by Laura Crum
I apologize in advance for boring most of you horse folks with this completely not-horse-related story. But here is the rest of my “pool saga” (with photos) for those who are interested.
I planned and schemed endlessly during the winter before we built the pond. I drew little maps showing where each boulder should go. There was an “island rock” here, and a couple of big “blocker rocks” there, and a pointy rock by the mini “dock” we would build to hide the skimmer and submersible pump. The pointy rock would be matched by another pointy rock on the nearby hillside, and there would be a dozen boulders in a sort of rocky vein on the hillside—which would help the pool tie into the landscape. Just add a constant chain of ideas and thoughts (and sketches and lists of things to think about) along these lines and you get the idea of the way I spent my time.
I left the technical aspects of the pool construction (choice of liner, pipes and other infrastructure) up to Tim of Pond Magic, figuring he would know how to do this stuff after building 300 ponds.
As the date of actual construction on my project approached, I began spending a lot of time at the local “rock yard.” My husband and son began to hate the sound of the words “rock yard,” and soon refused to accompany me. I went down there two or three times a week, choosing boulders, and “singlehead” stacking stone, and flagstone and so on. I spent hours at a time there, just looking at rocks. All the kinds of stone I thought I’d need for the project.
I learned a whole lot about buying stone. I learned the process (you tag it and then the yard guys will assemble everything you tag in a place for reserved material and then you can look at it all together in one spot—very helpful), I learned that you buy stone by the pound-or ton- and I learned to estimate the weight pretty accurately (I used to buy cattle, so estimating weight came readily to me), I learned which kinds of stone were FAR more expensive than others. Over a two month period, I selected a lot of stone for my pool.
There were boulders for the pool rim and the hillside next to it, there was stacking stone for the dry-stone walls, there was flagstone for the floor, steps and surround, there were cobbles and gravel for the planting bed and ledge-stone for the wall around the planting bed. It was a big and interesting process, learning about and selecting stone. It took a lot of time, but I very much enjoyed it. I was quite surprised when Tim told me that virtually every other client he had ever had had left this process up to him. To me, that’s like giving away the most fun and creative part, or like owning a horse and always having someone else ride it.
Anyway, I did the work, selected the rock, and, eventually, wrote a check and had it delivered. Now we were truly embarked. And I must admit, I was pretty nervous.
This was a big project for me, and it was also a rather illogical project. Not like building a house, which seems quite logical. We didn’t need a pool. As my husband pointed out, we were digging a big hole in a perfectly good driveway. But I was still pretty sure I wanted to do it. I’m the one who has always owned horses, after all. I understood the point behind making illogical dreams come true.
So construction day arrived, the crew and backhoe showed up, and everything began to happen at once. Seriously.
If you have never done a big construction project, or never done one where you were truly in charge of it, you probably can’t grasp the intensity of the process. You literally can’t look away for a second. It is tremendously creative and rewarding and also very stressful at times. Sort of like training horses.
Anyway, I had previously designed and built two small houses, a big garden, and a horse set-up, and I knew more or less what to expect and how to deal with it. I had asked for and gotten from Tim a proposed timeline for the project. I had taken EVERYTHING out of my schedule for the projected two weeks of construction and I was prepared for the intensity. I had done what you need to do—thought hard and planned for everything I could, and also accepted that some (many) things would not go according to plan and many last minute changes would happen. I also knew that these last minute changes often created the most interesting aspects of a project. I knew that the contractor and I would be at odds from time to time and that tempers would fray, and I knew this was natural and OK. We all crossed our fingers things would go relatively smoothly, and bright and early in the morning the backhoe began placing boulders on the hillside, to my directions.
By noon we were digging the hole for the pool and by the end of the day we had, as my husband said, dug a very big hole in our perfectly good driveway.
And placed some lovely rocks on the hillside nearby.
The next day the pond liner went in.
The dry stone walls were built.
The following day the backhoe began placing the large boulders around the pool.
Now I’m going to skip forward in the interests of not boring you—below you see my son and a friend on the last day the crew was here, as we watched the pool fill with water. This gives you a good view of the stone steps leading in and the wall that divides the plant area from the “swimming” area. Bear in mind that every single stone that forms the steps and is placed around the edge was individually chosen for its position. A very creative, very intense process. All the stone is natural stone, some quarried, some not. There are no concrete pavers or man-made bricks involved.
My husband adds a little water to our whisky for the celebratory drink as we finish filling the pool. This was a very happy moment.
Here you look down into the “deep hole” (about five feet deep), with its sunken patio floor.
Here’s the fountain (designed by my husband and carved from our chosen piece of stone by one of the crew) in the early morning light.
Boy in the water—my son enjoying the pool on its first day of being—which just happened to be an eighty degree day. Serendipity.
Last light and reflections of roses at the end of the day.
If you look closely at these photos you will see that we haven’t finished trimming the liner and placing gravel all around the pool, nor have we put the plants in the plant area. We are slowly but surely accomplishing these tasks ourselves, as we are well able to do these things on our own…and construction crews are expensive. We let the crew go as soon as we could and I’m happy to say that the project came in on time and very close to our estimate. So far so good.
We are really enjoying our little pool, and though I know the future will hold challenges—natural pools are living things, just like horses, and they have their ups and downs—I very much look forward to living with/by/in water.
(Hope I didn’t bore you all too much. Those who are interested, feel free to ask questions. I sort of abbreviated much that went into the planning and building, because I felt the post would just become too tedious.)