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December 8, 2009

Excava-cation

GeoDig1.jpgThe things Richard manages to do in his rare days off…!

You might think we’re installing a pool, but this shot is from day 2 of our long-awaited geothermal heating system installation. We only had until next March to complete it in order to qualify for the rebates the government is offering, and of course an excavation like this can’t happen during the rainy fall or spring. So there were the boys – our good friend & geo expert Jason and his apprentice doing the geothermal install, and Richard overseeing a two man excavation crew – working past sundown in –6 degree weather. As you’ll see in the last few shots, it even snowed on Thursday night. Amazingly, the whole operation took only 5 days last week.

I’m so thrilled with the result. First, we are one last part away from our high-efficiency, cold tolerant new heating system. That’s going to save us a bundle on heating, particularly combined with the foam insulation we just had sprayed on the basement headers. But more exciting for me, thanks to an unexpected glitch with the location of our gas line to the house, we switched from a driveway dig to going down the west side of our property, from the southwest corner of the house to the back fence. That meant we finally had an excuse to redo our landscaping!

Richard figures we gained about 8 feet of yard along the whole length of our back yard now that it’s level. It’s messy with rocks and probably full of weed seeds, and we had to sacrifice a lot more plants than I was prepared for, but it has so much more potential. And, the neighbours insisted on paying for the new fence and the retaining rocks on their side of it. Excellent. A blanket of snow – next weekend most likely – will make it all look perfect. Yay!

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GeoDig6.jpgIn these last three photos you can see the pipes of the geothermal system Jason and his young apprentice Trevor installed. In our climate the pipes have to be at least 8 feet below ground level. We dug 12 to 13 feet down, however, because we stacked our loops, with earth back-filled between the two layers. Thus the massive hole. (Incidentally, the Bobcat in this photo got stuck down there, and had to be lifted out with the huge excavator like a mother cat lifting her kitten.)

Originally we were going to dig up the driveway to achieve the 150 foot long trench we needed, but the location of our natural gas line indicated on Terasen's map was inaccurate by 1 to 3 metres along most of its length across the driveway. When Richard started digging he hit the actual line almost instantly and we were lucky that Terasen was able to send someone that Sunday afternoon to locate the line properly and fix the section that Richard stretched when he hit it. With the dig scheduled to start Monday morning, we had to change our plans, fast, digging in the opposite direction.

The change in plans meant sacrificing our admittedly ailing maple tree, one of our apple trees, and several shrubs, as well as my blackberry vine and raspberry canes. All replaceable, however, and the resulting levelled areas mean I'll get my kitchen garden and a flat area for outside dining much sooner than I'd hoped. And plantings like trees will be so much easier to plan on a wider scale now, as Richard was quick to point out when I mourned over my apple tree.

GeoDig7.jpgThank you so much to Jason!

"Grumpy" is highly ironic - Jason is the most easy-going, unflappable person we know, and not even the cold bothered him as he and his apprentice made a weeks-long job for Richard come together in a mere two and a half days. (And one evening they installed our humidifier and UV filter, which had been sitting in boxes for years.)

Richard kept the boys' energy up with homemade chowder, chicken wings, and lots of hot chocolate, and took most of these photos as he worked to record their progress, since I didn't get home from work until dusk and could hardly see what they were up to.

I took the last few snowy photos on Friday afternoon, as the excavation crew was moving the last of the dirt from temporary piles out back in the woods and helping Richard install the posts for the new fence. They needed a bit more, actually, so Richard had them dig out the last section of retaining wall out front around the apple trees there, so we can finish that new rock wall and get around the trees with the mower. The excavators also re-levelled and seeded the ground out back with a forestry mix of rye and alfalfa, so there will be food for the llamas and goats come spring.

All that work in a mere five days, it's incredible. I wonder if we'll be able to be as quick finishing the basement?! That's next.

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Posted by anita at 4:48 PM