Hard Work

Rocky hole5/26/13 - Every time I finish up one of those projects that involve strenuous tilting at windmills, I promise myself it's the last one while I nurse my sore muscles and spine with NSAIDs and chiropractic. Like the song observes, though, I "can't put down the shovel and can't dig out of the hole."

At left is one of two postholes I banged out to support a hitch rail. Tortured experience with hole-digging in New Mexico taught me these time-saving lessons:

  1. Don't waste time with a posthole digger and spade, to which the rocks do not yield.
  2. The best tools are a mattock, a rock bar, a trowel, and a 15 oz. canned tomato tin.
  3. Make the hole as wide as it is deep.
  4. Every hole defines its own depth, regardless of your requirements.

I wanted the holes to be 30" deep, as specified by the hitch rail design. Horses are strong and they could pull a rail set shallower rail right out of the ground. I hit bedrock at 24". Alrighty then. Twenty-four inches it is.

Three reasons exist for making the hole as wide as it is deep. The width makes it easier to remove the stupid rubble. If you make the hole wide enough, you can use a spade for rubble removal, making me a liar when I say a space doesn't work. What I mean is you can't START a hole with a spade. Takes a mattock for that. If you try to break up the rocks with a spade, you only end up with a damaged spade. Rock breaking requires a rock bar--but once you reduce the rock to rubble, a spade can help you lift it out, at least until the hole gets too deep. Then you turn to the tomato tin.

The second reason to make the hole as wide as deep is because you'll never be able to go as deep as you want to. You need the extra width to hold enough concrete to compensate for the lack of depth.

The third reason is because the welder who fabricates the hitch rail won't get the dimensions right. Additional posthole width provides compensatory ease.