Friday, August 29 2014
I finally got around to burying the urine output of my urinal system in the garden today. Under the influence of gallons of urine, the dry leaves I'd packed in the bucket to receive the urine had swollen, lifting the bucket's lid two or three inches. It's difficult to work with that stuff (at least in the quick and efficient manner I use) and not get it on my hands. And once it's there, it's an impossible smell to simply wash away. Instead, I have to go do something else messy with my hands. Fortunately, I had just such another messy thing to do with my hands: further excavation of the greenhouse basement. The going had been so slow that I'd been thinking of resorting to another tool, such as "the fucked saw," a 7 inch Black & Decker circle saw with bad bearings onto which I'd installed a masonry blade. But then today I made a major breakthrough. Literally. While jackhammering into the side of one of the small ridges of hard bluestone described yesterday, a chunk broke off with a root reaching down to a transition layer in the rock. The layer amounted to a horizontal fault, or perhaps a layer of soft rock that had dissolved away. In its place was an extremely thin band of damp orange clay. There didn't appear to be any flowing water in this layer, but the fact that it was trapped here suggested that the water table wasn't too far away. Troublingly, the layer had the dank anærobic smell of either sewage or bog mud, and initially I was worried that I'd hit a vein of rock that was being fed by the septic field (less than fifty feet to the south). But then I remembered the macabre spectacle of hundreds of drowned earthworms I'd seen in what had once been the lowest part of the excavation. It was more likely that some of the funk from there had percolated into the rock and had been locked away from the oxidizing effects of the atmosphere until I ripped away the overlying layer of extremely tough bluestone.
Once I had a hole down to the transition later, it was a fairly easy job to break off edges of the hole, gradually enlarging it and revealing more and more of the damp clay that the six-to-twelve-inch layer of hard bluestone had been resting on. I could have immediately proceeded with further excavation beneath the transition layer, but I wanted to expose a circular area roughly three-feet wide before proceeding, since it would be difficult to attack the hard rock on its edges if I had to worry about the jackhammer slipping off and falling into a deep hole. Occasionally, though, the jackhammer would accidentally find its way to the transition layer, which quickly revealed itself to be a much weaker sort of rock than I'd been struggling with. It looked to be bluestone, but the kind comprised of lots of thin layers separated weak horizontal boundaries that make it easy to break apart. If I've finally reached a layer of easy-to-dismantle bluestone, it will probably be possible to continue digging downward indefinitely, since I know (from the way the rock strata reveal themselves where they are exposed at the escarpment 80 feet to the east) that below this not-especially-thick-layer of bluestone is a very thick layer of shale, a rock that I can often pick apart without needing to resort to tools at all.
This evening, Gretchen and I drove over to Susan and David's house over on Chestnut Hill Road east of Woodstock for a little dinner party that was also attended by Deborah. We didn't bring the dogs because of all the fighting that happened the last two times we tried to bring them. Deborah, though, has had more luck with Allou, though that might be the result of the lessons learned from our problems. Perhaps if the dogs are acclimated to each other outside the house, when they later go inside there won't be as much conflict. But who can say for sure? Just today, Susan was trying to give eyedrops to Darla for her conjunctivitis (something Darla hates) and somehow Olive insinuated herself into the struggle and a huge fight erupted, the kind resulting in bleeding holes in skin.
Susan and David are into barbecuing vegetables, so dinner tonight reminded me of the kind you'd have when camping out: veggie hot dogs, veggie burgers, delicious poblano peppers (thanks Deborah!) and shish kabobs of various sorts. Before dinner, though, David gave Gretchen and me a tour of the building that will eventually be Susan's painter studio. The interior had been gutted, revealing the two-by-four structure and the puzzling absence of headers on the windows. Most of those windows will ultimately be replaced.
David frequently comes up with oddball questions for me to answer, such as "If everyone in China died today, would we be able to smell them in America after they started rotting?" That's a hard one to answer definitively, but I would say "no" due to the diluting effects of the global atmosphere. It's much easier to answer questions that only require arithmetic. Once time we calculated that if all humans were killed and stacked up to make a hill, it wouldn't be an especially large one (and would easily fit within the city limits of Kingston). Today David wanted to know how much area all of humanity would take up if they were laid out in a single layer. So I did the calculations: every person requires 12 square feet, and there are 7 billion people. Thus all of humanity would take up 3013 square miles. That's a square of only 53 miles on a side. Due to the cheap calculator David was using, with its difficult "8.4 E10" display, we were off by an order of magnitude tonight and thought they would all fit on Manhattan, but we'd actually need an area the size of Ulster, Sullivan, and Dutchess Counties (New York) combined.
David had to go be the instructor for a drawing class conducted via Skype, and so he ducked out of our party early, disappearing into one of the back rooms of the house. I'm still a bit confused how it's all laid out in there.
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