Saturday, May 15, 2010

Dig We Must

I have a massive problem in my backyard. Dirt. About three tons of it. It's a problem not because it's there, but because it's in the wrong place.

Backstory time: when I bought this house, one condition was that the buried oil tank wa to be removed before closing. The oil tank was at the north east corner of the house. Above the tank was one section of a huge 20 x 50 foor deck. I agreed to allow the portion of the deck that was over the tiny corner under which lay the nasty-assed oil tank to be removed to allow for excavation. In exchange, a very small allowance was made to the purchase price of the house. A month went by with no work done. One day, I drove by the house to see what was going on. Okay, I drove by every day. So, Im a house-a-holic, just like Lindsay. In the very long driveway could be seen a huge roll-off container, empty. Two days later, I drove by and, lo and behold, the dumpster was full. Can you guess with what? If you guessed a thousand-square foot redwood deck that would cost $25,000 to replace, you'd be right. What's more, it was sawn into tiny chunks - this, I couldn't fathom at all. Why would anyone waste the time carving up all that wood into tiny pieces?

I got on the horn to my lawyer. He checked the contract. "It doesn't say they can't remove the deck. It say that they can remove whatever portion of the deck would provide the contractor access to do their excavation and remediation, if needed. So . . ." "Portion," I pointed out, "portion. When I go in for a portion of Freedom Fries and Denny's, they don't haul out a fifty pound bag of frozen potatoes, now, do they?" "Well, 10% is as much a portion of the whole and 100%, so, there you go." There was nothing to be done. As usual, the lack of precision in the language of a contract screwed me. Or rather, I guess I screwed myself. So, I concluded, I would have to screw together a deck if I wanted one. In the meantime, it was destined that I would be deckless. Ahem.

In the meantime, the splendid tank removal people, and yes, I DO mean that sarcastically, no, causticlly, left a mound of dirt as high as a groundhog's eye while filling in the hole that was significatly un-level with the rest of the now-barren area behind the house.

I had grand designs for that deck, all now dashed. And dirt up the wazoo. The first alarm went off a few days after closing when heavy rains fell and the burial mound created an ersatz lake a foot deep with waves lapping against the foundation. I created a poncho out of a garbage bag and dug a tiny Suez Canal to Let My Water Go away from the house and down the hill to puddle the neighbor's property. By the way, garbage bags don't work very well as ponchos. And ShopRite bags make pretty terrible rainhats.

Slowly but surely, I've been rehabbing the exterior grounds by myself, mostly because I'm cheap, but also because I'm stubborn. The landscaping was a train wreck. Though the lady who owned the house was an avid gardener, so I'm told, she was blind in her later years and had been in an assisted living warehouse until she died, absenting herself from her green-thumb duties on what would become my property. Her ungrateful children didn't see fit to do more than the minimum, which was to have the landscaping lord across the road trim the grass in exchange for permission to park some of his equipment in the lustily long driveway that runs up to the house. I've worked over the large lawn in the front, torn out, tilled and replanted with perenials the side hill that's adjacent to the driveway, rearranged, for now, about a ton of stones in what was the garden area behind the house and hacked away the mass clematis that seemed intent on taking over the west side of the house and that had seen much better days indeed. I also cleaned out the little shed at the back of the property that seems to have been the home of wild things for the last ten years, with a roof covered in growth that I had to weed-whack before digging it clean. God. Oh, and I pruned everything that was spared my executioner's ax and shovel.

But, the mound issue remains. So, today, I called an excavation to get a quote. A rough man, he rolled off his references: Town Hall, the somewhat-more-ritzy-than-open-kitchen local Chinese restaurant, Walmart. I instantly knew that I wouldn't want to afford him because he was clearly and enemy of the Proletariat. He called and quoted, all right. When he told me the number - the number to deliver dirt and level it out, to rake dirt, to spread it and rake it, to make it flat and sloped away from the house so that water would run away from the foundation, for dirt, for dirt to be put on my dirt, the number, the figure he wanted, what he said was twenty-five hundred. That what he said. That's what he wants - twenty-five. Hundred. Sorry for getting all Mamet-y there.

I texted my daughter about it and I asked her to guess. She did, to the penny. "Do you know that guy, somehow?" I queried. I then texted her again, "Say, how are you with a shovel?" She has yet to text me back.

No comments: