Chapter 4. Playing In the Dirt

While work on the guest cabin proceeded, I shopped for a septic system contractor. I had to pick through a bunch of grunts who wanted to clear-cut half an acre just to make life easier for themselves, until I found the right one: a tree-hugging animal-lover like me who also lived in a mini-house he built himself on a rugged woodland lot. It was hard to believe any contractors like that existed, and I was certainly thankful that at least one did.

But of course, there's always a snag. It turns out I couldn't obtain a septic permit without also getting a well permit at the same time, a little detail that three different involved parties had failed to inform me in advance. Trouble was, I'd already booked the septic contractors, and the date couldn't be moved, so it became a mad scramble to find a well driller. The locals were all busy; I finally found one clear across the state—and just in the nick of time. I was blown away by my good fortune: the gentleman was kind enough to hand-deliver the permit application to the Township himself to beat the deadline. How often does one encounter that level of helpfulness?

And so on 24 October my property was being torn asunder by excavators and dump trucks mere feet away from my camper as they replaced many yards of dense clay soil with approved sand for the disposal bed. Meanwhile, the pump system had to be buried 15 feet underground and carefully wedged between the trees. In order to avoid cutting anything down, they built a temporary road across the ravine so they could bring in a crane to drop septic tanks that were custom-built to withstand the depth. It required a lot of complex excavation of near surgical precision. But the crew said they loved the challenge, and it showed: each night before they left, they carefully cleaned up the path to my cabin.

It was an exciting week, and seeing such progress made me feel as though the house just might actually happen after all. I also thought that finishing the septic system might inspire my architect to wrap up the blueprints more quickly. It worked, but it also led to some back-and-forth that delayed the final prints.

It didn't matter. The weather was turning cold, and pretty soon I wouldn't be able to start the house even if I had the blueprints the next day. To make matters worse, my body once again failed me. Wracked by crippling, systemic pain, I went from doctor to doctor, getting test after test, all with the same shoulder-shrugging results. No one could figure it out.

Anyway, by Thanksgiving the final prints were FedExed to my anxiously awaiting hands. At long last I could get started on my home! I immediately called my tree guy—a wonderful man who was always a pleasure to spend time with—to ask if he could recommend someone to grade the end of my driveway so it would accommodate the massive equipment that was to come. The weather kindly cooperated, and by February I was ready to rock and roll.

Coincidentally, the fellow who did the grading was also an excavator, and offered to do the job for a song simply because he loved the property and the project. Plus, he had a concrete specialist he'd worked with for a couple of decades who was equally excited by the job. Thus, through a series of happy accidents, I'd gathered a group of highly skilled and friendly local contractors who made a most excellent team.

As I discussed the project with the concrete specialist, I expressed some concern about the architect's design; the reply was, "So, just change it. Make it the way you want it." Consequently, the contractors worked from a brand new drawing I'd rendered myself (above).

Chapter 3 <> Chapter 5

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