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    …and lessons learned.

    I’ve spent the last several weeks here on the farm gearing up – Springtime is our high season. The things that were damaged over the winter need to be repaired, projects started and upgrades began.

    The “big project” this Spring is the expansion of our little orchard. I had purchased another 8 fruit and nut trees to expand our little orchard. Almonds, walnuts, apples, plums.. The ground the orchard is located on is good ground – not the best, but still good – and we dug the first two holes with pioneer tools.

    Now, I’m no stranger to hard work, especially laboring with pick, shovel and mattox (think “digging foxholes and other defensive works”). After digging two holes (3 feet across, 3 feet deep), mixing the soil with potting soil and other things, like lime and pearlite, we finally got two trees in the ground. And I learned something – I learned that I’m not 20 anymore and that heavy pick and shovel work takes its toll on an older body. The spirit is willing, but sometimes the body is not. Still, there is power there and I found that, even though I paid for it the next day, I can still swing a mattox like John Henry and dig one helluva hole.. :) …at least for a little while.

    So, I bought a post hole digger and a ground auger. This is basically a big drill for making holes in the ground, designed by some sadist. The directions for installation were relatively clear, but the customer comments (“it took me only 30 minutes to install!”) were misleading. I don’t know if 30-minute-guy had a team of experts helping him, but it took me an afternoon to install by myself. And where the installation instructions were clear, the operating instructions were not… which we will find out about later.

    So, it’s attached to the tractor and after some time figuring out how the drive shaft attached, lubing everything, etc, off we went to drill our first hole.

    Fired up the tractor, engaged the PTO and dropped the auger. The drill promptly screwed itself into the ground in 15 seconds and stayed there. Nothing I did could break it free. The tractor was the most powerful piece of equipment I owned and, short of renting an actual crane and pulling the auger free, I was looking at being the new owner of a nice piece of lawn art. After contemplating what kind of flowers I would use to turn my tractor into a giant planter, I hit on the idea of fetching the floor jack from the garage and a big hunk of white oak. Floor jack under the arm of the digger, put the piece of oak in place (since the arm was at roughly chest height and the floor jack was on the ground..) and one, two, three! The auger came out of the ground like a giant, dirt-clod encrusted champagne cork.

    Man! If I could figure out how to work this thing, we’re in business! What a hole!

    Round 2: Again, I engaged everything and, once again, the auger screwed itself into the ground like a giant corkscrew. Once again, we dragged the floor jack into place and leveraged the auger free… there’s gotta be an easier way..

    Round 3: Finally figured out that if you bounce the auger up and down – not the most efficient way to operate it, but – we found out that the auger wouldn’t get stuck. That’s the upside. The downside is that the drill has a tendency to fling dirt in all directions, which means if you want things neat, you’re going to have a problem involving a rake…

    Still, we figured it out and, over the course of the next hour or so, drilled the remaining holes for the orchard and even found time to drill a hole for a nice red maple that will be a great shield from the wind when it matures.. our field looked like it had been invaded by a family of giant mutant moles, but we had our holes drilled. All that was left was widening the holes, mixing the dirt and sticking the trees in the ground dress-right-dress.

    Tools involved:
    Spades, both long and short.
    Spud bar (This looks like a 6 foot long standard screwdriver with a large hockey puck at one end – made of solid steel, it’s good for busting up rock and prying large rocks out of the ground).
    Second wheelbarrow (for overflow dirt, rocks, etc)
    Limb shears (usually used for pruning large limbs from trees, it’s useful for cutting off roots you might come across).
    Slide hammer (for driving t-posts into the ground. It’s the slide hammer, or lifting a heavy sledge hammer up to shoulder height and slowly banging the t-post into the ground)

    Useful items -
    – Pickup truck to cart around bags of potting soil and mulch. Better than schleping each bag to where it needs to be. Just drive by and have someone in the back kick a bag off the end at the right place.
    – Utility cart for mixing soils and/or carting all your tools back to the shed when you’re done.
    – Large bottle of aspirin.
    – First aid kit.
    – Large cooler filled with ice and Gatorade… you need to replace electrolytes while you work. After the fact doesn’t do much good.
    – Portable radio tuned to your favorite station. Doesn’t help much, but does take your mind off how crappy you feel.
    – Cell phone to call for an ambulance in case something goes wrong.
    – Two way radios to talk to others instead of hollering clear across the farm.

    I wish I had -
    – A small four wheeler and a flatbed cart about 6 feet long. Much handier than a pickup truck, faster and can even be used to transport an injured person. About half our time was spent carrying tools, bags of dirt, mulch, rocks, etc, from one point to another. Having a flatbed cart to move things around would have been a godsend. The pickup is much too large for this mission, and while one 40 pound bag of dirt doesn’t sound like much, if you’ve got a big pile of them, well that last bag is about 3 times as heavy as the first bag.. :)

    – An easier way to pry that auger out of the ground when it gets stuck. Having another tractor to rescue the first tractor would be nice, but I can’t afford it.

    – Someone else to plant the trees. :) Kidding. But it would have been nice to have several 20-something burly guys to help out when I needed it…

    I couldn’t help but think that if TSHTF and I had it in my mind to build defensive works, the ground auger would be indispensable. But filling sandbags and schlepping them from one point to another? By myself? Yeah, I’m thinking I have to rethink that… Hard pick and shovel work is difficult when you’re 20. When you’re 46? It’s only that much harder. Attacking the ground like a Chinese coolie building the transcontinental railroad or John Henry trying to beat the steam engine will work for about 5 minutes… and then you’ll figure out that that stupid turtle was right all along – slow and steady wins the race. Don’t forget to stretch beforehand and afterwards, and keep the aspirin bottle close.

    The wicked flee when none pursueth..." - Proverbs 28:1

    Profile photo of tweva

    Yeah you Magnus! I’m sure once the stiffness,soreness fades you’ll look out over the expanded orchard and know it was worth it.You are a great, concise…and amusing writer BTW! Thanks, been there, done that – great morning laugh!
    Were you working around lots of roots when auger got stuck? Always happens to me. Reverse usually works but not always. Been stuck many times.

    Spring around a place can sure make you feel your age, yes indeed. I fractured 3 ribs the other day and am walking around doing stuff like an old granny! Uh.

    Thanks again for the laughs/smiles

    Profile photo of 74

    Hurts to laugh but you can’t stop doing it anyways.


    Were you working around lots of roots when auger got stuck? Always happens to me. Reverse usually works but not always. Been stuck many times. — tweva

    The roots we did encounter were smallish. Maybe one inch thick, tops. The auger mowed right through them. The problems were:

    1. My tractor was built in 1947 and the hydraulics are pretty puny. The earth was compacted and the auger, when we got it out, was just packed full of that dense earth. Plus, I didn’t know about doing the bouncy thing and if I didn’t let up that auger was going all the way to China.

    2. My tractor was built in 1947 and the designers didn’t have the foresight to build a reverse gear into the PTO. Seems their thinking was that if you were stupid enough to get stuck and needed reverse, there was no reason for you to own a tractor – you were messing with forces beyond your control. Like old guns that had no safeties… if you shot your damn fool self, you had no earthly business owning a gun. Not having a reverse on your PTO makes you learn what works and what doesn’t really, really fast…

    Spring around a place can sure make you feel your age, yes indeed. I fractured 3 ribs the other day and am walking around doing stuff like an old granny! Uh.

    Oh no! I hope you take it easy and mend up okay… you know as well as I do that stuff won’t take care of itself, but you have to pace yourself…

    And feeling my age? Yeap… you look at that big rock that is the bane of your existence and think “Man, I gotta get rid of that rock!” Then you weigh the size and weight of the rock against how much pain will result from you messing with it and you think “It’s such a nice rock. It’s been there since God put it there. It looks happy there. Who am I to mess with happiness?” Then you walk off, fantasizing about how nice it would be to get your hands on about 5 pounds of high explosives and just blast the living crap out of that stupid rock…

    And thanks for the compliment re: my writing. I just write how I think (filtering out the more profane words, no matter how funny they might be). I actually did stand there for about 5 minutes yesterday, contemplating how nice of a planter my tractor would make… “lawn art” I think I called it. I even got into what I call “The Begats”…. you know, where you’re so frustrated you curse the sadist who invented the ground auger and the person who “begat” him, and then who ‘begat” them, going all the way back through the line of sadists to the beginning of time… :) I gotta be pretty incensed to curse an entire bloodline, back to the beginning of humanity…

    Glad I made you laugh… sometimes things are just so monumentally stupid, you have to laugh at them… like what I call “13 consecutive miracles”… the only possible way things can get this screwed up is if 13 consecutive miracles happened, one right after the other. There can be no other explanation…

    The wicked flee when none pursueth..." - Proverbs 28:1

    Profile photo of tweva

    Hahaha Malgus ..oh my ribs!

    ’13 consecutive miracles’? Love that! Surely can identify.

    Need to paint barn maintenance wise, plus darn this is brown. Only ever saw brown barns in Sweden. Sticks out (not good) like sore thumb. Get out power washer. Assemble one small section of scaffold. Starting to power off the old, peeling paint (former owner put latex over oil stain guess to ‘pretty it up’ for sale) Taking deep breaths, trying to zone out – patience of a project like this is not my thing.

    Started on pool side – took out section of fence surrounding it to make easy in out.

    Up on scaffold doing my thing – soaking wet of course. New tenant in apartment for 2 days. City girl.Unbeknownst to me, goes ‘running’ in morning for exercise with her dog – leaves 2 gates open. Unhuh.

    Next think I know, above the roar of the power washer and all the spray and paint chips flying I see one of the new spring heifers barreling towards me/scaffold/power washer – being chased by the tenants dog. Both run past – tenant comes running, waving her arms, screaming at the dog. No way out where they ran (fenced). Heifer turns, head butts dog who goes flying, comes racing back towards screaming, freaking tenant. ‘Oh no this is not good’ I remember thinking.

    Heifer comes running, sees crazed woman, veers away and jumps, bangs throws itself between the power washer and the scaffold. I lost balance, fell 5 feet and landed on top of power washer engine. thus the cracked ribs.

    Heifer keeps running, woman still screaming now wailing about her dog (dog fine). Heifer runs onto the pool cover – which pulls pegs out of the concrete holding cover springs. Heifer now flailing around in swampy, over-wintered pool water making a racket. I just sat there, holding my ribs, sunglasses all askew on my face staring like an idiot. WTF? How did such a peaceful, beautiful spring day turn into this?

    Oh yes. Know about monumental stupidity.


    LOL , better be sure you like what you plant A LOT ! because a full grown nut tree can produce a great deal . Same with fruit trees , we used to have 14 fruit trees on a property we had at one time , they were old and established . It was a mixed variety of trees , pear, nectarine , plumb , fig , apricot , tangelo , grapefruit , orange , lemon . When the citrus went off , it was murder on my allergies , then the fruit came , it was hard for two people to keep up with it ……………..there was so much , that it was hard to even give it away . We ended up juicing a lot of it , just to get rid of it . After 3 years on that property , I was very glad to get rid of it .



    That… is the living definition of 13 Consecutive Miracles. Take any one thing out of the chain, and you’re fine. Put it back in, and you’re laying there on top of your power washer with cracked ribs, watching a cow do the backstroke….

    Not to laugh, but yeah, that was funny… :)

    I can only imagine what the cow was thinking… Wait. Cows don’t think. Well, I mean they do think, it just “eat, drink, poo, sleep, eat, poo, sleep, drink, pee, eat more, poo…”

    Speaking of wondering what people are thinking, I can only imagine what my wife was thinking… you know how you walk in on the tail end of a conversation and whatever you hear is taken totally out of context? Something like that…

    I’m almost at the end of “The Begats”, cursing the psychotic individual who designed this particular ground auger, when my wife walks up and hears me crabbing the following as I stomp off to find my floor jack….

    “…But nooOOOoooo! Because some f—–g lion didn’t eat the right f—–g monkey a million years ago, I’m the one who gets to deal with this cluster-f*&k of agricultural lawn art! Where’s the justice in that?!? I swear to God, I wish I had a time machine because then I’d go back and find that f—-g monkey and shoot his hairy ass deader’n Julius Caesar….”

    And something else about finding genuine Chinamen in the bottom of those holes, but I forget whatever that bit was…

    I think making a catastrophe into something funny is related to schadenfreude in some way… there’s the funny, or taking joy from a bad situation, but since it’s happening to you personally, I’m not sure how that works…

    Erm, whatever… I just confused myself. I gotta go get some chain and bolts from the hardware store, sooo… I’d stay the hell away from ladders for at least a couple days, no matter how crappy the brown barn looks… it’s a trap. Trust me.

    The wicked flee when none pursueth..." - Proverbs 28:1


    After all the laughing (sorry for both of you…) have to think how great the fruits and nuts will be when no more are available in the supermarkets….


    Was thinking about this little adventure of mine (okay, “our” adventure if you count Twee and the cracked ribs, sunken cow and brown Swedish barn) and I got to thinking about working the land, not because you make money off it, but because it’s yours and Man’s urge to make (or remake) nature as you see fit… not to be all nostalgic or anything, but it reminded me of this…

    How many of you all remember The Band? Yeah, those guys.

    I was just thinkin…. we never shoulda lost that damn war… wouldn’t have 90% of the problems we got today if we won… just sayin’…. Richmond fell on Monday, April 3rd, 1865 at 8:15am. Saddest day in the history of the South…

    Now I don’t mind choppin’ wood,
    and I don’t care if the money’s no good.
    Ya take what ya need and ya leave the rest
    But they should never have taken the very best..

    The night they drove old Dixie down
    And the bells were ringing
    The night they drove old Dixie down
    And all the people were singing
    They went, “La, la, la”

    Like my father before me, I will work the land
    And like my brother above me, who took a rebel stand.
    He was just eighteen, proud and brave,
    but a Yankee laid him in his grave.
    I swear by the mud below my feet,
    You can’t raise a Caine back up when he’s in defeat.

    The wicked flee when none pursueth..." - Proverbs 28:1

    Profile photo of Novus Ordo
    Novus Ordo

    Man, you two are like the Odd Couple – each hilarious in their own way and writing style. If you can’t laugh at yourself….glad you two can, and share with the rest of us. Malgus, that “begats” rant was epic! All the way back to evolution huh? ROFLMAO!!!!

    Note to self – when sharing property with city folk, ensure they understand gate etiquette….oh, and 14 or more producing trees, offer family an acre or two to build house on.

    Thank you both. Tweva, get well soon ma’am. K

    Arms discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property... mischief would ensue were the law-abiding deprived of the use of them.
    - Thomas Paine

    Profile photo of Kiwi25

    I was going to write a note about planting trees.. and this seems a good place. I’m glad to see someone else is planting… it’s a long term thing.. but it has to start somewhere/sometime.
    To steal a saying I saw somewhere else: The best time to plant a tree is…. twenty years ago. Failing that.. the best time to plant is NOW/today. I have done that 20+ years ago and the surviving trees are now giving me fruit and nuts. I even grew some wallnuts from seed.. and these are now producing. ( I bought grafted ones too and these are even better.. which is usually the case).
    So before you plant (today).. you perhaps need to do some research about which varieties/ type of tree you can grow and the benefits of buying grafted trees, and the rootstocks that are used. Grafted trees will be more expensive… but they grow true to variety, and the rootstock can impart qualities such as disease resistance, improved quality, and sometimes size control… dwarfing, which you may want.
    For example..Citrus trees.. which I planted this summer ( I got cheap trees out of season) and I am just now building little shelters for them as winter has started here in NZ and frosts are a danger to young citrus. I learned from my previous plantings that the rootstock used for most citrus ( Trifoliate orange… which is a thorny small tree, producing small inedible oranges) imparts Cold tolerance to citrus and allows me to grow in an area which would not have been considered “orange country” ( like Florida or Southern California.). Not only that but it imparts I get beautiful juicy sweet oranges.. which is amazing. The main reason for trifoliate rootstock is disease protection. It also gives semi dwarfing which means the trees are managable.. tho I still need a ladder after 30 years. There is a type of trifoliate called “Flying Dragon” which is really dwarfing if you are restricted in space or need to grow citrus in big pots ( and winter them indoors).
    I planted the variety “Fujimoto orange” which is relatively new, and should extend my orange harvest season by several months. I already have “Carters Navel” orange which is the industry standard.
    And that’s just variety and rootstock selection….:-)…


    @ Novus

    Glad to be able to make you laugh… :) My son and I drove the 30+ miles to town so we could hit the beekeeping supply house. No, we don’t raise honey bees… yet. I was there to buy bulk wax. Only $6.75 a pound for yellow. $7.10 for white. 25 pound blocks. They had literally EVERYTHING needed for raising honey bees and all the peripheral industries associated with it (honey wine, Viking honey mead, candlemaking, lip balm, soap making, etc). The point of this rambling mess is that we had an epic laugh session going on all the way up. One funny thing happened, and I commented on it. My son played off my comment and came up with some epic snark… which I played off of, etc. I was laughing so hard, I was crying and my son had to grab the wheel to keep us on the road… some of it was kind of offensive (we don’t discriminate… we target everyone. Including ourselves.) so I won’t repeat all of it here, but the following was mentioned…

    “Yeah, I would like a Baconator sammich. Extra bacon, with bacon on the side, served in a bowl made of bacon. Just pour the pig fat in a glass. I’ll drink that. And an order of grilled-cheese flavored ice cream…”

    “…I want love handles for my neck fat…”

    “Diet bacon and tofacon (tofu bacon)”.

    “Day 502 of our captivity. Our masters have once again used The Brick of Power, so escape is impossible…”

    “30 ants trying to carry a green Froot Loop.”

    Trust me… if you would have been there… it’s aaaaaalll about the funny.

    @ Kiwi

    I’m jealous. Wishing we had the weather for oranges and good citrus. We don’t. Apples, most nuts, plums, pears, etc, yeah sure. But not oranges or grapefruits… and I love both. Also bananas and mangoes, but that ain’t gonna happen either.

    We buy from Trees of Antiquity in California. They sell grafted saplings. Only very old strains of trees. No goofy new breeds. I think they sell a type of fruit tree that dates back to antiquity… couple thousand years, easy. Quinces? Yeah, quinces. I hear it makes good jelly and jam, but not so much for eating plain…

    Next up is a genuine American Chestnut tree. The blight wiped out 99.5% of all the American Chestnut trees in North America about 60 or 70 years ago. Damn shame. We’re lucky enough to have one ancient old Chestnut resist the blight here in Kentucky. It’s on the national register. Going to make a pilgrimage to visit it and see if we can beg/borrow/steal/buy either a seedling, a sapling or some chestnuts we can try to grow ourselves… I want an American Chestnut on this property. I know I will never live to see it mature into a gigantic old grande dame of the forest, but that’s okay. You don’t plant trees for yourself, anyways…

    If we succeed, then my wish is to be buried under that Chestnut tree when I finally get closed out. I got a spot all picked out. Nice view.

    The wicked flee when none pursueth..." - Proverbs 28:1

    Profile photo of Kiwi25

    Hi Malgus, Without wanting to be pedantic.. the tool is a Mattock. Mattox is someones name. I am a fan of them too.. and I once bought a whole box of mattocks with the “axe” cut off. To make heavy hoes without the extra weight of the axe. Not a bad idea I guess.. but I have used the root chopping power of my mattock to great effect. I would hate to have to use a good axe to chop roots. ( Just in case someone wants to get the right tool).
    I have a big collection of old tool heads.. mattock heads picks etc. you can get them cheap at farm sales. A new handle is expensive… One day I hope to make my own.
    We have a quince tree which is one of the “survivors”. Has a huge crop with no care. This year we have a huge crop of persimmons ( nashi in Japan)… which are also easy to grow. In this case we have a row of seedling trees, as well as a grafted seedless tree. Huge crop.. no care.
    I do recommend the “heritage” trees too. Only the green “granny smith” apple has survived and done well, so I planted a couple of varieties that came from “roadside” trees. Tough and nutritious.
    You would also envy my soil. Volcanic ash.. free draining and friable.. easy to dig, all the way down. I have in the past had rocky land, and clay soil.. so I really appreciate what I have now. It is perfect for growing trees as it allows deep free root run.



    Okay… easy there, Captain Pedantic… :) I misspell one thing this whole time, and I get called on it. Tough crowd. Or maybe it’s just you personally… whatever… I’m delirious from lack of sleep. Don’t mind me…

    You’re right. You got great soil. I hate your guts. :) Kidding. You live near a volcano? Not the best location. Ask the folks at Pompeii about that. They just made a movie about it. Has What’s-her-face in it… that chick with the epic cheekbones… same one from Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Heartbreaking love story about a volcano exploding and killing everyone involved… why does Hollywood do that? Make disasters into love stories? Like Titanic. Heartbreaking love story about 1,200 people drowning to death in the icy north Atlantic… derp…

    Alright, I’m rambling.. pretty tired. Didn’t hardly sleep and the wife, of course, wakes me up at the crack of dawn (opening your eyes at first light does, indeed, make a noise. Which is why it is called the crack of dawn. The fact that only you can hear this noise does not mean it does not exist… ) to make coffee. As if I am some Coffee Making Kung Fu Jedi Master, the hope of the Free World rests on my shoulders and everyone else is a clueless goober who would burn water if given the chance… so I got up and made coffee… fed the animals, watered them, finally got around to making breakfast and now am happily blathering on…

    Speaking of trees, I planted European plum trees… French and Italian. Good stuff. Unfortunately, the local wildlife also thinks they’re good stuff. We’ve been raided by the local raccoons. Seems we’re involved in an ownership dispute again. Last time this happened, I won the argument.

    Anyways, I’m going to take my medicine and go nap… medicine – antibiotics. Cipro. I had a roaring case of food poisoning about a week and a half ago… which is a wonderful, heartbreaking love story in and of itself. I shall have to tell the tale when I wake up… but, for now, enjoy your volcano… :)

    The wicked flee when none pursueth..." - Proverbs 28:1

    Profile photo of tweva

    Feel better Malgus!

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