This may look like a large hole and an even larger pile of dirt, but in truth, this is a swimming pool and an entire summers worth of good times, hopefully for years to come. You have to use your imagination to put in the twenty-five foot pool with deep blue sparkling water and surrounding deck and landscaping, and then imagine yourself leisurely floating in the evening sun with a tasty beverage in hand while waiting for the lightning bugs to put on their show in the surrounding fields. When I imagine this, it helps to suppress the sense of panic I get when I see what a huge disturbance we've made to our yard. Oh my - that's a really big hole! Are we sure we know what we are doing?
You may remember that I have been slowing removing top soil from the pool location to add to the tight clay soil in my garden beds. It was apparent that I was never going to be able to move dirt fast enough for the pool to go up this summer, so we decided to rent a bobcat to speed up the process. Poor Brandon went to fetch the machine on a Friday afternoon so we could stretch the eight hour run time rental over the weekend, and when he arrived home with the machine in tow, he was visibly stressed and announced "I will never do that again!" Our truck isn't made to pull that much weight, and the roads to our house are challenging even without a giant trailer. He was already dreading the trip to return it.
Neither of us had ever operated a bobcat before, and the guy at the rental place warned that the hardest and scariest part is backing the thing off the trailer, especially if you don't know how to drive it yet. He wasn't joking either.
It didn't take Brandon long to figure out how to use the machine. When he managed to really scoop up a giant load of dirt the first time we were quite excited. The machine has two handles for directing the wheels that are very responsive to touch. I had to laugh when we were trying to back it down the ramps from the trailer because every time Brandon would look over his shoulder to see my frantic hand motions (it's loud, so he couldn't hear my directions) the machine would turn with his head. And always the wrong way!
The bucket on the front is operated by foot peddles, so it took a little practice to get the machine to move forward while the bucket scooped at the right depth.
The machine keeps track of how many hours you are using it, and we paid two hundred and fifty-five dollars for eight hours. Brandon used it for a couple of hours on Friday, and really started to get the hang of it. After five hours on Saturday, he said he dreamed that he was driving it at night, and even felt like he was riding it when he wasn't. We ended up going over our rental time by an hour, on Sunday, but decided it was worth the extra fee so we could avoid as much shovel and wheel barrow time as possible. By the end, we were glad to be done. Nine hours of digging is plenty for one weekend.
My photos from the weekend are all of digging and eggs. Hey Brandon, look how many chicken eggs I found in the nest boxes! He seems a little preoccupied right now...
You would think that people intent on digging a giant hole would have some sort of plan for all that dirt. We didn't really. We thought it would be nice to use the dirt to build a berm and create a pond. But where? The machine doesn't move very fast, and we could tell our progress digging was slower than we thought it would be, so we didn't want to drive the dirt very far from where we were excavating. While Brandon was digging, I put on my boots and spent some time in the nearby field thinking about a pond.
Wait, what's that in the tall vegetation?
It's a guinea nest! I've been wondering if they are laying eggs. Is this just one of the hens eggs, or is there another nest somewhere?
Although we think we came up with a plan for a pond, we decided to stockpile the dirt in a long row near the pool and garden for now, since we could tell building a pond was a task for another day. Brandon piled the topsoil on one end so we know where to go when we need good dirt for something.
Fifteen guinea eggs in the nest. The eggs are a little smaller than chicken eggs, and a little more tapered in appearance.
The dirt in our stock pile area just kept getting higher and the pile kept getting longer! It's dense clay too, so it's in hard blocks, almost like bricks. It's not going to be good dirt for growing things. It's located down hill from the garden, so I'm hoping it will capture moisture on the uphill side, and make nice moist soil for growing things. Maybe even a little band of wetland will form on one side - it is a giant clay berm, after all.
I did a float test on the guinea eggs to make sure they were still fresh. They all sank like rocks to the bottom of the bowl, so I know they aren't so old they have air pockets in them.
Some of them are speckled, or striped. The shells are incredibly hard to break, which may be because the guineas are so young. We ate some for breakfast this morning, and they taste just like chicken eggs to me.
Toward the end of the digging, we used a borrowed laser level to get it as flat as we possibly could. We did a little clean up with some hand tools, and raked it smooth. I worry that the tall wall might slip if the ground gets really saturated, and dump dirt on the side of the pool. It's such a hard clay that it's hard to imagine it going anywhere. It rained last night, and now there's a giant shallow puddle in the bottom of the hole. We have plans for a french drain, but haven't decided yet if we need a retaining wall on the cut.
Newt likes to imagine herself floating in the pool too, although I think she finds the dirt to be more relaxing than the water.
Well, we've definitely made a mark on the landscape with our giant dirt mound. Thousands of years from now some archaeologist is going to be quite confused by this, I'm sure. If Brandon ever gets up the nerve to rent the bobcat again, we have plenty of material to build a pond berm. Maybe I can figure out how to grow something interesting on it. If I incorporate some organic matter, I could build one of those permaculture mounds (hugelkulture?), or make a giant raised bed strawberry patch. So many options to consider while I float in my swimming pool!