Like any law-abiding and safety-minded homeowner, I called 811 when we bought the house as I was initially planning the layout for the garden. The utility companies came out and marked the lines where I needed to dig by hand only, but the vast portion of my yard was a fluorescent orange OK with a slew of utility flags stuck in it. So, I planned my garden.
After we cut down the oak trees, I revised and expanded the scope of my garden plans to include fruit trees. When I discovered backyard orchard culture, I had visions of mounds of fruit all summer long, of fig bars, of peach salsa, of applesauce—not quite of sugarplums and fairies, but magical enough for me. I spent hours researching which kinds of heritage trees I wanted before finally arriving at a list of 20 fruit trees.
This weekend was the weekend for a dirt party. The weather was nigh well sublime for late February: sunny and pleasantly warm. I had six yards of dirt on my driveway and more friends willing to help move it than I had expected! How glorious! We had filled the garden beds and started digging the holes for my mini orchard when we hit a sturdy yellow tape that said “Caution: Gas Line Below.”
So, I immediately stopped digging and called 811, an operator at which berated me for violating the law and informed me that I would be responsible for all damages and on and on and on. To someone who generally considers herself law-abiding and had worked in the judicial system, this was an affront indeed. (Besides, we hadn’t damaged anything, not even the sturdy caution tape!) Apparently, 811 has an expiration date, of which I was unaware. Though, I can also tell you from my court days that ignorance of the law is neither an excuse nor a defense. Still, I am 100% confident that no utility company flagged this area of my yard and that I would have noticed the gas company laying a line in my yard.
Now my mini orchard is on hold while I recall 811 and contact the gas company. I do not know, for example, if there is genuinely a gas line underneath this caution tape. It certainly was not flagged before. If there is a gas line, I do not know whether I can plant my fruit trees above it. I will be so disappointed if I have to cancel my order for my fruit trees.
The dirt-moving party was more success than failure, even with this rather sizable setback. The new garden beds are filled with dirt, and we plied everyone with wood-fired pizza and milk stout home brew. It was a wonderful evening to sit outside and chat with people who were kind enough to come help us move so many wheelbarrows filled with dirt. We even got to play our new favorite board game, Agricola.
I just hope that we’ll be able to have another dirt-moving party soon, to finish off preparing for our mini orchard!