Friday, December 29, 2006

Our backyard a few minutes ago

snow50, originally uploaded by Josh Gentry.

After I got home from work, about 45 minutes ago, I took this photo in our backyard. This is from the back of the house, looking towards the boat/library. For here in Albuquerque, this is a big deal. The two biggest snows I've seen here since 1993 have happened in the last week.

Notice the hat and stole St. Francis has on.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Page out of the Notebook II

Security guard
Constitution Party
Glassed in security booth
family pictures

Page out of the Notebook

Recently I started carrying a 3 x 5 notebook and a mechanical pencil in my back pocket. It's what I carry instead of a PDA. I jot down things I see, thoughts that occur to me, stuff I want to remember and maybe expand on later. For example, one page has this scribbled on it:

Momma had a dream
that I won the
lottery and they
found me dead in
a field.
I overheard that while waiting at a bus stop, and later posted Someone to watch over you.

I will post occasional pages from the notebook. If I post an explanation, it will be in the comments, so that you read the page from the notebook without pre-interpretation.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

We're plumbed!

Plumber is done and gone and I've done most of the backfill of the holes. Instead of the original estimate of $850 (plumber digs) the total was $320.62 (Josh dug).

I just ran the washer and washed a dish in the kitchen sing :-)

I grow to you and our parting

I am pretty ready for people to start lynching spammers. That said, I do appreciate it when the random text they use to avoid filters is good. The title of this post was the subject of a spam I received this morning.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Back Yard Archeology, Part III

Today was about working smarter. Unfortunately, it was also about working harder. So it goes. After reading yesterdays post, Peter, a co-worker, related to me the plight of his father, who had to dig up a sewer line that was buried 9 feet deep. Yikes! He didn't die in the process because a buddy of his recommended he use a water drill. He stuck a 9 foot piece of copper pipe on the end of a garden hose and used it to created a "perforated line" on each side of the intended trench. Peter claims he finished the job in 2 days. I decided to try it on the hard pan over the main line. Below is a picture of my water drill.

I was skeptical it was going to drill through this stuff, but it did, with varying success in different spots. Below is an action shot. If you look closely you can see a couple other holes drilled with the water drill.

It was still work to get a nice trench around the pipe, but I'd have never gotten as far as I did without the drill. It made a difference. Here I am looking down at that hole near the end of the day, deciding that the plumber would probably have to widen it to have room to maneuver, but I was done digging that hole.

The other trench didn't have nearly as much caliche, but it had the gas lines. I didn't use the drill here, but I did get the soil wet. Much lying in the mud and digging with a trawl. Here I am claiming victory.

I suffered one more defeat in the end. I thought I could get the line unclogged and usable now that I had both a clean out and access to the break in the line. I spent about 45 minutes snaking it and pulling out roots, soaked in what had been going down our kitchen sink and rotting there. I couldn't get it.

I'm as sore, stiff and tired as I've been in a long time. A full day's labour is enough to almost cripple me, these days. There are compensations. Near the end of my struggles Jae went to the store and got me a six pack and a bag of my favorite cookies. Then she cooked up a home-made, meat-and-potatoes meal. She looked at me with that look, the, "That's my man, taking care of the household," look. That's worth at least as much as the money saved.

Back Yard Archeology, Part II

It's the next day. I'm taking a vacation day to finish this. No pictures this post, but I'll have some good ones later.

I'm taking a break. To come into the house I have to disrobe entirely and put on a robe. Today involves lots of mud. I'm going to have some lunch, with coffee and ibuprofen figuring big.

You might be be thinking, "A day off to finish. I know digging is work, but it doesn't look like that much digging." If you've had to dig around pipes you didn't want to break, particularly gas lines, and in hard ground, you know my delima near the house. The picture from yesterday shows the two gas lines the break is sandwiched between.

If you know caliche, you, will understand my problem at the other end, uncovering the main line. Check out that wikipedia article. It's like concrete. You usually don't hit it till you get down a couple feet, but this spot its top to bottom. That main line was dug up and replaced 4 years ago. That would have broke up the caliche, but it got mixed all through, then we wetted it and tamped it down to reduce settling. Then the water line got dug up last year, and we really worked at wetting, tamping, wetting, tamping, wetting, tamping that area. We succedded. Ugg.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Back Yard Archeology, Part I

4 years ago we replaced 110 feet of sewer line from house to city main. It was the original line from the 30's. I was really surprised to see that it was ceramic. Last year we replaced 100 feet of water line, also original. It was galvanized pipe, and it was nothing but rust. We thought we were done.

The washer/dryer are in our basement/crawlspace. The kitchen sink and the washer have a separate line leaving the house and meeting the main line in the yard. It has stopped draining.

When we had the water line replaced we had a "D'oh" moment when we realized half the price was going to be the plumber digging it up. Jae and I took care of that, with the help of some day laborers, and saved about a 3rd of the price. This line is not very long, maybe 15 feet. So I started on the digging, hoping to either find a small section that could be replaced, versus the whole thing, or at least save the money of digging it, if we have to replace the whole thing.

The fun is multiplied by the fact that the sewer line crosses two gas lines and the water line. That means digging with a trowel to avoid cutting those lines.

I dug up the end where it leaves the house. To my astonishment, I discovered a cleanout buried under about 2 inches of dirt. When we moved in, to our knowledge, we had no cleanouts. When the main line was clogged it had to be augured from the roof, via the vent for the toilet. When we have had this washer line run, it has been done from the basement, which has very steep steps and is tough space to work in. So that was the first time I broke out into laughter. This was the beginning of the laugh-or-cry. Picture below.

I got close to the where the gas lines should be and started digging with a trowel, following the washer line. After awhile, I became convinced the whole thing was fairly new PVC, unlike the other ancient lines that had been replaced. I decided there was a good chance the pipe was good and the most likely place for roots to get in was the joint where the washer line met the main line. Because I am so intelligent and know so much about plumbing.

I decided to dig up the other end, the end that joins the main line, and see if the roots where getting in there. The ground is really hard there, making digging with the trowel almost impossible. Also, every strike with shovel or post hole digger struck something non-dirt, mostly ceramic fragments of the old main line. You can see where this is going. I hit the shiny new PVC main line and put a hole in the top of it. I collapsed in despondency. Picture below, with duct tape to prevent dirt from falling in.

At that point I almost decided to just pay the professionals whatever it was going to cost them to do the rest. After all, there were still 2 gas lines and a water line I could damage. But you see, I'm not that useful around the house. I have few mechanical or home repair skills. I'm just not interested. Sometimes I feel a bit pathetic, though, and the thought that I couldn't even dig a damn hole to save us money was too much.

I went back out and started following the line from the house side, again, carefully excavating around the gas lines with the trowel. I dug 4 inches further along the line, yes, 4 *&^% more inches, and I found the baseball size hole in the washer line. The first sign was the dampness of the earth. The second was when I could barely dig through the roots with my little trowel. This time my near hysterical laughter brought Jae outside to make sure I was OK. Picture below. The yellow pipe on the right is one gas line, and the gray pipe on the left is the other. The broken sewer line is obvious.

The plumber has now been here and told us he could replace the bad section in the washer line and the section I damaged of the main line for $300, if I do the rest of the digging. I'm about to resume excavations.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

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