We’ve had an alpaca farm for over 18 years and in four locations now, and not since 2007 have we had water at our barn. Up on Black Mountain we had a creek-fed trough quite a ways away and across some rough terrain from the barn. (Who am I kidding? That entire property was rough terrain and as vertical as a skyscraper.) So, we would scoop water buckets in the trough and schlep them into the fenced area at the barn. And when the barn flooded every freakin’ spring, we’d scoop water buckets from the barn floor and schlep them out of the fenced area to dump them (500 gallons a day for a couple of weeks—not for the faint of heart). Next came our old cabin over near Richmond Hill. The house sucked, but the barn didn’t leak, and following those prior 3 years, that was a huge advantage. Using a pickaxe and strong language, we trenched a tiny ditch just deep enough to get electricity to the barn, but our water situation there was never strong enough to justify spending the additional bucks on a place we were renting, combined with trying to get at least 4 feet down below frost line. So, warm months meant we could run a hose out there from the basement, but cold months meant filling up 5-gallon buckets in the kitchen and trudging out to the barn (uphill, of course, but nothing like Black Mountain). The upside to daily carrying eight 5-gallon buckets at 40 pounds apiece for eight years was that I developed pretty amazing upper body strength. (Gym? We don’t need no stinkin’ gym!) I got cocky once and attempted lunges. The result was about what you’d expect and I wound up at the barn with empty buckets and wet shoes.
Fast-forward to three and a half years ago when we bought our current farm. As you all know from previous stories, we love this place so much and it’s perfect in every way for us and our furry crew. Well, every way except one: there was still no water at the barn. Other large projects took precedence, like fencing the runs followed by the main pasture, but this year we committed to taking the leap and called the excavator.
Initially, the project looked like it would take perhaps five hours to dig, a couple more to drill into the basement and run the water line, install the spigot in the barn, and voila! We’d have water. And under the planned budget. (About here is where I figure the Universe started laughing.) We were right on track for an entire 26 minutes until they hit a rock about the size of the house itself. Next were the dreaded words, “We’re going to have to blast.”
Once we got over the shell shock of the significant budget increase (see what I did there?), we resigned ourselves to writing a bigger check and determined this actually could be a blast. (Again, I am such a sucker for a groaner of a pun.) Day one involved drilling holes and planting the charges; day two would be the actual blasting. So we warned the neighbors, made some snacks, and—cameras at the ready—lined up behind the trees to witness the big event. They gave us the option to actually do the detonation, but for that we’d have to be further away and we wanted to be as close to the action as safety would allow. (And these guys take their safety guidelines seriously, lemme tell ya.) And, as morally wrong as I knew it to be, I wasn’t one bit sorry that this could also be the answer to my how-to-get-rid-of-the-pocket-gopher prayers.
The first surprise was the fact that they actually do yell, “Fire in the hole!” right before detonation. The second surprise was that it was simultaneously bigger and smaller than we expected. I videoed it real time, our friend recorded it in slo-mo, and I think I’ve watched each one 72 times—it was that fun. In real time, it was about seven seconds of poppity-poppity-poppity-pop-pop-done and a bunch of dirt and rock lifted up. Needless to say, the slow motion was much more dramatic. In slo-mo it was like an action film where you expect the hero and heroine to leap away from the blast and barely escape annihilation with nothing more than a few scrapes and dirt on their faces.
From there, the rest of the project was pretty uneventful except for discovering that the basement foundation where it needed to be drilled through was actually 5 feet wide. (There may have been additional strong language and another day’s delay.) But when all was said and done and that shiny new spigot in the barn gushed water like a geyser, we were happier than the Clampett’s discovering oil before their move to Beverly.
Final note: Not only were no pocket gophers hurt in the making of this episode, they actually sent me a lovely thank you note for loosening everything up and thereby making their continued tunnel project much easier. Swell.