Saturday, November 12, 2016

Tank update #1

This isn't an update on the tank installation, but progress on the hole we've been digging for it. I haven't done an update on our earthworks, since this post, just over a month ago! It was a lot of dirty, sweaty work, and the last thing I was thinking about, was taking the camera out again.

I did happen to get one ominous photo between then and now, however...

Taken from above ~ nine days ago

I say "ominous", because we were about ready to receive our water tank delivery, and the crane to lift it into place, two days later. We were so excited and proud for almost finishing our first, major infrastructure project. That was, until we discovered the new tank was taller than the old one, once it arrived.

If we didn't want to lose water storage capacity, we'd have to dig down an extra 10 to 15cms. So guess what? All that blue metal, had to come out. Not to mention the 4 cubic metres of crusher dust we had dumped into the hole, since the above photo was taken.

Crusher dust

By the time we were done relocating it all, there were several piles around the site, similar in size, to the picture above.

The day we realised it all went wrong, was probably our lowest point. We asked ourselves questions like..."why did we order so much crusher dust - it was too much"...and, "did we really have to get it delivered into the hole, instead of next to it?"

Of course, if the tank was similar in size, our decisions would have been genius. We would have cracked open that bottle of wine in the fridge, precisely for celebrating this special occasion - about two weeks ago.

So let this be a lesson when upgrading infrastructure. No matter how similar something appears to be on paper, let it arrive on site before making decisions of a permanent nature. That way you can make adjustments as necessary, without double handling materials that get in the way.

Digging down

This shows approximately, how far we had to go down. We aimed for around 20cms, as we didn't want to get caught "short" again. It would be easier to fill up the hole, with the excess crusher dust, than have to take it out and dig down again.

The reason it's taking us so long, is most of it is red clay...

Chunks of clay

Which means it sticks together and takes a lot of weight to separate it. Thankfully, it comes out in large chunks when you do manage to fracture it, but it makes for a heavy barrow when you're carting it uphill too. As we are. We have a landscape project in mind, which clay is best used for. So at least the extra digging, has served a useful purpose.

Of course, most of it is clay, but...

Rock fragments

There just had to be a "but", didn't there? What makes digging clay even harder, is when your mattock or crowbar, hits petrified wood. Rock, in other words! We felt like those cartoon characters who hit something hard, and end up shaking all over the placed. Okay, not that bad, but David's hands certainly felt it.

Early into our second attempt of digging, he affected his mild case of carpel tunnel. He was diagnosed a couple of months ago. Needless to say, he couldn't clasp properly and he experienced significant discomfort. He had to take several days off, until his hands resumed normal operation again.

At this point though, hiring equipment wasn't really an option.  We'd hemmed the site with crusher dust, and had to accept this hole was just going to take as long as it needed us to get through it.

See the red clay streak?

The good news is, we're just about done. There's less than a quarter to remove. Thankfully, there's hardly any rocks now - so it's mostly straight clay.

The hole is approximately 4 metres in diameter, and the tank will be sitting on solid clay, as well as about 10cms of compacted crusher dust. We had NO idea, this project would be so involved. However, for all the twists and turns, it's an opportunity to evaluate how best we work on our piece of land too.

 Break time

David and I both realised, we don't like hiring equipment. This might sound crazy, after ALL we've been through, but we experienced earthworks equipment in the building of our house, about 11 years ago. A lot happens in a short amount of time with large machinery, and afterwards, you don't really appreciate what it took to change the landscape like that.

If our land is going to be scarred today, we want to be the ones doing it by hand. We are noticing what's in the soil as we're moving it, and the conditions we're leaving behind. That's not only important, in making future decisions with, but it also informs us of different "manual" approaches we may need to adopt. Because what if we won't always have extra funds, for the option of hiring equipment? Wouldn't it be best to know and test, what we can actually do with the manual tools permanently on site?

We are testing ourselves through this process too, however. For all the pain and low points, we've learned there's actually MORE to our physical capabilities and mental dexterity, than we thought.  

Patiently waiting

Our large tank, sits above the hole now, reminding us it's not just about spending money. Neither is it about "acquiring" things. Even necessary things. It's about being honest to the process, of what on God's earth, we're doing with our hands. Feeling the sting of our labours, is the essence of living. Not because we particularly like pain, or the inconvenience of it, but because it's an honest reflection of our choices.

There's nothing like holding a decade old mattock, in your hands, and knowing how many endless blows it takes to form a callous with it. Or the teamwork of your family, working side-by-side. Each performing what they can, and talking about the day we all had, before coming to the pit for sanctuary and camaraderie. That tank will be the life of us. Not because we earned it, but because we allowed ourselves to experience it. Human fragility and all.


  1. Life is about making mistakes and learning from them (there's a well-known quote about that, but I can't remember it). The good thing is, not only have you learned, but you've shared it here, so others can learn, too. The same thing happened to me when I was making my chook runs. I made lots of mistakes doing the first one, and had to spend time correcting them but I sailed through the second one in half the time and made a much better job of it. The satisfaction of doing it yourself, is much better than standing watching while a machine does it. Even the exhaustion you feel at the end of it has a nice satisfying feel about it (well, sort of) ;-)

    The thing I don't like about having machinery working on my property is that other people don't know what things are important to you and will back over gardens, flattening precious plants and so on and you can't keep saying, "Oh, watch out for that" or "be careful there". There's always something extra that has to be 'fixed up' after they've gone.

    1. You're right, it does feel good to stand back and know what has been achieved. Especially when you experience setbacks in the process. You should feel proud of your two chicken coops. :)

  2. Talk about hard work, Chris! Just as well you are young as that would be beyond us now as we near 70. My husband put in the hard yards when he was young and fitter and unfortunately damaged his back when moving heavy rocks so be careful as injuries can really come against you when you get older. You will be very satisfied when that tank is full. It is hot and muggy here and we are waiting for the storm which was forecast.

    1. I often think, how many more years can we be doing this? Which is why we want to have all the earthworks we plan to have done, knocked over in the next few years. We've set a deadline for 12 months, but if it's anything like this tank project, I should expect we'll go over. ;)

      I hear you with injuries too. Pain is a great teacher of how to work smarter.

  3. Gosh - there is a lot of wisdom flowing from this tank Chris.

    1. I'm amazed how ordinary things, often effect us the most. :)


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