we have had a 15-20 foot stretch of wall that we knew needed to be taken down and rebuilt, because it is severely out of plumb. it’s out front, near the cottonwood tree, facing the road. it was built by volunteers on a day when none of the regular supervisory types were around to make sure that the plumb was taken into consideration, and sure enough, it wasn’t. it was about 8″ out of true (when Ian saw it a week or so later, he said, “did you lose the plumb bob? ’cause i have another one right here.”) leaning over towards our property/parking area away from the street. we thought we could maybe hook a chain around it, pull it into true with the come-along, and buttress it, and so one day we tried that, with the result that we couldn’t support it well enough to keep it in true, and instead decided that we really did need to take it apart and rebuild it. however, all that messing around destabilized it. that day when we put it back, it came somewhat further out of true, and a while later, as we noticed that it was slipping, we braced it with a big wooden 4×6 X that we happened to have sitting in the backyard. we figured that would prop it up until the january work party, when we could take it apart and put it together again.
well, we got 3/4″ of rain last week, first good solid rain in months. it is slowly soaking into the heavy clay soil, and it must have reached itself under the wall in the last couple days, because last night, that bit of wall fell over. it didn’t fall where the X was; the center of the collapsed stretch is about three feet further along. right above the gas meter. woo. we had, all of the sudden, a very exciting night.
alan and i, reading in bed, heard a funny soft sloughing thump sound, and got up to investigate. as alan was getting dressed, he said, “i sure hope that’s not the wall falling over.” sure enough, it was. and the gas meter was emitting a fearsome hissing noise. i was afraid to go anywhere near it. about 15′ of wall (made of bags that weigh about 80lb apiece, dry) collapsed across it, and broke the top pipe on the meter — *after* the regulator, thank goodness. we called the gas company, turned off all the pilot lights, and then hung out in the back of the house speculating about what would happen if the leaking gas lit on fire — what the concussion would do (tip our nearby VW Beetle over, drop 80-pound earthbags on things, like the VW, set the cottonwood on fire, break the kitchen window?), how we could repair the damage. finally the gas company guy arrived, investigated, and shut the gas off. whew. no explosions. he also let us know which part was broken — we’d been reluctant to approach it closely enough to find out, what with the hissing. it helped to know it had been leaking from the quarter-pound-of-pressure part of the pipe, not the sixty-pounds-of-pressure part. we got very lucky, there. there was more noise than gas. the technician checked to make sure there were no underground leaks, told us that we’d be responsible for repairing the meter and he didn’t figure we could get an inspector from the county out here to clear it until monday at least.
so we brought out the space heaters and plugged them in, and figured out how we would cook and shower (involving using our camp stove, and going to the other house, respectively) until we could get it fixed. we found ourselves profoundly punch-drunk from the relief of not blowing up the house, and the adrenaline let-down. because the gas co had said we should expect three techs, Jenny called that first tech the ghost of christmas past. then the ghost of christmas present arrived, in the person of a young gas company repair tech, who said he was expecting a crazy scene involving drunk drivers and cops — because when he heard “a wall fell over on the meter” he figured that was because somebody drove into the wall. this happens altogether too frequently, in his experience. he looked over the scene, expressed relief at what a quiet night it was, just a late-night job with no cops or anything, and said he figured he could completely fix it and have our gas back on in a half an hour. whoo! much nicer than the scenario involving county inspectors and days with no heat or cookstove or hot water! (naturally, everything in the house is on gas. we would totally survive a week of that, but it is much nicer not to have to.)
and sure enough, he had it fixed in a half hour. this resulted in the ghost of christmas future (who presumably would have had to repair the gas main, had that broken) not having to arrive. he even came back in and re-lit the assorted pilot lights for us. and advised us to put a post on the wall-side of the meter, like the one we have on the parking-lot-side (to prevent people from driving into it), so that if some drunk driver eventually takes out a chunk of our wall, the meter stands a chance of surviving the impact next time. good idea. we’re going to do that.
this afternoon’s plan is suddenly to clean up the mess — Wendy and Rev are coming over, and we’re going to stack the fallen bags neatly off to one side, or empty them, depending on how broken they are, cut the assorted barbed wire that’s kind of everywhere, remove that big wooden X, and reel the chain-link fencing back out over the gap so that we don’t have a massive security problem until we can get around to rebuilding. with three of us, that job shouldn’t take more than a couple hours. i took some photos of the mess, which i will post sometime when i’m not typing from Alan’s mac laptop, which i do not know how to operate photos from. :)
all in all, it’s good news. we’re safe, nothing exploded or caught on fire or broke beyond repair. we have heat (and a gloriously sunny day; it is amazingly beautiful outside today), and community, friends to laugh with and help with the work. the only part that fell was the part we knew we had to redo; the rest of the wall is sound. and hey, now we don’t have to take that part of the wall down.