So here I am on day 10 and feeling less cranky about things not going the way I planned them, and also feeling a little pleased with myself about the progress I have made. I am in over 1.5 meters which is just up to my shoulder. The going has been both slower and faster than last time, which has pretty much evened out the score. The slower going is a direct result of my clever idea to make the hole bigger. This one will be 2 x 2 meters, while the hole in Hill End was 1.5 x 1.5. I thought this would increase it by a third, but on actually doing the math, it nearly doubles it. I have compensated by wetting the clay at the end of every day, letting it soak in through the night and this has allowed me to keep pace with my planned schedule. Still, I will not finish the hole this trip. After the original 3 days and an additional 11 days of this trip, I will still need to return to dig for another 5 days to get it to the depth that I intend it.
But I don’t want to talk about that. Rather, I wanted to talk about ingress and egress. Or for the layman, not familiar with the nomenclature of holes, I’m talking about how you get in and out of a hole. This is perhaps the most pressing issue facing the project as a permanent hole. How are people going to get in and out in a safe and commodious manner?
Fortunately, my first residency happened to coincide with the visit from a group of architects to The Living Classroom to consult on another project. Rick happened to mention my project and to my surprise, the architects were quite taken by it. They promptly dropped whatever they were officially working on and we embarked on an excited conversation about how to reinforce the hole so that the soil profile would still be visible, how to cover it and drain water from around it, and how you might effect safe and convenient egress and ingress for school children and pensioners alike. While I was a little flattered by the excitement that my humble hole seemed to illicit from the architects, it was also a little distressing as we discussed possible solutions to the last problem. We considered either a ramp or a staircase, but either of which would require an excavation either equal to or greater than the hole itself, and after considering access and oh&s, the price of building either was intimidating.
I was beginning to panic at the thought that the entrance to the hole would be a larger project than the hole itself, when a quiet voice from my left raised the following suggestion. “Why don’t you put in a gantry floor?” A what? A gantry floor is a platform floor that raises and lowers on a pully system, not unlike that which lifts a garage door. It’s completely manual, with the floor raised and lowered by means of a loop of chain. It’s slow moving, but absolutely doable. It’s wheelchair accessible! And the best bit of it is that when you are done, you bring the floor up to the top and it seals the hole so that neither water nor weather, kids nor cats can get into it.
Turns out that the voice to my left belonged to local artist Tony Gomez, to whom I am infinitely grateful. In one fell swoop, his idea solved every problem I faced, including the fact that it would cost a small fraction of all the other options on the table. Leave it to a goddamn artist to come up with a single elegant solution to an entire complex of problems.