Monday, March 9, 2015

There's daylight at the end of the tunnel

Yulia and I would like to have running water in our house someday, and to accomplish that, we must first install sewage pipes that will take waste water from our house to a septic tank. In order to get the pipes from our house to the outside, we recently dug a tunnel under the foundation of our home.

I started inside, in the corner of our bedroom. I pulled up the floorboards and then started digging. 

 After digging for a while I went outside, approximated where I was digging inside, and began to dig another tunnel.

I dug both tunnels for two days hoping that they would connect at some point. I teach English on the internet, so I had to go inside (or through the corridor to the living room), unvictorious, on a few occasions. Self doubt began to grow.

On the second day, the hole in our bedroom was quite deep. Using the measuring tape I knew the bottom of the hole was at least even with the bottom of the foundation. But I needed to go deeper. I tried probing with a metal rod to try and find the other tunnel, but I had no luck. Were my tunnels not even going to meet?

By the end of the second day I was annoyed. I had made a lot of progress on the horizontal tunnel from the outside. It was about half a shovel length in--surely deeper than the thickness of our wall. 

I had a bad headache from the constant bending over and lifting of dirt. I was sick and tired of this job. Was it worth all this effort just to be able to put in a sewage pipe?

I summoned my energy.

On the third day I measured. Dug. Measured again. Dug from the inside. Dug from the outside. I asked Yulia if she could see or hear anything on the other end when I probed with the rod. Nothing.

I took a break. Then gathered my energy, pulled up yet another floorboard, and started to dig again.

I took out two more wheelbarrows of dirt.The hole in the bedroom was twice as wide at this point.  I was able to stand in it. The bedroom's floorboards came up to my chest. I was covered with sand and dirt and so was the bedroom and corridor.

Finally, I probed with the rod just to the side of a big rock that was in the way, and success! I moved the rock and was able to create a nice, big hole to daylight with little more effort! 

On the bottom right you can see my foot.
Yes, I dug this hole in my sandals! On the first day I tried wearing boots, but realized I would have to take them off every time I went outside to dump a bucket of dirt. The balls of my feet are feeling it at this point!
I'm not sure if this is a very good story. My feeling is that it's not. It's about a rather mundane subject--a sewage pipe. Who doesn't have a sewage pipe in their house? (We didn't until recently) The protagonists are dirt and a shovel. The antagonists are rocks, a deep foundation, and a thick wall. My photos are mostly brown. Everything is covered in dirt. The scene looks bare and dreadful. The denouement was expected. 

Why do I think it is worth telling?

I tell this story because it's a snapshot of our lives. Yulia and I have many such stories, but we don't always get the chance to share them. Every day brings us challenges, but every day also brings us victories. If you think your end goal is worth it, then the labor and pain that some days bring are put into perspective. They make up your life just like joy and pleasure. 

Our goal in life is not to be comfortable as often as possible. We think there are things in this world more important than pleasure and comfort. But this does not mean we are masochists either. It's important for us to rest and relax for both health and sanity. 

I tell this story to convey some of the texture of our lives. We write about taking walks through flower filled fields. We write about eating delicious foods. And we write about this just because it is another part of our everyday lives. Yulia and I try to learn and grow everyday. That is why we feel we are here. 

We hope you find this little tale useful as well. Yulia and I have found that the greatest challenges we have faced as do-it-yourselfers are rarely written about. It is easy to find information on how to install a sewage pipe in your house. It's easy to find information about gardening and healthy eating. It's less common (though not impossible) to find how other people have struggled with something like installing a sewage pipe in their old house. Building materials don't usually come with emotional directions. We hope this helps fill that gap just a little bit.


  1. If it helps, I have been there: Bringing a fresh water pipe into the house, and leading the waste water out. In my case, it was not simply digging under the foundation, but through two concrete walls and a stone wall (the later was 60 cm thick). I call this living on the skinny end of a shovel:

    If you have the capital (these units are not cheap), consider for black water a biological on site treatment of the water. The outflow is better for the soil. One example:

    If allowed by building code in your area, also consider gray water use, this site is from the USA, but is an excellent source of information, plans and systems:

  2. Thanks a lot for the tips--and for sharing your experiences as well! We really enjoy your blog!