Monday, April 30

Plumbing in progress

Those are not midgets. That's a big tank!
This morning the first of two 5,000-gallon water tanks arrived. The rest of the day consisted of gluing together almost three thousand feet of electrical conduit and water lines and hauling them into place along the ditch. The wire from the pump to the water tanks was pulled through over eleven hundred feet of conduit. Eleven hundred feet of inch and a quarter water line accompanied the conduit, and over 900 feet of three-inch water pipe was laid to the house site.

Next the solar-powered pump will be brought up. Soon we’ll see how that’s going to work. We can’t wait!

Thursday, April 26

Some ditch!

This morning it was raining at the house. I went outside and thought I heard machinery working down at the new house site, but thought it wouldn’t be too smart to be working while it’s pouring rain. Besides we have a policy: Don’t be driving on our road while it’s raining unless absolutely necessary. It messes it up way too much.

It turns out that not only were they working, they dug the entire thousand plus feet of trench for our water lines. And put in a big t-post made from 6-inch steel pipe for the solar panels!

Wow. Can’t wait for tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 25

First concrete poured

Not for the house foundation, but for the water tanks and the wellhead surround. This morning Karla (“Old Eagle Ears”) heard massive truck sounds down by the new house site. Sure enough, a lumbering ready-mix truck was pouring into a concrete pump to fill the forms set previously by John, the concrete man. John’s timing was off, or the weather-guesser’s calculations were off. The prediction was that it wouldn’t rain till afternoon or evening, but it poured all the time the concrete poured. Wind blew leaves into the mix. The road got slippery, especially where it was brand new and red clay.

Sioux writes pretty well for a four-legger

You just HAVE to do this corny stuff!

But John got through it all with good humor and ended up leaving us a beautiful job. While the concrete was still fresh, dog Sioux insisted that we let her press her paw in it and write her name. We acquiesced. We also scratched in the date, and John signed the work with his brand. All right and proper and traditional. Good for us.

"I approve!" says Karla.

We had to go to town, so we missed the final touches but when we came back we got to examine some very nice work. Thank you John!

Tuesday, April 24

Were jst fiine

After yesster days’ blog about eat ing the puff bals, we seeem tobe o
kay. So do’nt worrry.
T0m and kaRLa

Monday, April 23

Taking a chance

On the way back to the house from the new house site, I spotted a huge puffball at the base of an oak tree. Big as a grapefruit, it was still firm which means it’s ready to eat! If we had waited even one more day, it would have started to soften and darken and become the most amazing thing—a wrinkly-skinned ball with purple dust inside, the dust being billions of fungus spores.
There's the dinner bell--gotta go!
Our friend Audrey assured us that puffballs, unlike so many of our indigenous mushroom species, are safe to eat. But just in case this is a false puffball, please read this blog tomorrow. If there isn’t a new entry, call 911 and tell them that the wild and crazy dippies at the end of the ghastly road have done themselves in once again.

Progress keeps progressing

Today John, the forms guy, put up the forms and rebar for the water tank platform and the well site. He will return soon with a ready mix truck and concrete pump to fill the forms.

Two leach lines to be used alternately
Meanwhile Thurman and Chad trimmed trees and widened the approach to the tank site so the concrete pouring can go as scheduled. They had the septic tank system prepared with the leach lines on their deep gravel beds, waiting for Samantha to come and inspect their work for the county. She signed it off and they then buried all their nice work. I asked Thurman if he ever felt sad to see all his work covered up with only some risers poking out of the ground as reminders that a human hand had done some beautiful things there. “No,” he said. “As long as I don’t have to dig it up it again I’m happy.”

The two vertical pipes have the valves to switch from one leach line to the other.
The green riser is one of two so you don't have to dig deep to pump the tank.
He showed us how to switch from one leach line to the other, and suggested we do it annually. “I remember to do it on my system by making it part of my wife’s birthday celebration,” he said with a hearty “wink wink” laugh.

Sunday, April 22

Stunning swiftness

Do you recall when the passenger airplane ran into a flock of birds which stalled the engines? The skilled pilot ditched in the Hudson River, and nobody died in the crash. The government recovered the wreckage and took it away to be examined. They estimated it would take TWELVE TO EIGHTEEN MONTHS to come to the conclusion that the crash was caused by hitting a flock of large birds.

Here’s another example of the stunning swiftness of the federal agencies. In Sunday’s Fresno Bee there’s an article about contaminants in the water of many San Joaquin Valley wells, affecting a million people. From the article:

“The state is far ahead of the federal government in regulating TCP, which was discovered at a Superfund site in Southern California in the 1990s.
“But TCP has the attention of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which expects to have national regulations in the next four to five years. [emphasis mine]
“‘It is a carcinogen,’ said toxicologist Bruce Macler of the EPA drinking water program. ‘I'm more than just concerned.’”
Aren’t we all!

Lots of serendipity

We had to go to a meeting on Friday so we couldn’t stay to watch the septic tank get placed. We did get to watch Chad level the bottom of the hole with his flat shovel, guided by his laser device. What a neat tool! (The laser, not the shovel.) His dad was lowering the tank into the hole as we left for a packer’s meeting south of Visalia.
Laser-guided flat shovel
Coming home Saturday afternoon, we saw that the tank was already in place.
Bye Bye, bluey. We hope to never see you again.
We came back with a couple of interesting things. One, a brand new trailer-mounted generator for Florence Lake. We had to order it several months ago to get it in time to open the store this spring. It’s a Whisperwatt that we bought through United Rentals. This brand is their favorite because they are so reliable. When you’re renting stuff, you don’t want to keep fixing stuff.

Controls! Lights! Knobs! Dials! Switches! Gauges!
Be still my heart!

 The second item is a gorgeous 8" Meade telescope that my brother-in-law, Lee, gave to us. He is an advanced amateur astronomer and hoped to find a good home for the telescope which he is no longer using. It was delivered to us by my nephew Nate, Lee’s son, who brought it up from Fullerton to his place at Three Rivers. It was a 45-minute hop for him to bring it to us in Visalia, very serendipitous!

Last week our friend/neighbor Candy went with Karla to a little hole-in-the-wall antique store in Oakhurst. They found some beautiful solid maple doors that we can use in our house. The shop owner’s husband owns the local door store, and was looking for a home for these doors he bought from another door business that had folded. The price was the kicker, about one-sixth what they’re worth. They were already bored for door knobs and routed for hinges so they had to find just the right home. I went over our house plans and discovered that they not only fit the left-hand right-hand requirements, but that they were the exact quantity we needed! Amazing serendipity.

Thursday, April 19

Flat place and river rocks

Wow, what a difference a few hours makes! This afternoon around 3 or so, we went down to see what had happened since late morning. Thurman and Chad had gone (Chad had a dental appointment), so we drove up to the water tank site to see what they had done. It was the first time we were able to get the car that far up the hill, and there were a few obstacles to avoid, like deep holes where rocks used to live that hadn’t yet been filled. What a nice level place to park!

On the way up the hill, we couldn’t miss seeing a whole huge heap of gravel, nice round river rocks, waiting to be soaked in the overflow of the new septic tank. I had no idea it would be so much! It’s going to take a mighty long trench, mighty deep, to hold that much stuff. We will have a lot of dirt to deal with once the tank and leach lines go in. So what do we do with all that dirt? If we could afford it, that much good clean dirt would certainly be welcome on our road. Over the years, our road in and out of here has been washing away with each hard rain storm. Roads should always be higher than the ground they’re built on, but ours is slowly becoming more of a canal than a road.

Or we could use the dirt to make a miniature duplicate of the surrounding mountains. That way if it’s a foggy day, we can still see, close up, the familiar skyline we see on clear days. Or we could sell the dirt on eBay and use the money to get my head examined.

Serious dirt moving started today

Dad and I would have used dynamite
We had the percolation test holes for the septic system done a couple of weeks ago, but today marks the beginning of “real” work. Thurman brought his son, Chad, with him to start putting in the flat spot for our water tanks. To get up the hill to that site, some small trees had to be sacrificed in order for the huge concrete truck to get up there. Chad’s skill with the backhoe is impressive. With it he plucked out some granite boulders that would surely tax two guys with rock bars, like my father and I had to use about 60 years ago on our little mountain homestead. Our advantage back then was that if we encountered a rock too big for us to move, we would just tootle down to the hardware store and buy some dynamite! Times have changed. A powerful Caterpillar backhoe is today’s dynamite.

Nice new road for the cement truck
While the flat place was being dug out, our shiny new septic tank was delivered by the man from Capital Pipe in Oakhurst. It will hold 1,500 gallons of awful offal. I’ll be long gone before that happens since many of the tanks in these mountains haven’t been pumped in over 30 years and are still going strong. Another delivery of several cubic yards of gravel will be needed for the leach field. Our road is getting a workout, but neighbor Bill has been using his tractor to take out many of the nasty bumps. Thanks, Bill!

Poor Karla--she wanted pink
We got the quotations for the solar powered well pump, the pipe, the storage tanks, fire hydrant and associated stuff. Fortunately we were sitting down when we opened the envelope. At over $29,000 it came to roughly $10,000 above our high estimate when we started the project. That ten grand could have gotten us 24-karat gold fixtures in the bathroom; we’ll have to settle on chrome plated brass like the peasants we’re starting to resemble. That estimate doesn’t include Thurman and Chad’s efforts in moving dirt.

Or the 850-foot double-cased well itself.

Tap water ain’t cheap.

Wednesday, April 18

Nice Bossy, nice Bossy!

With horns like these, cows demand respect from us little two-leggers! How would you like to find fourteen cows in your “yard” one morning? That’s what we encountered today, so as usual we lured them into one of our pens by tossing out some hay. Then we called the neighbor they belong to. He said his own fences were in good repair, but a mutual neighbor, the guy who owns the regional phone company, couldn’t care less about his own fences. Unfortunately the phone guy’s property abuts about a half-mile of ours, and is in a location where we almost never go because it’s so steep and rocky.

In this part of the country if you don’t want somebody’s livestock on your place you fence them out; they don’t necessarily have to fence them in.

But we’re busy, we complain. Today I’m doing annual maintenance on our road grader so I can patch a washout on our road, Karla is embroiled in working with our Congressman to reverse the Park Service’s cowardly decision to kick our horses out of Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park this summer, and tomorrow Thurmond is bringing his backhoe to put in our septic tank, clear off a place for our water tank platform, and cut over a thousand feet of trench for our water pipes. Who has time to fix fence, I ask you.

Friday, April 13

Such a deal!

It always amuses me to run across a listing like this from Costco. Sometimes people think the company is all about canned veggies by the case, massive bags of chips, or computer thumb drives by the half dozen. A couple of weeks ago, as we passed through the checkout, our attention was grabbed by an advertisement — an unbelievable Million Dollars Off for a loose diamond. The price was slashed to a mere $2,800,000.00! I asked a nearby manager when he expected it to go on sale and he replied that they probably wouldn’t be discounting it any further. Dang. Drop it another million and I might be interested.

Wednesday, April 11

Croc in the grass

Imagine our surprise to be on our daily walk and come across this sneaky creature over near the corral. It wasn’t moving, obviously hoping we wouldn’t spot it. Fortunately I had my cell phone in my shirt pocket so I snapped this picture before the crocodile could disappear back under the grass.

We had just come down from our water tank where I used our old Garmin Nüvi GPS instrument to determine the elevation at the tank. I subtracted the elevation at the house to see if it agreed with the water pressure we get at the house. Our analog water pressure gauge reads 65 PSI. According to the GPS, we should have 70 PSI. I won’t quibble. It’s close enough to verify the pressure we can expect at our new house site.

Tuesday we measured off the trench we’ll dig from our water tank site to the house, and another trench to the well site. We trudged up the hill and planted little red flags to show where we expect it to be. Jay, the well pump guy, was here Monday and told us what to expect when he comes back with a solar-powered pump, a big concrete ready-mix truck, and a whole lot of pipe. He said one of the most expensive things about putting in pipe is the trench, which is dug with a big backhoe. In our case, the guy who digs the hole for the septic tank will also be digging the water line trenches. (If the septic is dug first, I hope he washes off his digging bucket really well before he digs the water line.)

We think the tank site we picked is 150 feet higher than the house. That will give us the pressure we expect. The pipe from the tank to the house is about 960 feet long, and is big—four inches in diameter to get the flow required at the fire hydrant that will be installed near our driveway, and to provide the flow necessary for the fire sprinklers in the ceilings throughout the house. A smaller pipe will go from the well to the storage tank, and will be just over 1,100 feet long. Over 2,000 feet of pipe! Gad.

We want to install two 5,000-gallon tanks. That will store enough water to get us through any period when the sun don’t shine. They will sit on a concrete pad measuring 14 by 28 feet. Jay says he won’t put tanks directly on the ground because they’d be undermined by squirrels and gophers and eventually sink, breaking the connection to the pipes. Good idea.

The pump is a three-stage helical-impeller affair that can push water over 600 feet upward. It runs on any voltage between 30 and 300, either DC or AC. Very versatile, methinks. He expects to get five gallons per minute in our case. Not as capable as the well’s 27 gallons per minute potential, but good enough for us for now.

Jay is working on an estimate for the job, and we will be sure to be sitting down when we open the letter.

Wednesday, April 4

HP on the skids?

We bought Karla a new computer recently because her old one ran on kerosene which was getting harder to find and the hand crank broke again. Besides it stunk up the house because the burner was partly plugged up and it smoked as a result. Her shiny brand new Apple iMac needed printer drivers, so I successfully downloaded the one for our old Brother laser printer, then tried to get the drivers for the almost-new HP inkjet printer. I couldn’t manage to get the drivers from HP, and the Apple site which promised every driver you could think of couldn’t provide one either.

It reminds me of what a friend once told me: If your ink cartridges go dry, dump the printer. It’s cheaper. I guess it’s the same for software. That’s no way to run a company, but when that company hires a failed California gubernatorial candidate as CEO, well—the writing is on the wall.

Tuesday, April 3

No rocks!

We had a “perc test” performed today. Three holes were dug in the area where we intend to put a septic tank and leach line. Thurmond expertly used his backhoe to dig trenches 11 to 12 feet deep in order to find out what the soil is like. Each hole turned up the very best kind of substrate we could ask for—decomposed granite. It was like coarse sand, perfect for burying a septic tank and leach field.
DEEP hole
So perfect, like coarse sand
Three holes prove the choice of location is perfect
The most surprising thing to us is that in all that soil there was not a single rock! We are so used to dulling our shovels when we dig at our house a mile north. For example, in order to put in a gate post nearer our existing house I dug a three-foot-deep hole entirely with a rock bar since there was almost no soil holding the rocks together.

The county inspector (Dexter the Inspexter) agreed that we have perfect soil for our septic system. A very good start! Now if only we could get someone to bring in a tank for us. The local place that made them doesn’t anymore, and the other sellers don’t want to haul a heavy concrete tank all the way to our place, so we will have to use a polyethylene tank instead. Most installers don’t like them as well as the concrete kind, but as far as the inspector is concerned, they’re just as good.

The bill for three holes, $400.

Monday, April 2

Permission granted

This morning we went to the county seat for yet another permit. This time it’s for the septic tank. The permit only cost $525, and with it we’re allowed to dig a hole and put in a big concrete tank. We will probably also get a trench dug from said tank to where the pipes will come out of the not-yet-built house. The cost of the tank and trench aren’t included, of course. That’s an additional $5,800. Everything will be inspected and approved. Yay.

As it turns out, we will be getting the better of two county building inspectors. Not that the other inspector is bad, but she doesn’t have that much experience, and can get a little testy. The septic tank guy told us that “I trained all those inspectors,” so he’s not worried.

Also today we talked with a person at the local phone company regarding getting a phone line. What we really want is a fiber optic line so we can get blazingly fast Internet. A couple of miles down the road the phone company has optical fiber that they put in last year. We want to get connected to it, but aren’t sure who digs the two-foot-deep trench the two miles up to our house. It reminds me of when we had a piece of property in the Hollywood Hills. It was literally at the end of the road by Mulholland Dam and butted up to public land, giving us a 20,000-acre wild land back yard including all of Griffith Park without even a fence, an ideal situation if you have to live in Los Angeles and love to hike. Problem was that it didn’t have water. We got a quotation from the Metropolitan Water District to put in a 500-foot extension to their water line from the road below us. $343,000! That was over thirty years ago! And only they were allowed to do the work.

We sold the property.