Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Great Wall has Begun!

I'm getting a little behind on posting. Here's why.

Yesterday I started the Great Wall project. You remember the one. The plan was to do a third of it now, a third of it in the spring, and a third either now or in the spring. I rented an excavator and it was delivered yesterday as promised.

Driving the thing was pretty simple. That is making it go forward and turning. So I hopped on and trundled it tank like over my yard and to a short section of wall and dirt that is going to be forever gone anyway and started learning how to move the scooper bucket. Here are the simple directions provided to me by the very nice driver who delivered it. Along with the picture again, just for some clarification... There are two fighter pilot looking joysticks on either side of the seat. The left hand controls the closest to the cab forearm part of the boom, making it go up when you pull back and down when you push forward. Pushing right causes the whole contraption (from the red up, not the treads) spin to the right. Left has a similar effect in the opposite direction. The right hand controls the rest of the arm. Pulling back causes the arm to bend and pulls the bucket towards you. Pushing forward pushes it away. Left makes the bucket scoop come up, and right makes it dump. Then there's a little green handled lever on the right that raises and lowers the plow blade.

Well, I drove right up to my practice part of the wall and spent the next half hour working on the simple skill of scooping something up. I managed to smack down some weeds, put some pretty good claw marks in the dirt, and knock some rocks off the short wall. Imagine trying to juggle while doing soft shoe on a high wire, and that should give you a good sense of running an excavator. I've heard more than one contractor say that the guys who run these things for a living would be able to sweep up a stone from the wall and stack it neatly wherever I wanted. After pushing a few rocks around for a while, I would have been happy with just picking one up!

Now, the controls of this little toy are pretty sensitive too. Move them to far, too fast and the whole thing looks like an early form of the Disney anamatronics, back in the day when the arms of the Presidents would move, and then sway to and fro when they tried to stop. Now imagine riding one of those arms. It was the closest yet I got to bull riding.

After an hour I decided to go ahead and get started on the wall. I had finally managed to scoop up a rock, albeit with a copious amount of ground underneath it. So I drove my little machine across the back yard, said a brief, but rather intense prayer, and dug in.

It was slow going at first. Two hours in to the project saw about ten feet of wall torn down, with most of those stones still lying pretty much where they fell. I finally climbed down from the machine and hauled them off to the side by hand. When I climbed back on, heart pounding from moving the few huge stones, I decided that if I had it rented for the week, I might as well practice with it and save myself the heart attack.

Pretty soon though, as muscle memory started kicking in, I improved! By the time the sun went down I had turned this...

into this...

So much for the plan of thirds. The new plan is to just do the wall. Today I'll be digging out the foundation space for the new wall and hopefully getting some aggregate delivered for the project.

Work to do now though, as the sun is coming up. Back to the Wall!

More Later


Sharon said...

I am REALLY impressed! ... and your whole blog made me giggle out loud! What an adventure! Just PLEASE be careful!

Testing group said...

That is soooooo much cooler than a video game. It seems like hard work, but you gotta admit you are having a Ball! Keep up the good work The pictures look great