Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Monday, March 28, 2005

Don't Volunteer

Please - somebody remind me next time that you really DON'T want to volunteer to re-run water line!

It was, what, three weekends ago that we spent the whole weekend digging, trying to locate leaks and pipes. Unable to ever guess where the line was run, we decided it would be easier to re-trench and run the line again. Based on the fact that we eventually did witness many PVC pipe junctions that had little to no cement in them holding them together, this probably was the best long term solution. But, my goodness, it was a chore!

Two weekends ago was Expo, so we had a weekend off. The weekend a week ago we borrowed Tom's bobcat (in addition to the backhoe) and rented a 4 foot trencher and set to work. For most of the weekend it was Dave, me, Ginger and Roger trenching, digging with the backhoe, and generally moving dirt from one place to another. And sometimes back again. Oh, and Murphy? Yeah, he was along for the ride too.

We started out knowing the location of the valve at the top of the hill, the exact location of one of the water supply lines to the barn, and an approximate location on the other supply to the barn. We'd found the T which went to the second supply line, but it was about 30 feet out from the barn and headed in at about a 45 degree angle. We figured we'd trench along the front of the barn and cross it. This one was actually going to be fun - run the trencher until we hit and broke the pipe and we'd be there.

Never the less, we started with the two known points and started trenching out from the barn up to the valve. That lasted about 20 feet, when he had to start backing up hill trenching. Um - trenchers don't work real great backing up hill. Also, as one would expect, we didn't exactly know the best way for using the trencher, so we were dismayed that the trench was only clearing down to about 38-45, sometimes 48 inches. Our goal was to run the lines 48 inches down.What the heck do you do to clear out a trench that is 6 inches wide and 3.5 feet deep? Huum.

So we gave up there and started again at the top of the hill. It's relevant to mention that all this waterline is very close to both an abandoned set of electrical lines, as well as our neighbor Tom's operational irrigation pipe. We knew we'd have to cross the water under the irrigation pipe somewhere on the hill, and finally decided to just trench down one side, skip over and trench on down on the other side, and jog the pipe between the two.

Trenching from the top went like a dream! Much softer ground, and we had by then figured out how to run the trencher so that it cleared to 48 inches. Just as the sun went down, so did our hopes. We were still working away - the trencher, after all, can only move about an inch or so a minute and has headlights to boot - so why quit? Well, we encountered where the leak must have been. All that was coming up was mud (and shattered pieces of pvc), and the trencher just wasn't able to deal with it. It kept bogging down and there was no more nice clean trenches. We turned in.

In the morning we had a plan. Several, actually. Dave would attack the leak area with the backhoe while I moved down to start trenching across the front of the barn. Ginger would begin to clear the trench dirt away from the side of the first trench so that we would be able to drive the trencher through that section again and deepen it. Dave's part of the plan worked.

The arsenal increases

Days end

As for trenching across the front of the barn - it too was all mud 4 feet deep. That is directly underneath the long edge of the roof, so we figured a lot of run off had saturated the ground. So Dave cleared beyond the leak area and we moved the trencher back up on the hill while he went about trying to find the second water supply to the barn. By now he was getting really good with the backhoe. We knew that while hitting the existing pipe with the trencher would be ok because it would just cut through it - the backhoe was a different story. Every time he hooks pipe with that thing it pulls out 6-10 feet. We really did not want to be pulling pipe out from under the barn! So he spent all afternoon being very careful to clear only to 40 inches or so, and then hand dig. And hand dig. And hand dig. Guessing (do I have to keep telling myself that guessing isn't a reliable way to go?) where the pipe COULD have been run, it made total sense that it would enter the barn in the second or third stall bay from the end as there are no waterers or spiggots inside the barn closer to the end of the barn than the second bay in. So Dave excavated all the way to half way into the first stall bay... and dug down to over 4 feet, with no luck. He decided to hook the hose up to the T section we had found, so that it might show us a wet spot - in case we'd broken it but were unable to see the ends. No luck. Then I suggested he go in and see if the barn had water. It did. What - now that we wanted to find and bust the pipe we were unable to do so! He ended up having to dig all the way to the very end of the barn before finding that pipe. An NO - he did not damage the side we didn't want damaged. This was as the sun was going down on Sunday.

Barn Trench

Bad Trench (backhoe) & Good Trench (Trencher)

Meanwhile Roger, Ginger and I continued trenching. We finished one side, moved over and lined up with the first section of trench - and promptly hit a layer of rock that we just could not get through. We had to pull the trencher way up to make any progress. Then came the fun of trying to back over existing trench to run through it a second time. I'm guessing that trenchers really aren't designed to do this. We were fighting alignment all of the way, but also working to keep the edges of the trench from collapsing. Without a solid wall of earth directly behind the trencher blade, it was not able to pull up all of the debris either. But we figured if we could push it as far along the trench as we could towards the large excavated hole where the junction was going in we could get that stuff out by hand. True. But not easy. During this day we had had to cut the live electric lines (after they were shut off) to the barn, so the sun was going down and we just could not see a thing. We called it a second night - with all trenches dug except for the 8 foot jog underneath the irrigation pipe, and all three end points located.

The pair of trenches

Trenching a second time

We fell exhausted into bed, and were gently lulled to sleep by the soft patter of rain on the windows.



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