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Moving Earth

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Ok, so in my head I have the two options of :
1- Killing myself with a shovel
2- Hiring someone to do the work for me with a earth mover

Is there an intermediate $500 solution that makes me way more efficient, but also independent of getting someone else involved.

I need to dig several swails 90 feet across.
Posts: 3375
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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$500 should get you a larger mini-ex rental for a couple days. Getting a mid-size machine is a lot harder, around here anyway.
Posts: 724
Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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how wide and deep are you making the swales?

i was able to use a rototiller to loosen up the dirt, then i went back and shoveled the loose dirt downhill.
took a few passes, but it was easier than just a shovel.

i only did 1 swale at ~125 ft. it took an afternoon.

i do plan to rent rent a digger next time, but that is mainly to dig a pond, which isnt fun via shovel. i will also use it for swales.

good luck and post pictures

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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Renting a mini backhoe/excavator is something you could do yourself. Easy to operate. You can get a lot of work done in the matter of a couple hours. If I were putting in something as easy as swales, that's the way I would go simply because of the timeliness. Time is my most valuable and scarce resource on my homestead. Over the past ten years I've been forced to use it more wisely. When I first started, I did everything the slow way, by hand. I was rather hardheaded, so it took me a while to realize that my greatest detriment wasn't lack of money, but lack of time. But since I don't have lots of money either, I have to balance time against expenditure. But in this case, I'd be sorely tempted to rent the equipment. Do the swales, dig some pits for future hugel beds, scoop out a few pond/water catchment holes, scrape together a few piles of dirt for future use.
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