Monday, May 16, 2011


May 14.

Today we cut a large red oak damaged by a storm last year from a friend’s woodlot. It will provide the center post for the staircase and the extension jambs for the windows and doors as well as the treads and risers for the staircase. They should be dried and ready for use in a couple of years when we need them. This was a positive culmination to a rather hectic week. For four days the construction crew were here digging footings here and looking for the sewer and water line to hook up to. For some reason the city maps only showed a water line onto the lot but there had been an existing house on the site that had both sewer and water before it was demolished. The city ran a camera down the sewer in the street and found the Y connection for the lot but could not tell us in feet where exactly in the street it was located. We dug for an entire day. An abandoned gas service line required a visit from the gas utility to gain assurance it wasn’t live and leaking. Then we discovered a 4 inch gas main and a telephone cable that had to be trenched between as we continued the search. By 3:30 we were all pretty frustrated. The foreman of the digging crew informed me that we might have to open the street at considerable expense and start over. He asked for another half hour to follow what appeared to be a fill line deep in the trench we were digging, thinking that it might lead somewhere. 40 years of his experience gave him an eye for such hints. The rented small digger had to be back by 5 PM. We were getting nowhere fast. The backhoe operator hit a stone and climbed down into the trench. I walked over to the foreman and said, “ There is an old Chinese quotation that says, When the horse is dead, get off. “ The guy in the ditch at that instant realized he hadn’t hit a stone at all and called out “I found the pipe!” Cheers all around.

We start the hook-up on Monday. I promised the crew lunch and a coconut cream pie.

I think it was a good couple of days for Sam too. He enjoyed jawing with the construction crew and relished the digging . He witnessed the finessing of both a city inspector and a neighbor who was not too pleased with what they thought the finished house might look like. With his eyes and ears open he will learn a lot more on this project than how to just build a house. Before a college degree was the be all and end all of one’s education this was how young people learned to negotiate the world and the workplace, and I believe that the world may have been a better place then for it.

It is still going to be an expensive dig but with a line off of the street, less costly than it might have been. I will be very glad to get this portion of the project behind me. Our photographer stopped by to take pictures of the week’s work and we all marveled at how all this digging of trenches and foundations and basements was done often by hand just a couple of generations ago. It gave us a real respect for a basement from the 1900’s!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Hot, Humid and Hole

Hot, humid, and the hole is being dug! The digger arrived this morning and went to work after we gave him a tour of the property and discussed the job at hand. The sewer and water will have to come up and under the brick drive, so we removed a twelve foot section of bricks (good thing it is brick otherwise we would have the added expense of laying a new section, in this case we can just re-lay the bricks when the water and sewer is laid and inspected). We took many water breaks, but nonetheless, I was a bit heat exhausted. The digger took apart the old stone shed foundation. In the northwest corner we found an old limestone hitching post! It took most of the morning and afternoon to load up the limestone, where it was dumped in a couple of piles to be reused in the future house foundation. The digger started leveling the terrain and digging the foundation. I am sure there are many more hot and humid days ahead, but today we have a hole.