Saturday, 9 April 2011

Drain on resources

The last blog post was pretty much about digging - three weeks later I'm still digging ! What started off as a casual " I'll move the LPG (gas) tank to the top of the hill" has now taken up four weeks in total and is still not entirely complete !

I have finished the main gas pipe trench though, with some relief it must be said - here's the last bit that needed dug !
Was I happy about that ? Oh yes !

Its not because I've been hanging about either ! A quick check of my diary revealed that of the thirty one days in March, five were spent at work for alien rock, twenty five days were spent working  on this project and two half days were spent  "having a rest" (but itching to get working !). February revealed just  two full days "off" and several days being ill with the dreaded winter lurgy.

I've actually quite enjoyed  this a "project within a project" despite the mundane apparent reality of it all and occasional moments of self imposed stress. There have been  a few new skills and techniques to learn and challenges to overcome and I suppose this is the very essence of what I enjoy about the whole self-building/ restoration path- it just never lets up !

This "tank move" project is also perfect example of how time, energy and costs can quickly slip away on a self build. Even with the best intentions, when its being done for yourself ,you always try to think too far ahead to future possible plans and to "do the right thing" .All the extra  plumbing and drainage materials have probably come to about £1000 yet none of it was budgeted for or will ever get seen ! All that will be seen for a months effort will be: the water appearing in the right place ; the rain magically disappearing into the ground ; the building staying dry; no gas tank inside the walled yard/ garden

The sixty meter gas pipeline replacement  expanded to include a mains water pipeline after I damaged a small section (below) and then decided to complete re-run sixty meters of it alongside  the gas pipe.


Rather than just backfill the trench with the mud I dug out as originally envisaged, it has now become: a geo-textile lined, recycled glass filled, plastic tubed land-drain (which splits into two directions and will have added an extra twenty meters very soon. It has  also expanded sideways (about ten meters) to become a mains water supply to the fields as well  !
The size of the job can be seen in the next two photos (I havent moved).In the top photo the new tank is on the right, about level with the tractor. In  bottom photo, the trench splits and carries on to the left (for the drain) around the high wall ; and also goes to the right (for the water pipe),  past the house, into the yard to where the house shadow finishes  !.

All this digging then got me in the mood to sort out both the water supply to the caravan (In above photo, behind the curved doorway about ten meters ) and an ongoing damp problem that the house suffers from. This led to digging a further fifteen meters of trench alongside the house to connect to the ducts I installed six weeks ago. About a meter down, I uncovered an original 200 year old hand-made clay pipe land-drain which was  blocked (unsurpisingly) as well as a soil pipe/ drain outlet  which was  allowing water back onto the house foundations. It had been "sealed" with mud from when the house was converted internally at some point- probably decades ago.

Because the trench has been refilled with a 15 tonne lorryload of glass "cullet" (made from ground up, recycled, glass bottles ) that meant an equivalent volume of mud has to be taken, one tractor bucket at a time ,back up the hill to be dumped. Slow, slow ,slow. (If anyone has a dumper truck I need a loan of one !).Thats not quite finished !

I  need to order another 15 tonne lorryload to finish the job as well - it comes from the local Viridor glass recycling site about 400m away where the old Dalhousie stables are. I did think it ironic that  to be buying  back all the broken glass, bottles, windscreen etc that had been laboriously dug up just a few weeks ago, taken to the Viridor site, only to be burying them again in almost the same place ! Oh well !

Back inside the house, the living room floor needed to come up (again!) so the "plumber" could connect the new gas pipes. I'd have done that myself but it's probably not allowed  ;-)

It was all finished with about four hours to spare before the real Gas engineers arrived to exchange the original  LPG tank in yard with the new one at the top of the hill.

So thats one less unsightly thing to look at in the "garden".

For some diversion (after the gas was leak tested!) I set the field on fire.


Much of this had actually been done by our neighbours Chris and Milly who have been helping clear some of our field  for their mules. Don't know why I never thought of it beforehand - it was only after seeing some local kids torching the grass on other side of river that I thought "What  a great idea , I'll do that as well!" 
You are probably not allowed to burn fields now either, I'll just say Chris started it ! ;-)

The improving weather also brought out some old tools...   ;-)

...this one being a Bulb planter. Dad is trialing the "retired persons method of planting  potatoes with minimum effort in digging". This small  bit of ground was first cleared with the digger - it took a whole day - there was so much rubbish, brick, scrap metal and asbestos cement mixed in with it. 

On the other side of that wall, we dug up nineteen large bags of rubbish , all of which was buried beneath the surface.

- taking two days for me to sift through it all with the digger - its only about fifty square meters as well. The soil is lovely though, a rich loam nearly two feet deep in places which is why its worth clearing properly.

In the glasshouse April has been entertaining the kids by: making mud ; catching worms; digging up nettles and planting seeds. The fruits( and veg) of their labours will appear in next blog I suspect)

Its been a slow grind recently but the water, gas and drainage all seems to work now as intended. The piles of mud will soon be gone as well, hopefully before the tractor needs an complete engine rebuild- its started smoking badly and struggles to start now.

If it breaks down I'll be stuck...

Or will I ?

 I suppose that when you "dig in"  you do eventually get somewhere, even if it is slowly !