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May 7, 2005

Jack the Hammer

Well today is the day. I've been putting this task off for quite a few weeks, but now it's time to step up to the plate. Or should I say step up to the hole...

If you've been following along, you may recall the difficulty I had augering about 15 holes along the rear of the vineyard - read about it here - due to a layer of shale about 8 inches below the surface. No way the auger was going through that rock - just wearing down the cutting teeth.

So I got a catalog from Rentals Unlimited and spent some time debating which tool to rent to break through this layer of rock - recall that each line post has to be 2 1/2 feet deep, and the corners have to be 4 1/2 feet deep. So in order to save a few bucks, I decided not to get the mini-excavator with a breaker bar, but rather a towable air compressor with a jackhammer. Figured the jackhammer would be able to reach deep enough in the hole to get to 2 1/2'. And I was right, but what I didn't anticipate was how bad that thing was going to rattle the living shit out of me. I've used jackhammers before, but never digging down a hole that deep - typically they are used to break up top layers of concrete - and lifting a 90-pound jackhammer out of a hole 100 times gets a little old.

So the day went like this - turn on compressor, drop jackhammer in hole, break up rock layer (about 4" - 6" at a time) - take jackhammer out of hole, remove rock and dirt with post hole digger (manual one, not the auger) - repeat until hole is 2 1/2' deep. This fun stuff took on average about 45 minutes per hole.

Shannon brought lunch by around 1PM, and she got sad to see the shape I was in (pretty miserable at this point.) I realized there was no way I would finish all the holes today, so now it hit me I was gonna get stuck with another day's rental charges for the equipment. Lovely.

So I dragged myself back out to the vineyard after lunch to continue banging away. I do recall at one point in the afternoon I was getting frustrated and really leaned into the jackhammer. Once you straighten your arms though (which act like a kind of shock absorber... -ish.) all that rattling goes right to the rest of your body, including the head. More on that later...

Have a look at the process.

On the bright side of life, Donny's crew finished the trellis post pounding today, so that is a nice milestone. So all I have to do is construct the 48 end braces, and run all the cordon wire. Question is do I begin that before I finish the deer fence? Right now I think those tasks can wait, because this fence has to be done before the vines reach the top of the grow tubes!

Sometime around 4PM my hands and arms finally gave out on me, and I couldn't physically get the jackhammer lifted out of hole. So I just left the pig in there and decided to head over to Hibb's place to help assemble his daughter's new swing set.

Safety note - I felt very strange the rest of the afternoon (dizzy, disoriented) and woke up around 3AM with intense nausea. I was afraid to move because I thought I was going to hurl if I moved an inch, so I lay there staring at the ceiling. I'm pretty sure the day full of banging gave me a slight concussion - thinking back on the afternoon I almost felt I was going to black out at one point when I was leaning on the jackhammer and it wasn't eating through the rock. So keep those arms bent!

Posted by Stephen at May 7, 2005 9:46 PM