pics of the big dig.


The “big dig” is moving along. Last weekend we got all the digging finished, and the fresh water line that goes out to a hydrant in the yard has been laid. In all, we had about 100 lineal feet of trench to dig between the house and the alley, some in the most difficult places possible. The spot between the shed & the fence was about 5 feet wide, and much of the digging involved a true feat of choreography for the bobcat operator. There was nowhere to put the dirt, we were trying to avoid killing all our precious vegetation (the only decent legacy left to us by the previous owners), and the dirt was so sandy and loose that we had to keep shoring the trench in many places to keep it from subsiding. We dug the trench 5+ feet deep for the fresh water line to the hydrant (hopefully that will be deep enough to keep it from freezing because we couldn’t have gotten it any deeper!). Now we’re filling the trench back up to an appropriate level for the sewer line. We have little choice about the level of the sewer line because it has to match the existing tie-in to the city sewer. Many of the sewer lines in Monte Vista froze last winter, because many portions of the sewer aren’t very deep, and we had an extremely cold winter. Probably they didn’t have very good digging equipment when they installed it originally, and this isn’t exactly the sort of place with lots of extra dollars lying to around to upgrade infrastructure. Our sewer didn’t freeze last winter mainly because it didn’t work, due to extreme clogging by tree roots. Anyway, we’re installing a 4″ line, even though a 3″ line is allowable, and hopefully the larger pipe will help with the freezing issue. It will probably take us much of this upcoming weekend to get the sewer line properly located & bedded. We’re going to have precious little “fall” in the line, since we’ve got 100 feet to get from the house to the alley. A 4″ line can tolerate a smaller slope, so that’s another reason to pony up for the larger (and more expensive) pipe.

Note: the explanations for the photos are below each picture.

Moving a cherry tree.

We had to remove this poor cherry tree in order to dig our trench. We cut off the dead stump, and replanted the living part of the tree in another corner of the yard, along with some other small cherry trees that were in the path of destruction. It remains to be seen whether they survive. The soil is so loose that we couldn’t keep any dirt around the roots when we dug these things up. Hopefully by having them out of the ground only a few minutes, and keeping everything really wet, the poor buggers will have a chance.

The cherry tree in a wheelbarrow, ready for re-planting in another part of the yard.

Here, Luke is trying to break the foundation of the old greenhouse by putting a bottle jack under the foundation in the center. Basically, the foundation consisted of a big, sloppy hunk of concrete. Since the builders of the moldy fiberglass greenhouse (now resting peacefully in the landfill) didn’t use any rebar in their concrete, we were able to break it into large chunks fairly easily, thanks to someone’s brilliant idea to utilize our collection of bottle jacks.

The foundation being dragged away by the bobcat. All the gravel you see was apparently part of an ill-conceived thermal mass project beneath the moldy greenhouse. Maybe it worked, maybe it didn’t. Since it wasn’t insulated from the cold ground, it probably wasn’t all that effective. The moldy fiberglass greenhouse is a real lesson in why one should endeavor to build things correctly, and using high-quality materials. The greenhouse had been the latest addition to the property but was completely un-salvageable (as much as we would have liked to own a greenhouse.) The fiberglass had never been a nice material, and after years of exposure to UV, it was falling apart and delivering its special toxins into our soil. The whole thing was so poorly built that its inevitable destiny was an early demise. (For a little more on the greenhouse, click here.)

In the process of digging the trench and removing the greenhouse foundations, our yard has become an obstacle course of rubble, dirt, tree roots, and a really big trench. The squirrels seemed quite pleased that their world has suddenly become even more 3-dimensional. And we’re just damn thankful that we have the bobcat to use, because we never could have maneuvered into all those tight spots without a skid-steer style machine.

Luke drills a hole in the basement wall for the freshwater line that will run out to the yard hydrant. Notice the old sewer line coming into the basement in the upper left hand side of the photo. We’re gonna replace that.

Luke in a trench, wearing his Thai Coca-Cola shirt. I think he’s trying not to look too overwhelmed in this photo.

Luke and Olin driving the bobcat over some difficult terrain. The holes left by the recently-removed foundations made the driving a little dodgy, so Luke drove the machine, while Olin pulled them over the worst of the holes using the backhoe bucket.

I heard Luke let out a little yelp as he saw these things fall out of the backhoe bucket. Fortunately, our kitty crypt didn’t turn any more sinister— as there was no body associated with these dentures. However, since these things look like they must have been incredibly uncomfortable, it does suggest to me that the former occupants of this house may have chosen to avoid crunchy & solid foods. This was probably a good thing, considering that their sewer line looked like this:

Yes, folks, that is the old clay pipe with an un-moveable root mass sticking out of it. Every single joint in the pipe was filled with a root mass. I pulled as hard as I could on this one, and it wouldn’t budge. Even if you could have been roto-rootered out the 100 foot line, the pipe never would have stayed clear for very long. But drilling out the roots would have been impossible because there were no clean-outs. So really, we’ve been paying a sewer bill to Monte Vista for the last year, but they’ve probably never gotten a drop of our waste in their system. The sad thing is that all those nice little root-lets probably did a good job of cleaning up the waste in an environmentally friendly way. Now it will all get dumped into the sewer, where it will likely be treated with lots of nasty chemicals.

Our trench, snaking its way through the yard.

Our trench with the poor, unfinished kitchen addition in the background. Yes, we need to get back on that project, and finish closing it in. Get the windows in, the roofing on, and the siding installed. (I need to decide what the siding will be first.) Sigh. The list of projects is endless and ever-growing.


6 Responses to “pics of the big dig.”

  1. WHOA! Those pics are impressive. Good thing you’ve got a couple of expert bobcat drivers. I can’t even imagine how they dug that trench knowing where it goes in a more three-dimensional sense than the photos provide. Still, even having been there, I’m impressed by the photos. And kudos on the denture/sewer connection–totally hilarious!

  2. 2 millergeneral

    What are you doing with all the big chunks of concrete? Another plus to the sandy soil is that you don’t have to pull through rocks, or worse, blast through.

  3. 3 lauracm

    to MillerGeneral:
    Funny you should ask– we just happen to have a special this week on big, sloppy chunks of concrete. Unfortunately, our “Free Shipping” deal has recently expired. But feel free to contact us about this limited-time offer!

    Actually, there’s a local earthmoving company that has a huge pile of used concrete that they are crushing up–probably to make new concrete. We’re hoping to offload our chunks on them, which will involve renting a dump trailer. Stay tuned.

  4. I see that it’s Olin operating the backhoe. He may be an expert but I challenge him to a dual, backhoe a backhoe! We shall make the machines dance and in the end, I shall stand alone as victor! I may be old but at least I’m not really really old.

  5. 5 Dan

    Really really old? What an ageist comment – oh dear – back to the bottom of the grub-pile for you Alan Evil.

    Hi L & L!


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