Ditch Digger

For the love of beer
The perfect place and beverage to share some casual conversation.

If we were having a beer, I would order the first round, and you would start in on me right away.

What’s the do-it-yourself vacation boy doing these days?

I’ve been installing drain tile and a small drywell to take care of the last remaining downspout that wasn’t piped underground.”

Digging ditches?

Exactly, just like my dad predicted. He used to say that if I didn’t do better in school, I’d end up digging ditches.”

Ha, my father told me that I had to go to school ‘cause I was too stupid to dig ditches.”

I would explain that your father might have been on to something. Ditches, at least drainage ditches have to have some precise characteristics. The pipe from each inlet has to be sloped down to the drywell. The drywell has to be set so that its drain is below the frost line, and you have to make sure that the lines and the drywell can’t fill up with dirt.

Sounds complicated.

It’s not too bad.”

So, how does this work?

Drainage
The dotted lines are underground. That’s MiMi in the window.

I’d take a napkin and ask the bartender for a pen. Bartenders are loath to give up their pens. Pens are like currency to wait staff and customers are always walking off with them. She was nice, but she threatened to order a case from W.B. Mason since we come here so often, she’s memorized my credit card number.

First, I dug a hole for a large bucket that I use as a drywell. I dug that deep enough so that after I added some stone, the bottom of the bucket was 42” below the surface. Then I dug a trench to the downspout and another to a surface drain that I wanted to put in front of the window to carry away winter rain and snow melt when the ground is frozen.”

What’s the black thing in the window?

That’s MiMi, she loves to sit in those windows.”

“OK, I follow, but what happens when the bucket fills up?

It doesn’t fill up, there’s a hole in the bottom.”

There’s a hole in the bucket?

Yes.

A hole?

I would finally realize that these questions were deliberate on your part. All leading up to the next words out of your mouth as you looked to the bartender.

Can I have another glass of wine, and another beer for my dear friend Liza.”

Next I’d tell you that the hardest part of this job was getting the material. When I got to the Home Depot, they had the section where the drain tile and components are stacked, blocked off.

This aisle closed for your protection?

Yeah. I hate when they do that.”

What’d you do?

I went to Lowes.”

You should have gone there first.”

You would think.”

Bloomfield Big Boxes
Home Depot is easy-in and easy-out. Lowes is a pain in the butt to exit.

I would tell you that I don’t like Lowes. I like the store OK but the location is awful. Home Depot’s entrance is at a stop light. When you pull out, you can go anyway you like. Lowes is tucked in behind a strip mall. If you go out the way you enter you can’t turn left to get to the main road. That means you have to drive out through the mall, stopping at about five stop signs and you hit the main road three traffic lights west of the road I need. I’d draw another diagram ‘cause I can’t be trusted with a pen and paper.

Yo, Leonardo, I’ve been to those stores, I don’t need a map. Anyway, since you drew one, you can clearly see why you should always go to Lowes first.”

Sorry, I don’t get it.”

You go to Lowes first. Then, when they don’t have what you need, you exit the way you went in, turn right and go to Home Depot. Then you can come out at the light and turn left.”

Sometimes, you simply have to bow to the absurd. We would have a good laugh at your bit of twisted logic and at the fact that the bartender was humming “There’s a hole in the bucket.” (By the way, that’s the Muppets version, it’s worth watching).

61 thoughts on “Ditch Digger

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    1. Thanks. MiMi loves to sit in that window when I’m working out there. I wasn’t going to link to the song until I had the thought that maybe the Muppets did a version. Yeah, Liza needs a beer. I won’t say anything about who might resemble Henry.

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  1. OMG, that Home Depot/Lowes diagram looks exactly like the Home Depot and Lowes in Amherst that we go to! And believe me, we’ve been to both a lot these past two weeks. I like Home Depot better for maneuvering the vehicle and for basic DIY supplies, but Lowes sometimes has more stylish fixtures and stuff (although having said that, I must admit we wound up getting almost everything from Home Depot). Boy, I could tell stories! (And I will, as soon as construction is finally over.)

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    1. Are you a member of the “all tasks require three trips to the hardware store” club? It always seems to be the case for me. I actually ended up going to a different Home Depot (Enfield) because Lowes didn’t have the fixtures I needed. I look forward to the construction stories (I love those).

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      1. Well, let’s put it this way. We bought a toilet, medicine cabinet, and light fixture from Home Depot. The toilet was defective and the light fixture didn’t have the little packet with the hardware and instructions, so those are going back today. We bought a vanity from Lowe’s – that was defective, so that’s going back tomorrow if we can’t get it into my SUV with the other stuff today.

        I don’t know yet about the replacement vanity I bought from Home Depot because it hasn’t been installed yet.

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    1. Haha – I’m not looking for treasure though. I assume that’s why they’re digging in the basements. I had read an article about people who search for relics along the riverbanks and I don’t think they like them doing that either.

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  2. The documentary I saw was about how home buyers across London buy properties and then try to enhance it by digging below almost one or two floors deep. They then add luxuries like jacuzzi or home entertainment room to spike up their property rates. I told my wife looks like these buyers are inspired by Saddam or some terrorist organizations. It was funny and sad to watch it.

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  3. HAHA! I loved the diagram of Home Depot, and Lowes. Our nearest Home Depot has two well placed entrances, and exits, and the Lowes is out farther so we only go there if HD doesn’t have what we want/need.

    He-Man is in your club of “having to go to the Hardware store 3 times to get a task done”, and he’s in the “I don’t have the right tool for the task at hand” club too. :)

    I watched our construction crew go through a little of this last week, when they pulled out the sliding glass patio door. That old door was bugger to get out, and then we discovered a bit of dry rot on the beam under it. It took them a few trips to the store, an a lot of head scratching and trying different tools to get the door out. In the end…one nail was the key to unlock the thing. :)

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  4. Am now humming “My Buckets Got a Hole In It” and it’s killing me that I can’t think of the name of the country songwriter, who cut his own album about a decade ago, who did my favorite version of the song. Also, finding it odd that I have a favorite version of a song about a hole in a bucket.

    Also, continually in awe at your do-it-yourselfness. I require three trips to the hardware store to hang a picture.

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  5. Hi Mimi 🐹

    Now I know why all those home improvement how-to’s make no sense to me. Letting the water run off into a DRY well? Why isn’t it called a wet well?!?

    That’s one deep hole and my body started aching just thinking about digging that sucker. It’s also a fairly narrow hole for such depth – even tougher to dig. Is your soil clay? I mean, is your back ok?

    My son is a genius (your caliber) at stuff like this. He just installed all the underground piping and French drains in his back yard (big slopes, hard rains) plus the whole sprinkler system for front and back. He wanted to do it himself ‘cuz in their last house the ‘experts’ did it incorrectly and he had to redo it all.

    When he goes to Home Depot ( Lowe’s – are you kidding me?) he is now required to take at least one family member with him because otherwise we have to put out a ‘have you seen this man missing for 2 days” alert, not to mention cancelling his credit card.

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    1. It’s a dry well because there’s a hole in the bucket – that’s how this all got started Sammy :)

      I’m with your son. I just watched “professionals” install a fence in the yard behind us. They took so many shortcuts I wanted to go and yell at them.

      Our soil is mostly sand. It comes out pretty easy with a post hole digger but getting down deep enough is tough on the back.

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      1. And who wants a bucket with a hole in it ? 😀 see how these provocative political questions start to piss you off? Don’t answer that !!

        Out here where raw mineral extraction is an economic/employment lifeblood, we prefer ‘gushers’ to dry wells. Another divisive discussion 😀

        Enjoy the rest of your weekend. We finally have summer!

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          1. Ok. I most definitely support YOUR dry wells!!

            After reading Joey’s and your comments I think ‘ooh if I can’t lure Dan here with promises of a plane ticket & terrific Colorado tour after he renovates my kitchen (ahem), maybe promising him a week’s lodging at the best hardware store this side of the Continental Divide (McGuckins in Boulder) will be enough incentive.

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        1. Of course, I hit post too soon. That’ll teach me to try and be a wise ass.

          Return/Reply – you wouldn’t think it would be so hard. Anyway. If drainage turns into a gusher, it’s a bad day. I am currently sitting at the bar at Tunxis Grill – done working this weekend. Enjoy yours Sammy.

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  6. Witty, witty stuff, Dan. I don’t think I can be trusted to do any drainage ditches, but I do alright making a seed ditch ;)
    We live very close to Menards, and I used to work there, so we go there almost all the time. Our Lowe’s is convenient to come home from, but a bit perilous to enter, and extremely perilous to exit left and go elsewhere. We seldom go to Lowe’s. I go to Home Depot for paint, because I’m fond of the paint guy at the Home Depot. Sadly, the roads are under construction on my way to Home Depot, and for this reason, I am unable to finish my back hallway trim. HAHAHAHA!

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    1. HA! I love that reason. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a Menards but I’ve seen the name before (maybe you mentioned it). I’m always up for exploring a new hardware store. I wonder if they have stores in Iowa. The HD I went to is the easiest in and out, but the worst for having what you want. It’s 8 miles south of us. There’s another 6 miles north and I can’t count the number f times that I’ve had to go to both to get enough stuff to do a job. Thanks!

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      1. Yes, they’re in Iowa. As far as I know, they’re regional.
        We had to drive all over town to collect 8 matching drapery panels for our house, and then weeks later, we saw the same ones at Meijer. Oh that was sad! lol

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  7. Reminds me Dan of a discussion I had recently with a friend of mine who was trying to show me how he was driving pylons in to the sea bed for a new pier they were building. The table was eventually full of paper and one too many beer glasses. The drain looks good and I must say I admire the way you combine IT and Civil Engineering in your repertoire of sheer ability.

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  8. Your sense of humor has been rocking lately, Dan!!! Of course you must do all you can to keep MiMi dry! I mean really she is the cat your are HER human and it is deemed your responsibility to give to her everything she desires!
    As for the digging … oh yes we have done that and I can attest it is hard work! *brushes sweat from forehead and out of eyes*
    Regarding your drawings …. LOVED them, reminding me how I draw. Hehehehehe Too cute, Dan! And the logic! Only a man would come up with something like that. I prefer Home Depot too FYI. Great post, my friend!! Have a great day! Love, Amy <3

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    1. Thanks Amy. Summer brings lots of opportunities to laugh, even if we have to laugh at ourselves. The best thing about these projects is that once they’re done, they are generally done for good. Our first bit of drainage work was finished over 20 years ago and the downspouts are still flowing. MiMi appreciates your support :)

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  9. If I was sitting having a beer with you I’d ask the most important question any woman wants to know: Why do all men say they are going to the hardware store and they’ll be back in a half hour and they are back two horus later and they also will have something in the cart they need to take back pronto and then they will be gone another two hours? In our business (and i am the scheduler too, women of many hats) I add a few days to each project for hardware trips. I kid you not.

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    1. Haha Kate – I think I explained this before, men are strategic thinkers. Women are wired for details. Both are necessary so neither are bad.

      Seriously, you are so right. Hardware stores never have the stuff we go to get, or they don’t have enough of it. I joke with friends that every project involves three trips to the hardware store. On the other hand, I rarely, perhaps never take stuff back. I just add it to the pile of leftover stuff that “I’m sure I can use someday” I had 20′ of drain tile left over from this job. when I went to add it to the pile, I discovered that I already had 15′ in the pile (almost enough to have done this job without going to the store) but I didn’t have any fittings. Still, compared to having someone do this work for us, I think I came out way ahead. Compared to slipping on the ice again this winter trying to clear the snow from that side of the house, I’m way ahead.

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  10. Haha, I like that Mimi supervises your work both from the actual window, and from the napkin window. I imagine she’s also giving you critical feedback on your work, too! And telling you to hurry up about it or she’ll get her paws wet, which would be terrible.

    I love hardware stores. Although I don’t know what most of the stuff inside them is for, I always want to come back with neat boxes full of compartmentalised nails and screws, and toolboxes, and rivets and washers (showing off the extent of my DIY vocab here). This is why I’m not in charge of DIY, I’d spend all my time making sure the nails were all properly arranged by size, and the tools neatly laid out in the toolbox ;)

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    1. Thanks for the comment Celine, I like that you included rivets. MiMi loves to supervise. When I’m working inside, she gets very close, and she is likely to steal something out of my tool bag to play with. She doesn’t mind the loud noises or dust that goes along with these jobs. Her sister runs in the other direction. For the record, I have numerous bins in my garage with nails and screws somewhat properly arranged. I also have several coffee cans of “who knows what” that I really should just toss.

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  11. So here I am again, having a conversation I don’t remember, and drinking a beer I don’t recall enjoying! And references to “a holes”? I thought this was a family-friendly blog. ;)

    Ha, kidding, of course. Good piece!

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    1. We have got to find a way to have a real conversation (with a real beer) at some point. I’m still laughing at “a holes” – but you’re right, I do try to keep it family friendly. Although, my father tossed that word around a lot when I was growing up.

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  12. Not sure how I missed this one, Dan. I enjoyed your expected conversational flow. It was so much easier than trying to figure out what to say with either a bite of the requisite hot wings or loaded potato skinsin my mouth.
    If we were out with wife and friends having a drink together, I would probably have a hard apple cider or a Smirnoff’s Ice to drink.
    I like both Lowe’s and Home Depot for different items. We have an Ace True Hardware store in town and an ancient two story Hardware Exchange. I love shooting the breeze with the elderly guys at the last store listed. I get keys made there, gadgets and always ask for help. Their ideas and suggestions are ones given with thought and grace, Dan, at the Exchange. :)

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    1. Thanks Robin. I think I’d like spending an hour in the Hardware Exchange almost (maybe more) than an hour at the bar. I love old hardware stores. We have a small family run store near us, and it’s always my first stop when I need something. I’ve been in it hundreds of times, but I still like looking around.

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  13. Oh, I wish we lived closer, friend, as I would love to drink beer and kibitz with you over drain tile (even if it induces mild PTSD from my days living in IL and flooding at least twice a year. Yes, we installed drain tile. Twice. And an overhead sewer. but our backyard was another issue.) Glad that issue no longer concerns me because while I find your projects fascinating, I do not share your handiness.)

    Fondly,
    E

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    1. We could swap stories for a long time Elizabeth. We started out trying to avoid flooding conditions in a house the previous owner said “never had water problems” – So far though, I haven’t had to install any section twice. That might do me in.

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  14. Only you can tell a story about digging ditches and cause those reading to smile. :-) If we were having a beer, I’d recommend the next time you are in Maine outside of Bar Harbor that you stop and taste some great beer at the Atlantic Brewing Company and be there at 11:30 when their barbecue restaurant opens up for some delicious smoked meats. :-)

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