Saturday, July 11, 2009

A danged menagerie, that's what I have here

A couple of young groundhogs took up residence under my shed. I borrowed a larger live trap from a neighbor and staked it out with delicious bait (cantaloupe apparently works well). Of course, something walked off with the bait without tripping the trap. Fortunately, young groundhogs are notoriously... naive. Leave the empty trap out near their den, and within a day or two:

Looks like he scraped himself up on the trap or before getting in. Released him in the woods and, a few hours later, did the same with his partner in crime (who may have been attracted to the trap by the first one's scent for all I know).

Even though I'd only seeing these two wandering around, I reset the trap and left it out that evening. Came home to find a young raccoon inside, and a very anxious mother prowling around. Despite the youngster's whining, I let everything sit overnight - raccoon mothers are notoriously protective and I wasn't certain I could scare it off long enough to release the kid. Come morning though, mom was nowhere to be seen and the young one was half asleep in the cage. Open it up, tap the back end a few times, it finally lumbers off - under the shed. Time for some cayenne pepper I think.

To conclude this post about trapping tiny animals, here are some pretty pictures of a bird:

When the only tool you have is a hammer...

You really need to go to the flea market. Amongst the other tools I picked up was a cold chisel. While digging out one of the pilings in my backyard, I ran into a series of tough roots. The smaller ones split under the shovel, but the thicker ones just sheared off a layer and stayed put. Cold chisel plus hammer plus two or three taps at each point on the root equals no more root.

Hard and deeply buried targets

That's not an innuendo, just a reference to my days working for DoD. It's also an appropriate title for this post about pulling a set of old pilings that had once supported a deck in my backyard. The deck is long gone and the thick pilings are now just in the way of various plans for the space.

Incidentally, these pics were taken over the span of at least a month. Plenty of things have been happening at the house, but since June 2 plenty more have been happening with the theater festival I'm in this summer. My days have been a combination of rehearsals/performances, housework, client work, eating, and sleeping. No time for reportage.

Back to the reportage:

This is one of five pilings that need to be pulled this summer. Thick, heavy, sturdy wood that's been sunk in the ground for a number of decades now. I asked the previous owner how deep they were and if there was any concrete. To the best of his recollection, they're buried about three feet down, and there was no concrete. You can see where this is going.

They are buried three feet deep.

There is a ring of concrete a few inches down, about 4-6" deep. Fortunately I'd recently bought a three-pound sledge. Remember to wear safety goggles when taking out your aggression on some harmless (but very in the way) concrete. Also, dig out underneath the concrete as much as you can with either a shovel or spade before wacking the rocks.

Pulling an old piling isn't that difficult a process, just time and labor intensive. Dig, break up any concrete, pull any rocks right by the base, keep digging...

If they're buried three feet deep these things'll be pretty hard to pull straight up (although far from impossible - see the last pic in this series). I found the best way to remove them was to rock them back and forth (it also loosens some of the dirt at the base, although if you rock it too hard you'll start compacting the dirt), digging out more of an oval to allow the piling to 'fall' further with each shove. Eventually you should be able to do one of two things - either get a 2x4 under the buried end and just lever the piling out:

Or, if you really loosen all the dirt around the base enough, and there's something to grab onto, you can lean the piling against the side of the hole and drag it up and out:

This third one was a real problem. Aside from the bricks I'd stacked right next to it before the winter that had to be moved, two sides of the piling had obstructions that made it very difficult to dig a full hole. On the right (not visible) are some old tree roots about as thick as your arm. On top is either an old cement/brick pour from who knows when, or some additional heavy fill put in when the piling was sunk. It just took a little longer to work around everything, but now it's done. Hooray!

Oh, and fill the holes back in before you close up for the day. It's always these little details that escape us after hours of manual labor.