Saturday, December 19, 2009
The Well, pt. 2
... and digging...
Actually, our first item on this new agenda, was to rent a Ditch-Witch, a great machine that digs a trench four feet deep by eight inches wide. Four feet deep is the standard code to get below the frost line so the water lines don't freeze, and eight inches wide to accept all pipes and electrical needed to get from here to there. A great machine, when the ground was right.
We laid out the line we wanted to follow, taking the most direct route possible. Logical. We started from where the lines would go into the house, curved it to redirect toward the woods. The pipe being used was flexible, to a point, curves had to be gradual. From behind the house at the entrance point, the line curved across the parking area and into the woods. There we stopped. Pete went down to where the well was, while I tied a tape line to a tree where we had stopped and then walked toward him, letting the tape out as I went. We looked at the line, and made a few adjustments for obstacles. Trees. Rocks. But eventually, we had a workable line.
We took the Ditch Witch and set it to dig, starting at the house point. By the time we got close to the woods, perhaps 75 feet, a lot of the trench had caved back in.... sand, fill from the construction site. Pete pulled the blade up. We were discouraged. He moved to the edge of the woods where the ground was virgin, and the digging went well from there. The machine cut through roots, spewed out fist sized rocks. Wow. Great. He got to the edge of the woods near the well, and shut the machine off. The Ditch Witch job was over. Now started the hand digging.
Know how deep four feet is? Chest deep to me at 5'4", but to dig that deep, that 8" trench now had to be body wide, and enough room to move with a shovel. That trench was now 18" wide. And chest deep.
And we were on a time table.
I tried clearing out the sandy trenches first, but they still caved it, and it was discouraging, so I struck out on the fresh ground, that 20' patch between the sandy area and the edge of the woods where the trench started again. It was hard going: rocks, tree roots, hard pan. I wold use the shovel, then have to switch to a hand spade to dig out a rock; or stop and cut some tree roots with the pruning shears. By the time I had the trench 3' deep, waist level, my legs were badly bruised by brushing against the hundreds of roots, small and large, that protruded into the new ditch. The next morning I could barely walk, I hurt so bad. My bruises had bruises! On top of that, it had started raining over night, a slow, steady drizzle that lasted for days. Miserable. Faced with getting down into that hole, I couldn't help but sympathize with Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen, when he had to get back into the leech infested water to continue pulling the boat to freedom. He didn't want to do it. I didn't want to do it. But I had to. I'm tough, yet I was almost thankful for the rain that hid my tears. I finally finished that stretch, and joyfully pulled myself out of the muddy hole. I needed a break. We had been digging for four days straight, I was tired, I hurt, I ached, and I still had the sand portion yet to clear out. I quit. I went into the house, heated some water for a shower, fixed a cocktail. After I showered, and put on clean clothes, I put more water on to heat for Pete's shower, fixed another drink and one for him, then ventured down to his project.
He was about as discouraged and bedraggled as I was. His trench was shorter, but the rocks!! He was digging out boulders!! I presented him with his drink, and with gratitude in his eyes, he heaved himself out. We sat there for awhile, sipping our rum & cokes and decided we could finish tomorrow.
The next day, with renewed and refreshed spirits, we began again. The continuing rain loosened the sides of the sandy ridges even more. At least that digging was easier, and NO tree roots poking me. After a few more cave-ins, one that trapped me to my knees, I got several 2x12's to five me a stable edge (see picture) and things went much easier. It was still dirty, muddy and messy, but at least I was seeing progress. Once I finished that section, knowing it likely would need touching up when we were ready to lay the lines down, I walked the line, clearing areas, measuring depth. Several times I had to lay on my belly, reaching down in that 8" trench with a spade, to clear an area, remove a rock, whatever needed doing.
Early in the afternoon, we were ready to roll out the pipe and the power lines. Leaving plenty of slack on both ends, the black PVC pipe was laid to rest. Then we filled it all back in... that was difficult, after days and days of back breaking labor, we were filling, visually nullifying all that hard work. But we were one step closer to having water in the house!