A larger part of Monday than planned was spent saddled up on the Kubota tractor moving dirt around the property.
We’ve got a patch of ground between the shop/office/Panama’s digs and the house that has been problematic for quite a while. You know: as in what to do with it.
There are a couple of big trees that shelter the house from the sun during summertime. So they can’t come down or it would likely adversely impact the cooling bill. But, in the fall and into early winter, they shed leaves like crazy.
Because there’s so much shade, this area doesn’t want to support grass, although a few hardier weeds and ramps – a kind of local green onion – do OK there. Cockleburs also seem to love it. We were sick of it. Time to change things up.
After figuring it six-ways to Sunday we decided that leveling, filling, ground cloth, and pea gravel would be the right answer. So that’s how I came to be mounted on the orange steed.
Owning 28+ acres of land, you’d think that finding dirt would be a cinch. It’s not. I spent a good bit of time last month trying to figure out where to get the need fill dirt from and eventually settled on the top of the west 10-acre piece.
A couple of scratches of the ground with the tractor’s bucket teeth (one of the best dirt-work improvements ever) and I was digging a good-sized hole. So far, probably a yard or three of material has come out of it, maybe more.
If you don’t run serious landscaping, a yard is enough material to fill a cube 3-feet on an edge – 27 feet.
In real-life, there are no cubes around to fill up, so every equipment operator – especially those delivering topsoil, bark, gravel, sand, or whatever, will each have their own idea of what a “yard” is.
As the hole has gotten deeper (and corresponding filling of my low-spots between the shop and the house progressed, I realized I hadn’t really settled in on what the hole that resulted from all this tractoring would be used for.
At first I though: “Gee, this would make a fine fire pit.”
Preppers are big on fire pits. It allows you to cook outside safely. Fact is, though, that if you’re any kind of prepper at all, you already have a rocket stove, maybe a white-gas cook-stove, a propane fired barbeque that includes a side-burner or two, and if you’ve got a big solar system like we do, there are lots of small electric appliances that can be plugged in to prepare meals on.
Even if you have a genset, a medium-sized George Foreman GRP1060B 4 Serving Removable Plate Grill, Black or – if you have solar and want to spread out of the electricity consumption – a Hamilton Beach 33182A Slow Cooker, 8-Quart might fill the bill.
Plus there are other problems with the fire pit idea that cropped up as I moved front loader buckets of dirt up to the job site. Elaine was playing loadmaster and Zeus the cat supervised, including the cat-version of perk-testing the soil as Elaine raked things level where the heavy equipment operator didn’t get things just-so.
A few loads later I found myself eyeing what was now about 3-feet deep worth of hole and the basic fire pit idea morphed into “outdoor fire/entertainment area.”
That would give me something to do with the dozens of rocks, ranging from fist-sized to a couple I could barely life hundred-plus pounders. I figured that when Oilman2 is done with our concrete mixer, I’d mud the lip around the fire pit with concrete and it would be a dandy outdoor entertaining area.
Just one problem, with that, however: No one comes to visit us.
Not that we want visitors – the only folks welcome are those we invite. Dropping by is simply not done. The Outback is very much like the privacy that liveaboard sailors enjoy: You NEVER climb on someone’s boat without being invited…it’s just not done.
In the Outback, the same principles apply: People are discouraged from showing up unannounced.
One of these days I’m going to do the decal for the front gate. It will read: “No Appointment? No Warrant? No Delivery? Flee while you can!.”
When I’d started and the “pit” was only 2-feet deep, I got to wondering about the aerodynamics of it: How would the smoke flow? Two loads up the trail focused on whether campfire smoke follows age or beauty. I’ve seen it work both ways.
Down at four feet, the fire pit was still sounding like like a good idea, though now I was thinking that people would have to dangle their legs over the edge in order to see the fire. That’d be dirty so the fire pit idea drifted away…
By the time I was down to chest-high deep, the fire pit idea was gone Every trip down the trail from the job-site I was thinking “OK: What else can I do with a hole in the ground?” No one would sit with their legs on a dirt wall to stare down into a blazing fire unless they had a firm commitment to being broiled and smoked. This hole is all of four feet wide.
The deeper I went, the more the plans changed around.
At the six foot level, it seemed like a slit trench would be a good idea. What with the Iranians bound and determined to build a bomb, I figured that a slit trench, even here in the Outback, would be a good thing. Eventually Russia and the US will get drawn into a showdown, and comes to it, I’d feel much better about 5-megatons going off up north of us if I had a slit trench going.
Several more loads up the trail were invested in trying to mentally figure the 5-pound over-pressure blast area from such a disaster and whether a slit trench would be worth keeping. After all, even if the slit trench protected us, there would still be the firestorm issues from all the woods in Texas.
“Well, the best thing to do would be? Not be here…” I reckoned. “We have the old Beechcrate just for such emergencies…but has anyone in the wildly over-worked prepper niche actually written the definitive book on flying in the vicinity of firestorms and radiation clouds?”
A few more loads up the trail and it occurred to me I needed to get checked out flying around forest fires. That would be close to the same thing.
But just as I was about to shut down the tractor and go call American Flyers Flight Training to see if they had such a course for the prepper market, I got to looking at the hole.
It was getting too deep to be just a slit trench.
Hardly point having a slit trench this deep, because it’s bound to collapse in on us, burying us alive. Three or four more loads up the trail involved figuring out that five-pound over-pressure area again – being buried automatically might be a good thing, perhaps.
No, I’d keep digging. Fortunately, this grim outlook faded as I came down for another load and noticed that I had the fine makings of an underground home! Not really big, but it would sure work for emergencies and would be cheaper than a Radisson.
Oh, sure, Elaine would have nothing to do with it, but it would be be interesting to keep digging and make the trench wider and longer and fall a couple of trees, cut them up, drag the into place, and cover it with a pond liner and back-fill 3-4 feet of dirt on top of that.
I kept digging.
All the rocks that were piling up could be used to make a kind of fire-pit and chimney, underground too. It would be a larger version of the old “camp” my long-time friend Rob and I made as kids that set a vacant lot on fire and got us both into a heap of trouble.
The deeper I went, the more it felt like turning this into an underground house “How-To” for Peoplenomics readers might be really interesting.
So I dug deeper still.
About 14-feet down I considered a lake. I might be able to stock it, if the water would hold rain ought to keep it topped off. Renewing my commitment to the ultimate underground house, though, I decided to make it two stories high underground. But wait? Why not three stories underground.
I dug furiously throughout the afternoon – deeper and deeper by the bucket load. By about 5:30, I figured I was down almost as deep as a Minuteman missile silo….the ultimate prepper delight.
The old Kubota has headlights on it, so I was able to keep digging well past dark. It got very warm after while, but I keep digging for all I was worth.
Finally, about 10:45, or so, the strangest damn thing happened: I saw a little bit of light down at the bottom of the pit…so I pushed the bucket down one more time, stepping on the rear axle lock to make sure all 24-horsepower of the four-wheel drivetrain was engaged.
Suddenly, I broke through. Just outside the home of a nice Chinese family. Somehow, while in my prepper-planning trance, I had managed to dig all the way through the center of the earth and out the other side.
After giving me a bit of their lunch, this family insisted that they call “the authorities.”
A short time later, couldn’t have been more than 10-minutes, the PLA showed up and pointed angrily at the hole in the ground and my upside down tractor which was still patiently idling on the other side.
“How close that hole to Mexico?” the officer-in-charge demanded.
“Why, no…we’re 350 miles from the border, “ I explained.
“Too close. You go. We blow up.”
When his troops raised what looked by real Red Army AK-47’s in my direction, I climbed down into and up onto the other side.
Driving as quickly as I could, I emerged back into our woods just in time to feel the ground shake and the hole collapsed…filling in all but about 4-feet of my day’s work.
– – –
What happened next is even harder to describe. I suddenly woke up in my favorite media chair and noticed half a glass of Viva Los Sanchos tequila was still in the drink holder.
Elaine was standing over me gently shaking my shoulder.
“George…Could I get another bucket of dirt?”
“Uh…yeah…sure dear…anything you want…”
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
The Dish Ran Away With the Spoon
I hope they’re happy together.
More seriously – Woo-woo is back.
In the past three days, two sets of truck keys have disappeared.
Gone – without a trace.
Also MIA is my white Beechcraft hat with my FAA WINGS basic and advanced pins on it.
We’ve searched damn near everywhere for them…you know how that goes, right? Through the dirty clothes, twice. Under the cushions, check the car…office desk three times.
So, for what it’s worth, things are back to disappearing around here.
Either that, or I left ‘em in China.
Say….did I mention what day tomorrow is?
Write when you break-even…