Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Digging iron joys

I'm trying to believe that I have dug my last serious hole into the so-called soil and shale of my Fulks Run, VA property. I had thought that I was done after finishing the holes for the "corral" posts around the forsythia bushes (where the brown thrashers live and the deer threaten their habitat) but then I was inspired by the bats at Alpena, West Virginia. The folks who run the place have a wonderful bat box raised high above the berm of their pond dam. Friend John, on an evening walk observed about 150 bats exiting this box. Well, I had to have one of those! So I built the box and then I had to construct the pole (I wasn't going to go out and buy stuff), so things got a little complicated. It ended up being a marvelous example of a Hoffackered thingy mortised and tenoned out of three pieces of wood (one of which was a good portion of a red cedar tree). But the good news was (and unlike the rest of the story) will stay good news; was that it had rained almost an inch and a half during the night prior to my digging my last hole.

So the good news was that the first four inches were damp. The bad news was that the moisture stopped there. The good news was that I thought that I should put that substantial 6x6 post at least 30 inches deep into the ground; the bad news was that I immediately hit hard blue shale (I had thought that I'd be digging through the "unconsolidated" material of the berm soil packed in back in 1983...). The good news was that I no longer had to go 30 inches deep; 24 would be plenty.... The bad news was that in order to chip through each one inch of hard blue shale you have to thrust down forcefully about thirty times with the digging iron (producing sparks and acrid smelling dust and smoke) - and then (depending on how deep your are) either reach down into the hole with your hand or use the post hole digger about 25 times (a tool that retrieves about 10% of whatever it may be that you're hoping to remove from the hole [especially if you're dealing with loose dirt and rocks], all in diminishing returns down to 1% when you then revert to the hand method - [if you're smart]). The good news was that the bat house pole would be really really well set. The next good news was that I pierced through that layer and hit the original slope "soil". The bad news was that this material (having been scraped down to the subsoil and repeatedly mashed by the bulldozer) was very nearly as impenetrable as the compacted "soil" and blue shale (did I mention that this material had been excavated from the stream bottom where it had been deposited by massive floods in the 1930"s?). Anyway, more bad news was that I wasn't done yet and that I had to go a little deeper in order to determine what would be the best lower layer to secure the base of the pole...

Well, the good news was that I again hit good ole hard blue shale. The bad news was that I then had to chip a square 7X7 inch hole into this layer to hold the bottom of the pole. The good news is that at 32 inches down, the "chipping" of hard blue shale into a precise pocket is a joy for the ages. Then the sun came out and I quit. I came up here and drank an ice cold beer, took a shower and wrote this piece of crap.

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