In Eastern Iowa, farmland is everywhere. This time of year, a Saturday drive will wind you past golden fields of soybeans, dried-out corn stalks ready for the combine, and even empty stretches where the farmer has already reaped his crop.
Recently, the cool fall days have given way to autumn rain and thunderstorms, leaving fields tacky and waterways full of runoff precipitation. For one of our farm clients this season, frequent rainstorms were leaving a section of his ground constantly muddy and eroding the ground.
Ready for a long-term solution to these troubles, our farm friend gave our crew at Gravel Grading and Excavating a call.
What are Gabion Baskets?
After looking at the property and assessing possible options, our crew determined that a gabion basket would be best for this farmer.
A gabion basket is a cage, cylinder, or box filled with rocks, concrete or sometimes sand and soil. Gabions are used in many situations including the stabilization of earth movement and erosion, river control, reservoirs, canal refurbishment, landscaping, and retaining walls.
For our purposes, we utilize this design along farm ground to help slow down and direct water runoff to appropriate basins and streams.
Installation: Phase 1
In the shop, we start by putting together wire baskets. These baskets will hold 6-9" rocks on the steep grade that kept getting eroded along our farmer's property. Once in place, the gabion baskets will hold the rock and act as a dam, slowing the water while also holding the soil in place and preventing dirt erosion.
Installation: Phase 2
After the baskets were put together, we could head out to the site and begin shaping the existing slope into a proper grade. Using our LinkBelt excavator, our crew took this ditch that formed after years of heavy-rain events and laid back the edges to create a foundation.
Installation: Phase 3
The next phase of our gabion basket installation at Gravel Grading and Excavating is laying out fabric on the exposed soil. This acts as another barrier and an erosion prevention measure.
On top of the fabric, we laid our wire baskets one section at a time. As we laid them out, our crew ring them together to reinforce the strength of the entire gabion system.
After the baskets were ringed together, we brought in the excavator to fill them with 6-9" rip-rap rock.
Once full, the individual baskets could be closed and ringed shut, and the next section of tarp and baskets could be installed.
As you see in the photos, this process happens one step at a time from the bottom of the slope up to field level.
Installation: Phase 4
Once the baskets were filled, excavator operator Brian Noonan installed rip rap around the basket, reinforcing the adjacent hillside for further erosion protection.
Once the rip-rap was installed, the gabion basket worked as it was designed: water from the field would slope into the basket and accumulate in the basin, as illustrated in the photos below.
The baskets and rip-rap would also ensure that the hillside would not erode any further, and the property owner's farm ground was protected.
How can we move the earth for you?
A big thanks goes out to our client and crew for making this project successful. We love seeing our plans come together and create a solution that will work for decades to come.
If we can move the earth for you, contact us at 563-542-6610 or email@example.com.
In 2018, our local medical clinic in Cascade contacted us with a problem. Their current parking lot couldn't handle the volume of clients and vehicles it was constructed for when they opened their doors in the late 90s, and their location atop a hill overlooking town lead to water runoff problems for neighboring properties. They knew it was time to make a change, and they knew our crew at Gravel Grading and Excavating was just the team to move the earth for them.
Our first step was to tear out the existing lot and regrade it at an appropriate slope so water would drain into storm sewers rather than neighboring properties.
Some of our favorite equipment to use in jobs like this is our laser grading equipment. Laser grading is a process by which a level or specified slope is attained by using laser attachments and tools. These attachments can easily be installed on a variety of our equipment from skid loaders to bulldozers to help us electronically check the grade as we work, making us more efficient and accurate in our job.
While we had the ground exposed, we also worked to curb the new lot and tie in existing sewer lines to the city's storm sewers. Once the initial ground work was completed, our friends at Kluesner Construction came in to pour the concrete and asphalt to give the lot a smooth, even finish.
At Medical Associates Cascade, the finished project is even better than expected. Patients no longer have to park in "no parking" zones for their appointments, and water drains to its designated location.
Sherry Kelchen, ARNP at the Cascade clinic said, "The crew at Gravel's was very quick and clean. They did their best to accommodate our staff and patients while they were working" and she was quite pleased with the outcome of the job.
Our thanks go out to the Medical Associates Clinic staff and their patients for choosing us to move the earth for them in this project and our friends at Kluesner for hopping on board to help us complete the project.
If we can help you on your next parking lot build or improvement, get in touch with our crew! Contact Terry at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 563-542-6610 to discuss your job at get on the remaining 2019 schedule.
In the midwest, crop land is one of the most valuable commodities available.
Agriculture and food production is the leading economic industry in Iowa, and Iowa leads the country in producing pork, soybeans, corn, and eggs. But to make a living in this industry, having land is key.
In the past 50 years, Iowa land values have skyrocketed. To purchase one acre of crop land in 1970, a farmer would pay $197. In 2000, that same acre would cost $1050, and by 2017, the USDA reports that Iowa averages were over $8000 per acre. Therefore owning and maintaining land in our state has become even more important to farmers dependent on the soil for their livelihood.
In 2018, our crew at Gravel Grading & Excavating was contacted by an Eastern Iowa farmer in a desperate fight with Mother Nature to retain the crop ground he and his family owned. Over the past two decades they had lost acres and acres of farm ground due to erosion from the stream running along his property line. Each year, the stream carried away the soil, cutting away his cropland and thereby cutting away at his farm's income. Flood years were especially damaging, and aerial photos from 2000 to 2017 showed just how drastically his property line had shifted.
Our crew at Gravel's was ready to help this farmer stabilize his streambank and reinforce the soil for years to come. Our first step was to engineer a solution with the Iowa Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Army Corps of Engineers. It was essential to have their cooperation and experience, so that we could design a new bank strong enough to last decades into the future to preserve the topsoil and retain water quality standards.
Once we had their approval, the earth moving could begin. Our first step was to dig back the dirt so we could get to a 2 to 1 slope. This degree of slope would allow us to slow down water runoff from the farm ground above the bank, and when combined with cement and stone rip rap, the new design would be strong enough to resist the strength of even rushing stream waters.
After cutting back the bank, we could then start backfilling to reach our desired 2-to-1 slope. We laid down 2 feet of Class B rip-rap weighing up to 650 lbs per piece, sure to hold this new stream bank in place. The rip-rap was then covered by a 9" layer of dirt so we could seed and lay straw mat to promote grass regrowth to further hold the soil in place and add to the natural aesthetic of the landscape.
We are happy to report that his 2019 crop is in and looking great this summer.
Thank you to our local farmer for calling our crew at Gravel Grading and Excavating to move the earth for him in this stream bank stabilization project. Our thanks also go out to the NRCS and the Army Corps of Engineers for their help in designing a plan that will help hold our farmer's ground in place for decades to come.
How can we move the earth for you?
Contact Terry at 563-542-6610 to discuss your next project and get on our schedule for 2019!
In the summer months when the weather is warm and the dirt is compact, our Gravel Grading & Exacavating crew members are able to work on projects that are unaccessible during the rainy spring season. Jobs such as stream bank stabilization and waterway shaping are reserved for this time of year, so we don’t tear up the earth or get ourselves stuck in the mud.
In projects such as these, one of the materials we rely on to “support” our efforts is rip-rap.
What is rip rap?
Rip-rap is large boulders and concrete pieces that are placed along waterways, bridge foundations, and steep embankments to protect the underlying dirt from erosion and scour.
We frequently use this option because it is a natural-looking treatment that not only protects the earth, but it can be used for many different purposes by using various sizes and volumes of this material:
4-5” Rip Rap
The 4-5” size is the smallest type of stone available. This size is ideal for preventing soil erosion on small slopes and along drainage ditches that aren’t constantly exposed to moving water. This size is also utilized in weed prevention measures along steep embankments and sometimes as base material in driveways and parking lots.
6-9” Rip Rap
This size rip rap is the most commonly used size. These stones are perfect for erosion control and bank stabilization measures for streams, rivers, ponds, and other smaller bodies of water.
These pieces are ideal for shorelines with extremely heavy currents and breaking waters or in large holes and ditches. The large mass of these boulders can reinforce even the steepest grades and erosion-prone areas.
Where do we use it?
Rip rap is used where a structure or shoreline is continuously exposed to rushing water, such as along creeks that commonly experience flash flooding, along pond shorelines, and in field drainage areas that have steep grades. Over time the dirt in these structures is worn down and lost, which can dramatically change the lay of the land surrounding it. Our crew uses these stones to support the best measures and protect the property owners’ land.
Check out some of our other “What’s New” blog entries to check out the projects we’ve done that utilize rip rap, such as gabion baskets and stream bank stabilizations.
As you are cleaning up around your property this spring you may notice some unsightly problems that creeped up during the winter months. From hillside wash-outs to weeds and shrubs that seem to have grown 10 feet in 3 months, property owners around Eastern Iowa are starting to assess their properties and make plans for outdoor improvements in the spring and summer months.
At this time in 2018, the same process was happening on a residential property high atop a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River town of Bellevue, Iowa. While the homeowners were pleased with their home, they found themselves unable to fully enjoy their outdoor spaces due to the steep hillsides and overgrown timber areas. Their beautiful view was partially obstructed by trees, and they knew this was the time to take action so they called in our friends at Conlon Construction to head up the project, and the guys at Conlon knew that Terry and the crew at Gravel Grading and Excavating were just the people to help out on this large-scale job.
When we were first called in, we immediately noticed the potential of the property. The idea was to regrade the driveway, sidewalks, and walking paths surrounding the home to fade the slope and improve water runoff, grub out small brush and cut back tree branches around the property, fade the hillsides and bluffs to make the terrain more easily traversable, and build out new patio areas for the homeowners to enjoy their newly-improved outdoor spaces.
On our first day on the job, we brought several pieces of small equipment such as our Bobcat Skidsteer and Mini Excavator. Working in such steep grades like these, we knew the smaller equipment would better handle these conditions. As we worked on improving the fall of the walkways and drives, we made sure to fade the terrain of the main yard back into the surround bluff, so there would be usable space for the family.
Our crew worked on this project in several stages, first cleaning out the shrubs and trees that dotted the yared and roughing in where the walkways and driveways would go. We then returned a few weeks later to assess the progress, shape up the property for retaining walls , and fill around the new patios and decking that were going in. At the end of the project, we then came in to finish grade the land and prepare it for seeding.
"This project was a lot of fun to work on," says Gravel crew member Brad Gravel. "We got to take this beautiful but overgrown home and yard, and make it a useable space for the family again."
Says Terry Gravel, owner of Gravel Grading and Excavating, "We are really thankful for the guys at Conlon for calling us in to help on this job. They are a great crew to partner with, and we think the finished product speaks for itself."
The end result of this process is not only a beautiful new yard for this Bellevue, Iowa, family, but also a space that is useable year-round.
Improving the grade around the edges of the property ensures the topsoil is secure and stays in place, providing better opportunity for lawn growth and maintenance. Grubbing out shrubs and trimming back trees improves the view of the mighty Mississippi and adding features like walkways to the home allow it to function better for the family.
Thank you to the team at Conlon Construction Company for allowing us to partner on this job, and thank you to the family in Bellevue for allowing us to move the earth for you!
Winter can be slow for seasonal businesses like ours. When the frost sets in the ground and our equipment has a tough time breaking the surface, you may think we pack up our machinery and head indoors to hibernate for those cold months.
In fact, we find winter to be one of our busier times of the year, as we not only perform routine maintenance on our tractors, skidsteers, dozers, and excavators, but some of our services can still take place during the winter season.
Want to know what keeps us busy in the wintertime?
During this “slow” season our first order of business is to assess the wear and tear on our equipment. We perform routine cleaning and waxing to protect the exterior surfaces of the machinery, but in some cases, like with our bulldozer, we tear off all the pans to blow out built-up dirt and sand to keep the internal parts running in top shape. This preventative maintenance allows us to remedy any problems we come across while we are in a slower work time, keeping us from breaking down during high-demand months in spring and summer.
Each year we also perform large-scale rehabilitation on our older models. If you’ve followed our social media pages or our "What's New?" blog for some time, you’ve seen last winter’s John Deere tractor cab renovation. Jobs like this are common in the winter months when we have time to tackle larger-scale jobs that will span several days.
Winter weather can be hard on below-ground piping due to the repeated freezing and thawing of the earth. These cycles can cause dirt and sediment to shift and cause cracks and breaks in water and sewer lines. Repairing these lines for residential and commercial property owners is one of our most important off-season jobs, so these small inconveniences don’t turn into major problems. When situations such as these arise, our crew can come in with our small equipment to trench small swaths through the property and replace small sections of the piping to get systems back to functioning condition as quickly as possible.
Stream Bank Stabilization
In the winter months when the ground is firm and frozen, many of our services grind to a halt, but we can still perform some of our soil erosion prevention services, such as stream bank stabilization. In these jobs, we work to push back the banks along water ways like rivers and streams to stabilize the surrounding property and reduce topsoil loss. Our crew cuts back the bank to an optimal water flow grade and reinforces the new grade with large rocks and blocks of concrete. We also seed the ground to support plant growth and root systems to hold the dirt in place.
Snow Removal and Salt Spreading
One of our busiest wintertime projects is clearing sidewalks, driveways, and roadways for our loyal customers. When the snow and ice flies, we move in to keep you and your loved ones safe by removing snow and spreading salt, lime, and ice melt.
Wintertime work keeps us busy from December through March, and though the winter months can be long, we're excited to welcome the long days of summertime very soon.
To many it may seem that a tractor is a tractor is a tractor, but to those of us who use these machines every day, we know that when you find a reliable tractor, it becomes an indispensable part of your crew.
Such was the case with our John Deere 4755 at the beginning of 2018. Though this trusty tractor had been a regular part of our crew for the past two decades, wear and tear were apparent, especially in the cab. Because of its heavy use in our fleet and our constant moving in and out of it, everything from the floor mats to the seats to the protective fabric coverings on the panels and around the steering wheel were falling apart. While the mechanicals of the machine were functioning well, the interior left a lot to be desired, so we took it on as one of our wintertime projects during the last off season.
To start with our cab renovation, we needed to find a supplier who could give us the replacement parts in the exact specs we needed and available at a reasonable time and price. Thankfully, we found the great folks at Fehr Cab Interiors to help us out. They walked us through the process, ensuring that all parts were accounted for in the first order.
Once the products were in-hand, the fun could begin: demolition.
Removing the worn interior pieces went relatively quick, but once those were discarded, cleaning up what was left behind was what took the longest. Our guys put in a lot of man hours and elbow grease scraping away at old glue and extracting years of dirt that had settled into the crevices along the floorboards and between the levers. Though it took awhile to detail, the project was a worthwhile task: "It was pretty satisfying to see the Deere go from tired-looking to just like new," says crew member Brad Gravel, "I spent a lot of time in that cab through the years, and I wanted to take care of it so we can keep it awhile longer. In the end, I was really proud of what we achieved."
Once the cab was cleaned and prepped, installation of Fehr's replacement parts could begin. Each side panel was replaced, and the quality and fit was perfect the first time out: "Fehr Cab Interiors provided us with great products, and we know this interior remodel will help us keep this tractor running for years as part of the Gravel Grading and Excavating fleet," says owner Terry Gravel.
Winter projects such as our John Deere 4755 renovation are essential for keeping our crew moving during the busy season from April to December. Performing routine, preventative maintenance helps us move the earth for our clients and customers in a timely manner and at the degree of excellence that we pride ourselves on.
If we can move the Earth for you in 2019, contact Terry at 563-542-6610.
Each year there’s an area of your field that just doesn’t produce. Rather than a full, mature crop, you get stunted, yellow plants due to too much moisture. Season after season you worry about driving heavy equipment through this section of your property, afraid of burying it in the mud that is sure to be there.
So what are your options? How can you ease this stress and prevent water retention in your field's topsoil?
The solution is simple: drainage tile (often referred to as ag tile).
Ag tile is a type of drainage system that removes excess water from soil. Soil with poor natural drainage can be a nuisance and prevent root development for crops. To combat these water issues, plastic tubing lines (or “tile lines”) many farmers install a network of below-ground pipes that allow the water to move out from between soil particles and into the line. Water enters the tile through small perforations and holes in the plastic tubing and then flows away through tile lines where it is deposited into surface water points—ditches, detention ponds, creeks, and streams—located at a lower elevation than the source.
When considering whether drainage tile is right for your situation, there are many factors to consider including future crops that will be planted in the area and their water needs, the current topography and natural drainage of your field, and the type of soil in the field. Sandier soil contents will require little drainage tile, as the soil cannot retain moisture, while soils with high clay content will need more tile lines placed closer together, as this soil holds water tighter.
Before installation, it is also advised that you check with your local agencies to ensure your plans are in line with county, state, and federal code. Some drainage activities require permits, while others are simply reviewed and either approved or denied.
While tiling can seem like a significant undertaking, there are several benefits for Eastern Iowa farmers including improved crop quality and production, reduced soil evaporation, well-aerated root systems, enhanced productivity, and prevention of harmful salt buildup.
If tiling is something you need in spring 2019, contact the crew at Gravel Grading and Excavating to get on our schedule. We are happy to move the earth for all our local farmers and help you achieve optimal yields for your crops!
In Eastern Iowa, one of our best natural resources is the scenic beauty of the landscape. And as part of the excavating industry, we take pride in working with our customers to develop their land into the properties of their dreams.
Many of our rural property owners enjoy the privacy an acreage outside the city limits offers, but they also appreciate the opportunity that a piece of land can present. From creeks and streams to crops to livestock, rural property has potential to be built up or scaled back to the owner's needs.
One of our favorite projects to be involved with is the constructing of ponds for our rural clients. These water features not only beautify the natural surroundings, but offer recreation for families, a water source for livestock, and habitat for wildlife.
If you're thinking of adding a pond to your rural property, here are a few things you may want to consider:
1. Identify the source: how will your pond be filled? There are typically many options for this, but to keep your pond full, you may need a combination of any of these: surface runoff, groundwater (aquifer), springs, streams, and wells. Iowa DNR recommends 10-20 acres of watershed to maintain each surface acre of water. Depending on the desired size of your pond, local governance, and environmental impacts, you will need to assess which option is best for your and your property.
2. Assess your soil: Various soil types hold water differently. For optimal water retention, your pond will need a minimum 20 percent clay content. To assess your soil, several site samples may need to be taken to determine whether your desired location would need additional soil added.
3. Research permits and approvals: depending on your property's proximity to surrounding towns or public waterways, your building project may need prior approval from your local government before construction can get underway. As the property owner, you will need to select and contractor and work with him/her to learn about your location's unique codes and guidelines to ensure proper permits are secured.
4. Plan for wildlife: determine before the construction if you want your pond to be stocked with certain fish or which types of grasses and plants to install around your new pond. Incorporating these features will not only add to the aesthetic of your pond, but will also contribute to the recreational usage as well as continued health and aeration of the water supply.
5. Work with an experienced contractor: pond construction is a large project to undertake, one that you need to trust to an experienced professional. Depending on the size and purpose for your pond, you may need to call in a hydrological engineer and/or grading/excavating contractor to ensure proper protocols are followed.
If you're ready to take the next step in your pond construction project, call Gravel Grading & Excavating in Cascade, Iowa. With years of experience in building water features for our clients and working in the Eastern Iowa surroundings, we've got the knowledge and the portfolio to give you what you want. See below for photos of some of our pond construction jobs and links for more information from some of our friends in the industry:
Purchasing or building a new home is one of the biggest investments you’ll make in your lifetime. So each and every decision you make from the building to the maintenance phases of your home’s lifespan is important.
In 2017, Gravel Grading & Excavating had the opportunity to help a local couple in the building of their new home in a Cascade, Iowa, subdivision. From the planning of the foundation to the final grading & seeding of the lawn, we helped walk the couple through their new construction and build the home of their dreams.
Preparing and setting the foundation of your home is a critical step in the building process. Before the first shovel of dirt was even moved, we carefully went through the house plans with the homeowners and their builders and discussed the exact layout and placement of the home on their lot. In addition, we made sure that underground utilities and lines were located and clearly identified for the safety of everyone on the job. Once those steps were accomplished, we were able to get in and mark out the area with paint and yard flags to guide our equipment for excavation. Our talented crew then brought in the heavy equipment and began excavating and relocating the dirt and topsoil, making sure to preserve as much as possible for the final yard grading at the end of construction.
In this particular project, as we began excavating, we came upon an unexpected development - limestone. A few feet below the surface and unidentifiable before excavation, was a large limestone deposit. In order to continue the home’s construction and get the footings and foundation deep enough for the plans, we had to bring in jackhammer attachments to break apart the rock so it could be removed from the site. Though this discovery set the construction process back by a few days, with the expertise of our crew and the dependability of our equipment, we were able to address the situation and resume excavation.
Once we had the initial hole dug, we brought in laser grading equipment to ensure that it was formed to the exact specifications of the blueprints in order for the next contractors to come in to frame and pour the concrete walls and floors.
Underground Lines and Systems Installation
As the construction continued, our crew was called back in to help install exterior water and sewer line connections. As this residence was within city limits, our job was to connect the home’s systems to the main lines at the curb.
As we did with the digging of the foundation, we needed to make sure all existing underground utilities were clearly marked for the safety of our crew. We could then assess the lot and plan exactly where these essential systems should be installed. With each job like this, our crew’s goal is to find the best location for these water and sewer lines so they both perform at optimal quality for the homeowners and in accordance with city and state code. Once the plan was in place, the guys of Gravel Grading & Excavating were then able to bring in our trenching equipment and create runs in the lot where the pipes would be fitted and ultimately connected them into the main valves along the street.
When installing or replacing lines such as these, it helps to have the assistance of an experienced crew. From knowledge of local codes to experience in proper procedures, our crew was able to quickly get our homeowners access to these critical systems.
Downspout Trenching & Installation
Near the completion of the home’s exterior, our crew returned to the job site, this time tasked with connecting the home’s downspouts to an underground system of perforated drainage pipes.
When water from a home’s roof runs off into the gutters and to the downspout, it can greatly amass force and have enough momentum to dislodge dirt, mulch, and anything that it encounters when it reaches ground level. In the case of these homeowners, they wanted to prevent as much erosion as possible, and so decided to trench in their downspouts. This plan brings the spouts into subsurface levels where they connect with drainage pipe. The underground pipe then routes the water to an area that has been designed for high-capacity water retention and controlled water absorption.
This step, while not essential, greatly helps with protecting your lawn as well as your home’s foundation, preventing water pooling and leakage in the basement or foundation that can occur in heavy precipitation events.
Finish Grading/Yard Prep
The final phase of this project was straightening up around the construction site and preparing the yard for the future lawn. Our crew came in with John Deere dozers to get the larger dirt piles spread out and backfill trenches and holes. We then brought in our Bobcat skidsteers with a rake attachment to level out the grades and aerate the topsoil. This aeration and stirring up of the soil helps grass seed root further into the ground and improve the success of the lawn.
When undertaking a large-scale building project such as a new home construction, there are lots of people you can work with, crews you can hire, and decisions you can make. But the underlying goal is to create a structure that is built on a solid foundation and can withstand the elements for years to come. Our crew at Gravel Grading & Excavating was proud to help this young couple build the home of their dreams, and we thank them for trusting us to help provide that foundation for their family to grow into.
If you’re thinking about a new home build, contact our crew at Gravel Grading & Excavating. We’ve got years of education and experience in moving the earth for our customers, and we’d be honored to be part of your residential construction process.
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