Friday, July 29, 2011

Finishing the Headwaters of the Walkway

With the telephone land-line working and re-buried, there should be limited activity going in or out of the gate, so I went back to finishing the walk way from the raised garden up to the gate by the garage and the driveway.

This was pretty much straight-forward excavation. Break up the dirt. Separate the rocks from the dirt. Haul the dirt in a wheelbarrow to a storage pile, to use elsewhere later. Put the rocks in a pile to use to fill under the walkway once it is defined by the two walls on each side.

It took a couple of days.

But now we have the digging done.

The one thing we had to be very very careful about is the irrigation supply line. This is a large white PVC pipe which supplies the water to all the sprinkler system zones. This supply pipe is attached directly to the city water supply (thru a back-flow valve). If we were to nick it, we would have a flood of water gushing from it (we've done this elsewhere). But (so far) we've avoided problems so far. This supply line starts at the street and goes all the way around the house.

Once the digging is done, we can then frame and pour the concrete.

To help protect the irrigation water supply line, we surrounded it and the control wires with a 4 inch drainage tube. This should give us a bit of warning when we get close to it.

Then we can lay the white limestone blocks on top of the concrete.

And finally, we fill the trench created by the two walls with the loose rock that we found while we were digging.

This should make it usable for awhile. Longer term, we want to cover it with decomposed granite and then flagstones.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Extending the Walkway to the Back Patio

The landscape plan shows the walkway going from the gate to the raised garden and then around to the back patio. This creates a landscape bed between the walkway and the house, next to the garage and kitchen. I decided to go ahead and start this work, since it ties into the walkway in front of the raised garden, and I'm almost done with that, ready to pour concrete and fill in with rock.

First we lay out the location and shape of the walkway extension, using a garden hose to define both the left and right sides. Once that is correct, we spray paint the lawn along the hose.

Then we remove the grass from where the walkway will be. This gives us a good view of what the walkway will look like.

The real purpose of this, at this time, is just to see how it interacts with the walkway in front of the raised garden. We will need to dig it out at least for a short section where the two intersect, so we can pour the cement wall that defines the boundaries of the walkway.

Continuing to dig out the dirt, we are struck by how little depth there is to the dirt before we hit solid rock.

But we continue digging it out, exposing the rock where the walkway will be.

Our first attempt was to pour a cement wall directly on this rock outcropping.

Then the idea was to dig out the dirt yard behind the cement wall, and use the jack hammer to split the rock in the yard, so we could lift it up and out -- creating a deep dirt-filled yard.

Unfortunately, it didn't work out. We dug out the dirt, exposing the rock. But when we went to jack-hammer the rock and pry it out, all the rock moved and came out, including the cement wall, leaving a big hole.

Part of the problem was probably the sharp straight edge of the wall in front of the raised garden, as well as the real shallow depth of the wall on the rock.

But this changes the approach we will use. Rather than trying to put the walkway on the rock directly, and then dig out the yard on either/both side, we will dig out the yard and the walkway, and then pour the support walls for the walkway, as we did for the North Pit and South Pit. It's more work, but it should be a much better result.

So the next step is to dig up the yard just south of the new walk-way area and get that rock out of the yard, using it to fill in the areas around the raised garden.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Walkway in front of the raised garden

While waiting for the telephone company to fix our land line phone cable, I've started digging out the area where the walkway will go in front of the raised garden. We already have the area behind and to the North of the raised garden, so we have the front and to the South to do.

The first problem is to mark the area to be excavated.

Next we remove all the grass, exposing the dirt to be moved.

We dig down with the dirt. In some places, we only go a couple of inches before we hit rock. One day of digging gets the first half.

A second day of digging gets the second half.

As you can see, rocks lay just below the surface. So now we need to take out those rocks. We were hoping that we could use the dirt edge as one side of the framing for pouring a vertical cement wall, but it looks like the rocks do not happen to separate where we want them to, so we will need to extract rocks that will leave a void under the ground in the yard. Eventually we will want to dig out the yard too. It may be sooner for parts of the yard than we wanted.

So far we've done pretty well with just taking the rocks out of the desired area. Most of these rocks are too big to manage as is, so I've brought out the jackhammer and split them at the edge of the trench.

We have about half the rocks out now, and just need to continue to split them and remove them.

Continuing with the excavation, we are down to one (big) rock to remove, right at the corner of the walkway and the North Pit. In preparation for the cement wall defining the boundary of the walkway, we have to consider how the walkway continues from the raised garden to the back patio, so we have laid that out and will need to excavate the extended walkway, probably 3 feet or so, to provide the right support and connection to the extended walkway.

The objective now is to fill this trench with rock, ready for flagstones to make it a walkway. To do this, we need both sides of the trench well-defined. So we are going ahead and putting in the retaining wall that will separate the yard (dirt) from the trench (rock). Once we have that wall in place, we can fill the trench with rock. We use our standard technique of using the dirt for one side of the frames and the masonite boards as the other, separated by multiple 1x4 boards, and held in place with our bags of compost/manure.

Replacing our Telephone Line

We've been having problems with our telephone for some time. This is our AT&T land-line telephone, the one that was installed when the house was built in 1986.

For a couple of years now, the amount of static and noise on the line has been increasing. Last year (September 2010), when Hurricane Hermine came thru, we got 14 inches of rain in one day. A couple of days later, the phone line was generating so much static that we couldn't dial out, or hear much when someone called. At that point, a couple of guys came out and said the problem seemed to be below the concrete pedestal in the back yard with the electrical transformer. Then they went away, and gradually, the problems with the phone line went away.

This year, the static and noise increased again (and we've had no rain). Eventually it got bad enough I figured we needed to try again. I put in a trouble report with AT&T. In retaliation, the phone line decided to just die altogether. No signal. No dial tone. So at least it wasn't a subjective or transitory problem.

After 4 days, a repair person came out and agreed that the line was dead. The next day, a locator came out to (a) agree the line was dead, and (b) mark the lawn with where the line went and where the problem appeared to be. They can apparently send a signal down the line and when it gets to the break, it reflects and comes back. From the time it takes to get the reflection, they can compute how far down the wire the problem is. 39 feet. Which put it pretty much at the electrical transformer.

Another 4 days later, a crew of two guys showed up to dig up the lawn, to get at the phone wire at the point where the problem should be. They dug down and found the trench in the limestone where all the utility lines are (phone, cable, electrical). But they could not find the telephone line.

So this digging crew left, needing another locator. F days later, another locator person showed up, and found a spot on the other side of the electrical box. Another dig crew came out and dug down and found where our phone line was split off from the main cable.

Since it was now some 14 days without a dial tone, the installer put in a new telephone line by opening up the main line and splicing on a new cable, and then ran that cable across the yard to the interface box on the side of the house and attaching it instead of the old line. The old wiring is still there, buried in the yard,
but useless, and detached. The new wiring is just a black cable running across the yard. Another dig crew needs to come out and bury the line.

Turns out two dig crews came out. On Wednesday, a crew of two guys came out and filled in the holes and removed the plywood and orange plastic fence.

This left the telephone cable coming up out of the ground on the right side of the electrical box, and then going back down on the left before coming back up and crawling across the lawn to the house. And they said that another dig crew would come out and just "shove the line under the grass", which is what the cable people did when they needed to replace the cable.

This seemed short-sighted, so I went out and dug up both sides, to find the cable, and then along the front of the electrical box, down to bed rock (which isn't very far right there), and threaded the telephone cable from the one side (where it attaches to the main telephone trunk), over to the other side, where it will continue to the house. There was lots of extra cable, so I coiled the extra on both the left and the right sides.

Then I buried all this, so that the right side of the box is completely finished, and the cable just comes up out of the ground on the left side, and then runs across the yard to the house.

Literally 5 minutes after I finished this work, the final dig crew showed up and 3 guys pushed the cable under the grass in about 10 minutes.

That should hold everything until this entire area of the yard is excavated.