Construction Journal Entry Week of 9/2/18

9/4-6/18 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

On the way, I stopped in and visited with Earl for about an hour. He was working on his car and he seemed extra fit and strong. I told him about my springbox problem and he said that he would be willing to come and help me if I needed it. I told him I would let him know.

I arrived at Camp Serendipity at 1:00. I brought my gear up to the cabin, hoisted the flag, had my lunch and a nap and then added a bunch of water to the bucket of bentonite slurry that I had prepared last week. It was far too stiff to pour, and I wanted to be able to pour it out of the bucket. Then, just to make sure I had enough, I mixed up a second batch in another bucket.

On Wednesday, I started by installing a dowel pin in the newest rail on the front porch to lock the mortise and tenon joints in place. That was a quick and easy job, but it was the very last project for the front porch. It is completely ready for inspection and I consider it finished.

Next, I went up to the bluff and checked on the cedar trees and their irrigation system. Everything looked good. But then, when I went to turn on the valve to water Dan and Brian, I found that the valve had been left on ever since I was up there last week. Yet, there was enough pressure to irrigate the cedar trees. I had not thought that would be the case. It must be that Brian is higher in elevation than the cedars on the bluff. Anyway, I took a bucket of water to Andrew and then turned the valve off.

Since I planned to do a lot of work up at the spring, I decided to improve a lower trail to the spring. The lower part of it was already improved by Robert when he started making a skid trail to the big pine log he plans to harvest. But that log was blocking the trail, so I used Cindy to make a detour trail below two big cedar trees. There were also a couple trees across the trail further on, so I made another detour around that spot.

With the trail passable, I delivered a tarp I had with me to the spring and spread it out so I can keep my tools somewhat organized when I start working up there. On my way back, I checked on the sequoias Earl, Ellen, John, and Larry. I hadn't checked the last two for quite a while and I found all of them doing OK but not exactly going gangbusters.

As I was coming back down out of the woods up by John, I took the opportunity to roll seven big firewood rounds that I had previously bucked down close to the trail. Now they will be relatively easy to retrieve and haul to the cabin if I need extra firewood next winter.

When I got back to the cabin, I loaded up my Trapper Nelson backpack with a bunch of heavy tools. I took two big chains and a small one, two come-alongs, a roll of duct tape, and some other stuff up to the spring and put them on the tarp. Then I returned to the cabin and got two 8-foot 2x4s bolted together at the top and brought them up to the spring.

I set the 2x4s up as a bi-pod as I had done before and rigged two come-alongs to it. One was chained to a tree and the other hung down and attached to the springbox lid. When the rigging was all set up, I tested it by lifting the lid a little way off the springbox. Then I put the lid back on and went back to the cabin for lunch and a nap.

When I got up, I mixed in a little more water with the bentonite and ended up with two five-gallon buckets full of slurry. I carried both of them up to the spring in two trips. That stuff is just as heavy as wet concrete or wet mortar.

When I got back to the cabin, I called and invited Earl and Al to come over and help me place bentonite at 8 the next morning. They said they would.

On Thursday morning, they hadn't showed up by 8, so I carried a load of tools up to the spring. When I came back down, they still weren't there so I made another trip back up to the spring with everything I needed to start work.

I had just gotten up there at about 9:00 when I heard Earl in the woods. He was not far behind me and he told me that Al couldn't make it, but his wife, Pam, had dropped Earl off. I was amazed that he was able to find his way up my crude trail and that he was so close behind me. He is remarkably strong for being so wobbly.

We first closed the shut-off valve and then proceeded to open the plumbing by loosening a union that was between the valve and the bell reducer. I had tightened that union extra tight last time it was open so it was extra hard to open this time. After struggling with it for quite a while with two Stillson wrenches, I finally succeeded by having the handle of one down against the concrete slab while I hammered on the end of the handle of the other one with a hammer. It worked.

With the union open, I next removed the bell reducer from the springbox, reconnected the union finger tight, and then screwed a 3" plug into the big end of the bell reducer. Then we put ABS caps on both the overflow pipe and the pipe the bell reducer was attached to.

I was following the suggestion of a YouTube commenter on my springbox video. He suggested plugging up all the outlets from the springbox, placing the bentonite, and letting it sit undisturbed for a week or two. That would allow the bentonite to penetrate the gravel deep enough to plug it up. With the plumbing being disconnected, no bentonite would get into the pipes to the cabin.

About that time, Earl told me that he needed to call Pam to find out when he was supposed to take his meds. Since my cordless phone was out of range up at the spring, I volunteered to go down to the cabin and call Pam. I did and found out that he was supposed to take the pill he was carrying at 10:00.

When I returned to the spring, we rigged up to lift the lid off the springbox. We just got it loose when we realized we didn't have a watch, or any way of telling when it was 10:00. So, we returned to the cabin and he took his pill on time. He called Pam and learned that he needed to take the next pill at 11:30 and she had the pill. We agreed that Earl would be back to the parking area at 11:15 and she would meet him there. We returned to the spring, bringing a battery-operated clock with us.

We removed the lid and set it down so we could see inside the box and then we put the aluminum skirt down on the gravel. I tried to pour the bentonite in, but it wouldn't flow. So, I used a trowel to get it out.

After dumping one bucket-full in, it looked to me that it was enough, so I didn't use any from the second bucket. I used a hoe to reach down and trowel the bentonite down against the gravel and concrete as best I could. Then we replaced the lid and went back to the cabin and met Pam at 11:15 in the parking area. Earl then left with Pam.

I returned to the spring and brought back most of the tools including the come-alongs. I left some things under the tarp including the chains. I had my lunch and left for home at 1:00 happy about getting the bentonite in the springbox, but sorry that I wouldn't be returning for at least a couple weeks because of my upcoming surgery.

9/7/18, Friday, very early in the morning, I got to thinking about the physics of what I had done at the spring. I realized that the water coming into the spring now had nowhere to go. That meant that if the bentonite really plugged up the leaks through the gravel, then the depth in the springbox would have to increase until it ran out the top. That would mean that the pressure would also increase which would then force the bentonite out through the leaks and defeat the whole purpose. I realized that I shouldn't have capped the overflow pipe after all.

I decided that I needed to remove that cap. The problem was that I needed to stay home in order to take delivery of a new washing machine. They were scheduled some time between noon and 4:30 PM. I told Ellen that I was going to leave as soon as the installation was done, drive to Camp Serendipity, remove the cap, and come back home right after.

As it worked out, the washing machine didn't arrive until 3:00 so I was unable to leave until 4:30, just when the Friday rush hour was at its worst and the roads into the mountains were clogged with people starting their weekend outings. I crawled along with the rest of the traffic and finally arrived at Camp Serendipity at 7:10. There was still enough light for me to see my way through the woods, take the cap off, and get back on the road for home at 7:30.

The water level was somewhere over the top of the 3-inch overflow nipple, but I don't think it was more than an inch or so. When it finally stabilized after the cap was off, it looked like the level was only about a half-inch higher than it was before the bentonite. But maybe after the bentonite goes in deeper, the water level will rise. We'll see. But at least I can rest easy now for a couple weeks without worrying about excessive pressure on the bentonite.

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