If you don't know quite what you are looking at, don't worry. You weren't the only one! No. I can assure you it is not the largest vole hole ever. It did stop me in my tracks and give me a queasy all over type of feeling...
...like when the ground drops out beneath you.
Notice the strawberries to the right? To the left of those strawberries is when I placed my small foldable garden bench I have been using around my yard this spring when I picked my strawberries just a couple days ago. I picked about four quarts.
I have found a lot of small interesting items in my garden (no arrow heads, gold, or diamonds), but finding this small sink hole left me very perplexed.
When perplexed with garden questions I consult the internet, and more likely my neighbor the Doctor of Horticulture living across the street. While this was certainly in my garden, it is not "of" my garden. I called Perry, one of the village people.
I am a Village Trustee. Perry is the Head of Maintenance. He is one of the village's people. This seemed decidedly in his realm.
"I'll grab my poking stick and be right over," he called me back in a matter of minutes. Hmmm... his highly diagnostic poking stick...
Now, I am sitting in my garden at my nice little table looking around slightly terrified. What else might be here all the time, ready to... vanish?
"This is the second time I have seen this in the last two weeks," he says. Really? I think, like this is trending now?
Turns out it might be part of an old septic system. While each homeowner has their own well, we do have municipal sewer. Perry was the right guy to call. After some careful prodding, he says he thinks he can see a sewer baffle. He asks me to run water, flush the toilet. He watches. I am unsure what he is watching for. He then tells me "good news". When my residence was attached to the municipal sewer lines they actually connected from the house, not from the old septic system. I guess that happens, sometimes. Whatever is expedient. In this case it would have meant extra piping to do that. Thankfully, the house connection was easier and cheaper.
The theory is it is part of an old septic tank, not filled in properly or one in which the fill has washed out. My mind starts multiplying this happening around town, and what about the area I suspect may have been where a heating oil tank could have been buried, or the gray water line, or another cement slab in the yard that rocks, that I am not sure what it is...
He drops the poking stick toward the bottom of the void. "I didn't hit bottom he says, but he turns it and we hear a quiet splashing sound. The poking stick is eight feet long, at least.
He says he will drop some compost from the municipal recycling and I can get Handsome Son to shovel it into the hole. (It ends up taking somewhere around 13 to 15 YARDS of compost to fill this hole which is about 3 1/2 feet in diameter!)
Handsome Son, on returning home does his own checking. He is minoring in environmental science and majoring in chemistry, and just got an A in his hydrology course this spring.
"It's not the water table," he assures me. Where I live, it very well could be, I was thinking. We have an artesian aquifer well here in town, although not well-known, in our North Park. "The hydrostatic pressure is wrong," he assures me. "It's rain water seeped into the ground from the rains we've had."
So the brutally cold winter, deep ground depth freezing, heavy rains, compromised integrity of something, buried, long forgotten. Even the bury-ers, long forgotten.
Today, I returned from teaching summer school, and the hole was gone, too. It sucked in, a few sweet yellow banana pepper plants, the jalapenos, a few strawberries, maybe a basil plant, and that feeling that I am safe here, in my home, puttering round my garden. Gone is the ephemeral feeling of security, that is never really real, but we want to believe, anyway.