A month of trench work

In the span of time since our last post (approximately 1 month) we have finished squaring up the foundation trench footings. We took a week off for a wedding in Portland and had another week off while hosting our parents in Silver City. My good friend Dustin, whom I last saw ten years ago when we were studying abroad in Norway, stayed with us for a week and a half and graciously helped us dig the ditches.

Dustin at City of Rocks State Park

There were days when the mighty monsoon rains left muddy puddles in the trenches and the dirt was saturated and heavy. The rain usually made the top few inches of soil easier to break apart, but the puddles created unworkable areas that we had to wait on until dry. As we completed more of the trenches, the rainwater didn’t seem to form such great puddles and didn’t cause as many problems. Most days we worked I could look up at the clouds building in the sky, catch the flash of lightning above the hills, and marvel at the resulting thunder unfurling down the valleys on either side of us. It was often an excellent cause for reflection on when the 6′ steel rock bar should be retired for the day. The storms usually didn’t break while we were out there, although Daniel, Dustin, and I had to pause for a good half hour one day while the clouds drenched the land and soaked everything in sight.

Rain puddles during monsoon season (note that the curvy trench wall was caused by backhoe error and not us!)

But friends, despite the rain, the heat, and a substrate described by Rick Smith, the old well-driller, as “harder than a mother-in-law’s heart”, we persisted. My hands have cycled through a collection of blisters, callouses, and sores. I’ve got a cut on my ankle and one on my right ear. I’ve even had a few sunburns. The human body is both fragile and resilient.


On Sunday, July 16th I nervously requested a CID inspection via email, hoping to have the inspection scheduled for the upcoming Thursday. Instead, I received a call from the chief building inspector late Wednesday morning while I was at work. He was in the area and was going to do the inspection that day. I was able to leave work for a little over an hour, and I raced up to the property to meet him there. The inspector was a nice guy and seemed easy to work with. He barely looked at the trenches. We mostly looked over the plan drawings and discussed my plans for the french drain.

I had a feeling that the inspector wouldn’t really scrutinize the trenches, but I didn’t really know. I did know that I wanted to make a good first impression and show the inspector that I cared about doing good work and wasn’t going to cut corners. I believe I successfully conveyed that when we met. The permit was soaked and it ripped when I removed it from it’s plastic cover that was taped conspicuously to the water tank. By the time the inspector and I were done talking the permit was completely dry and wrinkled, but able to be signed. The inspector signed it, we shook hands and parted ways.

Even though the trenches had been approved, I still wanted to do some further work on them. Using a transit level to measure the depth of the trench in various places, we found that the utility room footings really needed to be a good 8-10 inches deeper. Although they appeared to be deep enough due to the exterior grade being higher in that area, they clearly needed to be deeper. I dug half of it deeper by myself and Daniel helped me finish it the next day. We spent a considerable time digging in order to make room for a 3″ pipe sleeve for where the water line will eventually come into the utility room. We still have to insert the sleeve for the line out to the septic system, but this area is already dug. Daniel and I also dug the trench for where the drainpipe will daylight outside of the foundation (more on this in future posts).

I may be speaking too soon, but I think we’re just about done swinging pickaxes for the time being. In the coming weeks we’ll be filling the footings with tamped gravel and installing the drainpipe. Check back in with us for future updates!

This rainbow was really incredible. First time any of us have ever seen a rainbow touching ground on both ends.


6 thoughts on “A month of trench work

  1. I had anxiously been awaiting your post. Sounds like everything is going to according to plan can’t wait to see where you are at in October! Hopefully you guys still need help when we return.


  2. Me too! Great writing, and great work. I am impressed and learning so much from you sharing this journey with us!


  3. Glad the back breaking, sore hand making job of trench digging is almost done. Your trenches look beautiful! Great idea to get off to a good start with the inspector. We are enjoying the almost daily rains as it sounds you are. Hey to Megan. – Anne


    1. Thanks, Anne! Yes, lots of rain here lately. Normally we’d be enjoying all the rainfall, but, as you know, it isn’t ideal during the building process. We have had some really great storms this summer, and I’m glad you guys are getting rain too!


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