Win a bunch of tools from Truly Garden and Loma Creek! this week in the Gear forum!
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • r ranson
  • Anne Miller
  • Pearl Sutton
  • James Freyr
  • Mike Haasl
  • paul wheaton
  • Dave Burton
stewards:
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Jocelyn Campbell
  • Joseph Lofthouse
garden masters:
gardeners:
  • Carla Burke
  • Steve Thorn
  • Eric Hanson

Getting a big rock out of a hole

 
gardener
Posts: 1337
Location: Pacific Wet Coast
395
duck books chicken cooking
  • Likes 7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This week I planted a baby apple tree and decided that the dirt was really mostly clay with only a very thin 2 inches of organic matter on the top. I figured that the best way to ensure the tree gets enough moisture to survive next summer, was to dig a "compost pit" a couple of feet away. My hope is that if I can keep filling the hole with fresh veggie scraps and possibly the odd bucket of "duckie water" if we have a really bad drought, that the worms and the tree roots will hopefully find the hole.

Of course, when I got the hole about an adequate size, I hit a rock. Since rocks don't hold much water and don't exactly allow the passage of roots, I figured we should try to get the rock out. My son did some more digging and I did some more digging and what had appeared to be a basket-ball sized rock was much bigger. So we called in hubby and his tractor. The problem is, how did we get a heavy rock that was in the bottom of a hole out of the hole without disturbing things even more.

First my husband managed to use a chain to tip the rock up vertically. Second, he used our rock drill to drill a 1 1/2 inch hole through the rock. Third, he slid the chain through, hooked it to the bucket of the tractor and lifted.

We've already discussed that there are easier ways, such as drilling a smaller hole and sliding a metal rod through it, but we were using what was handy so that I could just get on with the next step of the project.

Of course, with the big rock out, the hole is *much* larger, so I'm already looking for punky wood to toss in the bottom, plus maybe some bedding from the Noisy Duck shelter, and some of the fall leaves that I'd prefer to contain so they don't get tracked into the house - the list goes on!
3-big-rock-in-the-compost-hole.jpg
rock removal
rock removal
Rock-with-the-hole-visible.jpg
rock with hole
rock with hole
Tractor-necklass.jpg
This is much safer than trying to wrap the chain and being worried it would slip off.
This is much safer than trying to wrap the chain and being worried it would slip off.
 
pollinator
Posts: 8883
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
756
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
For the majority of us who don't have the equipment necessary to drill a 1 and 1/2 inch hole in rock, I suggest a log choker. It would take about a minute with a rock that size, after it is stood up in the right position to get the choker on.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1170
Location: Victoria BC
137
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
...well, thanks a lot. I didn't even know I needed a rock drill and now my life will be empty and meaningless until I have one.

On the bright side, that looks like a super fun wrecking ball substitute. If you know anyone with a playhouse or chicken coop that needs mashed, it seems a golden opportunity!

Or, plenty of kids have a tire swing. But nobody else wil have a rock swing!
 
Jay Angler
gardener
Posts: 1337
Location: Pacific Wet Coast
395
duck books chicken cooking
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks Dale - I bet our neighbor has a log choker. I'll ask him if he's ever used one on a rock and whether he was worried about it slipping.

@D Nikolls - you need to get the feathers and irons to go with! I had so much fun turning big rocks that were in our way, into smaller rocks that we could move out of the way when I was a decade younger. We had a couple of Japanese high school students visiting us and when they saw a 115 lb lady drilling holes in rocks and then splitting a whole rock in half they looked like they actually couldn't believe what they were seeing. I would have done that with this rock, but with it down in a hole, and since my husband has since bought a tractor, a single hole did the job. I've got a bit more osteo-arthritis since then and the vibration of the drill is hard on my joints, so I try to get hubby to do it. When I needed some "right-sized" rocks to stop animals digging at the bottom of the duck run fence, we split big rocks to sizes and shapes that would help. I hadn't thought of using it as a wrecking ball - it's sedimentary, so we'd have to be mashing something fairly wimpy!
 
Dale Hodgins
pollinator
Posts: 8883
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
756
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have split a few big rocks using a jackhammer. Most sedimentary rock can be split into pieces quite easily and it often produces flattish pieces that can be useful.
 
Posts: 40
Location: Pine, Colorado
6
earthworks sheep greening the desert
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
For some rocks if you have the rock drill you can drill a hole, fill it with water and wait for it to freeze and then split in half, then the big rock will at least be in two smaller and hopefully more manageable pieces. Unfortunately this is dependent on freezing temperatures but it does work.
 
master pollinator
Posts: 4588
1056
transportation cat duck trees rabbit books chicken woodworking
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
A couple of years ago I dug a unique rock out of a hole.

It was a rock that we would hit as we rolled over it in this field. You could just feel it, enough so you had to pick the combine head up when your neared the spot.

I knew it was big, it had to be, because I could see the size of the boulders on the rock wall. I realized that if my ancestors could haul out rocks as big as they were by oxen, and they left THIS rock, it had to be big.

It was!

In the end it took a bulldozer, and a big excavator, working in unison to get that rock out of the ground. Neither machine by itself would move the rock. Once out of the ground we had to twist it to the edge of the field, pull on one side with the excavator as the bulldozer pushed, move that side of it a few feet, then do the same thing on the other side. It took forever to get to the edge of the field. In all, about the size of a sedan.

But that was not the funny part. Under the rock was the most beautiful loam you ever saw. From that I deduced what my ancestors had done. Unable to move the rock, they dug a huge hole, and pushed the rock into the hole and then covered it over. This was in the year 1800, so they did not even have feathers and wedges then, nor dynamite, so they did what they could. Over the years frost action had lifted the rock up enough so that 250 years later, we could just feel it as we rolled over it.

Fast Fun Fact: In New England, we can find the biggest rocks in the field because they are always on the down hill side on the rockwall. Oxen could never pull rocks uphill.
 
gardener
Posts: 2389
Location: latitude 47 N.W. montana zone 6A
340
cat pig rocket stoves
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Yes , Steel chokers can lift stones.  
I spent two falls up in the okanagen  valley, flying boulders out of a canyon by crane.
For us , if it was going to slip it did it right away.
Still dangerous though.
 
pollinator
Posts: 162
Location: South Central PA
36
cat fungi urban
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
For those that need an even more basic method to get a large rock out of a deep hole, with just 2 people, a spud bar, and a shovel, it is possible. Spud bar in under one side lift/roll as much as possible away from you. Second person shovel dirt into the area under the stone that is exposed, release rock by removing spud bar. Flip to the other side, spud bar in, rock pushed away again towards the side you just added dirt, shovel more dirt in underneath. Keep going back and forth until you have raised it up and can use the bar to roll it out of the hole and to level ground. Its not easy work, but you can get the job done.
 
Jay Angler
gardener
Posts: 1337
Location: Pacific Wet Coast
395
duck books chicken cooking
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My husband said he tried using the chain as a choker several times, but the shape of the rock was such that he just couldn't get it to stay put. That was when he started drilling.

Travis Johnson wrote:

From that I deduced what my ancestors had done. Unable to move the rock, they dug a huge hole, and pushed the rock into the hole and then covered it over.

They aren't the only ones. Before we got the drill and feathers and irons, there were some ginormous rocks in our way in the field. The only difference was that my hubby borrowed a back hoe to do the job, so it wasn't digging by hand. Now we've got our own tractor, and a backhoe can be attached, but that would have taken 1/2 hour of words I prefer not to hear as it's tricky to attach, when the rock drill took only 10-15 min and was 20 ft away.

There are lots of other alternatives out there. I just thought I'd post one that worked fairly safely when we had a single big rock I wanted relocated. It's good to have others chip in with some of those alternatives because everyone will have one situation where they need an idea and either what they've already tried hasn't worked, or they just need to have a list of ideas to help them choose something that's right for their situation.

Above all - rocks are heavy - please stay safe! (Safe backs, safe fingers, safe toes, safe eyes, shall I go on?)
 
Dale Hodgins
pollinator
Posts: 8883
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
756
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Where I live, people who run excavators often refer to bedrock as Vancouver Island, which is where we are. So he will dig away all of the loose stuff but once he gets to scraping on a giant mass of rock , he'll tell you I can't go any further, I've hit Vancouver Island.

It was about the same when I lived in Newfoundland on the opposite side of the country. People would tell you that for a house to be nice and solid you've got to dig right down until your shovel stops at Newfoundland. This could be a little as a couple inches or nothing in many places. But when they are away from home, they might say, I'm going home to The Rock. Referring to the entire Province as a rock, which much of it is.
 
Jay Angler
gardener
Posts: 1337
Location: Pacific Wet Coast
395
duck books chicken cooking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
@ Dale Hodgins - there's a song about that

There are rocks and trees and trees and rocks,
And rocks and trees and trees and rocks,
Repeat
Repeat
And water
That's Canada!

So simple, but oh, so true!

(The Arrogant Worms wrote and sing it - yes, that really is the name of a Canadian band.)
 
Dale Hodgins
pollinator
Posts: 8883
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
756
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Lots of our bands have weird names. Doug and the Slugs, the Rainbow Butt Monkeys and the Barenaked Ladies to name a few. I don't know if it's rock music , that's the only way any of this could fit.
 
Travis Johnson
master pollinator
Posts: 4588
1056
transportation cat duck trees rabbit books chicken woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Dale Hodgins wrote:Where I live, people who run excavators often refer to bedrock as Vancouver Island, which is where we are. So he will dig away all of the loose stuff but once he gets to scraping on a giant mass of rock , he'll tell you I can't go any further, I've hit Vancouver Island.

It was about the same when I lived in Newfoundland on the opposite side of the country. People would tell you that for a house to be nice and solid you've got to dig right down until your shovel stops at Newfoundland. This could be a little as a couple inches or nothing in many places. But when they are away from home, they might say, I'm going home to The Rock. Referring to the entire Province as a rock, which much of it is.



It is like that here in Maine. Our soil averages less than 10 feet to bedrock. In some places I have ledge right on top of the ground, and in other places is is several feet deep. The distance from one place to another might only be a few feet away.
 
Posts: 111
Location: Medina, OH
12
forest garden trees writing wood heat homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'd be *very* cautious of settling in that hole after removal of such a large rock, especially if backfilling with wood.

In the nursery industry, one of the first rules of thumb I learned was, "Plant high, never die - plant low, you never know."

Just as many plants die from too much water than not enough, and this could settle a significant amount.  

Pretty cool to see a rock removed like that - though I'm honestly I'm not even sure I'd have removed it myself.  

:)
 
Travis Johnson
master pollinator
Posts: 4588
1056
transportation cat duck trees rabbit books chicken woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Jay Angler wrote:My husband said he tried using the chain as a choker several times, but the shape of the rock was such that he just couldn't get it to stay put. That was when he started drilling.

Travis Johnson wrote:

From that I deduced what my ancestors had done. Unable to move the rock, they dug a huge hole, and pushed the rock into the hole and then covered it over.

They aren't the only ones. Before we got the drill and feathers and irons, there were some ginormous rocks in our way in the field. The only difference was that my hubby borrowed a back hoe to do the job, so it wasn't digging by hand. Now we've got our own tractor, and a backhoe can be attached, but that would have taken 1/2 hour of words I prefer not to hear as it's tricky to attach, when the rock drill took only 10-15 min and was 20 ft away.

There are lots of other alternatives out there. I just thought I'd post one that worked fairly safely when we had a single big rock I wanted relocated. It's good to have others chip in with some of those alternatives because everyone will have one situation where they need an idea and either what they've already tried hasn't worked, or they just need to have a list of ideas to help them choose something that's right for their situation.

Above all - rocks are heavy - please stay safe! (Safe backs, safe fingers, safe toes, safe eyes, shall I go on?)



When I was clearing my field, I would push the rocks into wet areas and then drive the bulldozer over them. This was the biggest bulldozer John Deere makes so around 50,000 pounds if I remember right. Anyway that would squish the rocks into the mud from the vibration and weight, so I have done it as well.

Next time if your husband tries using a chain, tell him to double wrap the chain, that keeps it from slipping when moving rocks. Just kind of a Homestead Hack I learned a long time ago.
 
Travis Johnson
master pollinator
Posts: 4588
1056
transportation cat duck trees rabbit books chicken woodworking
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The older I get, the lazier I get. Granted this only works up to about 800 pounds, but I like using my log loader trailer to move rocks...

DSCN4219.JPG
moving rocks with log loader trailer
moving rocks with log loader trailer
 
Jay Angler
gardener
Posts: 1337
Location: Pacific Wet Coast
395
duck books chicken cooking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Rob Kaiser wrote:

I'd be *very* cautious of settling in that hole after removal of such a large rock, especially if backfilling with wood.

Yes, I won't be planting over that spot for a long time. The whole point was to have a "compost" hole I could keep filling with wet plant stuff so the moisture would dampen and soften the surrounding clay and encourage worms to move in and spread the joy and eventually the baby apple tree would grow roots as far as the pit, but at this time the apple tree is at least 2 1/2 feet away and on a slight up-slope. I want enough woody stuff to hopefully not end up with an anaerobic mess and I will add little bits of "sort-of pre-biochar" to lighten the clay and hopefully support the microbes. We had some rain and there's no sign of the hole holding water, but if I see signs of that, I can always put a board over it. It's not a spot that anyone but me will likely try to walk, so I'm not worried about anyone falling into it in the short term either, but all of those are concerns people need to consider. If the hole helps a deep plume of water to spread under ground, down-slope are thornless blackberries and then lovage, hostas and Kiwi vines, that would all be happy with better ground moisture. Some of our clay is so solid that we've dug holes 3 months into our rainy season and 1 ft down it feels totally dry.
 
Posts: 65
Location: Lehigh Valley, PA zone 6b
15
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Whew! That’s less a basketball and more a basket! I’ve lifted a few rocks that size out of holes, especially one in our parking strip. I kept trying to get things to grow in this one spot about 6” in diameter, and nothing would take. Finally I desired to grab a shovel and see what was up. Sure enough, I hit rock about an inch down. Just kept digging and digging around it until I had unearthed a monster like that. I don’t have any power equipment like a hammer drill or tractor, so I employed simple machines.

I just laid down a couple of boards around the sides of the hole and levered it up with my digging bar. It would lift a few inches, I’d slide something in the hole to keep it from dropping back down, reposition the lever, and repeat. Slow, but effective. And when it finally rolled out, immensely satisfying.

D
 
I can't take it! You are too smart for me! Here is the tiny ad:
Food Forest Card Game - Game Forum
https://permies.com/t/61704/Food-Forest-Card-Game-Game
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!