I noticed that where the water would start flowing around my bulkheads was always off to the north side where the backhoe had cut down through the terrain to make the ditch. On the south of the spring, there was a very porous area that would just suck water up. I mentioned earlier the gasoline driven semi trash pump with the 2” discharge hose that I used to pump the water out of the spring hole more quickly. On a couple of occasions, I had the discharge hose laying downhill to the south of the spring while I was pumping. The water from that 2” discharge hose just disappeared into the ground. It did not run off downhill. It did not even make a puddle. It was just gone. That’s some mighty porous ground that can suck up that much water without even making a puddle
The 2” water line that came from the deepest part of the spring and its strongest inflow, I ran out through the culvert that I had placed in the ditch. I had initially intended this water line to go through another valve placed down in the bottom of this ditch. I was planning on making an underground pump station where I could use the water as gravity fed or pump it just by opening and shutting valves. But my plans changed and I elbowed up to just above ground level. I decided that it was a waste to just have this water running off downhill so I decided to use it in my house. I dropped a pick up valve from a shallow well pump into this pipe and sealed off the pipe. I am now pumping artesian spring water from this pipe. It enters through the stainless steel shower drain down in the bottom of the well casings and then is pumped through a 1” water line that I buried from up at the spring down to the old root cellar of my house where it now goes through an ultraviolet light sterilization unit before being used. I used the water as it came straight out of the spring for several years, but as I began to give away more and more water, I thought it would be a good idea to install an ultraviolet light sterilization unit just to be on the safe side.
There have been some quite discouraging moments, but all in all, the spring project has been a labor of love. From the first time the idea came to me during that meditation, it just felt right. It had never crossed my mind to do anything with the spring water other than just use it around the farm before that meditation. Recently, someone suggested that I start a spring share project, similar to what people do who want to purchase raw cows milk. They buy a share of the cow for a one time fee which they get back if they leave the cow share agreement, and then pay a monthly boarding fee to the farm that houses the cow. For this share, they receive about a gallon of milk a week.
This felt right too. Now, 20 years after first starting work on the spring, I am going to move forward setting up a spring share agreement where people can purchase a share in the spring for a one time refundable fee and a recurring monthly stewardship fee. This way, more people can enjoy this wonderful water that mother earth sends up. There will be more information about this on this site as well as at www.tomsartesianspringwater.com as I further develop the idea. I am also going to offer to sell this water by mail order, because that is what the initial guidance suggested. I still don’t understand it, but I am going to do it. The old do it, try it, fix it. I’ll try it and see what works. Thanks for reading. tom
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