Thursday, March 15, 2007

A job we actually know how to do

...dig, that is. We are quite familiar with the proper use of a spade fork and shovel, having dug our garden beds to a depth of two feet last year. So it felt sweet to rip into the ground and just do it like we know how to, after a week of feeling our way through these unfamiliar tasks.

Wait, what digging? First things first. After a quick after-work stop at our friendly neighborhood hardware store (the proprietors are Brian and Ryan, pronounced Virginia-ly like "BrahnnRahh"), we put on our work clothes, heated up some chili and talked to the same nice old beagle who visited our campfire last weekend. (Is he a border collie beagle? Aw.)

The big item on the agenda was to take up the subfloor in the bathroom, since we know we'll need a different type to handle our soapstone flooring. But we're unsure whether to tear up the rest of the subfloor too, in the adjacent area that's going to become a part of our open kitchen/dining room instead of whatever it was before (part of the bathroom? A huge closet? A place to store 4,000 rolls of toilet paper?). We don't know what the flooring will be in those 40 square feet or so--soapstone or something else entirely. I, being somewhat barnacle-like in my tendency to resist change, feel like I want to leave it in place despite John's very reasonable case for why we should rip it out. It looks old, handmade and really solid, but it's also kind of uneven and has some damage here and there. We decided to leave it for now and figure it out later.

John busted out the serious-ass circular saw my dad gave us for Christmas ("You know it's pro when it doesn't even have a safety," says John) and started taking out the big planks. Our house has stood since 1932 and this amazing tool can go right through the flooring in a matter of minutes. The bright, raw cuts were such a contrast with the dusty, worn surfaces of the planks. He'd cut along a joist with the circular saw, then along the footer/foundation with the jigsaw, then prybar it up. Soon we had a big hole in our house: just joists spanning over bare ground.

before digging

Meanwhile, I kept chipping away at cleaning the ceiling joists and corners in the dining room.

Once the subfloor was up, we jumped down between the joists and digging commenced. John loosened with the fork, I shoveled into the garbage can--pretty much exactly what we know how to do from the garden. The reason we were doing this was to make it easier to deal with the crawlspace once the floor is back on. We were shoveling out rocks, insulation scraps, random trash and plenty of soil, getting down to a depth we can handle and, incidentally, creating a surface of nice clean dirt instead of all that nasty debris. It was nice to get a look at the soil, which we'll get pretty intimate with in the future once we're growing veggies here. We said "Soil's not bad, except for all the rocks..." and then wondered how many times we'll say that in the decades to come.

People, let me tell you something. John is a damn hard worker. I think he's part badger. Turn that man loose on a pile of dirt, and he will MOVE IT. Then he'll roll the heavy garbage can full of soil out through the kitchen and the back porch, upend it onto the grass, and go back for more. The crawlspace looks so smooth now, I feel like planting tomatoes in it. Too bad we have to cover it up and put a bathroom over it!

Anyway, we got most of the digging done, cleaned up, then split.

- Erika

after digging

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