There we were, with 23 lovely footings holes ready to fill up with concrete - and the driveway seeming just about ready for a big truck to come up it... thinking about ringing the concrete company - and then it rained. Oh well, a little bit of rain shouldn't matter too much. But it rained a good couple of inches. Oh well, a couple of inches in the holes shouldn't matter too much, we can just scoop it out and it will dry off in a few days. Then I went down and had a look at the holes after all that rain.
The holes were significantly full of water. Considering these holes were 60cm deep, that's a lot more than a couple of inches at the bottom! I had carefully arranged piles of soil around the uphill sides of the holes so that they would act as swales to redirect the water runoff. I am not sure exactly what went wrong, but it certainly didn't work the way I was hoping. Some of the holes were so full they were practically overflowing, yet other holes had only a tiny amount of water in the bottom. There was no visible reason for the random water distribution. There is a good chance that the water came from underground, in which case there is nothing we can do.
So I tell my partner the bad news, and we spend the entire day scooping out the water, and much worse - the clay slurry mixed with rocks. I started the day with a flimsy plastic scoop, but spent the rest of the time experimenting with small buckets, big buckets, and metal bowls to try and find the best tools for the job. There was also some intense mattocking action as I created little gullies so the water tipped out of the top holes didn't just run straight into the bottom holes.
I also had the genius idea to set up the 30m garden hose so that it was syphoning the water down the hill with pure gravity. First I tied some insect screening over the head of the hose with a rubber band to act as a filter, so that the hose didn't get blocked up with gunk and little rocks. Then I tied the hose head with a piece of string to the handle of a small bucket, and then put a rock into the bottom of the bucket.
Then I pushed the bucket down into the bottom of the hole of water. This way the hose head remained near the bottom of the hole, but not on top of the clay slurry at the bottom of the hole. This kept the water going into the hose relatively clean, though I still had to clean little rocks from off the filter every so often. There was a surprisingly strong suction current after the water got flowing! And when I sucked the water to the bottom of the hose with my mouth to start off the syphoning effect, the water actually tasted quite pleasant - not the mucky muddy mess I was expecting.
Then when the hole was almost empty of water, I made sure the bucket was full of water and the head of the hose was kept submerged - and quickly transferred the hose to the next hole full of water. I was very impressed with my handywork, and the way that I could empty out one hole by hand at the same time as another hole was emptying itself. It also came in handy for one of the holes which kept refilling itself full of water - I guess that is a good example of this underground water that comes from nowhere!
Now we have had another week of dry weather, so it could be about time to pour the concrete again - but of course heavy rain is forecast over the next few days. Before we risk the big concrete truck getting bogged in our driveway, we need to have a worst-case-scenario back-up plan of how we are going to get the concrete up the driveway. I will have a bit more of an attempt at redirecting water away from the holes when it rains, and may even try and cover some of the holes and see if that helps. But otherwise I think we are back to playing that waiting game we are used to. Hopefully after having so much practise we should be really good at it!