Let me show you how to get the mud off of your shoes Princess

I guess I should have asked Jason if he wanted to be a guest editor before I said he would. He said it would take too long. He does type very slowly. I do too, but he thinks I type fast because we were in a typing class together in high school and he was amazed at how well I was doing compared to him. I sort of remember the class, but I don’t remember being one of the super fast typists!

Anyway, in order to better understand what we’re doing I conducted a brief interview with him. A lot of it was boring, but here are the most important points.

We rented a Ditch Witch for one day on Wednesday. Jason picked it up at Floyd’s Rentals in Las Vegas. The guys there weren’t sure that Jason would make it to Mora hauling that thing. They were especially concerned about the section of the road known as “Nine Mile Hill” where you gradually climb for nine miles. The guys at Floyd’s were nice about this though and wished Jason a lot of luck!


This truck thing has been one of the differences between living here and living in California. Jason suspects he he owns the only 2-wheel drive pick up in the state of New Mexico. People here trailer everything and they expect to see dirt roads. His truck is a full size GMC Sierra 1500, which has always been sufficient for his work in the Bay Area, but there may be a new truck in his future.

Going up the hill Jason only managed to go 35 mph. By the time he arrived with the Ditch Witch it was about 2:00. He set it up for me and I drove it. Between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, when the Ditch Witch had to be returned, we dug about 1,000 feet of trenches.

My lovely sinuous trenches!

My lovely sinuous trenches!

You have to go very slowly driving the Ditch Witch. It runs on diesel and smells a bit. It’s also noisy. Going forward it looks like nothing’s happening, but the blade is digging furiously behind you as you go along. The trenches it makes are very neat! They were only five inches wide, but the electrical trench is 26 inches deep and the ones for the water pipes are 42 inches deep.


This is the part that amazed me: In all the digging we turned up nothing interesting! No Spanish gold, no Indian artifacts, no treasures of any kind. Not even a pretty rock. Nothing yucky either! No bones, dead animals or disgusting bugs. Just brown dirt.

Now for the Q & A. (All of Jason’s answers have been edited for clarity and I cut out all the boring parts.)

Q. We dug three trenches. What are they for?

A. Two are for water and one is for electrical. One water line goes from the well to the garage and office space. This one stops at the trailer, but it will be capped off later when we no longer live here. The second goes from the well to the house site. The third trench takes the power from the meter to the well pump and from the meter to the trailer.

Q. Why are we bringing power to the trailer when we already have power?

A. Right now the trailer’s power is coming from a construction powered distribution box (otherwise known as a spider.) It’s a temporary system for electrical. The main reason it’s not good for long term use is its susceptible to weather. If it shorts we have no more power.

The Spider. The reason we have lights and heat!

The Spider. The reason we have lights and heat!

Q. How did you decide how deep the trenches should be?

A. This is the maximum required by the Planning Department in Santa Fe.

Q. I saw you putting white pipes and thin grey pipes in the holes. Please explain:

A. The white pipe is Schedule 40 PVC for the water line. It’s one inch. The grey pipe is the same, but it’s 3/4 inch. The difference in color is to distinguish between power and water.

Q. Then last night when we should have been eating dinner you were outside putting multiple colored wire taped together into the grey pipes. What are these wires?

A. Red and black are always hot wires. (They carry the power. If you cut one of these and you’re touching metal you will get shocked.) The white is neutral. This one can shock you too, usually if it’s wired wrong, but it’s not as bad as getting shocked by a red or black wire. The green wire is the ground. That can’t shock you.

Q. Have you ever been shocked by any of these colors?

A. Sure.

These wires aren't connected to anything yet so they can't shock anyone.

These wires aren’t connected to anything yet so they can’t shock anyone.

Q. What will we do today?


  1. Continue pulling the wire through the conduit. We can pull 60 foot sections at a time. Then, when all the sections are done, we’ll glue the conduit together.
  2. Dig a big hole (by hand) near the meter to get the conduit from the trench to the breaker panel.
  3. Lay out the electrical conduit from the well to the breaker panel.
  4. Backfill the trenches for the water pipes.

Q. Sounds like a lot of work. Please comment:

A. Yes, it is a lot of work. Get dressed so we get get started.

Q. But it’s snowing!

A. Get your gloves. We’re an hour and a half behind schedule.

Three hours later

At first it wasn’t really snow. It was hail. imageOur nearest neighbor, Ivan, stopped by to check on us. He suggested we put hay bails around the Tin Can to help insulate it, since this cold spell is supposed to last until Tuesday. (Today is Saturday.) The hail got heavier as Ivan and Jason talked, but I got right to work.

I was just going to back fill one of the trenches where Jason had already installed the water pipe. I filled in a little trench yesterday, but moving dirt is one thing, moving mud is another! After an hour, with hail turning to snow…

I had finished this much...

I had finished this much…


and I had this far to go.

Several things were making this task difficult. One of them was that my tools and shoes were getting so heavy with mud I could hardly lift the shovel, the rake or my feet. Jason was running the conduit and pulling the wires, but he happened to pass by one time. He noticed that I was struggling a bit and he showed me how to shove the dirt into the trench so that I didn’t have to actually lift the shovel all the time. His economy of movement was quite impressive and even elegant. Still, I felt this was a good time to remind him of something.

Me: Remember you said that I would be a princess out here?

Jason: You are a princess! This is what princesses do. Here, let me show you how to get the mud off your shoes, Princess.image

I don’t know how thick this man thinks I am, but I read the Daily Mail and I’m pretty sure I never saw the other Princess Kate pushing mud into a hole. Harry might do it for a couple hours though, if he was in the mood. However, I have to admit that standing the shovel up and scraping your shoe on it works better than stabbing at your shoes with a mud encrusted shovel or rake.

Around 1:00 the snow started falling heavily so we came in for lunch. Well I came in. I had to text this picture to Jason’s daughter and ask her to call her Dad and tell him to come in. (I could have called him myself, but it was more fun to sic his kid on him!)


I took this picture through a window because I’m not (that) crazy! Those dots are snow!

I steamed some broccoli and topped it with that Miyoko’s Creamery butter, heated a box of Dr. McDougall’s tortilla soup and made some toast for Jason in the frying pan. It was a good lunch. So good that Jason has gone back to work. I guess that trench won’t fill itself so I’m going back out too. I think I’ll start fresh with a new pair of shoes though. This time I’ll wear my classic black Hunters. I knew they’d come in handy out here!

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