silverado and dingo trencher

Recently, toward the end of September, a friend emailed out to several people; he was looking for the use of a pickup truck. He needed to rent a trencher and he only has two small sedans; nothing that would be able to pull a 2,000 lb. trencher. Wanting to give the new Silverado a test run with towing something, and wanting to help out a friend, I spoke up, "You can use our truck, but it comes with a driver and a helper."

My friend and his family have lived quite a different life style for roughly the last decade. Outside Duluth, he and his family live on 40 acres. They have tried to live their lives in such a way that it would have a minimal impact on the environment and the earth. Composting-like toilets, raising their own chickens for eggs and meat, vegetable gardens, apple trees, etc. They have a well for water, a small propane tank to supplement heat in the winter and solar panels for electricity. They have been completely removed from the electric grid for roughly the last ten years. They have managed to adjust to this lifestyle, but, recently, it became apparent that they should either replace the solar setup with a newer, more modern one, or call an end to their grand experiment of living off the grid.

The house was never designed to be an off-the-grid house; the basement is damp and could use a dehumidifier, but that would consume too large of a portion of their electricity from the solar panels. It also does not have many attributes which would lend well to passive heating or cooling. As mentioned, the solar setup has grown old. The battery banks could use replacing; with nearly 20 batteries and a replacement cost of $200 each, it would be a significant investment. My friend decided to end his grand and noble experiment of off-the-grid living and get, gasp, grid power.

I took a half-day of vacation and at noon, I headed to the rental place to pickup the trencher. I must say, I was impressed with the new Silverado 2500HD (six liter, gasoline). Pulling the 2,000 lb. trencher was a cinch. Not to sound like a commercial, but with a built in transmission temperature monitor, it was comforting to know that going up all the hills I drove up to get to my friends house, the transmission temperature never went above 150 degrees F. In addition to the trencher, I also picked up the large spool of copper electrical wire.

off grid house

We unloaded the trencher and proceeded to scout out where the existing septic system was on the property (he has a septic system, but mainly uses a composting-like-toilet-setup), we also took note of where his phone line came into the property.

Starting at the location where Minnesota Power was going to pull the power to, we began trenching toward the house. The soil was awful; clay with many rocks and roots. We needed to trench down at least 24 inches, but cutting across his road, we could only go 12 inches as the soil was quite compacted. I tipped the machine once on a tree root and needed to pull it back over with the truck. On the other side of the road, it was slow going through the heavy clay and rock. The machine would frequently get bogged down and stall.

My friend decided that he would call in a professional with a larger trenching machine. We cleaned off the trencher loaded it back up and I headed back to the rental place.

I can only imagine the bittersweet feeling of having chipped away a little part towards the end goal of getting something you have lived without, on purpose, for over a decade.