Bring the Pane!

Propane, that is.

The warm dry weather hung around into October, so we shifted our focus to utility work. Our goal is to complete the outdoor plumbing for propane, electricity, and water before the ground turns into a mud pit.

We started with the propane. Initially we were going to buy a tank and bury it underground right next to the building. However we waited too long, and like everything else, tanks are now on back order until February. So, we went with Plan B and rented a tank, which is way more economical anyway ($150/year vs. $6000!). The only downside to renting a tank is that you cannot bury it. We didn’t want a 15 foot long beast to be the first thing we see every morning, so we relocated the tank out of sight, adding an additional 200 feet of plumbing. (The yellow lines below are for propane.)

This turned into a massive earth-moving project. The propane line runs along the east side of the building, an area that still needed to be graded for a patio, driveway, and drainage. We wanted to complete this work before digging the propane trench. We spent days re-shaping the hill into a more level surface, removing several feet of clay in the process. We dug down to almost a foot below final grade so we could backfill with rock. 

John got a taste of operating the loader before returning to Australia. Since it was so dry, I returned to my old job of water girl. The water was for both dust control and compaction.

Sam is helping John fill his bucket
This was the final result

We saved one last little task for John before he left. Two propane lines needed to go under our French drain right outside the building. (This was a slight oversight in our planning.) Sam asked John to help dig “mini notches” around the drains. After his shoulders were burning from shoveling, Sam admitted the “mini notches” were more of giant ditches.

Once they unearthed the bottom of the drain cloth, we gathered every extension bit we have and drilled a hole through the ground below. It worked! (This might make more sense later.)

Next, we chose a location for the patio, which will be a covered pavilion for grilling and dining. We marked the four corners of the patio.

This allowed us to complete the plumbing for electricity and water to the grilling area.

With these things in place, we could finally map out the propane lines. Propane will be plumbed directly to the grill outside, the brewing area in the shop, the boiler, and the range in the apartment. 

We decided to get a propane generator too, so we ran an another 250 feet of plumbing all the way to the generator on the opposite side of the building! We installed the generator first so it would be ready for hookup.

Then we got to trenching. Propane lines need to be buried at least 18 inches below grade, and they need a PVC housing if under a road.

Since our excavator bucket is almost 2 feet wide, we thought a trencher would be more appropriate for the job. We rented this fine Italian machine for the weekend.

It looks like a chainsaw that cuts through ground. You can change the depth of the saw. A rotating auger spits the dirt out to one side as you move along.

Our friend Steve visited for the weekend and ran the trencher. Sam and I were impressed with both Steve and the trencher’s performance. The trencher was even able to cut through our hard, rocky soil. 

Steve broke through some treacherous ground, but he did have to stop in a few spots to clear some basketball-sized rocks from its path.

Meanwhile, Sam used the excavator to tear up the ground in areas that were already a mess.

The trencher is nice because it creates such a narrow ditch. Can you notice the difference?

The cats enjoyed this activity too. They liked digging in the lose mounds of dirt. They apparently thought the narrow trench was a custom cut litter box and even helped backfill when they were done.

When we finished our preparations, the propane company come out to install the system.

The 1000 gallon tank was huge!

Their truck didn’t fit down our path, so Sam carried the tank into position with the excavator.

They got the tank nice and level on a few cinder blocks.

Then they rolled out 450 ft of yellow PVC. 

They put two regulators outside the building- one for brewing and one for everything in the apartment. The brewing area needed its own since it operates at a higher pressure.

Another line tees off to a regulator by the grill.

Lastly, the line goes all the way to the generator. Sam helped pull this line through the PVC pipe under the driveway.

It didn’t take long for them to hook up all the lines. They had nifty connectors that made it easy.

The propane company pressure tested their system before leaving. Buster approved, but Smokey was little skeptical.

We passed, and they returned to fill our tank! Now we have 1000 gallons of propane that we can’t use for anything yet.

One thought on “Bring the Pane!

  1. As always, I continue to marvel at your non-stop energy and ingenuity, and that of your friends. And of course, a hug to the kittys!


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