Of Conduits and Gravel……A Christmas Wish List

One by one the free lands of Middle-Earth fell to the power of the Ring. But there were some who resisted.

A last alliance of men and elves marched against the armies of Mordor, and on the very slopes of Mount Doom they fought for the freedom of Middle Earth!

Ah, yes the last alliance. Freedom isn’t free is it? What a great opening sequence to a movie. They definitely hit a home run with that one.

Welcome. Had to get some Lord of the Rings trivia in there at the start. I apologize but the Lord of the Rings nerd in me just has to get his couple of cents in there every once in a while. (Thanks for putting up with me.) I’m glad you stopped by though to check up on how we’re doing. We’re doing….and we did get quite a bit done this weekend. We’ll get into that shortly.

But first a little Hobbit Hollow Jim trivia.

So I had the skid steer machine dropped off this week. The rental guy called me up like Tuesday and says do you mind if we drop the machine off? They were having a busy week so I didn’t care when they dropped the machine off at all. It’s just a one day rental. Anyway I stop by the house after work to get the key for the machine. You know so some smart a__, I mean smart guy, doesn’t take the key and mess around with the machine during the week. However unlikely that may seem. (Okay so maybe working in NYC has tainted me a bit.) Just taking the necessary precautions. You know kids see something like this and they wanna check it out. I don’t know. I’ve checked things out that I’ve seen before. It’s interesting. I mean I wouldn’t do anything silly but a lot of times I check out construction sites to see how they do things and all. Boy, this is taking longer than I thought. Let’s do the short version here shall we Jim? Okay.

So I get into the skid steer to move it to a more out of the way location. You know out of sight, out of mind kind of thing. I turn off the machine, take out the key and climb out. As I’m climbing out I drop the key. It’s black as pitch out, but I have a flashlight and I was able to find it. I’m saying to myself:  That was a close one. Imagine if I lost the key? Better put it on my key chain right now. Then, like an idiot, I say to myself: Do it when you get home when you take all the days stuff out of your pockets.  So I put the key in that little inner pocket that’s inside your main pants pocket. (Kind of like how Bilbo keeps the Ring of Power in his special little pocket.)You know so when I go for my car key I don’t inadvertently knock the skid steer key out of my main pocket sort of thing. I get home and empty out my pockets and you guessed it…the skid steer key is nowhere to be found. The search begins….if I could fire myself right then I would have.

I can’t believe I lost this key. I was so mad at myself. I’m hoping it’s at the front door, cause the editor locked me out and I had to go into my pocket for the front door key. But alas, it’s not there. I check the car, the driveway, the walkway. Nothing. It’s over at the house. Its gotta be. Right? Oh man I’m going to have to call up the rental guy and tell him I lost the key. It’s too late to go over to the house. I’m thinking I must have jarred it out of my pocket when I locked up the chain at the bridge. I go over there at five oclock in the morning before work on Wednesday. Nothing. There’s no way I’m going to be able to find this thing in the dark, and it gets dark at like 4:30 pm.

Okay, Jim what happened? Take it easy this was pretty traumatic for me, alright? It was found by the most unlikeliest of creatures…. a Hobbit.

No, I found it  in the middle of the driveway. Not anywhere near where I was taking my keys out for the car or the bridge. Very strange. (Not sure how much of this is going to make it into the final post. The editor isn’t into the tangential stuff.) (Editor’s note: Sigh. I’ll let it go this time. It was obviously traumatic for you and you need to vent about it.)

Oh yeah, “Of conduits and Gravel”. I forgot this is a construction blog….and Terence is wondering if I took a picture of him driving the skid steer.

So, the main objective: The main objective this week was to use the skid steer to get 90 tons of gravel into the house and level it off. Hmmm. Sounds like a challenge. It is actually a huge challenge because we really aren’t ready to start bringing the gravel in right away.  I still had to finish the styrofoam detail around the footings, install the conduits into the back for the house power, install conduits for a whole bunch of other stuff I thought of,(Frank has  me paranoid I’ll need something in the future that I haven’t thought about and I know he’s right.) and splice the well water line and get it into the right position. I also wanted to put in a backup water line just in case something ever happens to the main water line. Remember if something goes wrong with that I basically have no recourse. Everything is under the slab, so there will never be any access to what’s under there. Oh yeah, we have our hands full.

So Friday night I wanted to prep the water line I picked up and connect the coupler fitting to it. Have you ever connected black poly pipe before? It’s not easy. A guy once told me you have to heat the pipe in order to get the fitting on. It’s nearly impossible to dry fit it. I really doubt you can. I checked it out online and a couple of guys said to use a hair dryer. It worked. I heated it up for about 5 minutes, put a little “Duck Butter” on the fitting and it went in really nice. Check it out.

Getting ready to install the fitting on a 160 psi black poly water line.
Getting ready to install the fitting on a 160 psi black poly water line.

I really couldn’t believe how well it worked. Here’s the final product.

Coupler on and ready for Saturday.
Coupler on and ready for Saturday.

I was a little nervous about heating the pipe Saturday. It was pretty cold out, like in the 40’s. I was thinking that the hair dryer wouldn’t be enough to heat it properly outside. I kept the heat on and added some extra duck butter.  Then I had Terence and Peter give me a hand pushing it on. One guy holding the existing line coming out of the ground to keep it steady and me and another guy to push it in. If you don’t get it on the first try we’ll be in big trouble. It went on in a snap. Man, was I relieved. (Editor’s note: I was wondering where my hairdryer was on Saturday!!!)

So much to learn out there isn’t there.

Anyway, I really spent the whole day in a frenzy trying to stay in front of Terence and Peter while they spread the gravel. I was so busy I really  had almost no time to think of taking any pictures. The ones I took of Peter were too blurry to put in the post.  Sorry Pete. Oh, and by the way, it turns out Peter has never had a York Peppermint Patty. That’s pretty hard to believe in this day and age, isn’t it? I gave the kid one at lunch and he’d never had one before!

So how’d we do it. Well the first thing with the gravel was to build a ramp to get into and out of the house. This actually took a lot longer than I figured it would. And it’s a really important part of doing the job. Translation: We used a lot of material to build the ramp, and had to keep on adding material as the material below spread out and got compressed as we drove over it. I didn’t really figure the ramp material when I ordered the gravel.  I would hazard to guess we used upwards of 20 tons to build it. I was amazed. Here’s a picture of Terence dumping the gravel inside the house.  You can see the ramp going up and over the foundation wall here. You have the same ramp on the other side.

Dumping gravel inside the Hobbit House.
Dumping gravel inside the Hobbit House.


I had rebar coming out of the top of the foundation wall that I had bent over. I was thinking that since they were bent over we would just be able to build the ramp over them. It was clear after a couple of runs that they were making things difficult so I just cut them all out so Terence wouldn’t have any rebar problems while he was coming in and out. We also had to tie the electrical wires in the ceiling up higher than we had them before. It was looking like the machine might grab them as he was coming in or out and rip them from the ceiling. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention, my friends.

Up and over the ramp. Mr. Serious Excavator Guy.
Up and over the ramp. Mr. Serious Excavator Guy.

Are his eyes closed? Maybe he’s using “The Force” to drive? Interesting. You can see in this picture the rebar coming out of the top of the knee wall there.

So one of the things I had to do was install the Styrofoam over the footings and up the walls. I made up a little bench so I could measure, mark, and cut the foam with the skill saw. It worked pretty well.  Just a couple of stools and a half sheet of plywood. Check it out.

Styrofoam cut bench
Styrofoam cut bench

Once I had the foam cut I used a 2×4 to bang it into place. I wanted the vertical piece of Styrofoam to be tight to the 2×4 above. This way it will stay in place while we’re spreading the gravel. You can’t really hit the Styrofoam with your hammer or you’ll put a hole in it. Hence the 2×4. Here’s a picture if you’re not getting it.

2x4 used to bang the styrofoam into place.
2×4 used to bang the styrofoam into place.

So as I was running around like a chicken with it’s head chopped off Terence and Peter were doing an awesome job of bringing and spreading all this material around. And trust me this was no easy task. They manuvered around pipes and footings. They also had  good communication as far as backing the skid steer out of the house and over the ramp. A little too much on one side or the other and you could flip this machine. I also set up the laser level so they could set the grade in the middle of the floor accurately. I was really happy with the job they did.  And did I mention that Saturday was a miserable, cold and rainy day?

Terence got really good at moving this machine around. Way better than I could do it,  that’s for sure. Here’s Mr Skid Steer.

Mr Skid Steer
Mr Skid Steer

Just a quick word on conduits. Frank is right. It’s better to have it there and not use it than kick yourself for not installing it at a later date. I’m not going to go over what each conduit is for but in my head there’s a use for every single one I put in plus a few extras. Check it out.

Southern conduit bank.
Southern conduit bank.

These are mostly for lighting, jacuzzi, garage, backup generator.

Northern conduit bank.
Northern conduit bank.

These are for main house power, lighting, grounding wire, and cable.

We worked a long day Saturday but didn’t get to finish. I went back Sunday to dig up the outside ramp and put it inside the wall line. It looks like we’re going to have enough material to finish. It’s going to be close though. Here’s the site after the ramp was removed.

Ramp removal complete.
Ramp removal complete.

So we got quite a bit done this weekend. I think next weekend we should be able to level everything off and compact the gravel. Maybe we’ll get into styrofoam placement as well. We shall see.

On a family note Ethan wrote his Christmas list and left it on the fridge.

Ethan's Christmas list.
Ethan’s Christmas list.

A good salty ham! Like I said last week…you had to be there and you also have to have a little of our stupid sense of humor. (What’s up with the lava lamp?)

Enjoy your holiday season!

Hobbit Hollow Jim

PS. Oh yeah, it’s the little things in life that keep you going. For the record let it be known that I got my home heating oil for $2.76. My mother in law bought hers for $3.01. Very satisfying. Although you might be able to heat a home with all that extra super sod left over from Thanksgiving. Just trying to throw an idea out there for you. Jim


2 thoughts on “Of Conduits and Gravel……A Christmas Wish List”

  1. hi there son-in-law: don’t rub it in about the oil,I’m a poor old lady on social security.I would also like to give you a spelling lesson, this way when your chomping away on the anti-pasta at xmas you will know what your eating,it is SOPRESSATA the food of the gods, I must say when you eat I think there’s a little Italian in you,and that I love to see.By the way good blog.Thats good looking boy Terence he looks just like his nanny.Love ya:nanny

    • Food of the gods you say? Hmmm. Interesting. The gods must be on the heavy side and are probably on an extremely high dosage of Lipitor. If they’re not they ought to go get their blood work checked out soon. Real soon if not yesterday.

      Why do I have the feeling I’m just going to keep calling it super sod? As far as the Italian in me I guess that’s possible. It’s sort of like when everybody’s Irish on St. Patty’s Day. When the antipasto comes out everybody’s Italian.

      Oh yeah and thanks for checking out the site for me the other day….and for the record you said those big white squares of Styrofoam where black.

      I’ll have to explain that one to everyone in another post someday.

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog though.

      Love, Son-in-law


Leave a Comment