21 September 2008

The Mysterious Hole in the Ground

In my back yard beside the cement floor of the old carriage house next to where the single stall was is a hole in the ground. I discovered it one day when I was burying a dead bird. I hit cement and found a metal bowl filled with cement plugging up a crockery lined hole that went straight down. I dug it out as far as I could and didn't find the bottom. Since it is beside the stall I figured it was for pouring waste water down. I filled it with water and it slowly drained away, and I have used it a few times for dumping wash water. I have not yet discovered where the house drain field was, so it may be here, but it is a long way from the house.

One Cat

Two Cats

I rebuilt the top of the hole with cement and made a nice surround for it and made a plywood cover. That disintegrated a few years ago and it has been covered by a piece of plastic. Remember the pieces of the green man table? Well, here is what I did with the table top.

Incidentally, at the top right of this photo you can see the end of the horse stall cleanout ditch. It is an indentation in the floor of the stall you can see also in the picture below beside Beezer which led out of the foundation wall to another small drain field. When I excavated this I found a lot of rocks, and not too far down, so I just added some more rocks and covered it back up. (Yes that is a toilet.)
Four Cats

And - - Five Cats!

At the back of this picture is my cat cemetery complete with pink flamingos.

More about the strange drainage features around the house.
When built, the house had a cistern built into the basement into which the South side of the roof drained. There had been some sort of collection box on the roof which diverted the rainwater into a galvanized gutter pipe (still in place inside the wall) and into the cistern. This was located under the downstairs bathroom which shared the sewer stack with the kitchen on the other side of the wall. I don't know how the water was utilized, but lots of houses used this for doing laundry. There is a pipe through the wall near the bottom of the cistern which was probably connected to the washer.

On the North side of the house the front roof drain emptied into this cast iron pipe. See it with some cement rubble at the top of it down by the water course.

When I was leveling the ground here preparatory to laying the brick sidewalk I found that this pipe went towards the yard, and then turned and went back towards the back yard. I followed it up to the back steps and lost it.
The roof drain at the back went down to this.....

which I excavated a little, but since I had already put in a garden and a huge mound of dirt, I didn't do a full-scale dig. This pipe just ended about 3 feet beyond the visible end. I put in a small rock drain field, but should really dig it up and do it again to take care of some of my water problems. My thinking at the time was that the cistern must be about where this garden is, as this is where I lost both pipes.
At the South side of the house there are two other interesting water features. One was built after the cistern system either failed or was no longer needed and the gutters were re-configured. I found it buried under 10 inches of fill, which also was over the wood sills of the basement.
I have rebuilt this, but it has been severely water-damaged and needs some attention. I also dug out a small drain field at the foot of this, but really need to do it again, as my basement floods every time it rains. There is only about ten feet between houses at this point, and nowhere for me to direct this water except if I do something illegal, like directing it down this convenient storm drain, below. It's just past the white board.
It is a cast iron pipe surrounded by a cement sleeve, which used to have a ceramic jacket, and capped off with a cast iron removeable cap. The plumber says it goes to the storm sewer. In this picture you can see how close the houses are. This used to be a driveway back to the carriage house. The next door neighbors must have been pretty generous with their privacy, as the drive would have encroached on their property. There is an illegal curb cut and apron at the end of this, past my fence, which overlaps the property line. The fence was the first thing I did upon buying the house. The neighbors were parking cars right there by my front porch.
I can't run a drain pipe through this area without digging up the berms I put in in the front as a way to get rid of all this dirt I dug out. As you can see, I have already got half of it dug out at this point. Found some neat old bottles here and a lot of cobblestones. That pipe sticking out of the ground used to keep the carriage driver from sideswiping the house. The cement steps weren't there at the time and that was the corner of the house.

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