We needed a trench to run water and power lines to the cellar, so we called Gilles the local excavator guy. He’s a retired farmer who has some fancy equipment, like this JCB. Mark the Spark came along to deal with electrical and plumbing issues, of which we had a few.
I’ve always been interested in industry standard designs and the 3CX seems to be the industry standard for excavators. A couple of weeks ago my buddy Russell suggested I buy an excavator to save cash given all the work that has to be done. Which excavator? “JCB 3CX,” came the reply. Other companies make excavators inspired by the JCB. In Britain they don’t say excavator, they say ‘JCB’. This doesn’t carry to France, where they say ‘tracto-pelle’.
Since we needed a trench in a hurry, I hired Gilles to do the digging. This lets me check out how these things work and judge how long and expensive the work would be if hired rather than bought. A JCB can fix my dams, grade the ground around the house, level ground for cowshed work, demolish old buildings. And boy can it dig a trench. Here’s the side line to the electricity main supply.
[Other things I see in this photo: window and door to be replaced; erosion of the wall to the left of the door from humidity; more trash for the dechetterie.]
It was interesting to see the soil, too. The house is on top of a gentle hill and is called Laspeyrères, which is Gascon for “The Rocks”, so we were expecting the thinnest soil on the farm and plenty of rock. Also, the region is a former sea-bed and has ‘argile calcaire’ or limestone clay soils. This is in common with Ténarèze Armagnac soils, where it leads to strong spirits that take decades to mature. It also makes me wonder why we are officially in Bas Armagnac when the soils are those of the Ténarèze.
Having argile calcaire soils is said to be good for cows. They grow strong bones and do better at calving time and the hay from calcaire fields is in more demand on the open market.
What we found was about 12 inches of black soil with the white limestone underneath in a single, constant bed. Limestone isn’t very hard until it is dried out, so the digger could cut through it, albeit with some effort. At one place we cut the trench by hand since it had to supply into the house underground and could see the house has a small foundation that goes down to the rock bed. So the house really is built on a bed of rock, just like we had been told.
This has implications for house heating and drainage and I need to figure these out. The limestone is supposed to help keep the house warmer in winter, but maybe you need a floor design to take advantage of that. Also the limestone isn’t going to drain well left untouched, but with a simple drain design around the house it should work fine.
We were treated to the sight of Gilles divining for water. I’m not convinced of his accuracy but we didn’t hit the town water supply so something went right.
Tosca helped out by capturing this wandering scorpion.
A good day’s work by all.