We don’t own a tractor with an auger or any type of powered digger so I will have to do this digging the old fashioned way. Our NC soil tends to be high in clay content which can be difficult to grow anything and can pack tightly when it hasn’t received any moisture in a while. It hardly rained over the past couple of months so I was not looking forward to this battle. Also most of that area of my yard is covered in ivy.
Ivy is pretty but as you know ivy’s root system is dense and vast making digging under it not fun.
Fortunately the day I began my digging it has rained heavily the night before and the ground is slightly loosened. My Father, Tom, has agreed to help me with parts of this project and he shows up with his post hole digger. I believe this is the exact same one he trained my on when I was a teenager and had endless endurance. I remembered this wasn’t easy work then and bet being 20+ years older isn’t going to help my cause here!
My plan is to sink a post in the ground between 2-3 feet deep so it can support a roof and to place them 8 feet apart. That makes 6 holes that need dug. As I begin I start running into roots. The small ones break pretty quickly but more and more roots appear the deeper I go and the obvious occurs to me. I picked this spot for its shade and protection from wind that these large trees offer, but large trees have large roots! I start to run into roots the same size as the tree’s branches. These big roots won’t break with my post hole digger, my bar, or a pointed shovel.
My digging is brought to a stop by these roots, so I try a small saw but quickly loose patience with the limited movement the hole offers. The above picture shows a shallow root but some of the ones I encountered were closer to two feet down in the ground. Rather than to continue to struggle and eventually give into temptation to start yelling mean words at these roots I decide to go to my Dad’s electric chain saw. As saw dust starts flying off the blade so does clay. I remember learning to cut downed trees with a chainsaw and my Father warning me about hitting the ground which will dull the blade. As I am cutting these roots and hitting dirt and rocks my patient Dad looks on with concern for his chainsaw. I here him say, “Son, you can keep that chainsaw when you are done with this project.” I am willing to bet he finished his sentence silently “…if you haven’t ruined it already!” After a lot of sweat, dirt and frustration get my holes dug about 30 inches deep.
Once I have my 6 holes I move to the next step of putting my 4 x 4 posts into them. To make sure the posts are firmly in the ground requires that I put something around them that will give them more support than they clay I had just dug out. In the past when putting other posts in the ground I used concrete. I remember reading that pouring concrete can create a cup of sorts around your post which holds in moisture. The theory is that this will speed up the process of your posts rotting.
So I went with another recommendation I found on my research and chose to put loose gravel around the posts. The gravel is supposed to let rain water and moisture run away from the part of the post that is sunk into the ground.
Back to putting these posts in the ground correctly. We have two objectives here. First the posts need to straight or perpendicular from the ground. Using the level helped with this. The bubble became “King” as Tom held the level on the post and I filled in the hole with gravel. We probably looked at that silly bubble 1o times for each post to make sure it stayed in the middle. Long live the bubble!
Our second objective was to keep each post straight and parallel with the other posts.
If I can’t get them to make parallel to each other and right angles at the corners I’m going to have a hard time putting on the framing and roof later.
This wasn’t as easy I had thought it was going to be. Mostly because I chose not to level the ground we were going to be build on. Since I wasn’t planning to put up walls around this chicken run I want rain water to be able to run through it. So I left the natural sloop this part of my yard already had. The difficult part is that the slope of the ground played tricks on your eyes when we stepped back and looked at the post’s for height comparison. Fortunately we have the experience and wisdom of my father here and he keeps everything straight with the use of string.
Now for the next step we dig a trench between the posts to help make the foundation critter proof. Check back for part 4 in a few days and thank you for taking a moment to ready our story!