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April 15, 2006

Backhoe Day

Surprise, surprise - our vines have woken up from their long winter nap! Happy to see we've had bud break this week - pics are in the gallery below.

Today's chore was to remove two large rock outcroppings which will be directly in the way of our new rows for next week's plantings. In fact, I've been dreading this day ever since we bought the land, because I knew someday they would have to be dug up, and I had no idea how difficult it would be. Would I need a hydraulic breaker or would they need blasted? I was going to find out today.

I've been calling excavators for weeks trying to find someone to come out and do the job for me, and I keep getting "sure we'll come out to take a look then get back to you." Not a single one of those assholes ever called back. So with planting only a week away it was time to call Rentals Unlimited to have a backhoe delivered. So I figured why settle for a small excavator when I could rent a decent size backhoe and hopefully not need the hydraulic breaker.

The backhoe was delivered right at 8 AM, and after a quick chat with the truck driver I was on my own. Easing into the vineyard I got in position, spun the seat around, dropped the outriggers and loader, and worked the backhoe into position behind the first rock. It had rained the previous couple days, so the ground was still a little soft. Here goes - dropped the bucket in and popped that boulder out of the ground like it was a pebble. Easy! Hey this might not be so bad??? In fact, within about 20 minutes I had the rest of the white quartz boulders dug up. Wow. On to the next outcropping - the big one.

Moved the machine into position, and again dropped the backhoe bucket in behind the first rock. Didn't budge. Uh oh... So I decided to nibble away at the side which worked great. The rock broke apart pretty easily, except for about 10 pretty large pieces (probably 5 feet across, possibly weighing around a ton) which I just rolled out of the hole. All in all the outcropping was torn apart and out of the hole in about 45 minutes. Now all I had to do was pick up the pieces and move them out of the vineyard!

I took the big pieces to the back of the vineyard, as I will be using them in future landscaping projects, especially the big white quartz boulders. Most of the smaller rocks (basketball size and under) I dumped in the creek bed. Found a large pile of fill dirt to put back in the holes. Finished up the whole project in about three more hours. Kick ass!

See the pictures.

Very happy about this, and since I have the machine for 24 hours (up to 8 hours on the engine) I decided to do some more work. Dumb, very dumb...

We have a creek down behind the old barn that we wanted to move right up alongside the fence line to get it out of the middle of what will someday be the kids play area. So I headed out of the vineyard and over to the creek. Since the new creek had to go beyond the existing creek I needed to find a place to cross. Seeing what appeared to be a decent crossing place, I put the backhoe in 4WD and started across. As soon as I was in the creek that heavy pig of a machine sunk right up to it's belly in the mud and got stucker than shit. Couldn't back out, couldn't go forward. Game over.

To be continued...

Posted by Stephen at April 15, 2006 9:48 PM