Monthly Archives: September 2007

Geothermal, Part 2: The Red Rock

The work on the second phase of installation started in the attic on Tuesday morning, getting the pipes installed in the furnace closet.

That done, they drilled the holes to the exterior. Amazingly they were not bothered by the wasps that infest that wall. Of course I did spray the gap between the stone and wood facing the night before, hoping to reduce the population to a manageable level. Apparently it worked.

The pipes were pulled through the wall, cut to length, jointed with elbows so the pipe would lay flush against the wall, then capped.

Then the digging began, and to my surprise they found the house was sitting directly on some very hard sandstone. It turns out the red rock was a foot below the surface just about everywhere they had to dig and was at least 4 feet deep (the trenches needed to be 4 feet deep).

Needless to say, that slowed down the digging process considerably and they didn’t start attaching the well pipes until late afternoon.

The pipes were all connected using a combination of heat welding when the were attaching fittings…

…and heat splicing, when connecting the same sized pipes.

By midday on Wednesday, the pipes were all connected in one continuous loop. A good thing they finished when they did since the trench was slowly filling with water.

Once all the pipes were connected they did a pressure test for about 3 hours at 90-100 psi. During that time, they attempted repairs on the drill rig, that had suffered so much abuse when it was stuck in the mud.

No leaks were found, and the trenches were backfilled. Part 2 is complete.

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Black Gold

The city of Norman has a composting program. All yard waste is collected at the composting facility where it is piled in long windrows to decompose. The pile is watered and turned and within a few months, turns into beautiful black gold. This rich loam is available to the public for free. If you pay $10, they’ll scoop a front end loader full and dump it in the bed of your truck, which is what I did, three times! We had to get all three loads in one day because this is a hot commodity among the local gardeners. By the time I went back for the third load, around noon, there wasn’t much left.

We had to unload it ourselves, but with the help of our neighbor Jim, we made quick work of it. This stuff was still steaming hot when we shoveled it from the truck. Now I have enough to start 2 new vegetable beds, have some left for a seed starting mix, and maybe enough to start the beds in my food forest. I can’t wait to get my hands dirty!

Geothermal, still part 1 (sigh!)

The drilling crew arrived around noon on Monday to extricate the rig, which was not as easy as they’d hoped. It took roughly an hour of moving the truck in one direction or the other with the aid of the backhoe, then backfilling the trenches and tamping down a “roadbed”, then hand digging all the mud out from behind the fuel tanks before they were finally able to back the rig all the way up the hillside.

Leaving our front yard looking like this!

They were able to fit the rig between the Bradford pear and the hillside, to avoid getting stuck again when they inevitably hit water on the third well.

As they prepared to drill the third well, I tried to snap a shot of the drill head (to the left of Chris’ head), which is not very big. I haven’t quite figured out how all the drilled out material gets to the surface but obviously it does.

The pipe is ready to go. The pipe is precharged with water, which adds to its weight when it’s sent down the well.

The end of the pipe (or rather the bottom). This is the attachment that makes to loop in the pipe, and holds the weighted rod that pushes the pipe to the bottom of the well.

As I said, they’d inevitably hit water, and just past eighty feet, they did so. The water, of course, filled in the trenches the truck had left in the lawn, preventing them from being backfilled.

The drilling is done and only one casualty: a branch from the pear tree being dragged away.

Oh those darn grasses!

You can’t write a blog about central Oklahoma without mentioning the grasses. The diversity of native grasses here is incredible, many of them quite beautiful. I’ll be the first to admit that in my systematic botany class, I was terrible at keying out grasses. So I enlisted the help of the Oklahoma Native Plant Society members.

September is the perfect time of year for identifying grasses because most of them are either flowering or in seed. So I’ve photographed a sampling of them (the ones I can readily identify). I should mention that the ecoregion in which we reside is the crosstimbers, which is a mix of dense oak forest and tall grass prairie. When conditions are right some of the grass is very tall. The grass to the right is Big Bluestem and it’s about ten feet tall.

As I was walking around the pond, the sun emerged and caught this Bristlegrass in a blaze of glory.

Not quite in full bloom yet, the grass in the center is Bushy Bluestem.

I love this grass. It lines the roadsides in stately rows. This is Indian Grass.

This next grass is not native and can be invasive, so I particularly wanted to identify it. This is Johnson Grass, introduced from the Mediterranean. So far, I’ve only found it growing around the “basketball court” slab foundation. It’s most easily identified by the yellow vein running down the leaf (not readily apparent in this photo).

I think this is the most common native grass. It’s hard to tell for certain. This is Little Bluestem.

Another bluestem, this one is Splitbeard Bluestem. An appropriate, and easy to remember name once you see the plant in seed.

Purpletop, or Greasegrass, both good names. Purpletop for the obvious purple color, Greasegrass for the oily culm. If you run your fingers up the culm (flower stalk), you feel a slick oiliness and your fingers are left with an oily shine.

There are a number of grasses called Lovegrass (I don’t know why). This one is Red Lovegrass.

Another Lovegrass, either Plains or Sand (I need to look at the pattern of hair growing at the axis of the leaves; Ugh). There are a number of grasses that have this very airy, open structure that makes it look like smoke or fog when a mass of them are covered with dew. They’re also very difficult to photograph. A similar grass called Fall Witchgrass has the habit of breaking off the entire inflorescence, which then rolls across the plains like tumbleweed.