Saturday, June 25, 2016

Pulverizing Bricks that Dam the Flow

At a Watershed Management Group workshop, we learned that the first step in passive rainwater harvesting is to go outside when it rains and watch where the water flows and gathers. It was no surprise that our backyard patio flooded. When my kids were little they used it for a wading pool. But it also kept valuable water from flowing to our garden and it was a breeding ground for mosquitoes.


I observed that there were two rows of bricks keeping the precious water from our wilting hummingbird trumpets, a little decorative orange tree, and our Tombstone rosebush (that we planted when Dan moved in). Despite infrequent watering, our little "tree of life" that represented our relationship was beginning to brown.  I concocted a plan that might save our fledgling rosebush (and perhaps our relationship). After studying the two rows of bricks, I decided that I would take out two parallel bricks that were closest together and nearest to the desperate plants.

After days and days of scorching heat, an overcast sky beckoned me to work on removing the bricks.


I got out my multi-purpose sometimes writing table, sometimes gardening stool and started digging on one side of the brick with a sturdy garden spade. Then I dug on the other side.


I had no idea how deeply embedded in the ground the brick was. But I finally hit some roots that were going under the brick. So I scraped under it.


Lucky for me the part of the bricks that interlocked was worn away. So I chipped away at it with my spade. I tried kicking it down but it didn't budge.


I squeezed a square ended shovel under the brick and (amazingly) it came loose!


Here I am frantically trying to get out the brick before it rained. 

Unfortunately, the line of bricks along the patio was more difficult to get out.


I couldn't dig on both sides of it because one side was bricks. So I dug as deep as I could. I was surprised how far down the gravel went. In fact, I uncovered a second layer with green rocks under the red rocks. I widened the hole big enough for the shovel to fit under it, so I could pry it up. No go. It wouldn't budge. Dan suggested that I wait until he could get to the hardware store to purchase the right tool for the job (a pick), but I was determined to get it done right then and there. (Sometimes ya gotta go with the flow, baby!)  


I searched the shed for a sledge hammer, but it must have gone to my ex in the divorce. I managed to find an old hatchet. I kept the cover on, and used the back side of the ax to break up the brick. (Dan insists that I could have saved the brick with a pick.) I would suggest you use a pick or at least wear goggles. I was hitting the brick with my eyes closed. 


Here are the two holes that were left after I took out the parallel bricks. Now all I had to do was dig a channel between the two holes. I knew the water had to go downhill, so I filled part of the hole with the gravel and dirt I had removed before. On the end of the channel by the plants, I dug a deeper hole to take advantage of gravity. There were already roots there to make the water sink in like a sponge.

With bricks removed and channels built on both sides of the patio, all I had to do was wait for the rain, and wait, and wait...


Today the rain finally came. The patio filled with water and it flowed down both channels!


A toast to our first, however short-lived, monsoon rain.
And making channels to nourish our "tree of life." 


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