Digging a hole

We bought some crape myrtles and hollies for the yard between the side of the house and the driveway a few days ago, and on Wednesday I started digging a hole for one of the crape myrtles. The crape myrtles are in five-gallon containers, so they need a hole a foot deep by about four or so feet wide. That’s a big hole, but that’s not the whole story.

Here is one of the crape myrtles in the ground. It’s about six feet tall.

And here is the start of a hole for the second crape myrtle.

About half of the dirt taken from the hole is wrapped up in the tarp behind the crape myrtle. I dumped the rest down near the woods because it is too hard to use for planting. About four inches below the surface there is a layer of incredibly hard, almost black clay. It is impossible to dig this soil with just a shovel. It’s not easy to do it even with a pick. The clay breaks into rock-like chunks that are impossible to break up with a shovel. Our regular hard red clay can at least be crumbled with a shovel, but this dark clay is impervious. Our neighbor John, who did the clearing and grading for us, lent us a gasoline-powered auger to use for planting. I tried it. The auger bit dug a few inches into the soil and stopped at the clay level, leaving a nice, polished surface where the auger spun uselessly against the clay.

I take the clay chunks out of the soil and use the loose soil that’s left. There’s no way I can put the hard clay back into the hole with the plant, even amended generously with compost.

Planting guides usually recommend against so generously amending the soil that goes back in the hole with the plant because it encourages roots to stay within that good soil and not penetrate out into the rest of the soil. Here, though, we’re going to have to treat the crape myrtles almost like potted plants because the clay is so hard.

Each of these crape myrtles holes take me most of an afternoon to dig. I have wondered about dynamite.

The ground is especially hard now because we haven’t had a measurable amount of rain for about two weeks. We have watched the weather radar as heavy showers pass north or south of us. A few days ago a good shower passed over town. We could watch it from our front porch.

We got a sprinkle. I assume that at least the rain that passes close but misses us helps recharge the ground water, so maybe our well won’t run dry.

Dogs in panic

I tried to do a little more work on the trim in the house on Saturday. Zeke and Sam objected. Strenuously.

I had put up the vertical casing on three doors a few days earlier and the dogs acted spooked, as they had in the past when I was using the pneumatic nailer. But this time was different.

The dogs were in the bedroom, where I wanted to install the baseboard behind the bed, so we could push the bed up against the wall. I didn’t realize they were there when I put two nails into a loose piece of flooring. They ran out of the room and pushed through the door into the garage. I had already lowered the garage doors because I figured they would want to be out there, so I wasn’t worried about that. But when I started moving the baseboard around — not even nailing yet, just moving — they freaked. Zeke started trying to rip the rubber gasket off the bottom of the garage door. It literally scared the crap out of Sam.

So this is the progress I made on the bedroom baseboards.

Loose baseboard and quarter round, plus abandoned nail gun.

On Tuesday I stopped at the vet’s office to ask their advice. They didn’t think sedatives were the answer. I didn’t either. I have a lot of trim left to do, and I didn’t want two doped-up dogs around for days on end. The vet suggested boarding them, but I don’t think that’s going to be practical. I guess I’ll try to fix up a hidey-hole for them in the garage.

Here’s Zeke in calmer times.


Notice that there are no baseboards on the wall behind him.

Moon – roof

On Wednesday night the sky was clear enough for the first time in days to see the rising moon.


Leah called my lazy rear end out to get this shot. It’s only so-so. It was handheld, so it’s not really sharp enough to stand up to much enlargement. It was really pretty in person.

And the roof? That’s the new roof on our house.


The weather was pretty good for the last few weeks, but rain was expected during the early hours of Monday (October 26). The roofing material wasn’t delivered until late last week. Fortunately, the roofer came out Saturday with about an hour of daylight left and got the roofing felt up. Then he came and shingled all day Sunday, so by the time the rain started we had a roof. The framing contractor, who provided the roofer as well, said he doesn’t like to ask anyone to work on the weekend, but in this case he made an exception. We’re glad he did. At least the roofer got Monday and Tuesday off anyway, since it rained pretty much the entire two days.

Most of our siding material was delivered earlier last week, but there was still a little bit left. This came on Monday.


This is the fish scale or half-round shingle material that will go on the porch gable. It will be painted white (as of now) to contrast with the dark green (as of now) color of the siding. I think siding will probably start today (Thursday Oct. 29) or Friday, assuming no more rain.

Late evening house update

We’re back. Uncertainty is still with us, but I guess that’s always going to be the case. So, on to the blogging.

This was the eastern sky at around 7:30 pm EDT on Monday, Sept 7.


This was the same view at about the same time on Tuesday.


It had been raining a little and was still sprinkling up on the mountain. The bright clouds are quite high, since they are further in the distance than the darker clouds above them in the photo but they are still illuminated by the setting sun. The taller one might have been a weak storm, but the radar on my phone’s weather app didn’t show much happening down that way.

Not much has been happening with the new house. Neighbor John did some grading where the septic system was installed, and our well is now in. The well driller finished about three weeks ago at a depth of 310 feet, a flow of about five gallons per minute, and about 200 gallons in the well itself. That is slightly deeper than our current well (280 feet), and a lot shallower than our next-door-neighbor’s well, which is about 500 feet and produces about three gallons per minute. Hydrology escapes me.

I told the well driller not to install the pump since we don’t need it right away.

There was a rumor that our framer will start soon, but I haven’t actually heard anything from the framer himself. This puts us about a month and a half behind where I wanted to be on the new house.

The current house is coming along, although somewhat slowly. I have almost finished the lower section of wall in our downstairs den, a problem which has been delaying starting the flooring. This picture, taken Tuesday night, tells the story.

den progress

As you can see, the floor is bare concrete. The beam you can just see at the top of the photo has been sheathed in stained pine like the upstairs beams. There is a stack of flooring to the left of the stairs. The stair treads are finished and laid in place but not nailed. I have all the finished wood I need to complete the stairs. That should go reasonably quickly. The wainscoting on the far wall is what has taken so long. Here’s a closer shot where it joins the hearth.


The wainscoting is made from plywood beadboard. We used the same stain as on all the upstairs trim (Colonial Maple), but in the years since the upstairs was trimmed out, Colonial Maple has developed a redder hue.

The part of the process that took the longest time was finishing the wood. All the wood took multiple coats of stain, and then two coats of polyurethane.

The unfinished wood going up from the wainscoting will eventually be covered with stained boards, but I can do that after the flooring is done, and I really want to get the flooring installed.

The flooring is done in the bedroom right next to the den.



I haven’t finished installing the baseboards because I can’t hang the door because the flooring in the den is not done.

The downstairs bathroom is complete (yay!).


I am waiting to floor the bedroom closet to make sure we have enough flooring for the den. Once the floor is down in the den, I’ll do the closet. Then all we will lack to have a completely finished downstairs is a little trim around the sliding glass door, baseboards and three doors.

Heads in the clouds

It has been rainy and cool here for what seems like weeks. Saturday was a dreary day. When the drizzle stopped, the fog moved in.

foggy road

This was taken at the intersection of Lavender Trail and Fouche Gap Road, looking up towards where the driveway enters our new lot. The official visibility in Rome was 10 miles, which is essentially unlimited. The visibility up here on the mountain was not much more than 100 yards; we were actually up in the clouds.

It has rained so much and we have had so little sunlight even when it’s not raining that the ground remains saturated. Neighbor John’s bulldozer has sat on our lot since the work he did more than two weeks ago. The ground is way too muddy for clearing.

foggy bulldozer

You can just see John’s bulldozer about a stone’s throw from where I took the picture.

The temperature rose through the night Friday, and it’s supposed to continue to rise this night, Saturday. A squall line is supposed to move through the area sometime around midnight. After this round of rain, the temperature is predicted to drop. The predicted high on next Thursday is 28 F. There is sun in the forecast for at least a week, so maybe John can start clearing again before too long.