Sunday, April 17, 2011

Digging post holes, building dreams

When we left suburbia almost three years ago, a surprising number of people said to us something like, "I'd love to move to a farm! I'd make apple pies, knit by the fire -- it'd be so relaxing!"

While rural living offers those moments, there's also the less "glamorous" side to farming. Take fencing. With an old farm comes old fencing and many of our fences posts are on their last legs. The cedar posts above ground are still solid, save for some donkey chew scars, but they're rotting out below ground level. To keep the fences standing, we've been jimmying the failing posts with t-bars, tree stumps and wooden stakes. Yep, we're that kind of farm.

After a few false starts and several trips to the mechanic for pins, lubricant and the correct attachments, our 1975 Massey Ferguson 135 tractor (aka Rollin) is now outfitted with some bling -- a post hole auger.

We've already tried digging post holes manually -- we did over two dozen -- and given our geological proximity to the Canadian Shield, it's unbelievably slow, tedious and back-breaking work. We considered hiring someone to do the digging for us but the average quote was $3/post, with a minimum number of 30 posts, plus a float fee to cover gas, travel costs, etc. We did the math and given the number of fences we need to fix or build, we decided to invest in an auger. Besides, digging posts for others might even make us a few off-farm bucks eventually.

Our first plan of action was to move the wobbly barnyard fence back about 15 feet as we needed to create a larger space behind our woodshed for storing, cutting and splitting logs. This was to be the weekend to start digging as the ground was finally soft enough. It was also the frozen ground that had been keeping many posts in place, so we'd have to dig sooner rather than later or risk losing the equines to another barnyard escape.

It seems Mother Nature had other plans.

Undeterred, we fitted ourselves with woollies, rain suits and got to work collecting logs from our stash in the barn (that is one of two for the barnyard gate)...

Digging holes... and sinking posts.

While it was fussy getting the tractor, and thus the auger, lined up properly, once it made contact, it cut through our rocky soil like a corkscrew cuts through cork. Despite the ugly weather, which alternated between fits of rain, snow and then hail, with each post dug we became, strangely enough, deliriously happy. Or maybe we were just delirious.

It was like each new post brought us another step closer to bringing this place back to a productive and vibrant farm.

By mid-afternoon, we'd finished digging and sinking posts along the new fenceline, but left the fencing to another day; Lucas wanted to collect more wood - a good idea given this week's forecast of subzero nighttime temperatures and our near empty woodshed.

I went inside to check on the kids, help them make a late lunch and we ended up baking some cookies. It may not be apple pie but we've got the best of both worlds, I'd say.


Tracey ~ Clover said...

Oh fence post...there are a lot in my future. I do like how you sink the holes and think I need the same thing for a John Deere.

Anonymous said...

I have auger envy. We are getting ready to string new fence and will be digging everyone of the holes by hand, with the exception of the t-posts which we will pound in with the use of a sledge hammer. My aching back! Farming isn't quite as relaxing as people think, huh?

Anonymous said...

There is something about working outside in inclement weather that brings out The Giggles. It may be hypothermia, come to think of it! Congrats on your progress! said...

@ Tracey -- we've got many more posts in our future, too. I think we did about 12 this weekend -- only 300 or so more to go! And that's just for this year, lol!

@ Ruth -- it was a huge decision to get the auger but oh my, it has made putting up the fences SO much easier. Before we were merely fixing fences that were already there, but now we're looking at reconfiguring where the posts are and simply (ha!) re-purposing the fencing. So exciting!

@ Laura - love your comment! Yes, we were quite giggling both at how lovely the auger worked but also how ridiculous it was that we were out in a hailstorm!

mtnchild said...

Love your auger!!!! I have a short 200 ft. section of fence and we put in T posts with a "post hole persuader". The fence is only straight between the posts as they zig zag between rocks and trees ... LOL.

Many happy post holes to you ...

Erin said...

Your description of falling down posts could have easily been mine LOL! Someone before us sunk the timbers in but didn't set them in concrete... in HURRICANE alley LOL. Needless to say we've been limping them along for so long I don't know any other way :)

David said...

Looks great! Love the his 'n' hers rain suits!!
Be careful though, fencing is addictive! I started one 600' fence and am up to 2100' with another 1800' planned this spring.

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