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high desert. small house.

Days 199-201: Finishing the Trench Work

Friday, 1/29
Worked on the 2ft deep trench that connects the grounding rod trench to the breaker panel.   Continuing drilling holes for electrical bonding clamps in the steel I-joists under the house until the drill batteries died.

Saturday, 1/30
The rock-like layer that Brian hit the other day was still impeding our progress on the connection trench.  Also, a large rock was encountered right on the corner.  Ultimately the best tool was a steel t-post with the t-post hammer.  By pounding it right into the rock to crack it, and also pounding it in near the rock and then wiggling it around, Brian was able to dislodge the obstructing chunk.   It was like a manual jackhammer.

Our TOOL eventually broke due to smashing it against the hard, rocky soil.

Our tiller eventually broke due to smashing it against the hard, rocky soil.

While Brian worked on digging the trench the last foot with a post hole digger, I was busy filling in the grounding trench.  My thoughts going into it – “This shouldn’t be too hard.  Now…digging is hard work.  Moving dirt from 3 feet away back into a hole should be a piece of cake.”

Wrongo.  The dirt was wet and heavy.  It stuck to itself and was somewhat compacted.  After raking the top layer into the trench, I would be at the wet layer and it was basically impossible to rake.  The solution I eventually found was to go behind the dirt pile (so the dirt was between me and the trench) and cut into it with the shovel.  It was too heavy to effectively throw, but I could push it in the direction of the trench.  By chopping and sliding the dirt this way, I would mobilize the dirt and then be able to rake it in.

Sydney "helping" move dirt back into the trench.

Sydney “helping” move dirt back into the trench.

We called it a night around 6pm.  Brian had about 6 inches left to dig and I had about 4 feet left to fill.  Once those 4 feet were filled, there would still be a LOT of dirt to heap on top of the trench.  It felt like a very productive 2.5 hour work session.

Oh, one more thing – The service entrance mast situation.  We were experiencing 20 mph winds (with gusts up to 40 mph) and did not feel it was safe to be working on the ladder, especially in its fully extended form.  Additionally, the dirt pile from the trench is located in the exact spot where the ladder goes for conduit work.  So the continuation of the mast work has to wait until we are completely done with our trench tasks.

Rock clod -

Moist & chewy rock clod from the layer underneath the first 10 inches of armored dirt.  MUCH easier to excavate.

Sunday, 1/31
We started around 10:30am.  Brian quickly hit another rock but with his t-post jackhammer system already worked out, he was able to dislodge it in about 10 minutes.  I continued my trench filling/frisbee throwing routine.  We absolutely had to finish before dark on Sunday because the forecast was calling for a mega storm on Monday.  We did not want the moisture to further encumber the dirt pile before we had moved it back into/onto the trench.

We called for a short food break around 12:30 because we were very hungry.  Moving dirt is hard work.  This weekend ranks high on our list of very challenging manual labor.

Brian finished digging out the connection trench shortly after lunch so I took a break to help him get the grounding wire to the electric box.  Wrestling with the PVC conduit was ridiculous.  Due to its size, the wire is quite rigid and hard to maneuver; add to the task the challenge of manipulating the wire through 6′ of PVC while keeping it anchored on the bottom of a deep and narrow trench and getting the PVC directly under the box.  It was tough to say the least.

Once we gently bent the grounding wire into the trench, we wrestled the PVC pipe into place. Tada!

Once we gently bent the grounding wire into the trench, we wrestled the PVC pipe into place. Tada!

The grounding wire inside the electrical box.

The uncooperative 2 AWG grounding wire inside the electrical box.  Brian left as much slack as possible in case something needed to be repositioned; code mandates that this conductor may only spliced via special crimp tool or thermite.

Once we got the grounding wire into the box and the PVC pipe connected, we both started filling in the trench.  It took us another 2 hours to get the bulk of the dirt where we wanted it.  Tired and dirty, we considered calling it a night.  The only reason we did not was the realization that it helps if both of us mess with the service entrance mast.  And if we miss our work window right then, we might be looking at several days before I’m able to help.

So, after taking a 5 minute break, we got the ladder out and started the conduit stuff.  First task – Attach a bracket/brace higher up so that the mast ends up with max clearance from the roof overhang.  Come on drill battery!

New conduit clearance

New mast clearance

With the new clamp on, we had to attach the top piece of the conduit so that we could determine how much needed to be cut off to keep it within 36″ above the roof line.  Another very challenging task.  We attached the two pieces of conduit (total length of 20′) and while Brian manipulated, attached and marked the piece on the top, I held the weight of it from the ground.

Once the top piece was secure, we unscrewed the bottom piece.  With the top piece in place and marked up for cutting, we now had the distance between the bottom of the top piece and the top of the meter base.  This gap measured 48.5″.  With both conduit pieces marked for cutting, we removed the top piece, moved all of our work materials under the house and called it a night.

All done with the trench!

All done with the trench!

We are so lucky to have Sydney. With her hilarious little cartoon face and her big wide smile, she always brightens our day. Trooper's cool too.

We are so lucky to have Sydney. With her hilarious little cartoon face and her big wide smile, she always brightens our day. Trooper’s cool too.

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