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TheIT
10-21-2005, 01:28 AM
Does anyone have any experience digging a well? How do you know where to dig? I know you have to dig a shaft to reach the water table, but I'm not quite sure what that means. Anyone know of any references? I'm also looking for descriptions of what digging a well by hand is like.

Thanks!

scfirenice
10-21-2005, 01:51 AM
Even in the good old days they didn't dig by hand. (unless you are going back to before mule days) They used mules, hooked them to a wheel type apparatus and made them walk in circles for hours, days, whatever. The mules powered the drill bit. They knew they hit water when the bit gets wet. In the day they used dousing rods with varying levels of success.

paprikapink
10-21-2005, 01:59 AM
One of Laura Ingalls Wilders' "Little House" books gives a good description of digging a well (sorry I don't know off-hand which one). They were down in the hole with their shovels. And they had to be very careful about that gas that can build up in the ground and make you pass out? I forget the details. It's why canaries go in coal mines.

My dad had to have a well dug on his property. It was very high-tech, a buncha engineers and a giant drill thing...but first he had a "water witch" come out and tell em where to dig. Yeah, an old lady walks around and when she senses water she says dig here. I can ask my dad how one might interview her if you're interested. I think she was about 90 years old, so don't think on it too long!

Also there's the old trick of carrying a forked stick around by the fork, and letting the straight part stick out in front of you. It'll dip down when you walk over water. That's a divining rod, but you knew that.

Jamesaritchie
10-21-2005, 03:19 AM
Actually, a lot of people still dig wells by hand, no mules or machinery needed. You don't dig a well with mules. That's drilling for water, which is a very different thing, and mostly used when the water is very far down.

If you live in a good area, and know where to dig, you can hit water seven or eight feet down. I helped dig two wells as a yonker, and I've watched several others being dug. On the first we hit water about ten or eleven feet down, and on the second we hit at just under twenty-five feet. It all depends on where you're digging.

In some places the water may be several hundred feet down, and these must be drilled.

How do you know where to dig? One main way is to look at other wells in the area. If you're digging into an underground stream or river, you can trace the pattern of it from the location of other wells. You'll also know how deep you can expect to dig or drill before hitting water. And generally speaking, you'll hit water a lot faster if you dig on low ground instead of high.

If you don't check other wells in the area, and talk to locals, you can run into trouble. Just about everyone in the tiny town where I grew up knew where the underwater stream was, and we could hand dig a well and hit at anywhere from ten to thirty feet.

A new person moved into town, and without asking, hired a drilling team. They didn't ask anyone, either, and their drill didn't hit water until in was at two hundred and something feet, and that water wasn't great.

Some people can look at the lay of the land and have a pretty good idea where to find water. And these days and sorts of fancy technology is used.

And, yes, in many places water witches are still used. And so is a divining rod, which is usually a forked stick, often cut from a weeping willow. Weeping willows always grow where there plenty of water in the soil, and are thought to love water. I've seen this done many times, and it's an amazing process.

Jamesaritchie
10-21-2005, 03:21 AM
One of Laura Ingalls Wilders' "Little House" books gives a good description of digging a well (sorry I don't know off-hand which one). They were down in the hole with their shovels. And they had to be very careful about that gas that can build up in the ground and make you pass out? I forget the details. It's why canaries go in coal mines.

My dad had to have a well dug on his property. It was very high-tech, a buncha engineers and a giant drill thing...but first he had a "water witch" come out and tell em where to dig. Yeah, an old lady walks around and when she senses water she says dig here. I can ask my dad how one might interview her if you're interested. I think she was about 90 years old, so don't think on it too long!

Also there's the old trick of carrying a forked stick around by the fork, and letting the straight part stick out in front of you. It'll dip down when you walk over water. That's a divining rod, but you knew that.

The gas is methane, but there's only a few places in the country where you have to worry about methane when digging a well.

awatkins
10-21-2005, 04:17 AM
The forked stick is held in front of you, like the letter Y. You hold one end of each fork gently in your hands--not too tight or it can't move, but not so loosely that it falls out of your hands. Holding the branch in front of you, walk slowly across the area, paying attention to the straight end of the branch. When you are over water, the branch will pull downward. Stop and watch the end of the stick. It will begin to bounce up and down (or should). It's said that the number of bounces matches the number of feet down you should hit water.

It's a weird feeling, to feel the branch gently tugging in your hands, down toward the ground. Yes, I'm one of those people who can do this. And I'm not even 90 years old. lol

jdkiggins
10-21-2005, 05:18 AM
And I thought the brain cell was the only thing we shared. :ROFL:

Anne's right about the process and the number of bounces relating to the number of feet before you hit a water level. My Dad and Mom's well was found by an elderly man in the neighborhood who used a willow branch. It's called "dowsing". When I was a kid, he showed me how to dowse. I interviewed him on his 90th birthday. I also wrote a story about his experience as a dowser. If I remember correctly, he found nearly every water source for 99% of the homes in our community. Of course, that was "back in the days" before the city slickers came in and told everyone whose house was close to the road that they had to take city water and sewage.

We're not close to the road...so I still have a septic tank and a great well (which I dowsed for myself) thirty five years.

Hey Anne, do you have your dowsing rod hanging in the barn out back? LOL I do.

ETA: I'm not 90 years old yet either, but I do have a wart on my nose.:roll:

johnnysannie
10-21-2005, 03:59 PM
As others have indicated, there were indeed hand dug wells.

My husband can witch water but he does it with pliers (!) instead of a willow branch.

It is fascinating to watch and he's never been wrong yet.

MadScientistMatt
10-21-2005, 05:25 PM
Some skeptics will argue that dowsing is just using a prop, while it's really a sense of intuition that actually finds the well. If you try to test a divining rod by hiding a set of underground pipes and having a diviner who doesn't know where they are attempt to locate which one has water flowing through it, this generally doesn't work. On the other hand, someone with practice at finding wells can often find water with no divining rod. That would make the device sort of like Dumbo's magic feather. The ability is real, but it doesn't come from the prop.

Jamesaritchie
10-21-2005, 07:27 PM
Some skeptics will argue that dowsing is just using a prop, while it's really a sense of intuition that actually finds the well. .

It's more than intuition. I've never thought an underground pipe or an underground bucket was a fair test in any way.

But it's an amazing thing to watch. The person holding the stick keeps his hands in the same position, but the front of the stick starts bending, and can point straight down at the ground. The stick can bend so much that I've seen them break.

Real diviners don't turn their wrists and let the rod point at the ground.

awatkins
10-21-2005, 07:41 PM
Jamesaritchie is correct--you don't turn your wrists at all. The stick tugs and pulls on its own, and can actually pull so hard that it will almost be jerked out of your hands. I've even had one turn downwards so abruptly that I almost tripped over it.

It's a neat feeling, one that I can't accurately describe.

Joanne: I use a new branch every time! Weird, huh? johnnysannie: That's interesting!

Two personal stories: When I was about 6-7 years old, I watched my grandmother do this. I kept asking to try and all the older folks shooed me away, saying that I couldn't do it. Over their protests, my grandmother showed me how to hold the stick and let me try. The rest is history.

Back in the seventies when I was married to my first husband, we needed to have a well dug. An elderly man who had found many wells in the area walked our property while I was kept at a distance where I couldn't see him. After he found water, they brought me in to try. I found water in the same spot he did, and at the same number of feet down. When the well was dug, we were only off by a couple of feet in depth, and the stream was a very strong one. :)

MadScientistMatt
10-21-2005, 08:55 PM
You've seen one break? I'm curious - at what point did it break?

Also, have you ever seen a diviner hold a traditional forked stick in any manner besides by the forks at the ends? For example, holding it one-handed at the center?

jdkiggins
10-22-2005, 12:45 AM
Johnnysannie--never heard of using pliers.

Jamesaritchie--correct. Wrists do not twist, but I half to admit, it's very difficult to hold the ends when the force begins to pull it down.

Anne--When I did this, I used a new one every time. But I haven't done this in quite awhile. My old branches hang in my mom and dad's barn.

Gee, it's cold out this week, but this thread has given me the urge to check out my skills again.

Excuse me while I look for a willow and cut a new branch. :D

jdkiggins
10-22-2005, 12:48 AM
You've seen one break? I'm curious - at what point did it break?

Also, have you ever seen a diviner hold a traditional forked stick in any manner besides by the forks at the ends? For example, holding it one-handed at the center?

Matt, I've seen a few break, but they didn't always break in the same place. And I've never seen anyone hold the center with one hand. Every dowser I've watched has held the Y ends.

awatkins
10-22-2005, 01:08 AM
Gee, it's cold out this week, but this thread has given me the urge to check out my skills again.

Excuse me while I look for a willow and cut a new branch. :D

I was just thinking the same thing! It would be cool to take a walk with a fresh willow branch and see if I can find anything.

Joanne, give me that brain cell back...

Jamesaritchie
10-22-2005, 02:45 AM
You've seen one break? I'm curious - at what point did it break?

Also, have you ever seen a diviner hold a traditional forked stick in any manner besides by the forks at the ends? For example, holding it one-handed at the center?

I've actually seen two break, that I can remember. One broke right at the base of one of the forks, about a foot or so from where it was being held, and I can't remember where the other one broke. I just remember it snapping very loudly.

No, I've never seen a diviner hold a stick any other way except by the forks. The only difference I've seen is that some hold the elbows tight in against the body, and others stick the elbows way up in the air.

Now, I don't think it's this way all over, but where I grew up, everyone called the stick a divining rod or divining stick, but the person who used it was called a "dowser." I'm pretty sure the stick is called a "dowsing rod or stick" in many areas. It just depends on where you grew up.

I know that in many places, a willow stick is called a "divining stick," and dowsing rods are actualy two, long, skinny pieces of metal with a bend at one end. You hold one in each hand, by the bend, and when you find whatyou're looking for, the two pieces of metal twist in your hand and cross.

They weren't used in my area when I was young, and my grandpa said people who used those were faking it. They are a whole lot easier to cheat with, so maybe he was right.

But we have a man here in Indiana now who seems to be able to find lost graves with diving rods, though, so who knows.

Anyway, around here, a "diviner" is someone who does the same thing, but who uses the divining rod or stick to look for things other than water. Lost graves, for example.

It's said that each person has a special gift. Some can find water, some graves, some gold or silver, some oil, you name it.

But the only thing I've ever seen actually found on a regular basis, with a divining stick, is water.





And I'm feeling a short story coming on here.

TheIT
10-22-2005, 03:19 AM
Thanks for the responses so far. I've got a scenario in mind for a fantasy story I'm working on and wanted to see if it was feasible. The story setting is pre-industrial, so unfortunately no electric drills are available.

About hand digging wells - what do you do with the dirt as you dig deeper? Shovel it into a bucket on a rope and have someone up top haul it away? Also, I imagine you'd be digging through dirt and loose stone. Is it possible to hit a layer of rock, and if so, how do you get through? Pickaxe? If you can't get through, do you dig somewhere else?

What's it like when you reach water? Is there still earth to stand on? Does the water seep in from the sides? How quickly?

The comments about sensing water using divining rods are very interesting. Sounds almost like using a ouija board. It's very disconcerting when the pointer moves by itself.

I wonder if I could use a divining rod to find my car keys? Husband hunting?Hmm...

The story scenario I have in mind involves a village hiring a mage to tell them where to dig a well, but when they dig they find the water is somehow inaccessible, for example the water is under a very thick layer of rock and they can't dig through using normal means. The mage claims he's lived up to the bargain because he found water. The village claims the bargain is void because the well is useless. My MC would come in and settle the disagreement, probably by using his own magic to break through the obstruction.

jdkiggins
10-22-2005, 03:30 AM
The It,

I would suggest you doing a little research on dowsing and the digging of wells. Check your local library for books on the subject. If you're not sure where to find what you need, the librarian can lead you in the right direction.

Good luck with your story.

arrowqueen
10-22-2005, 03:47 AM
My father was an architect and I remember, when my brother, sister and I were young, that he asked a dowser to find fresh water for a remote cottage. which wasn't on the main water supply.

The old man found it - and he let us have a try too. We couldn't do it, but when he let us hold one end of the stick, while he held the other, it worked - and you could actually feel the power running through you.

He wouldn't take any money for it and my father bought his wife a big box of chocolates as a 'thank you', instead.

'There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio...'

Jamesaritchie
10-22-2005, 04:10 AM
Thanks for the responses so far. I've got a scenario in mind for a fantasy story I'm working on and wanted to see if it was feasible. The story setting is pre-industrial, so unfortunately no electric drills are available.

About hand digging wells - what do you do with the dirt as you dig deeper? Shovel it into a bucket on a rope and have someone up top haul it away? Also, I imagine you'd be digging through dirt and loose stone. Is it possible to hit a layer of rock, and if so, how do you get through? Pickaxe? If you can't get through, do you dig somewhere else?

What's it like when you reach water? Is there still earth to stand on? Does the water seep in from the sides? How quickly?

The comments about sensing water using divining rods are very interesting. Sounds almost like using a ouija board. It's very disconcerting when the pointer moves by itself.

I wonder if I could use a divining rod to find my car keys? Husband hunting?Hmm...

The story scenario I have in mind involves a village hiring a mage to tell them where to dig a well, but when they dig they find the water is somehow inaccessible, for example the water is under a very thick layer of rock and they can't dig through using normal means. The mage claims he's lived up to the bargain because he found water. The village claims the bargain is void because the well is useless. My MC would come in and settle the disagreement, probably by using his own magic to break through the obstruction.



Okay. I can only tell you from my personal experience. Digging a well is very hard work, and it can be dangerous. When digging through soft earth, smart people board up the sides as they dig, and there are several methods of doing this, in order to avoid cave ins.

The tools generally used are a short-handled shovel and pick because there isn't much room, and a big iron bar to pry out rock and the like.

We never had to deal with thick layers of rock where I grew up, we dealt mostly with dirt, and then with thick, heavy clay, but in Kentucky, wells were often dynamited as much as dug.

Anyway, where I lived, you would have to pry some rock out, or occasionally break one up with a pick or a single-jack, but rocks were seldom a serious problem.

As for dirt, it usually is hauled out by bucket. If the well started getting too deep, we'd put a framework over the well and hook a pulley to it.

I've never heard of anyone falling through into water as they dug, so I don't know if it can happen or not. With the deepest well we dug, my grandfather was in the well when he reached water (There's room for only one person at a time in the well, so you take turns.), and he was up to his waist in nothing flat. I do know you can hit wet dirt well before you hit serious water, or you can hit serious water all at once. It all depends on the nature of the earth you're digging through.

What you do after you hit water is also important. An open well of the kind you lower a bucket into is going to need cleaned every few weeks because all sorts of small critters will fall into it, and you also get frogs and the like in the water.

Where I grew up, most people covered their wells securely in an effort to avoid this. We never used the bucket method. We would use a heavy board or cement covering for the well, and mount a hand pump on the covering, with the pipe running down into the water.

Just about everyone also put a water trough in front of the pump. Water pumped into this would give farm animals a place to drink, and would also give you water for priming the pump.

MadScientistMatt
10-22-2005, 06:15 AM
So, did all of the sticks break at a point between the hands and the fork? Did any break between the fork and the tip that wasn't held? The latter sort of break would require an outside force.

If it were nothing but an outside force acting directly on the rod, the rod could pick it up regardless of how it is gripped. Only the orientation would matter. If that were the case, it could work just as well held flat with one hand on the fork, or even duct taped to a scale at the bottom of a wheelbarrow, which would conveniently measure the force acting on the rod. Anybody ever try this - measuring the force on a divining rod by mechanical means?

I've seen the double stick method too. The one I'd seen had them slipped into metal tubes so they could rotate freely. Like a pendulum swinging from your hand, that design is even more susceptable to tiny, unconscious motions of your hand.

Jamesaritchie
10-22-2005, 07:15 AM
So, did all of the sticks break at a point between the hands and the fork? Did any break between the fork and the tip that wasn't held? The latter sort of break would require an outside force.

If it were nothing but an outside force acting directly on the rod, the rod could pick it up regardless of how it is gripped. Only the orientation would matter. If that were the case, it could work just as well held flat with one hand on the fork, or even duct taped to a scale at the bottom of a wheelbarrow, which would conveniently measure the force acting on the rod. Anybody ever try this - measuring the force on a divining rod by mechanical means?

I've seen the double stick method too. The one I'd seen had them slipped into metal tubes so they could rotate freely. Like a pendulum swinging from your hand, that design is even more susceptable to tiny, unconscious motions of your hand.

The sticks always break at a point where the holder has no possible way of doing it. It always breaks between the fork where it's being held and the tip that isn't being held. The one where I remember the exact breaking point was almost exactly midway between where it was held at the fork, and the tip that wasn't held. The natural weak point on any stick held in such a manner will always be between the tip that isn't held and the fork where it is held.

Of course, it isn't supposed to break, and if it does it means you picked a bad stick and need to practice your skills a bit.

Who said it was an outside force? If there's a force, it's an inside force, one from the dowser himself. Holding it a certain way is important because the dowser believes it's important. And the kind of stick that's used is picked because that's the kind dowsers believe will work.

No one believes the stick has any power. What people believe is that the dowser has power. It's also believed that you can't test this kind of power with science because it speaks of lack of belief, and most dowsers I've known believe it won't work when there's a true skeptic close.

I believe dowsing falls under the category of faith. You either believe or you don't. If you don't, you'll probably never see it work. Most of the people I knew were raised around dowsers and water witches and mountain witches, and if they didn't fully believe, they didn't really doubt, either.

But if you ever do see that stick bend, or hold one in your hands and have it pull down so hard the stick bends wildly, and your wrists want to bend, you will probably never doubt again.

Being susceptible to cheating, conscious or unconscious, if why my grandpa, and most other dowsers I've known, don't believe in using rods.

You really can't cheat with a forked willow stick. It bends way out at the tip away from the person holding. It sometimes bends almost double, and sometimes bobs wildly up and down. And sometimes breaks.

Skeptics talk about sticks so thin they move by unconscious desire. If you see a stick like that, the user is a fake. If the end of the stick barely moves, the user is a fake. And like darned near any other activity on earth, if there's money to be made, or recognition to be gained, there will be more fakes than real doers.

There are some thing you have to see for yourself or do for yourself, or try with a fully open mind. This is one of them.

reph
10-22-2005, 08:24 AM
Who said it was an outside force? If there's a force, it's an inside force, one from the dowser himself.
Would a dowser without a stick know where water was, then? If so, would he know how he knew? And if so, how would he know?

Fern
10-22-2005, 09:42 AM
Interesting thread. I used to talk to an old guy who could water witch. He used a willow or peach? limb. Can't remember for sure. He told me about someone hunting water lines with metal clothes hangers so out of curiosity I decided to try. My husband made unmerciful fun of me until we got outside and tried it. I had two clothes hangers, undone and made into an L shape. Made a loose fist with each hand, holding the short end of the L shape in the fist, but fist was loose enough where the wire could move. I turned both wires back away from me and began slowly walking across the back yard. The wires began to move of their own accord and when they crossed, the crossed part was directly over where we knew the water line ran. We went to other parts of the place where we knew water lines ran and it crossed every time. Weird.

TheNightTerror
10-22-2005, 04:33 PM
A few years back, my parents felt the urge to enlargen our back yard pond, and they ended up going out to see if they could figure out where some underground streams were, so the larger pond would get enough water. My mom was the one who did the searching, she had two L shaped, thin, metal rods, held them out straight, and wandered around. When she found water, the rods would cross over.

She was the only one who could pull it off, but she definitely wasn't bluffing. When we were digging out the pond, once the machine hit that stream, there was always quite a few feet of water down there. And, the pond's flooded every spring since. :tongue

MadScientistMatt
10-22-2005, 05:14 PM
The sticks always break at a point where the holder has no possible way of doing it. It always breaks between the fork where it's being held and the tip that isn't being held. The one where I remember the exact breaking point was almost exactly midway between where it was held at the fork, and the tip that wasn't held. The natural weak point on any stick held in such a manner will always be between the tip that isn't held and the fork where it is held.

Of course, it isn't supposed to break, and if it does it means you picked a bad stick and need to practice your skills a bit.

Who said it was an outside force? If there's a force, it's an inside force, one from the dowser himself. Holding it a certain way is important because the dowser believes it's important. And the kind of stick that's used is picked because that's the kind dowsers believe will work.

By "Outside force," I meant a force pushing on the stick that did not come directly from the dowser's hands. If the force were purely internal to the stick, it would bend without the dowser feeling any tugging, much like the stick were a live snake.


There are some thing you have to see for yourself or do for yourself, or try with a fully open mind. This is one of them.

Would sticking a strain gauge on the rod count as excessive skepticism? :)