This Dope Knows

Earlier today, Traci and I were certain that we would finish preparing the front yard and laying down sod today. Technically we were right, but just barely. We removed about eight wheelbarrows full of dirt, then added fertilizer and 12 cubic feet of soil conditioner and raked it all in. We leveled the ground the best we could, and by the time we were done we had been working for two hours. We took an hour-long break to pick up the sod and grab some dinner at Subway. By the time we were done eating dinner, it was 7:00 pm, and I was pretty sure we’d be finished laying the sod before dark. Traci started in on the north side of the yard while I started putting new sprinkler heads on the south side. After I replaced a few sprinkler heads, I decided I ought to turn on the water and test the system before I got too far. When I turned on the valve, the pressure was extremely low, but I assumed it was because the pipes had gotten some dirt in them from not being used for four years. That assumption turned out to be wrong, which I realized when I turned the water off. Some water should have remained in the pipes, but the water level went down so quickly that I could hear air hissing as it was sucked into the sprinkler heads. I knew immediately that that was bad.
After fumbling around for a few minutes trying to think of how to proceed, I finally just started digging holes trying to find the problem. I knew there had to be a big leak underground, but I couldn’t imagine where it would be. After digging nine holes, I found a pipe that shouldn’t have been there. I dug a trench to follow the pipe, but it disappeared under the sidewalk. I started digging on the other side of the sidewalk to find the pipe there, and with the first shovelful I ran into mud. The pipe apparently used to run into the box that the water meter is in, and was used for draining the sprinkler system before winter. The sewer line construction must have torn that pipe out too, and at its end I found a sinkhole forming underground.
It took me quite some time to remove the pipe and plug the hole. Luckily a plumber used to live in my house a long time ago and left a lot of old pipe fittings in the garage. I managed to find a 1/2″ plug–if I hadn’t, we would have had to wait until tomorrow to fix the sprinkler system and lay down the sod.
That one little problem cost us about three hours, including having to level the soil again after filling in all the holes I’d dug. We worked into the night laying sod, watched the sun set and the full moon rise, and we finally got finished and turned on the sprinklers at exactly midnight. The only reason I’m still awake is that I need to turn the water off soon. I think my next project will be to install automatic sprinkler valves, but that can probably wait another year–or four.

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