The Big Dig of 2013

We decided to replace our 38-year-old oil furnace with a natural gas one. No more oil tank issues. But what about the matter of getting the gas from the street to the house? Quotes from the gas company revealed a difference of $800 between the “we dig” and “you dig” options. So we spent Saturday digging a 40-foot trench 18 inches deep and 6 inches wide.

A couple of things to keep in mind here — the trench followed the concrete front walk to the house, along the edge of a large bed containing perennials, shrubs and bulbs. Years ago, we acquired a huge load of beach cobbles and positioned them artistically along that edge. Most of those cobbles hadn’t seen light for many years, having been overrun by enthusiastically seeding plants (California poppies and sweet violets) and buried in soil that seems to rise up magically from the depths.

This is what this area looked like in the summer of 2010.

Front Walk

This is what it looked like a couple of days ago.

May 18, 2013

And here are all those beach cobbles, excavated and lugged into the driveway.


This is the pile of plant material removed in the process.


I salvaged an Eryngium variifolium and a Convolvulus sabatius, but dug up and disposed of a lot of Viola odorata and Eschscholzia californica.

This is what the site looks like now.

May 19, 2013

May 19, 2013

We managed to salvage this patch of sedum growing around some larger rocks by doing a bit of tunnelling. This was another advantage of digging the trench ourselves — it’s most unlikely that the gas company guys would have done anything to avoid disturbing plants. A big factor in making the job relatively easy, however, was the light, sandy soil. Aside from those imported beach stones, it was nearly rock-free.

May 19, 2013

Altogether, the project looks like a success so far. The salvaged eryngium and convolvulus are back in their original spots and seem to be OK. It will be interesting to see how long it takes before the beach stones are buried once more.