Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Monday, March 07, 2005

Fun with a Backhoe

If we've ever had a moment so far which threatened our committment to this little project, it probably came this weekend.

Lesson number one - when working on waterlines, shut off the water first.

Actually, Dave and Tom learned that one earlier in the week so we cleverly took appropriate action to start off. Friday Dave dug some test holes near where we think the water leak is. He very carefully dug parallel to the pipe, and to a side so as not to damage the pipe again. Only, this was to no avail as he wasn't even able to locate the pipe. Saturday morning we decided he should dig perpendicular to the pipe run, which was a bit nerve wracking because we knew that there was also a 10 inch irrigation pipe in the area. While he was working on that, our Vet arrived for a routine visit. The Vet advised Ginger and I that it really didn't make sense trying to locate a leak - that it was faster and cheaper to just replace the water line.

So, by the time the Vet left we went to get the status on the latest hole. Turns out Dave had hit a layer of clay shale that even the backhoe couldn't get through - about 3 feet deep. Since water lines are run at 4 feet, we were darn confused as to where this line went and what to do next. At least he did find the irrigation pipe there so we got a second locate on that.

Upon abandoning those holes we took the time to fill them back in. That's when it occured to us - isn't this what you punish prisioners with? Digging ditches and then filling them back in?

Replacing the entire line from the valve to the barn now sounded like the best course of action. Providing, of course, that you know where both ends of the line are. There is a spigot right in front of the barn, so that seemed like the logical place to start looking for where the water enteres the barn. Dave set about digging that up while Ginger and I worked on turning our manure compost piles. This was a whole experience in itself, because it was my initiation to driving the big tractor - but that's another story.

Lesson number two - PVC piping is darn fragile.

Several hours later we were finished, and checking on Dave we found out that he had indeed unearthed the spiggot. That, and had pulled about 6 feet of pipe out of the ground to boot when he'd hooked it with the backhoe. The main point, however, was that the spiggot line was a dead end - it was not the supply for the barn. Not knowing what else to do, we dug back to where the line we'd pulled out had been connected, and we found another that it had T'd into. We capped that line and turned the water back on to see if we had successfully cut off the supply to the barn. Not so lucky: we'd cut off one half of the barn, so we still had another supply line to find. This was at 1:00 on Sunday. (Oh and a call to the seller during this time resulted in no useful information at all)

Earlier, we'd abandoned yet another hole. Guessing that the west end water supply SHOULD enter the barn at the wash stall, we dug parallel to the front of the barn about 3/4 the way across the front of that stall. We avoided the last 3 feet because Dave already knew the electrical was run there. We'd abandoned it because again the backhoe was stopped dead by an extremly hard layer of clay, and we knew that nothing trenched and refilled only 2 years ago could have solidified like that.

But now we were seriously at a loss. We'd done a heck of a lot of digging, had made some discoveries, had broken several pipes, but really had no pointers as to how to proceed. Ginger had an appointment to see a horse for sale, so Dave shooed me off with her. The horse was a real cutie, but he was also a 16.2hh Quarter Horse gelding, 4 years old who'd been gelded at 2. Had we had that description to start off, we wouldn't have seen the horse. But it was a friend of Gingers and the owner was in a pickle. The woman keeping him claims to have another buyer so we hope that works out.

Returning home we could see that the backhoe hadn't moved. This seemed like a very bad thing. Dave was deep in the hole he'd dug several weeks ago that exposed the electrical where it enters the barn. We approached, and encountered a number of curious findings:

First was a set of 1 foot square holes crossing the driveway, exposing the electrical from the house. Eventually he located a hole that exposed both the irrigation line and the splice that connected the proper wiring from the house to the substandard wires that enter the barn. We've been wanting to find this for MONTHS. It's notable that at the location of the splice the electric line not only takes a sharper than 90 turn, but also dives several feet down into the ground. No wonder we're having troubles predicting water line paths!

We then went on down to talk to Dave. His thinking about what we've learned about the construction so far led him to conclude that the seller probably had doubled up the electrical and the water in a single trench. Sure enough - 2 feet directly beneath the electrical supply was a water line.

Lesson number three - it's good to have friends with equipment

Gosh, in writing this now it all seems so logical, when at no step during the process did it feel logical, nor did we even feel like there was an end to the tunnel we were heading deeper and deeper into. Dave lamented he didn't know HOW we would have been able to do this without Tom's backhoe. I said - we wouldn't have even attempted to dig this much without the backhoe, so to some extent having it was a double edged sword!

Now we need to verify that we have found all sources of water into the barn and then isolate the leak as being between the valve and the barn. THEN we'll be ready to trench for a new water line. Looks like we will also be getting a second electric meter installed, so we'll also need to trench to rewire both barns to the new electric service. And we need to trench from the barn down to the pasture so that we can hard wire the outlet down there instead of maintaining the very long extension cord the seller 'installed'.

Very interestingly, we found out that Tom has some projects of his own going on and will be borrowing a trencher from someone this week. Huuum.



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