Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Welcome to My World

This Fall, I secured permission at a circa 1880 house in a Western town. The temperature was 105 and the permission was solid, so after probing 3 pits, I arranged to come back when the weather was cooler. Mistake #1. A few weeks ago, I returned alone to open up the first pit which was a five footer, and stacked with whole glass at about 3 feet under an ash layer. The fill included some misc. local stuff and some eastern meds, with the best find being a yellow topaz ground top mason...pretty sweet for the top two feet.
 The sky opened up and being alone and unprepared for heavy rains that day, I filled the hole in again to return the following week after the rains subsided...Mistake #2.

 This past weekend was raining again, but undaunted and determined, I brought a canopy, submersible pump, tons of buckets, tubs and tarps..( you ever see what a few thousand gallons of black muddy water does to a nice yard, or the slick going down the street in to a storm drain)? Anyway, at one foot the earth opened up and the raging torrent gurgling from the ground was impossible to bucket...out came the pump. This is a 1200 GPM submersible pump, and apparently it does not like chocolate milk going through it as even with a screen and a bucket it quit after a couple of minutes. Gentle probing indicates quite a few whole bottles and pottery at three to five feet under the ash. This lot became a debacle and I will buy a mud pump this week to finally recover the slick meds which likely await me! Ah Winter digging in the Valley! Stay tuned. Dale M.

Hi Rick,
Would you be so kind as to add this photo to my "wet hole" post? I cannot seem to do it with my phone.


  1. Har!
    As Old Cutter's would have said. Looks like a trash pump and a pitch fork might be in order.
    A toxic shower stall and some Old Spice might help once you get the funk off of you

  2. That mud hole wouldn't stop me. This is when bottle diggers have to think like Gold Miners. Thats a job for a minning dredge, Dale. As the dredge pumps out the water and muck,you just keep washing the bottles off clean with the water hose. No digging needed. Trust me, it works. Mike Mc.

  3. Timing is everything in the areas that hold water although sometimes it’s not avoidable. Large plastic trash cans work great set next to a hole to contain water and easily dumped in when finished. We usually bring a half dozen or so on a wet dig, what fun.........

  4. Fun ! Trying to time wet town digs perfectly just doesn't work (unless you have the luxury of digging 24/7) so unfortunately we are stuck digging wet holes as well. The best we can do is wait a week or two after heavy rain so that the surface water subsides and the hole become bailable. Trash cans do help quite a bit with "cone volume" and cleanliness, but on the larger holes it just isn't practical to carry around ten garbage cans at all times. Who knows, where could be a green F & M fifth in that hole !

    1. I don't know where the F&M fifths were distributed but I don't think this dig is in Oregon.....Remember Oregon doesn't allow bottle digging or pumping your own gas.

  5. Whoaaa ! "wet-housing"... the toll that often comes with easy winter probing.
    As a certified wet-housing specialist, I will advise you to not waste your $$$ on pumps. You do get an A for effort though ! If there's water that close to the surface, as your pics appear to indicate, you will be attempting to pump-out the entire city block ! Wait for a wk or two of no rain, so the water outside the privy has a chance to perk or dry. Then you should be able to step-dig the hole, using the lower section as your bailing sump, as you progress towards the bottom. The water should only be in the privy at this point, and much easier to bail than attempting to drain the entire map page during or right after major storms ! You dont need a pump to do this, and most pumps will only "cost" you a lot of frustration. Using pumps effectively is a whole other ballgame/skillset. If you do want to put your "chocolate milk" pump to work, it can be best utilized to drain your garbage cans, so you dont have to carry more than 2 or so 32 gal cans around in your dig-mobile. Make sure you stack 3 or 4 bricks or a milk crate in the bottom of the cans before you start pumping, as that chocolate does get soupy and will make your pump wish it had an inhaler ! The idea is to keep the business-end of the pump off of the bottom of the can and out of the haevy part of the privy soup, that will surely be in the bottom of the cans after you've started into the bucket-brigade of bailing the privy out. You can take it a step further and try to keep the liquids and solids separate coming out of the pit. That takes a little more discipline and technique, but pays off in spades when garbage can space is at a premium and is quickly disappearing, and you definitely dont want to create the proverbial mud-slick across grandma's yard !

    Bail-on !


  6. I’ve never had much luck with a pump but I was using the wrong kind. A diaphragm trash pump will do the trick and can pump golf ball size solids but their expensive and bulky.... First you need electricity, a place to send the spew, hoses, extension cords, etc. etc.
    Like housing expert AP states, if your digging at the wrong time it’s almost impossible to empty water from a hole without emptying the entire block. Once again, timing is key and experience also comes into play knowing what dig zones hold water after a given amount of rain and which ones don’t. However sometimes the dreaded wet house just can’t be avoided for numerous reasons. One of the areas I dig is mostly during the Fall only due to water conditions, other areas not. When wet housing I also step the hole down making a sump at the lowest point preferable a corner large enough to fit either a 2 or 5 gallon bucket in. I bail scooping both water and mud together and then into a trash can placed strategically around the hole. When done the cans are simply tipped over and the goo goes back in the hole with little effort. The cans stack inside one another and a half dozen can easily fit in the dig rig which is usually more than enough for a typical wet house.

  7. Thanks for the advice guys!I do appreciate the feedback. I dig wet holes all the time in my zone and almost always stepping the hole and bucketing does the trick. This area is actually wet all year at about 3 feet, and can easily be bailed into 35 gallon tubs that are easier for me to drag around the yard. This one however is the worst ever because no amount of bailing will make a dent in the in-flow. Obviously probing like a maniac to find holes during the monsoon season and digging them in the Summer is preferable, but permissions get pretty sketchy when one cannot finish the job as soon as possible.Sometimes the people that were cool with some yahoo digging their yard, become transformed in to big meanies when I come back.
    A couple of you know why this hole is such a priority for me, and if you knew the details, you might grab a snorkel and flippers which is my next plan.My mini-sub deep rover is on it's way from Amazon. DM

  8. It may be different in your neck of the woods, but in the Bay Area that house would be early 1870s or older !!