Friday, 30 September 2011

The pile is gone

When I looked at the pile of dirt -- all 351 cubic feet of it -- at 2:30 PM yesterday, I honestly thought it would only take a couple of hours to help gravity get it all back in the hole. Wrong. In three hours yesterday, we only got it about 60% done. And it got harder today as we got closer to level ground, as gravity could no longer help.

We started this morning at 11, and at 5 PM (with some breaks, but not as many as yesterday), the pile was gone, and the hole was re-filled.
Raking the last bits of dirt 
Compare this to yesterday
I calculated we would not have enough dirt to re-fill the hole, and I was right. We pulled a 4' wide, 8' deep culvert from the hole, which is the same volume as about 16" of dirt in a 10' wide hole. Plus, we did not put a bunch of really big boulders back in the hole, and the dirt has not yet settled. It's supposed to rain for the next 2 days, which will help the settling process, but the short answer is we still need about 3 cubic yards of dirt to fill the hole. Next year.

My painter continues to plug along, and today basically finished the exterior work, which was only the exteriors of the two doors.
The front 
The back
He also did a scratch coat on a large section of the paneled wall. The small test section he did yesterday looked great, so we expanded.
Looking great
Now we are tired, and most every muscle in our bodies hurt from 2 days of digging.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Fire and Water

Mr. Well Guy II, Aaron Drilling from Calgary, arrived today and did a fantabulous job of getting my well back into working order. Want to change out a wellhead in a pit and add a casing extension to raise your wellhead up and get rid of the pit? (Note: that last statement was to aid Google in it's search terms). Here's how it was done, and what happened to us in a chronology of photos.

Step 1: Remove the pit
See this post for details.

Step 2: Pull the pump.
I'm a retired reservoir engineer who did a bunch of time as a production engineer. I understand about pumps (a bit, though my buddy Swade has me cleanly in this department). I thought they would need a rig of some kind to pull the pump. Nope. The fine gentleman from Aaron's and I did it by hand. The data I had on this well was nonsense; it's only 60' deep (not the +100' I was told), and the pump was only set about 50' down. So when we pulled it, the pump and the "tubing" (2" poly) fit in my yard.
Tubing hanger and pump seal in the foreground
It was obvious that the problem causing the well to be contaminated with surface runoff was the fact that there was no seal on the tubing hanger (in fact, there was one heck of a gap). Any crap or fluid that fell or seeped into the sump/pit was destined to fall into the well. This had nothing to do with seals around the casing, as I was told was part of the problem.

Step 3: Cut the Casing
So to clean up the problem of the casing not being closed to surface runoff, you cut the casing off clean.
Easily cut with a wheel
Step 4: Weld on the casing extension
Aaron's then took a 10' section of new casing and welded it on.
Bright light from the arc welder
The fun part about this step was making sure the new casing was straight, because balancing a 10' steel pole 7" in diameter on a hole is not the easiest thing to do.

Step 5: Add the pit adaptor
My well used to be down 7' in a culvert. In truth, it's called a "pit". Pits are nasty. While I have had at least 3 people down in my pit in the last few months, technically I knew that going down there is considered "entry into confined spaces". I know what trials and tribulations there are in sending employees down into confined spaces. But the folks who went down there did all the dirty work necessary, cutting the water line and the electrical connections.

The old wellhead/tubing hanger was replaced by a pit adaptor. To install this, first you drill a hole in the new casing.
Drilling the hole
Then you strap on a pit adaptor, which is a spiffy connector that straps to the casing as a takeoff for the downhole water lines.
Pit adaptor strapped to the casing. New connections almost in place.
Step 6: Cut the casing to the correct length
Here's Aaron's performing gymnastics to cut the casing off.
Cut is 18" above grade
Step 7: Re-run the pump
We chose to replace all the poly and all the cable leading to the pump. Yes, it was only 2 years old, but it was just 50' in length and cheap to upgrade. The pump itself probably only weighs 15 lbs/7 kg. So it slides into the well just fine.
Pump in hand, off to the ladder to run it
At the top of the tubing, a new tubing hanger is installed. It has a fitting that slips in the pit adaptor, and "dogs" (a set of 3 arms) that force pressure onto the tubing to make sure it connects to the pit adaptor. Wish I had a photo of it. The tubing hanger has a 1" steel rod temporarily attached to it, and this is used to guide the fitting into the pit adaptor, and a simple bit of cord sets the dogs which apply pressure to the fitting to insure no leaks. This is similar to a retrievable bridge plug in the oil and gas biz. I wish I had taken a picture.

Step 8: Start refilling the hole
We had a backhoe to dig it out. We could not get one to fill it back in. Here's what it looked like when the backhoe was done.
Culvert moments from being removed. Note the dirt pile
So we started scraping the dirt back into the hole. By my calculations, 351 cu. ft, 13 cu. yds, or 10 cubic meters of rocks, dirt, rocks, sod, rocks, tree roots, rocks and more rocks.
Yours truly hard at work
Did I mention there were a lot of rocks? We started at 2:30 PM, and with a LOT of breaks, by 5:00, the pile looked like this with the hole about 60% filled.
We have to fill the hole about halfway up the red part on the casing
A 6:00 pm view. Lots left.
Hard work.

But we were not the only ones hard at work today. The painters started. They got a lot of prep done, including priming the front door...
...and filling a billion holes inside.
Lots of little fixes
On top of that, our fireplace guys were here all day, and our fireplace is now installed and done.
Dudes on the roof, fixing the chimney & bugging the squirrels 
The finished thing
Today was a hectic day, but a lot got accomplished in great part due to Aaron Drilling. Got a well problem? Call them. They rock. We called Tuesday PM and they were here today. After three months of frustrations with Mr. Well Guy 1, they are my heros. I wish I had known about them in the first place.

Tomorrow, we finish filling the hole.

Unexpected tenants

I posted a few weeks back about my new neighbours. It turns out we have a lot of neighbours, and this week, we learned that we also have tenants. On Monday we heard noises in our roof, including the scampering of little feet, scratching and chewing. 

Today, we learned a mom squirrel and at least 3 babies have found a way into our attic. While working in the yard, we watched them come and go.
Two kids near the entrance under the eave
Tragically, much as I love squirrels, they are not welcome in my attic. In addition, we are zoned R1 and are not allowed to have tenants in our house under the local bylaws. We contacted an exterminator eviction squad today.

If it makes you feel any better, squirrel mortality is about 78% in the first year in the wild.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

A really big hole, and other progress

Mr. Backhoe Dude showed up this afternoon, and in the space of about an hour, dug a 7' deep, 10' wide hole in the yard to get out the culvert surrounding our water well's wellhead.
The digging starts 
Still 2' to go 
Checking the water connections are clear 
Out she comes 
Bye bye culvert
Excited to be rid of the culvert, I called Mr. Well Guy. He seemed nonplussed. He still wanted bentonite, still wanted me to disassemble the fence so he could drive in, still was non-committal about when he would come, wasn't happy that the excavation was done while he wasn't there, etc...

So I fired him. Loser.

Within an hour, KC had found a new guy out of Calgary (Mr. Well Guy II) who promised to be here Thursday to put everything back together again. And I'm betting he will actually show up.

The gasfitter dude also came today, and set up connections for both the new fireplace insert...
Through the floor and exposed was the only way 
The basement tie in
...and the BBQ bib.
Wow. It's a tap!
He also kindly disconnected and removed the gas fired heater in the garage. It was only installed circa 1962.

Ah, progress.

Too-friendly squirrels

We were outside today and noticed a baby squirrel cowering in the corner of the deck. We didn't seem to bother him until we came very close, and he scampered around trying to avoid us. He came up against the tree in our deck but didn't seem to want to climb it. But he was VERY interested in KC. So instead of climbing the tree, he started to climb her.
Up her legs to the tummy 
Around to the back 
On the shoulder
Having gerbils was good practice for this. The only trick was he didn't want to (or couldn't) leave, and he hung on to her for quite a while. He tried climbing in her hair. He went around her neck twice. Finally, KC backed up to the tree, and I got a canoe paddle (no, I was actually being nice), but we couldn't coax him to climb onto the tree. Finally he wriggled down her and back on the deck, where he promptly tried to hide in our garage, then attempted to get to where we think they nest in our neighbours yard, but couldn't figure out how to climb the fence.

After a while his mom showed up, but she couldn't teach him to climb either. But like all moms, she yelled at him a lot.

Monday, 26 September 2011


When we bought our new house, we knew we had a few projects which had to get done before we moved in. The list:

  1. Install a new front door
  2. Remove the wood burning stove
  3. Install a gas burning fireplace insert into the wood burning fireplace
  4. Remove the fake ceiling beams and prep to...
  5. Paint the place from top to bottom
  6. Fix the water well by raising the casing and packing it with bentonite.

We actually initiated all of them in early July. 

Here's their status. All are taking much longer than expected.  The reason for the delay is what we have come to refer to as "Canmore Time". This is a timeline that makes West Coasters seem like they are in a hurry. As KC has concluded

  • "tomorrow" in Canmore Time is actually "in a few days";
  • "Monday" in Canmore Time is actually "maybe Wednesday if I don't go hiking"
  • "next week" in Canmore Time is actually "in a few weeks";
  • "next month" may be as late as the spring if it involves frost.

The front door:

Installed September 13th. See this post.

The wood burning stove:

Removed last week, going from this:
What it was this.
What it is
The stove was removed only two weeks after we got the quote to get it done. Now, it did take close to 7 weeks to get the quote, but it happened pretty fast after that.

Now, of course, inside every big problem is a little problem trying to get out. Here, the little problem is obvious: there was no flooring under the heat shield. Now we need 12 square feet of hardwood that was originally installed in 1979. We are fortunate that it is still being made, but finding a supplier is proving difficult even though the company is now owned by Armstrong Flooring.

The gas burning fireplace:

It arrived early last week.
Box 1 of 6
The gasfitter said last week he would be here today to install the gas line for it. Today became tomorrow. After the gas line, the chimney needs to be cleaned out before the sleeve can be put inside it. Then it can be installed. I'm guessing 2 more weeks.

Removing stuff to prep for painting:

My contractor, Bogdan's Construction (the only guy I have met who doesn't work on "Canmore Time") came last week and pulled everything out.
The office before
Beams gone. We took the closet out in August
Beams gone 
So we are ready for the painters.


Three weeks ago, we got some quotes and picked a contractor. We were torn in selecting because one was much less expensive but had a poorer timeline. One was ready to start immediately but had a substantially higher price. Three weeks ago, the contractor we selected said they said they would be here tomorrow, Sept 27. Today, tomorrow became Thursday.

The water well:

Yeuch. This has been the project to nowhere. The wellhead for our water well sits 7' down in a culvert.
The broken rotting cover on the culvert
Crap flows into the culvert (especially when it rains) and leaks down beside the well casing, contaminating our water. We need to weld a 7' extension on the casing raising the wellhead, then pack the hole with bentonite clay to seal the casing.

Initially, I was told to do all this work by a consultant with Integrated Environments in Calgary. I asked this consultant for a list of contractors who could do the work in the Canmore area. He promised to send me a list. I sent him 3 e-mails (he never replied), left 4 phone messages (that were never returned), and spoke with his secretary twice. Nada. I gave up dealing with these idiots.

So in late July I called a water well guy in Cochrane, who's a gruff old dude who has been in the water well business for 15 years since retiring from Shell. He did some work on the well for the previous owner. Initially, he didn't want to do the work, because he didn't think it necessary. But I convinced him to do it, and he made it clear he knew what needed to be done.

He finally showed up on September 9th with a casing extension and a welder. But despite having been here before to do work on the well for the previous owner, he brought nothing to deal with the culvert. He said it needed to be dug out (he could have mentioned this before). A quick call to Bogdan caused him to try to track down a bobcat/excavator guy. There was a chance Mr. Bobcat Guy could come on the 10th. So Mr. Well Guy disconnected our water system.

That was 17 days ago, and we have not had water since.

Mr. Bobcat Guy came over last Thursday (the 22nd), and said he could dig the culvert out "Friday or Saturday". In Canmore time, that means maybe it will happen sometime this week. Maybe. Mr. Bobcat Guy said he didn't need Mr. Well Guy to be there to get the culvert out. Hmmn.

Bogdan bothers both Mr. Well Guy and Mr. Bobcat Guy daily. Both are noncommittal. Getting this well work done is like pushing a rope uphill.

So if you come to visit, pee first.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Enjoying the Fall on Lawson

It was an awesome fall day. In fact, it was more like mid-July than the late part of September. The skies were blue, the sun brilliant, the temps were a balmy 25° at the top at lunch and 28° at the end of the day. So we took the day off to go climb a mountain. We didn't quite make it to the top, though.

We headed way down south to climb the south end of Mt. Lawson, a "new" trail described by Gillean on Page 306 of Volume 1 of her new guidebook.  The hike starts along a road beside a diversion ditch of a creek, which reminded me a LOT of hiking on Maui.
The diverted creek. Today's objective: climb the mountain in the background
The creek in the ditch 
The ditch
In many ways, the hike is like the Hunchback Hills, which also follows a route up a ridge. The "path" is great in spots, absent in spots, but not typically hard to find it you lose it. It runs right up against the cliff on the right side in the photo above, occasionally with spectacular drop offs.
The Opals on the other side of the valley 
Mt. Wintour and the Opals
Yet another wicked drop-off
As we got higher, we also started getting views back to the Lower Kananasakis Lakes...
The sun glistens across the valley to the larches on Kent Ridge.
We got excited as to what we would find at the top
We got to the top of the first summit to find a few larches in splendid colour, but not much in the way of views...
Larches in colour
...except up to the next summit.
It just gets steeper
From here the trail grunts up a 55° grass slope...
Very steep grass. Tougher on the way down, actually
...then flattens on more grass & dryas.
Great views & great walking
This, however, didn't last long. We arrived at the last pitch before the summit. Acres and acres of moderately stable scree.
A lot of rock. Easier at first.
A 40° slope on one side, a cliff on the other, and unstable scree
We started up this bit but after about 5 minutes didn't like the exposure, so we turned and bailed, following the Ryder Family Motto:
Be Chicken and Live
Me beating a hasty retreat
KC doing likewise
We were happy to eat lunch on the "grassy knoll" some 30 vertical meters short of the summit with this view.
KC and the Kananaskis Lakes
This was an interesting hike, but I had hoped for more larches. It was a magnificent day, and even better in that we had the place to ourselves. On our way home, we saw the Galatea parking lot full to overflowing with cars, as well as several other popular spots. The hike gave us a great overview of King Ridge, directly across the valley, which is on my list of "things to do".
King Ridge. Up on the right, then across.
It was a wildlife-free day. A few birds (chickadees, crows and gray jays), one chipmunk, some elk and sheep poop were all we saw.

Gillean says:
I'm betting this route up the south ridge will become enormously popular with experienced hikers; there's a rudimentary trail most of the way, the gradient is gentle most of the way, a rock ridge at the top adds spice, the summit is an unusual viewpoint, and lastly there's the option of going farther.
There's no real evidence that she'll win the bet so far. The trail comes and goes a lot, and after a year of the book being out, the trail doesn't show signs of being "enormously popular." The gradient is consistent and not too steep except in spots. The rock ridge at the top defeated us, and I suspect would bother a lot of people (it was reminiscent of Tent Ridge but harder). Never got to the option of going farther.

But the views at the top are wonderful. And on a busy day in the mountains, it was just us. Kinda nice to find places like this.