Is There Any Task Less Satisfying Than Digging Post Holes In New England?

When discoursing on various labor-intensive projects and activities I often invoke the legend of Sisyphus, a mythological Greek king condemned for eternity to push an enormous boulder up a hill only to have it roll back down.

Among all the ridiculously arduous tasks – hacking away at bittersweet, constructing barriers to fend off deer, slugs and other plant predators, splitting freshly cut hickory for firewood – perhaps the most Sisyphusian is digging post holes.

Ledge, tree roots and hardpan stubbornly thwart shovel, mattock and pry bar. What's more, even the most elegant hole eventually gets filled, so the digger has nothing to show for his efforts.

For the past week or so I have been engaged in this wretched business, and I really shouldn't complain because I have only myself to blame.

It all started innocently enough on an early morning run when one of my favorite aromas wafted through the crisp, early autumn air: Concord grapes ripening along the side of the road.

How wonderful it would be to pick grapes in the backyard each fall, I thought. I already enjoy blueberries fresh from the garden in summer, along with native raspberries, which grow in nearby woods and fields.

Concord grapes also grow wild, but they have a major flaw: seeds. For me, this pretty much ruins the dining experience. The solution: grow my own seedless table grapes.

I went online to research this project, and also have been consulting with a dairy farmer on my running route who recently added a vineyard. While I haven't settled on the varieties I intend to plant in the spring, this much I do know: Unless I cover my vines with netting I might as well concede at least half the crop to voracious avian freeloaders.

I learned this lesson with blueberries, and loyal readers will recall how last spring I finally built a solid wooden frame that supports a nylon net bird barrier.

A particularly determined catbird discovered a tiny slit and periodically sneaked into the enclosure, but I couldn't begrudge him a few meals. I won't have to worry about birds getting into the grapes for a while – it takes two years for the vines to produce fruit, and by then my fortress, modeled after the blueberry frame, will be impenetrable.

It consists of 21 pressure-treated posts, each measuring 5-by-8 inches wide and 8 feet tall. I extended the lengths of each by 2 feet by screwing sections of 2-by-4s. I then buried the posts in rows 8 feet apart about 2 feet deep and filled the holes with rocks and clay.

Next, I screwed in 2x4s that will serve much like rafters to support the netting.

Finally, I will reinforce the walls with metal mesh fencing to ward off the robo-deer, and then add the bird netting. It is adjacent to an existing garden fence, so I've only had to build three additional sides. This new section measures about 25 by 30 feet.

As for the vines, I'll plant them in rows beneath strands of baling wire. But before I can put in vines I have to transplant about 150 pine and spruce seedlings now occupying that space in what has been part of my makeshift tree nursery.

I know, I know, it's a lot of work for grapes, and I'll have to live another 230 years to recover the expense, not even factoring in the labor.

But one morning in the fall of 2014 I will stroll out to the garden, pick a bunch of grapes, eat them with my yogurt, and it will all have been worth it.

Reader Comments

MORE BLOGS

Embrace The Cold! It’s Fun (Right)

Just as Dylan famously sang so long ago, "You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows," I don’t need a thermometer to know the temperature – or at least what to wear when I venture outside for...

A Chilly Paddle Among The Seals Off Fishers Island

"What did you say the water temperature is?" my buddy Steve Kurczy called out. "Thirty-eight degrees!" "And how long …" He didn’t have to finish the question.

Death In The Antarctic: Adventurers Who Live On The Edge Sometimes Topple Off

Virtually all outdoor enthusiasts, myself included, regard Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition in 1915 as history’s most extraordinary survival tale, in which he and his entire crew managed to make it...

Death In Antarctica: Adventurers Who Live On The Edge Sometimes Topple Off

Virtually all outdoor enthusiasts, myself included, regard Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition in 1915 as history’s most extraordinary survival tale, in which he and his entire crew managed to make it...

Finally, Some Cross-Country Skiing

After emerging on cross-country skis from protective evergreens into an open field the other day, I pulled on a fleece balaclava as an icy gust whipped across frozen ground and a giant, dark shadow advanced with the lowering sun.

Touching The Top Of The Bottom Of The Planet: Mystic Climber Scales Antarctica’s Tallest Mountain

Experienced mountaineers realize that reaching the peak isn’t the most important goal of any climb. The fact is, it doesn’t count unless you get back down.

Nuts About Acorns

By now I’m sure you’ve noticed, as I have on my regular rambles through the woods, that we’re up to our — er, elbows — in acorns.

A Year Of Fun: It All Begins With The New Year’s Day Run-Swim

First of all, it doesn’t hurt that much. Really.

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow ... (And Don’t Stick Your Foot Into A Bear Cave)

I know that a month from now, when I could very well be digging out of my driveway just as I was in the accompanying photo taken last winter, I may have to eat these words, but ... Come on! Where’s all the snow?!

An Impromptu Kayak Circumnavigation of Fishers Island in December: Glad I Missed the ‘Fun’ Part

You know those adventures you could have experienced but had to pass up for one reason or another, and then when you later ask how it went your friends gush, "Oh, man, it was awesome! Best time of our life! You shoulda been...

Celebrating Second-place Slackers: A Quiz

Back when my son Tom and I were tagging all 67 of the 4,000-plus-foot mountains in New England, a perverse idea crossed my mind: What if we stopped inches short of each peak and then climbed back down?

With The Fagin Fitness Ankle Bracelet or Fagin Fitness Implant, You WILL Get In Shape!

The problem with Fitbit, Jawbone Up, Withings Pulse, Microsoft Band and other electronic fitness trackers is that, like so many old-school aids designed to get people off their butts and into shape (workout charts, personal trainers,...

Beware The Deadly Deer

Every season presents the potential for paradise or peril.

Autumn Berries: A Succulent Reward During A Long Bike Ride

While biking through the hills and along the shore of Mystic and Stonington the other day with my friend Spyros "Spy" Barres and son Tom, I began to regret that I neglected to bring along a water bottle.