Monday, July 8, 2013

Digging & Digging & Digging

New homes have a learning curve.

And sometimes home projects quickly turn into an avalanche of repair and despair.

The nice-enough pool landscaping we had when we first moved in tornadoed into an unsexy mix of both.  A hot mess of learning, fixing and cursing. 

It started this spring when I hired the neighbor's landscaping man for a one time visit of pruning and teaching. Teaching me what plants we have, how to take care of them and how to run our irrigation system.  Surveying the landscape retaining wall next to the pool, he told me that the bricks were never sealed properly, and all the water was soaking into the blocks.

Which was evident by the paint chipping off the front near the fountains.
Which would eventually deteriorate the bricks.
Which would be costly to repair and rebuild.

He recommended digging out the dirt and sealing the walls. I didn't ask for a quote, just had him rip out the plants and weeds and I found the shovel.

We can add this digging - of a trench 26 feet long by 1.5 feet high - to the list of things that I thought I would be able to finish by myself in one afternoon.  I'm serious.

After two afternoons of digging, I was at about 1/10th. And already sore from using the pick axe to try and break up the dirt.  That's when I noticed the pool.

Not the refreshing pool, the one that had formed in the trench on the morning that the irrigation system watered the plants.  

And then noticed that the palm tree in the brick area at the end of the trench had only one green palm left. 

Broken hose. Dying plants. Priority level increased.

We kinked the end of the irrigation hose to stop the water.  Gave water to the palm tree via the garden hose.  And our evenings turned into dig dates.

And good thing they did, because Anthony came up with a sweet system of wheelbarrowing dirt to the edge and tamping it down to build a long dirt road for us outside the trench.

So smart.  We each took sweaty shifts shoveling and road building.

My intention had been to start this all before it got hot.  

I missed the boat.

But we got the dirt out.  And after brushing down the walls, mission brick sealing could finally begin.

We used two gallons of Drylok and did two thick coats.  It is like marshmallow cream and I found it semi-relaxing sitting on my little bucket and globing it onto the walls.

It's June now, we just need to let the Drylok dry and start sending the dirt back in.

Wait. Why does the soil seem to be wet on this one side every morning?

Enter Mission Pool Fountain Repair.

One of the fountains that runs water into the pool was oozing water out the back into the trench.  In the photo below you can see the pipe in the center that drops down the water surrounded by gobs of caulk. In the spot right underneath the spigot there was no silicon, just plastic bag. Plastic bag that didn't prevent it from leaking out the back.

Our solution for the leaky pool fountain: DAP Clear Silicon

Anthony reinforced both fountains to be thorough.

OK, dirt back in. Wait. The drip system is still broken.
Anthony: Let's get new hosing and a connector and then just run small drip lines up every few feet.
Me: I'd rather plan out the landscaping and then put the drip lines exactly where we need them.
Anthony: You want to leave the huge dirt pile in the backyard until you plan out the landscaping?!
Me: Drip lines every three feet should be fine.
Mission repair irrigation system.

The tubing, tube connector, small hose, hose connectors and end caps we needed were all easy to find at Home Depot.

Now it's late June.
Me: If the high for today is 120 degrees, what temperature do you think it will be at 6PM in the shade?
Anthony: Too hot to shovel dirt.
Fast forward to July.

July 4th weekend specifically.

And dirt goes back in.

Same process.

Pick axe.
Complain about your swass crack.

A blank canvas once again.

And while I'm incredibly grateful that this is over, there is something to be said about tough manual labor like digging your brains out.  It makes you think and appreciate.  

It made me think about digging in the summer of 1999.  I was at Fort Jackson, SC doing Army bootcamp. 

Digging a foxhole during our 5-day field exercise at the end of 8 weeks.
Digging it for me and my battle buddy.
Digging it arm pit deep for the tallest person, which was me at 5'10".
Digging it all by myself because my battle buddy from Georgia, with alabaster skin and entitlement for days said that she didn't know how to dig.

She really didn't. I taught her and tried to shame her and probably yelled at her and none of it put more than a laundry scoop of dirt in her shovel.  And we both knew that the only option was to make it work.  Bringing this fact to the attention of a drill sergeant, or anything to the attention of a drill sergeant, meant more pain and suffering than just getting it done in the first place.  And suffering for all.

I dug like mad - you could call it rage digging - until my friend, Private Brookshire, came down to finish off the hole.  He was done with his.  

And helped a sister out.
And brought his own suitcase of shame and verbal berating for Private Alabaster.
And I know its not right, but it still felt delicious to listen to it at the time.

I was grateful then that I knew how to dig.  And still grateful now.  Because there is something so rewarding in pushing your limits.  Pushing and digging further than you ever have before. Knowing that you can, but having so much reverence for a companion to help you finish the job. It adds grit. And I hope Private Alabaster has learned how to dig in the past 14 years, because if not, she is missing out.  Missing out not just on her own grit, but the opportunity to glimpse the strength of the true diggers in the world.  The ones that dig everyday.

Because it is who they are.
Because they need to.
Because it is their only choice.


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