Water Seeks Its Own Level – The Dig Continues.

It’s getting well into June now and we’re still digging.  I had seen the compact Ford tractor at the rental place and figured we could finish the hole quickly with a piece of machinery to do the work.  So I had it reserved for a day.

Our's was all white, but this is the beast. It takes a while to learn how to master that bucket. We never did.

We picked up the Ford, my side-neighbor, Brad, and I, and pulled it home to the front of the house.  It started right up and we managed to figure out how to put it in reverse to drive it off the trailer.  I drove it up the driveway, and as I got to the wall gate on the side of the house, I pulled the lever that lifted the bucket, and it went right up and almost tipped the tractor over.  Mental note, “don’t raise the bucket up that high,” and I wouldn’t have if I could have figured out how to stop its ascent.  But with the bucket raised it fit through the narrow gate, just barely, and the bucket cleared the fence.  We were in business.  We were in the back yard.

Here's something I'm glad I didn't know about until just today.

The first thing we had to do was make a dirt ramp into the hole so the tractor could get down there to dig.  I had seen foundations dug before, so I knew that they built a dirt ramp by removing dirt on one end of the hole.  However, I was doing it backwards, already having the hole.  Instead of digging out of the hole, I was digging in.  I put down the scoop and put it in gear.  It was working, cutting a six-inch deep swath of dirt in front of the tractor, got stuck for a second, and then snapped right through the sprinkler line.  I forgot it was there.

It may look easy to those of you that have never tried to get dirt into a bucket on the front of a tractor, but it isn’t.  Just for the record.  It took several attempts to lower the bucket, raise the front of the bucket to scoop in the dirt, raise the bucket more to clear the wall of the hole and dump the bucket into a waiting wheelbarrow to be dumped into Brad’s yard.  It took the manipulation of several levers.  It takes a while to remember which lever in what direction does what.  Needless to say, many of the first attempts put more dirt back in the hole than out of it.  And the tractor could not manage the caleche.  It just spun tires and got the tractor stuck in the sand.

“Let me try it,” Brad said after I had struggled with it for about an hour.

“Sure go ahead, have at it,” I said and jumped off the damn thing.

Well, turns out, I was a lot better at it than Brad, and I sucked.  So after two hours or so of frustration with little success at getting much of the dirt out of the hole, we abandoned the dig, and went over to his yard to move around some dirt where he wanted it.  Currently you could walk up the pile and over the block wall into my yard.

Now you would have thought, in a neighborhood of cookie-cutter houses, that the side gates on the houses would all be the same size opening.  You would be wrong.  The rear tractor tires would not clear Brad’s gate by about an inch.  We loaded it back on the trailer, took it back to the rental yard, and paid the $150.  I paid it.  Another hit to the pool budget with little to show for it.

It took another day to repair the “damage” the tractor caused.  I now had a ramp at one end which would need to be filled in instead of a smooth wall, and I had that sprinkler line to replace.

I bought more shovels and invited more friends over to dig.  The beer expense was escalating, but the hole reached it’s 3 feet deep, by 16 feet wide by 32 feet long dimension by the end of June.  The next step was to install the pressure treated wooden frame of  4 x 4 posts, 2 X 6 rails and 3/4″ plywood into the hole.

A miniature Coyne. Every little bit helped.

The first phase of the dig is complete. Three feet deep by 16' wide, by 32" long.

The wood is pressure treated for insects, predominantly termites, and rot by chemically infusing it under pressure, mostly with arsenic.  Well it’s chromated copper arsenate, which gives it that green color.  CCA was restricted though in 2003 by the EPA due to health and environmental concerns about arsenic leaching out of the wood.  Now, understand my lumber had to be treated double.  So it had twice the amount of CCA in the wood.  It was pretty green and very expensive, and, evidently, relatively hazardous.

"Yes, he's the great pretender..." Alex, x-wife's little brother. Came over to "see" the hole one day after all the digging was done.

The copper is toxic to various insects and fungi that can cause decay.  It can last buried in the ground for decades and was an approved foundation material even in California.  We were working with a hazardous product, exposing CCA laden sawdust to the neighborhood, and we took no precautions.  Nobody told us.  I did wear a mask when cutting it though as this was the only instruction I was given.  Thankfully, there weren’t that many cuts required.

We start the frame. Like building a fence three feet in the ground. You can see the "green" treated wood and the hose level that leveled it from side to withing a sixteenth of an inch.

We had to special order the double dose of CCA, and it took several months to get the wood for the pool foundation.  It had arrived the week before the hole was ready.  Now we got out the post hole digger and proceeded to cement a 4×4 post every 8′, carefully measured to make a perfectly square and level box fence inside the hole.

This is where we were supposed to get the state building inspector back out to approve the excavation.  I made the call to Santa Fe on Friday and was promised an inspector would arrive on Saturday afternoon.

More to come…

In-ground concrete sculpture. Can you guess what it is?

Celebrating the completion of the wall. You can see some of the support beams on the outside of the plywood.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Water Seeks Its Own Level – The Dig Continues.

  1. Love this DYI story. Can’t wait for the rest of it.

    • I just wish I had the pictures to put up with the story, but they’re in a box in Rio Rancho NM and I won’t be able to scan them for a few weeks. Thanks for reading. I think pictures might add some credibility to the story. :o)

  2. I still say this was quite an ambitious undertaking. I would’ve still been digging to this day! You’ve got a good buddy there helping you through it all,

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