Saturday, April 5, 2008

Update: Road Construction

April, and warmer, dry weather has arrived. Although in the spirit of complete disclosure, I must add that the March winds have not yet figured out that is is time to "Go, already!"

And among other activities at the Los Pecos Homeschool, we have been watching as the pace of the Building of the New Road had increased.

Fans of John Deere, Komatsu, and Caterpiller, rejoice!

The trench along our road is now 3 feet deep, as two feet of dirt was laid atop the electrical and fiberoptic phone lines, and water pipes were laid atop of them.

N., in his ongoing conversations with the workers, set me straight on this issue. The giant mains laid last fall were for the fire hydrants only. A completely separate system will supply the houses. This is so that in the event of a wildfire or housefire, pressure to the houses will not be disturbed, nor will "household use interfere with fire fighting capability." Is it just me, or is N. beginning to sound like a young civil engineer?

Here we see three water lines bundled near the property lines to two lots. We are not sure what the third line is for. It could be for a lot that lies behind these two, and contacts the road around the bend. Or it could be something else. N. is happy to have another question to ask when "the guys" show up on Monday.

Familiar heavy equipment has been brought down from the fenced storage area up on the ridge by the water tank. Even as the water lines are being laid, rock is being moved, and the road is being flattened and prepared for the underbed materials, layers of rock and gravel that will be covered with asphalt.

N. gets a big kick out of our developer, who is from Canada, and pronounces it "ashphalt." N. is starting to enjoy and appreciate regional differences in idiom, usage, and pronounciation. This is one those great steps forward for an AS kid who is obsessed with rules.

We are all impressed with how 'gianormous'... (Yes, usage Yekkes, I am aware that this is not a "real" word--but I like it anyway). Ahem! ...but as I was saying, how gianormous these machines really are.

N. and my dear Engineering Geek both confess that the immensity of machines makes their hearts go pitter-patter shepping naches* at what human beings are capable of making.

shepping naches: Yiddish for rejoicing the accomplishment of another.

Together, they make a blessing: "Blessed are you, Eternal One, Creator of space-time, who has endowed the human being with knowledge, wisdom, and understanding." This is the same blessing I make when the airplane takes off. I mean, really, how safe can G-d make me if the engineers didn't do their calculations correctly?

Some interesting geology has been temporarily revealed in the trench-cuts. Geologists gravitate toward road cuts, railway cuts, and construction excavations like flies towards you-know-what.

Here you can see a weathered layer of sand and gravel that lies atop a much more consolidated clay layer, under which a gray caliche stripe runs. The caliche shows us an older ground surface, as caliche is formed from mineral rich water evaporating out of the soil surface under the intense New Mexico sun. It leaves behind calcium salts originally dissolved in the water, which forms a hard natural cement, the bane of gardeners across the southwest. The more poorly consolidated rock and gravel above the clay indicate local stream flooding in the near past, and above that the completely mixed top is due to the construction disturbance.

In this picture, there is the construction distubance on top, a pitted layer of surface clay mixed with sand and gravel, and below that a lens of poorly consolidated sand and gravel. That lens is an old stream bed, and the size and angularity of the exposed rocks indicates relatively recent arroyo-type flooding, probably due to summer monsoon flash-flooding. The geomorphology at the surface indicates that this is still an area of run-off, confirming what the rocks are telling us.

This spontaneous, informal Road Construction Unit has also been extremely useful for teaching N. a little bit of geological reasoning. He goes outside and makes his inferences, and then he checks them out by using my old college Introductory Geology text, The Earth's Dynamic Systems.

When he's not talking like a Civil Engineer, he sounds like this. "Hey, mom, would you say that old arroyo activity is Holocene? Or might it go back to the last pluvial? (Pluvial means the lake period associated with the Wisconsin Glaciation. That would be very latest Pleistocene). I think I can detect that those rocks saltated (rolled and jumped) due to the force of the water."

I refuse to speculate, and instead I haul out the Geological Map of New Mexico.

Who knew that (un)school could be this fun?


Melora said...

Cool stuff! Does this mean your snow is done?
We've had big machines across the street for a month or so now, working on reconfiguring the park & baseball field. They definitely Are impressive.
They aren't missing anything with the preparations to fully equipped new homes in your development,are they? Technology can be such fun! (And, speaking as someone whose house has 50-something year old wiring, modern wiring is a Very Good Thing!)

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Hi, Melora!

Actually, there is the possibility of snow and frost until around Mother's day. Last year, our last snow accumulation was on April 13, and our last flurries were in the first week of May. But the chance of a really hard freeze is diminishing with each passing day.

I once lived in a 60 year old duplex, and I totally agree. Modern wiring is definitely a Very Good Thing.

Jenn Casey said...

Ryan and I loved these pictures. He wants to go to New Mexico one day and be an archaeologist and study rocks on your mountain. (He told me to type this comment!)