Holes

Give me a shovel and I’m happy.

I grew up in Utah in a middle size town named Roy. My Dad passed away months before I was born but I’m told our house was brand new when my parents bought it. No landscaping was in place when they moved in. Most people laid or planted grass and a farmer who still owned many acres worked his land behind us well after he was surrounded by “civilization”.

Our yard, however, was different for two reasons: First, we had a commercial size playground set that attracted every kid for miles and secondly, because my father had the foresight to leave the back quarter in it’s natural state. The rear fence was lined by four huge trees for climbing and the rest was dirt.

Mud is the perfect toy. It’s great for the immune system, and is superior to the most expensive of Lego sets.  You can mold it, make highways for your matchbook cars, or create mud pies. The possibilities are endless for a kid with a bucket, a shovel and a four year old imagination. Essentially, I grew up in the dirt.

Fast forward to adulthood and the continuing fascination with digging. While we were on the road looking for property to buy a couple of years ago, I dug a few test holes out in the woods looking for water. I knew we were going to be roughing it and I wanted practice. I youtubed instructions on how to dig a water well with nothing but PVC pipe and was successful at one point. My husband promised me that when we got our own property, I could dig any time of day and for as long as I wanted. I couldn’t wait.

Now that our realm is measured in acres rather than feet and there is no HOA from hell to tell me what I can and can’t do, I dig to my heart’s content. I need only the slightest excuse to grab a shovel and open the ground whether it be in search of water, gold, artifacts or to plumb the depths of a fault (a couple of months ago, I got about three feet down before I realized I wasn’t going to run into lava).

When we first got to our new property, I went looking for a likely place for water. To my delight, I found it a little over a foot down and we have have used the springs along a hillside for our water supply without digging a deep well.

I subsequently dug several other test wells and named them alpha hole, beta hole, etc. Most I’ve since filled in lest someone happen along in the middle of the night without a flashlight and break a leg.

Recently, with the drought and all, I began eyeballing a spot I suspected may have been a well for the original occupants of the property seventy years before our arrival. The rocks seemed to be piled into a depression that gave me the impression of a filled-in well.

Although I’d previously dug down about five feet, the idea of digging deeper was daunting because of the terrain and brush surrounding it. With our current water supply dwindling however, I surveyed the area again and finally made the decision to excavate.

Me and my husband spent about a week clearing vegetation and moving the already existing piles of rock farther away from the hole. We spent day after day digging by hand, pick and shovel farther down into the earth until I heard my husband exclaim excitedly “look at this!”. I looked down to where he pointed and saw water actually squirting up and out of a crack in the rock.

We already had water in the bottom of the hole but this was what we were looking for. A strong new water supply. To our best estimates, our new well is producing about a hundred fifty to two hundred gallons a day. Plenty for ourselves and our garden.

We set the pump and laid the hose and power cord over a tree we placed across the opening, cleaned up the bottom and sides and we’re back in business! I felt a great sense of relief and was doubly glad I’d decided to go through with the back breaking project.

My latest excavations are test holes for gold. I currently have about five or six of those going. But I really don’t need an excuse to dig any more.

Overwhelmed

Trying to keep up.

I feel so overwhelmed right now. We got our shed about a week ago and I expected to have it up in one day (see picture below for current status). There it sits. We’ve been working on it but there isn’t enough time in one day and dark hitting earlier hasn’t helped.

Our little matter with the neighbor over the cul de sac kind of derailed us for a day and a half. We left a succinct, firm letter for him and his wife on one of the fence posts he erected stating we had checked and confirmed that the land survey was correct and recorded and asked him to respect our private property signs going forward. He’d previously gone onto our property, past well marked posts, and spray painted the ground while he was planning his cul de sac. We weren’t too happy about that.

I wonder what he’s thinking right now? My husband and I have wondered whether he made a gargantuan mistake in his surveying or thought he’d just see if he could get by with us offering no resistance to his grand plans. That’s purely speculation but one thing isn’t; he never mentioned a word about moving his road onto our property in advance. That baffles us.

He was up here with his chainsaw today cutting down trees again but we couldn’t tell if he was cutting them down along the easement or further out on his property. It was a bit disconcerting to keep hearing the “thumps” as they came down. I might walk down the easement road a bit tonight and check.

We didn’t get the covenants from the recorder’s office the other day and are still not sure where we stand legally in the decision process about making changes to a shared easement. Common sense says that we should be consulted and have to agree to any such changes. Still waiting on the attorney. There was a conflict of interest and we were referred out to another attorney.  Tomorrow morning we go and comb over those covenants.

The neighbor said he was planning on adding a lane to the easement road and a lot of gravel to a steep portion to level it out. This is OK with us but we’re not OK with not being consulted.

We had wood delivered the other day and you’d think we never get visitors by the way we spent an hour showing the guys around the property and exchanged antique ax heads for cash off the delivery. Very nice guys. One of them also does handy work so we may have our guy to help with some work around here. The shed might be his first project if he’s game. We can do it ourselves but the time….

I insulated the battery bank tonight as the inverter wouldn’t turn on the past couple of nights in the cold. Some research told us that with the battery temperature sensors now in play, the charging voltage is probably way up and the inverter is most likely protecting itself from over powering. We’ll see if the insulation helps. I got a plastic container and we hefted the batteries and about two million wires and cables into it. It’s now lined on all sides with foam board insulation.

The fire wood is mostly stacked thanks to my husband and son. We’ve been trying to involve our son more in responsibilities around here for the benefits those things offer a young person; a sense of responsibility, confidence, ownership, a sense of independence, family time. 🙂

Work in progress photos:

It was time to refill the huge water tank we bought about a month ago but alas, the freeze sneaked up on us and the hoses froze with water in them. It took us about an hour yesterday to drag them all downhill from the spring and get them into the tub of hot water. After soaking them, my husband had to use the pump to force all the ice out of them. It was exhausting and we’re emptying them after use from now on.

I moved the ever growing pile of tools, fasteners, parts, and the propane fridge we got a month ago but still haven’t installed out of the trailer. We want to put all the extra stuff in the shed but it still needs to be built! Uhggg.

We need to clean up from all of  our projects too. It never ends around here.

I also have a million administrative type tasks to do. I’ve been grouchy from the sheer volume of things to do. I’m a list person and I decided to get this stuff out of my head where it’s a giant whirlpool of thoughts and feelings onto paper where I could organize them. I drew a big mind map on some card stock and filled it with every item to be done, along with every sub category attached to it until I’d gotten it all out.

The page looks like a mess unto itself but everything’s there in bubbles that I can look at and know I at least don’t have to keep trying to remember what needs to be done. It’s still a lot but I feel like I have a semi handle on it now.

At least the main mission of the week is handled. The most terrifying to our sense of peace; the issue of the cul de sac. We are so relieved and there will be fallout surrounding the dispute but it sure wasn’t our fault. We simply had to respond to this threat to our land and our peace of mind in an assertive way.

Tomorrow is Monday. Another week starts but for the most part, my husband and I look forward greatly to our future here and have a concrete list of goals to grow in every way.

Writing my blog helps me to just get it out when I feel overwhelmed (between appointments with my counselor). It’s nice to talk at people

It also helps me avoid the bubble list.

 

 

The Spring

The heart of our place.

When we first saw the property, it was late August and everything in eastern Washington was very dry, needless to say. Knowing this, we were trying to decide how we would have access to water. We considered a large tank and delivery. We asked our agent about a well and she said maybe a few hundred feet down we might find water.

I found water at about 1.5 feet.

The day we arrived, I explored every square inch of our newly acquired 3.7 acres and looked for likely spots for water. I had been online getting tips so I looked for green amongst the brown and signs of winter run off ditches. I found one spot on a hill on the property that actually had some green grass growing at that time of year. I decided to dig there.

I can’t remember how long it took; just a couple of hours I think, as there was solid rock right at the surface, but I chipped and dug away and to my disbelief, the soil turned damp and then…actual standing water.

I had found a spring.

It could have been runoff but all signs pointed to spring water as I continued to go a little deeper. It turned out that the whole hillside was either one massive spring with a multitude of outlets or tons of springs all over the hillside. Some sources were larger than others but you could almost dig anywhere up there and find water coming up out of clay tubes and cracks between rocks.

We decided to use it as a water supply and at one point, we trenched a tiny path down the hillside to a larger holding hole we had dug. We used our pump to put water directly into the trailer for washing and just got drinking water either from the city’s standpipe or bought jugs from the store.

All through the winter we got a pretty good flow and measured about 12 or more gallons per minute using the bucket method. Problem is, the flow almost dried up over summer. That’s why we didn’t try to tap it during the colder months. I ended up going down a little deeper during the summer months but we had water all year long!

Come fall, we called contractor after contractor to dig a shallow well to make things official but they were all booked months ahead. Faced with another winter with an amateur setup, we went and got a sediment filter to run the water through before going into the trailers. Our hoses froze last winter so we (as with everything we plan around here), have to think ahead for that. We had that flow all last winter so we’re thinking the only tricky time might be between when the freeze hits and before the water is flowing again. We’ll have to be careful to keep the hoses empty after each use. The water filter too.

Mind you, I know things are a bit dicy with water rights here in Stevens County so I’m still trying to figure out where we stand with all of this legally. We can have a shallow well dug no problem; that’s all we need anyway but I discovered something interesting while digging this summer.

Sure it was hot and there may have been surface runoff somehow making it’s way down well beneath the surface but I began to notice slightly hot spots in places at the bottom of the spring. It was coming up a rock face and was pretty consistent. I felt around day after day with my fingers trying to decide if this might be geothermal activity.

Just a month or two earlier, while looking at geological maps for prospecting purposes, we discovered that not only were we situated in the middle of a series of faults but that, by the look of things, we might be sitting right on top of one! That would explain the springs and, possibly, geothermal activity.

I called WSU’s (Washington State University) geology department and spoke with a geologist there. He seemed to think it might be runoff but trust me, I just have a hunch something else is going on down there. I called an attorney about buying the water rights but it sounds like a complicated process. We’ll see. We want someone to come out and drill to settle the matter of geothermal activity. Maybe next spring?

We’re also considering getting a micro water generator for electricity. More research is needed though.

All in all, we watered our garden all summer by siphoning through hundreds of feet of garden hose to the holding hole, then pumping it out to the sprinkler. Pretty nifty huh? When we dug the garden, we routed the water into the area and created a temporary mud pit to soften the clay rich soil to a point where it was a tad bit easier (bit still almost impossible to turn).

Our spring (or Stevens County’s spring), is the heart of our property. It represents life and hope for us and it’s the place I go when I need to think or just cry. It’s my place: and the yellow jacket’s. I had to share the space with them all summer long in that hole. We managed to get along, somehow, and everyone got their water.

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Looking up the hill with the hose for siphoning.