Sewer Trenches Versus Carpal Tunnel

The project! My brother provided me with an Official Construction Sweatshirt, though clearly what I needed was a haircut.

Most weeks of my life yield few concrete results. Phone calls and piano practice, emails and payroll approval, bike rides and socializing leave a scant real-world trace.

When the results of our work hours are digital detritus, carpal tunnel and bad posture, tackling physical projects is even more valuable!

Two weeks in October delivered on said physical labor. While helping my brother build a second dwelling on my parents’ property, I did the following:

  • Dug a deep 200’ sewer trench with a backhoe, plus lots of (cough too much) hand digging.
  • Laid sewer pipe in the trench (hopefully the closest I’ll get to WWI-style warfare).
  • Cut out downed tree branches after a windy ice storm.
  • Installed a door to keep skunks out of a barn utility room.
  • Scraped off kiln shelves for a pottery firing.
  • Ran electrical wiring for the building, sank 8’ grounding rods, and installed an electrical panel.
  • Put up siding, cut and installed trim, installed a heat pump, moved four pallets of hardwood flooring in a snowstorm.
  • Somehow convinced two city inspectors the above quality was good enough to sign off on. (No bribes were paid.)
WAY more fun than mountain biking!

That non-comprehensive list is off the top of my head. At each day’s end, I’d drag my exhausted ass up the stairs, practice piano for 12 minutes, call Chelsea to say goodnight, and faceplant into bed.

I don’t share this list to brag. (HA, some of you are probably pitying me!) Instead, looking back, I’m amazed by the sheer volume of tangible work we accomplished in two weeks.

Doing Real Stuff

Laying pipe in a muddy trench is certainly not on my bucket list. But you know what? Chunks of labor with physical results are SO satisfying. From building out our van to installing solar panels on our house to my recent efforts, I love a good project.

Our backyard garden remodel is a prime example of this. Rather than spinning out this spring with the quarantine in effect, Chelsea and I launched headlong into creating her dream garden.

Yegads did we labor, converting a fugly backyard lawn into planter boxes, paths, and ornamental plantings! Our reward: voluminous quantities of vegetables and a relaxing sanctuary for us. Totally worth it.

Hard work on my parents’ property felt even more transformative.

My 1870s miner father and brother as a snowstorm rolled in.

Short-Term Pain, Long-Term Gain

My efforts on the building will help my parents age in place. When my brother and his family move into the main house, my nieces and nephews can grow up with Grandma and Grandpa around. As a bonus, my brother receives childcare support and a beautiful property for the kids to rampage on. How can I not feel good about contributing my sweat (and occasional swear words) to that?

Sure, I missed a few bike rides and my piano playing suffered. Yeah, my body is tired. WHAT.EVER.

From changing out a light fixture to full-scale home construction, the sense of accomplishment and satisfying glow from a solid DIY project pays dividends far down the road. Rather than a sense of dread, I see it as an opportunity for well-rounded living and feeling capable.

While I don’t want to work nonstop on DIY house projects – this effort wore me out – the results fire me up and balance out my cushy life. Nothing like contrast to make me appreciate what I’ve got!

Even if contrast is provided by hours in a muddy sewer trench.

****

Pictures!

The reason I was scraping kiln shelves: My mom made these beautiful new planter pots for Chelsea’s indoor jungle.
My brother getting it done.
18 degrees, but finished the electrical!
Excavators: 128x more fun than a shovel!
Parting shot: In case you’ve always wondered what the inside of a sewer pipe looks like…
5 replies
  1. Go Jules Go
    Go Jules Go says:

    ^What Chris said!! Oh, yeah, I guess your work is impressive, too. But. Pretty pots!!

    I absolutely love seeing how your family came together for two weeks to build something that will bring togetherness for many years to come.

    Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      The pots look even better with plants in them and tucked away on various shelves in our house. So fun to have homemade, beautiful pots made by my mom!

      Reply
  2. Chris@TTL
    Chris@TTL says:

    There’s something so satisfying about doing physical work and having something done—visible, something you can touch—right in front of you, isn’t there? Love it.

    From your bullet list of projects, I can honestly say I have done…
    …None of them. 🙂

    Glad to see you’re being constructive (hem) with your time, even if it’s already snowing out that way! We’re still getting the occasional 70-degree day 😉

    Is there much more to the dwelling-related work near your parents’ place? Or is your brother’s fam set for now?
    Chris@TTL recently posted…Live Below Your Means: Your Path to Financial FreedomMy Profile

    Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Now that you’re retired, you can do all the DIY projects! Although with all the solid blog posts you crank out, I suspect there ain’t much time.

      HAAAA, projects, finished at my parents? Ah hahahah. It’s a 3-acre property with many outbuildings. I could work full-time there for a year and only get on top of deferred maintenance…maybe. Small doses is the key there, my friend!

      Reply

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