Let's Dig. (How-to)

in STEMGeekslast month

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Literally, I mean digging. Nothing scientific about it, but you can work smarter. With some simple tips you can dig much easier.
When your digging you can and often will enter in various issues and with simple fixes you can easily dig quite big wholes/trenches. (Remember your history lesson about WW1?)

How big of a hole?

Good question it depends 20m3 of dry sand isn't that hard in some days without having to move it far away for a fit guy. Digging becomes 2/3 times as hard if you have to move away the dirt.
if you're mainly digging grass/clay/rocks then 5m3 could be the max. Hiring an excavator is often a good plan if you want to do it by hand then get at least motorized transport of the soil.
I've dug at least hundreds maybe thousands+ cubic meters in my life by hand, but mostly sand what's 4x easier than almost every other type of soil.

Finally, I'm all for equality, but digging is brutal for the arms, shoulders, and lower back exactly the muscle groups that tend to be weaker in women. I highly recommend women not to dig more than 30-60 minutes in a day and see how the body handles it the next day. it's easy to get serious back injuries from this. There is a reason why mainly soldiers and prisoners and the poor were digging by hand in history.

The most common issues are one of the below:

  • Tough grass
  • Clay
  • Rocks in soil
  • High Waterlevel
  • ** Skill**

Tough Grass
Grass is tough you have to cut the grass, not digg the grass. If you got a tractor with a frontloader scrape off the first 20cm of grass it will save you a lot of effort by hand. if not you got to use a spade. A spade is basically a much stronger and importantly a sharper shovel. Push it in with your legg not your arms are when it's in you hang backwards pulling out the grass. Trying to force this with you arms exhaust you within 30 minutes.

Clay
Clay is a bitch, it's heavy, it sticks and you again have to use the spade. Try to avoid digging more than 2m3 of clay by hand. dig clay like butter thin slices...
The only exception is dried out clay that easily breaks because of high sand content this isn't the worst to dig away.

Rocks in Soil
Break the soil with a spade and dig it away with a shovel. If it's really rocky you got to use a pickaxe and diggin will be very slow. It's not as heavy as clay, but it's slower. A light pickaxe is often better than a heavy pickaxe. When it's all broken up you can move it out with a shovel.

** High water level**
A high water level requires a pump or good timing. In many places the water level changes 1 or 2 meters per season. It's obviously the time to dig when the water level is much lower. Don't try to dig standing in the water just wait or use a pump.

Skill
Dig calmly without being out of breath. The best is to copy the old digging style of American prisoners singing during the dig. Singing forces you to slow down because when your out of breath you can't sing. Even though they are smashing rocks but digging has the same idea.

Biggest project I've dug took me half a year. Sometimes I wasn't digging for days or weeks. I needed soil and needed sand and a pond would be a nice benefit. This has been at least 500 m3
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I've done my share of digging too, but nothing like that hole. But it has been hard ... at my former place in Tromsø there was quite a little soil, really a lot of rocks and roots from the trees. It was completely unthinkable to have heavy machinery coming in, destroying my trees and my garden. I had a parking place outside my property. It was such a nice place ... all until they decided to build 500 houses on the neighbour property, but I digress.

We had to destroy the floor in our basement due to a sewage problem, got help from some handyman with that project. The handyman wanted to make an apartment there as well, so I threw more money after him . I was concerned about the humidity there, but the guy insisted it was OK and claimed the drainage was perfect. It wasn't. When complaining, he told me how much he wanted for fixing the drainage around the house. My Polish friend/tenant said "I can dig that by hand for half the price". Even that was a bit too much, so I did maybe half of the digging myself. Mostly clay, but also grass and rocks.

There are multiple reasons for doing things by hand rather than by machines:

  • Think of the environment. Heavy machinery produces noise and emissions
  • Think of the neighbors, they are less likely to complain when you're doing things by hand.
  • Think of the environment. Heavy machinery can easily destroy your garden!
  • Precision work is best done by hand. Heavy machinery is much more likely to destroy things and make a mess.

I was working from Beijing for a while, and it was clear to me that some areas there were "posh", others were "poor". Our office was in a "poor" area, while the hotel was in a "posh" area, and most of the time I walked to the office. They were doing some digging work nearby the office, it involved an excavator, lots of noise and mud, and it took months before they finished the work. They also did some digging work closer to the hotel, and it included digging across a bigger street. No machinery involved, just people with spades. While digging over the road, they were digging under iron plates while the traffic would pass over - I'm not sure they closed the street for car traffic for a minute even. I can imagine it must be really unpleasant to work under such conditions, but ... it's possible. It wouldn't be possible with an excavator.

Don't know how a comment can be better thanks! Here I don't really have neighbors. One old couple on 150 meters they won't hear much.

Even though by hand is better it can destroy your back quickly

If being careful it can be good for the back!

I was knocked out by a hernia for more than a year! While I cannot be sure about the reason, my guess is that sitting still at the office for ~7.5 hours pr day, plus a lot of sitting time when coming back home was the biggest reason.

During that year, most of the time I couldn't sit (for more than some few minutes), and simple mundane tasks (like putting on my socks) was very difficult. At the very worst, it was painful to walk, painful to lie down, painful to sit and painful to stand. Luckily it was in the summer time, so at least I was able to swim (but there was limits for how much I could swim - the sea was rather cold - later I bought myself a good wet suit). But I digress. Eventually I started doing some exercises, and eventually the problem gradually disappeared. I threw away the chair in the office and got myself a desk where I could stand and work.

This was before that drainage incident. I don't know how many cubic meters of soil and clay I was moving, but it for sure was a lot. I did feel a little bit of back pain, then I understood I would need a day or two of rest ... but in the end I'm positively sure I got out stronger from it!

Yeah sure the office is horrific for your back but still a back doesn't re-generate well or at all. I avoid all carry as much as I can and only dig in a light swinging style.