Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dirt, dirt, some big rocks, some REALLY big rocks, some clay and more dirt

In the lead up to our big dig, we've both been feeling, in different ways, a pretty unprecedented level of anxiety, excitement, emotion (at scarring our beautiful hill and beginning, in a physical way, our building journey), impatience and wonder. We really had no idea what we were in for, both of us having never experienced this digging shindig before. People have been warning us, telling us about how big the machines are, how much the ground shakes, how you can never be prepared for how big the cut's going to be etc etc. So we'd built up our expectations to fit with all these warnings, trying to picture the worst... and getting it so, so wrong.

Moonie, our uber-relaxed (almost a little too relaxed) excavator has had us on tenterhooks the last few days, us wondering if he was actually going to show up when he said he would, and just hoping and hoping the rain stayed away. I finally got hold of him this morning, and he was all like "It's cool man, it's all cool. Just relax". Relax!!??? you want me to relax when we've got 15 people coming to raise our strawbale cottage in 3 weeks and we have absolutely nothing prepared?? Relaxing, under these circumstances was not on my agenda.
I left him to do his thing at around 9 this morning, then returned just after lunch, bracing myself for the terrible scar I was about to behold. Let's just say it was a bit of an anticlimax.
There was a nice entrance, a gently sloping and curving driveway down to the house site, which was not dreadfully huge or unnatural-looking (other than the complete absence of grass) and a very gently sloping batter up to the natural slope of the land. Not deep, not steep. And I could perfectly imagine our little house nestled cosily into the hillside on the pad provided. But why had he left that huge pile of dirt just to the left of the dozer?
Oh. That would be because it's not actually a pile of dirt but a giant, enormous boulder. A too-big-to-move-even-with-a-bulldozer boulder. Lucky it's not right in the middle of where the house is s'posed to be going, but it did nudge the house forward enough that it's no longer going to be just on the cut (ie. sturdy ground with no need for piers). Looks like around half a metre of the north-eastern corner of the studio is going to be on the fill, meaning that we're going to need those pesky piers after all. At least a couple of them, anyway. The reason we were attempting to get the whole thing on the cut was to avoid the extra concrete needed to fill a pier hole. We're not massive fans of concrete, or, to be more precise, cement, on account of it's totally obese embodied energy. Hence the earth floor and as-minimal-as-possible strip footings. But thanks to our friend the giant displacing boulder, we're gonna be using a bit more of it then we bargained for. But that's cool. We've watched enough Grand Designs to know that's how these things roll. Remember the one where they were making the underground vet clinic and found 2 huge voids??!!! At least we didn't find them eh? But we get the moral of the story: When you're digging deep underground you never quite know just what you're going to find. Even an experienced local operator like Moonie didn't expect the boulders
or the massive amount of clay underneath our topsoil. Being eternal optimists, Pearl and I just kept thinking how good this would be for our earth floor and dam-building later down the track, while Moonie was a bit disappointed he didn't find the decomposed granite he had expected, which would have been perfect for covering the driveway.

But now it's done. I had wanted some kind of little ceremony on the day we broke the ground - a dinner on the cut, some sprinkling of seeds for soil-stabilising groundcover, but we've had such an immense week of late working nights, 5am wake-ups and middle-of-the-night anxiety attacks, that we were actually too exhausted to do much more than take a few photos and exclaim, tiredly "Wow. It's really not as bad as I thought it would be".

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