Thursday, May 19 2005
Gretchen headed to Manhattan for several days starting at 4pm this afternoon and I felt free to do the sort of big messy projects I prefer to do when the wife isn't around. I had a general yard drainage problem I wanted to solve and I thought today was the day to begin solving it.
As you know, I've already built two (or as many as four, depending on how you count) separate drainage systems for the yard uphill and to the south of the house. While these are fully capable of intercepting water impinging on the house itself, there was still a problem with the yard causing it to channel a substantial headwater's worth of water into the pathway connecting the driveway to the front door. That pathway now has a system of drains designed to intercept that water before it ever crosses the path (directing it around the north end of the house and then over the escarpment and down into the valley below). But even before that water reaches the path, it ponds in the yard and makes it soupy. I decided to redo the slope of the yard and force most of that water into a separate swampy place just uphill from the driveway. The general swampiness of the entire northwest corner of the yard (and the water that overflows from it across the driveway ) is an engineering challenge too great to easily solve (and besides, we like the frogs).
So I ripped up all the sod along the old, crudely-built retaining wall that runs just to the west of the new bluestone driveway path. I also ripped up sod in a line extending from the bottom of a low swale (where the water from the substantial headwaters is aimed directly at that retaining wall) to the place I wanted that water to end up. The idea would be to dig a trench there and bury some more PVC drainage pipe.
I was careful to conserve all the materials I was digging up, even if it meant lots of extra work. The first material I conserved was the sod, which I piled in a steep heap on a piece of plastic sheeting. Then, when I discovered a deep fill of prime floodplain topsoil behind the old shoddy retaining wall, I piled it up on the now-sodless strip where the new drainage tile would be going. That topsoil went all the way down to solid bedrock, the same reef I'd encountered on the other side of the wall when I was installing the walkway's drainage. This time, though, I stopped digging once I'd hit bedrock. It was such a perfect slab of rock it seemed sort of sad to leave it buried (indeed, it was probably exposed throughout the æons before the site was prepared for the McMansion that now occupies it). But, given the realities of the yard as it now exists, the best I could do to honor the bedrock before reburying it was to put a time capsule on its surface.
I used to make time capsules all the time when I was a teenager; I'd bury them in the grounds around my limestone "temple" among the Pitch Pines on the lower slopes of Pileated Peak (across the road from my childhood home in Virginia). They were made of glass jars (sometimes nested one within another) containing things like coins (often including an array of pennies with consecutive mint years), keys, bits of hardware, and occasionally integrated circuits. I wouldn't have called them time capsules then; my intention was to speak archæological poetry to some unknown, extremely remote future civilization.
The time capsule I prepared today ended up in a blue Aztec ice tea bottle that had once held "Memory Herbal Tonic" (something of a time capsule joke). I figured anyone excavating here with a solar-powered shovel in the distant post-fossil-fuels future would probably notice a blue bottle in the orange clay. Inside it I placed a random mix of interesting coins - USAian, Canadian, European, and Isræli. I also included a couple old obsolete memory SIMMs (another memory thing), a tiny porcelain Red Rose figurine in the shape of a chicken (one of the few that would fit down the bottle's neck). Then I printed off the top four pages from the DailyKos website for a sense of "the now" as well as printouts of Randomly Ever After articles from September 11th, 2001 and May 28th, 2002 for a sense of "the me." I glued the bottlecap down with Gorilla Glue, but who knows if a seal made of that will survive the ages?
My reserve pile of sod. Behind that is the trench where the PVC drainage pipe will go. Behind that is the excavation where the time capsule would go. In the very back is a McMansion.
The excavation behind the old shoddy retaining wall. Note the completed bluestone pathway and filled-in driveway ditch on the right.
Sylvia poses with the time capsule, lying exactly where I buried it on the bedrock.
A closeup of the time capsule.
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