Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Construction - At last!

Straw bales for silt fence
Today is August 3, 2014 and we are finally beginning construction. The straw bale silt fence is in place and excavation has begun.

Dry Season
In Collinsville, it has not rained in over a month although some of our neighboring communities have been more fortunate.   
Silt fence on the east (close-by) and the south (downhill)
We have been hauling water from home 
to fill the 2 gal containers (discussion about water containers) that keep new trees and bushes watered as well as critical plants in the garden such as tomatoes, okra and squash.  And the dry season has limited the amount of mowing necessary, thank goodness.

However, as discussed in the posts about the excavation plan, Excavation and Excavation (Cont'd),  the dryness has allowed us to begin construction sooner.  Based upon the soil cores taken when the piezometers were installed, the concern was that too much moisture in the deeper silt soils or a torrential downpour on the excavation after the organic material was removed would be too difficult for a DIYer to manage for reasons explained in the posts on excavation.
The first bucketful!

Excavation -- First Day
I developed a few track loader skills while doing dirt work at my step-son, Keith's, owner-building project. Today, I find them to be a little rusty after the layoff of a year.  However, they not only came back after the first couple of hours but I gradually added efficiency. 

The goal is to create first a north-south profile of the excavation about 15' wide just east of the footprint of the house that will accomplish two purposes.  The first will be to provide a ramp in and out of the excavation for carrying the soil for storage on the flat area north of the building site.  The second goal is to validate the elevation for the eventual floor before actually carrying the excavation westward into the footprint of the house.  

First half days worth of hard digging
The ground is so dry that I have spent an inordinate amount of time with the toothed bucket on the loader trying to penetrate and separate the topsoil from the soils below for separate storage.  As I continued deeper, the soil below the topsoil was also bone dry and hard to pry loose down to a depth of four feet or so.  (Makes one wonder how shallow-rooted trees survive in droughty periods.)   Below that, digging was what I would consider normal for compacted soil.

Unexpected Debris
The area of the first dig was once the site of a very large barn, according to the sons of the original owner.  Supposedly, the foundation was removed and the cavity closed with fill dirt.  Sure enough, below the topsoil I encountered a layer of clayey soil with numerous bricks and stones to a depth corresponding to the frost line.   And an iron pipe, presumably a water pipe leading from the house, added to the fun.  As is apparent in the accompanying photo, the silt topsoil in the near pile has a different color than  the underlying soil in the far pile (click on the image for a clearer view).  

Second Day -- Not so good
After 10-12 bucketfuls, the loader stopped dead -- seemingly with no power from the battery.  Most of the day was spent solving the problem because my mechanical skills are almost non-existent and it wasn't until Keith, with his  trouble-shooting abilities, came to the rescue that the problem was fixed.  Although it was not the cause of the problem, we found a fuse-link that should be replaced before the jury-rigged, "penny-behind-the-fuse", situation had a chance to cause a fire.  An opportunity to upgrade the track loader at this early juncture is a good trade-off for the loss of a few hours of digging time.