Construction: The Earth Work

Moving earth to make room for my new home.

On May 20, 2014, I began blogging about the construction of my new home in Malaga, WA. You can read all of these posts — and see the time-lapse movies that go with them — by clicking the new home construction tag.

Yesterday, they finally began construction on what will be my new home.

I blogged about the home here. It’s not a typical home by any means — I’m not the kind of person who really wants to live in a typical house. As an old ex-friend of mine would say, it’s a garage with a house attached. It’s a pole building, which is a type of construction popular here in farm country. Instead of framing from a foundation up, a pole building basically hangs the structure on a series of vertical beams or “poles” and puts a metal (usually) skin over it. They’re cost effective to build, especially for storage, and that’s primarily what this will be, with roughly 1200 square feet on the second floor for me to settle into.

I’d been working with the builder on plans for over a year. The plans themselves didn’t change much at all over that time. But I had a few delays, mostly related to the failure of my wasband to do the right thing. (Seriously: What the hell is wrong with that man?) This spring with money coming in from cherry drying contracts and the promise of a loan from a family member (if needed), I’m ready to move forward. It’s amazing what a person can save up for when she knows how to live within her means.

The earthwork for the project was mostly completed in late April, started almost right after I got home from my California contract. I see from looking at my blog archives that I didn’t blog about it — likely because I was busy with a writing project. I may as well do that now. I know I posted a lot of photos on Facebook. Here are a few of them for the folks wise enough to stay off that time-sucking social network.

First Shovel
Jeff of Parkway Excavation scooped up the first shovelful of earth on April 24, 2014. I highly recommend Jeff. He knows his stuff, is honest, and is a really great guy to work with.

Time-Lapse Setup
I set up one of my old GoPros as a time-lapse camera far above the action. (Video below.)

Penny Supervises
Penny was not afraid of the heavy equipment. She’s fearless! Of course, with all that dust, she got unbelievably dirty every day.

It took Jeff a few days to get the job done. It required him to clear out and level an area roughly 80 x 70 in size. The whole time he worked, I was sort of holding my breath, worried about him hitting rocks. I live on a sort of “shelf” at the base of some basalt cliffs. Over the past 11,000 years (since the Missoula Floods), pieces of those cliffs have tumbled down and embedded themselves in the earth. My neighbors across the road are much closer to all that broken rock and have lots of rock in their earth. But I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t hit any at all when I dug the trench for my temporary power post in August 2013. Still, on the south side of the building site, Jeff had to dig down more than 5 feet. Would he hit rock? If he did, that would crank up the cost of his work and the cost of getting the poles for my building planted.

But I lucked out. He hit a few rocks on the south side, but nothing worth worrying about. I think even he was surprised at how nice my dirt was.

Dust Control
Dust was a real issue. I had a sprinkler going almost the entire time Jeff was working.

Digging In
To make a large, level pad, Jeff had to dig into the side of the hill. I also had him dig out a drainage ditch for water off the hillside and roof.

While I had Jeff there, I also had him move my shed, which I’d put in a dumb place. (I usually plan better, but I had lots of distractions when I took delivery of it in November. And I had him clear an area for my garden and chicken yard. And dig a trench across the driveway so I could run my RV power and water in a conduit underground, thus heading off any fears of damage to wires/hoses from construction vehicles. I worked my ass off that day and slept like the dead that night.

Dragging the Shed
Jeff used his backhoe and a chain to drag the shed into its new position on the other side of the driveway beside the garden. I’d planned to sell the shed when my building was done, but now I think I’ll keep it for garden tools.

Jeff dug the trench and I laid in conduit with a water line and 30 amp power line. Then Jeff covered it all back up.

Gravel Delivery
Jeff delivers the second load of gravel.

The job required a lot of earth moving — actually taking dirt from the south side of the site to the north end. I’d need a driveway to access the four-car garage on the south side and the earth sloped away a bit there. Jeff fixed that right up. He then came through with a compacter and made a rock-hard surface in the ground.

Jeff finished off the job with three loads of gravel requested by the builder. He dumped them in two places on the cleared out pad. The builder had come by to check out his work earlier in the week and I think he was pleased with what he saw. I know I was.

When he was all finished, I had a huge, flat, level pad. A friend came by the next day and parked his motorhome on it for an overnight stay. The day after that, I landed my helicopter on it. Nice!

Makeshift Helipad
It fits!

Here’s the promised time-lapse:

Although the builders were supposed to start on April 30, there was a delay in the permits. They needed some sort of drainage plan. What that meant was I needed to pay someone $600 to satisfy the county. This is no real surprise. The delay didn’t really bother me. I had to go to California for a week anyway and wanted to be home when they started work. They got the permit while I was gone and showed up on time yesterday morning.

More on that in another blog post.

What do you think?