Group 6 4 minutes Read

drainage report: digging up our yard

Lauren Zerbey

Back in May we talked about all the issues with our yard. Now that the deck is more or less done (still need to put the finish on it before the formal reveal), we’ve moved on to fixing our house’s drainage.

And you know what that means – it’s bobcat time!

So last weekend we rented a mini-excavator and dump truck. This was Kyle’s first time to rent heavy machinery of this caliber and after the 3 minute tutorial he received from the rental place, he was ready to roll. Backwards!

The main objectives of the weekend were to basically dig a moat around the front half of our house and take out extra dirt/mulch/gravel from the front yard. We picked up the bobcat and truck on Saturday afternoon. (One trick we’ve learned is that if rental places are closed on Sundays they usually rent from Saturday afternoon to Monday morning for the same rate as a 24-hr rental.) So we did that.

We started on the north side of the house. All was going well until we hit hardpan about 3′ down. Using the power of the machine, we thought we could just slam the bucket down a few times to break up the soil. Unfortunately, this method didn’t really work. What it did do was cause the right tracks of the bobcat to jump off the concrete driveway and into the dirt, which then caused the bobcat to get wedged against the house.

Bobcat FAIL! (As seen in the above right photo.) We popped a few boards under the track for traction and eventually backed it up onto the driveway, accompanied by the screeching sound of a crushed downspout. Oh well. On the bright side, we have plenty of experience restoring cedar siding and we also have an extra downspout. Which is good, because of course these aren’t your plain old downspouts that you buy at any big box store. No, they were special ordered from a gutter place up in Marysville. Why? Because they’re round. Ain’t no rectangle downspouts on chezerbey!

Once Kyle made his way to the west side of the house, he was getting the hang of things. In fact, I’m pretty sure he’s grinning because he’s channeling Mike Mulligan (Kyle’s all-time favorite children’s book).

I mean, who doesn’t fantasize about being a steam shovel?

Even though we’ll be backfilling the dirt after installing the new drains, we still needed to remove and haul away a good amount. The process on the north side was tedious. Kyle would dump dirt straight into the wheelbarrows and I would then wheel them up and deposit the dirt in the back of the dump truck we rented.

I complained the whole time. I may have kicked a wheelbarrow, called it a name. Maybe.

This picture reminds me of that ridiculous arcade game where you try to use the claw to get a stuffed animal. Y’know…the game that is obviously rigged because no one ever gets the prize and the next thing you know you’ve spent your week’s allowance on a stupid machine. But I digress…this picture isn’t about arcade games, it’s about JORTS! Saturday was a blistering 82 degrees and the work jorts were in full effect. And Kyle owned them.

On Sunday morning Kyle started digging up the south half of our front yard and tearing out the weird mess of plants along our property line.

This half of our front yard is uneven and awkward and so our plan is to level it out a bit and create a small seating area (using some of the smaller pavers that we salvaged from the driveway in the backyard).

Digging on this side of the house went a lot faster and best of all – no wheelbarrows! We just backed the dump truck straight onto the sidewalk for easy access!

By this point Kyle was an excavating bad ass. Scoopin’, dumpin’, some more scoopin’.

And then tragedy struck. 

Around 10:30 a.m. we noticed that one of the hoses was leaking hydraulic fluid. Great. So much for our full day of machine-assisted digging. [The good news – we get the equipment again this weekend for free!]

But no worries, we still had good old-fashioned hand-digging on our side!

We also had the good fortune to not bust through our water line. (The main line was replaced several years ago, but the old (and broken) pipe was left in place.) Phew. (Note: we had our utilities located before we started digging so we knew where everything was. We just used the bobcat to take the first layer of dirt off before hand-digging around the water line.)

Kyle spent the afternoon hand-digging around the sewer line on the south side of the house while I shoveled mulch and pea gravel from the north side. This is the area where we’ll reuse the large-scale pavers that we cut from the old sidewalk in the backyard.

While we optimistically thought we could get all of the digging done in one weekend (seriously, when will we ever learn?), we probably would have needed two weekends even without the bobcat malfunction. (We hauled away about 8 yards of dirt and probably have 8 more to go. Crazy!)

After dirt removal, it’s waterproofing and drains. Could this be the most unexciting house project yet? Maybe. Probably. Unless you’re Mike Mulligan Kyle Zerbey.

Next time – more dogs and kittens!