Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I Pay for Dirt

One of my good friends has this new crowd of friends that she runs with.  None of them have a job, they just hang out with their fancy cars and their Iphones and look at her funny when she has to go home early because she has a job. I told her that when they ask why she has to work to tell them it's because every time they flush her toilet, she pays for that.  (I can see that I am making her friends out to sound like they are irresponsible rapscalions, and I mean them no disrespect.  My friend is a cool gal, and I am sure her friends are top notch.  But I think she might dig it if I made her out to seem a like a little rebel.  I hope.)

Because, what I hadn't fully realized about growing up is that you pay for what you use.  Everything you use.  I am learning that it is even more true when you own a home.  Let me explain about this flooding in our basement/backyard business.

It all started back in December.  Lincoln was layered in a crisp cover of ice and snow, two feet deep.  The university had even closed for a few days because of the inclement weather.  There I was, pregnant (lesson 1 - don't look for houses pregnant) and excited (terrified) about the prospect of looking for homes.  This house we live in now was the first one we saw.  After five days of looking at houses eight hours a day, it was the house I wanted.  We had gone back to look at it six times, and I loved it more each time.  The house, like all of Lincoln, was covered in snow, driveway, porch, and of course, backyard.  So really, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  (Lesson 2 - Don't look for houses when there is snow on the ground.)

The disclosure statement that the previous owners wrote let us know that there had been some issues with water getting into the basement, but that they had done all they could to take care of it.  They had installed a sump pump, and done some landscaping.  (Lesson 3 - take disclosure statements with two grains of salt.)

Our offer on the house is accepted. We move in. We love it. The backyard is intensely demanding, much more than it looked like it would be in its peaceful, snowy slumber.  Much more than we think we can handle, most days.  Then it stormed.  Devin was gone, on one of his (innumerable) trips, and I didn't notice that it had flooded until the next afternoon.  (Lesson 4 - DO look for houses in the rain. Sort of just kidding.)  We have a home warranty on the house, so we called them and they sent a plumber out to come look and see if we would be covered for any repairs that might be necessary.  He went down to the basement, looked around, and told me that we didn't have a sump pump, we only had a pit.  I said, "We do too have one." (I didn't really say that. I said, "Are you sure?" - but since you can't see my face I have to write out what I was thinking...)  He said, "Yes, that is just a pit.  There is no pump there."  So I told myself to be a man, took a deep breath, and said, "I'm pretty sure we have a sump pump."  He looked at me like why do all the crazy ones look so normal?  And reassured me again, that I only had a pit in my basement, where I could put a pump if I wanted, but absolutely no sump pump.  So I asked him if I could show him one more thing before he left, and I took him outside and pointed down into our pit.  He said, "Ah, yea, that's a sump pump."  He jumped down in, looked around, and said that since it was outside the foundation of the house it was not covered by the warranty and would I now pay him his sixty dollars.  He had been there for six and a half minutes.  But then he was actually very nice and told me a few things that we could try to do to fix it on our own before calling in someone to pay another sixty (or more) dollars to.

Devin did what he said, and it was fixed.  Turns out the floater bobber thingamajooberdeedodad wasn't completing it's allotted task in life, bobbing and floating.  Devin freed it, and we immediately saw water pumping into our yard.  Great. (Lesson 5 - if a plumber gives you free advice, try it.  It might work.)

Then we had 20 days of rain out of the last 23, as reported by our neighbor.  On Sunday night, the night of the big flood we got four and a half inches of rain.  (Lesson 6 - Don't move to Nebraska.  Just kidding.)  We had that whole adventure that many of you are familiar with, because apparently the problem was much bigger than just the malfunctioning floater bobber thingamajooberdeedodad.  As it turns out, all of the neighbors backyards slant. Towards our yard.  And our backyard slants. Towards the house.  In particular, it slopes towards the pit.  As we discovered when we were out in the pouring rain with water up to our waists with our buckets watching the waterfall come cascading in towards our basement.

So, we spent a large portion of today shopping for dirt.  It don't come cheap, and it certainly don't come easy.  Last night we had more ridiculous displays of nature's raw power, and as it first started coming down my husband got all antsy (understandably so, we hadn't fixed the problem yet) and said, "I'm going to dump out all your pots and use that dirt to create some slope to stop the rain from all draining down into the pit." I just stared at him. My pots? With my peppermint, and my strawberry, and my marigold, and my moss roses?  The ones full of potting soil that my mom and I just bought yesterday?  Oh, yeah, he really did mean those pots.  What could I say? No, spare my marigolds, who cares about the basement? Let it rot!  So out he and my father went into the pouring rain to save the house, and out my mother and I went to save the plants.  We pulled them up as fast as we could and put them in a little pot, and crossed our fingers that they would survive the night.  (Lesson 7 - husbands typically, for reasons unknown to women, think the house is more important than marigolds and peppermint.)

Today I was desperate to try and replant my little friends, but my anxious husband and hard working father had already dug up dirt from another corner of the yard and put it all on top of our beautiful potting soil.  So, stealthlike and totally awesomelike my mom and I waited until it was almost dark and everyone was busy with their "after the babies have gone to bed pursuits" and we crept outside.  We took our trowels and dug through the dirt to get to the dirt.  (Lesson 8 - You can laugh about doing crazy things like digging through dirt to get to dirt in the dark when you do it with your mother, if she's as cool as my mother is. I hope you have one that cool.)

And there you have it.  That's the full story of the dirt I pay for, the house I love, the plants I love (more), and the lessons I've learned from it all.

Thank you, and good night.  (That just felt appropriate, is all.)


  1. WOW! That's a family history story for sure. One day you will look back and say, "Remember when. . . . . ."

  2. "You said; 'Didn't you like my post?'" I said I did like it. You thought my expression said I didn't. ( I couldn't smile 'cause my last day to have adventures until our next visit is tomorrow.) why oh why do I live so far away from my children? I love your post, I love being a part of your life, I love you. Mom

  3. Wow. Well you are certainly blessed to have such a handy husband and such loving, helpful parents. =)

  4. Wow Amy that sounds like a real homeowner adventure. I am so happy now that we bought a house without a basement because we had some ponds in our yard from all the rain here. Luckily no real damage though. Hope all the dirt from the pots helped the problem. I would have been reluctant to dump out my pots as well.

  5. Well, I'm just glad you don't have any mold in your basement yet. Not all of the houses around us slop into our yard, but all of the houses to the left of us do. And then ours continues the slope into the one on the right, and on they go slopping down until they get to the creek.

    It has been raining an incredible amount this spring. We've had two or three flood advisories. I missed rain when I lived in Utah. Haha. I still enjoy it though, because I was deprived of it for so long.

    But it is sad that we have mold and that the dehumidifier runs up our electric bill.


  6. Wow. You're, like, real grown-ups, and everything!

    Sorry it's been so rough. Hopefully your awesome hubby and dad have gotten the problem fixed, or will get it fixed soon, and you'll be able to laugh about it later...

    MamaB, you're the best, lady! I love you!

  7. I'm so sorry, Amy! (Ah, the joys of being a homeowner lol. So much to look forward to.) I hope your plants survive... because they're WAY more important than your house... totally. ;)

  8. i love that you love the plants more than the house! ;) I was thinking in my head "NOooo, he is not going to kill her plants!!!" but alas the house is important too. :) you rock, i love your house and i suppose all houses have their crazy adventures. my parents did, even w/o a basement. and yes, my friends are great!!

  9. Whew. Well, I guess all our comments have been reviewed, and really there isn;t much recourse. It sounds like you really need additional landscaping adjustments. Yikes. Sounds pricey. Good luck.

  10. Wow, that sounds a lot like the house I grew up in (with the 5 feet of water). As we pumped out our house, the water level in all the other houses went down as well! Turned out we were the low point on the street.

    Good luck with fixing the yard!

  11. wow. i am so glad the house we put an offer on doesn't have a basement.