My Good Friend Manuel Labor

In my previous life as a marketing manager with long hours, deliverables, and accountability; and during our time as small business owners, with demanding clients, overhead and even longer hours; I often told myself – and others – that I sometimes wished I could just go dig a ditch. The opportunity recently arose, in a big way, and will again soon.

Jim Digs Rocky Mountain DitchThis is no ordinary ditch mind you, and it’s just one of a few that will help divert water from our roof away from our house via the new gutters we recently had installed.

Honey-do projects are one thing, but installing gutters are another. Yes, we could have easily hung DIY rain gutters. But going seamless is not just about aesthetics, it’s the smart choice up here in the mountains.

Crystal Lakes Seamless Rain GuttersThe issue is not so much that snow will pile up and tear off gutter sections – it can, and does as we’ve seen happen down the road. It’s more about what happens as snow thaws in them, freezes and repeats. Seams simply can’t take it.

Back to that ditch. As illegal as it is to collect water off our roof according to our subdivision’s augmentation plan, René wanted to try. Apparently I’m building a box garden when we get back to Jerry’s Acres next Spring. But there I go digressing.

I obliged by inquiring about nonperforated drainage pipe at Home Cheapo. Thus we learned why using such a thing for the amount of ditch I was digging is a bad idea. Stagnant water sitting in solid pipe stinks. Quite literally. I for one am very happy to discover this before burying all the pipe I did.

Jim Digs Rocky Mountain DitchAbout ten inches deep by 40 feet long in less than six hours. That’s how I spent last Saturday. An impressive feat if I don’t say so myself, but then, I just did. This weekend calls for another 30 feet, easy. Well, not exactly easy. Remember my Colorado geology lesson from the ranch?

There’s a reason they call these the rocky mountains, and I encountered more than a few Leaverites. Ya know, those rocks that you hit and realize … you better leave ‘er right there.

How to Dig a Ditch

The right tools make any job easier. But if you must dig a trench by hand, here are a few pointers:

  • Know your terrain. Unless you’re digging up a soft lawn, recommended tools include a pick axe, pointed shovel, square shovel, and rake hoe.
  • Don’t bend the blade on your pick like I did. See Leaverite above.
  • Keep drainage pipe ditches at least 8-10 inches deep. See Stink.
  • Loosen ground with pick by swinging big and letting gravity do the job
  • Square off legs and shoulders, holding pick handle low.
  • Use your legs, not your back.
  • Use hoe to remove movable rocks before digging.
  • Switch tools often to avoid burnout and work all muscle groups.
  • Avoid buried gas, water and electric lines at all costs.
  • Stretch and stay hydrated.
  • Don’t dread what remains to be done, keep your eye on the goal.
  • Wear eye protection and listen to rockin’ tunes, or railroad work songs.
  • Never, ever, try to dig a 40′ ditch in one day.

2 thoughts on “My Good Friend Manuel Labor”

  1. Oh Jimmy! I love to hear about you doing manual labor! I know you are a hard worker, and I have done a few projects with you. It was just fun imagining you digging that ditch and getting frustrated with the rocks! Happy digging!


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