Prepper Diary: We Review our Options and Pick a Powerful Fence Post Hole Digger

Vermeer Mini Skid Steer with Auger
The Vermeer mini skid steer with auger was a huge help in digging fence post holes.

After watching several videos about post hole digging using one-man and two-man augers to drill fence post holes, I started to second guess my decision about using the two-man auger to drill 25 fence-post holes. When you use the two-man auger, you have to bend all the way down to the ground as the auger drills in and then lift the auger, its engine, and all the dirt stuck to the auger out of the hole. That looked like it would be tough on my back, which has been giving me intermittent problems for at least 20 years.

So I got up early, drove to the rental place, rented the Vermeer mini skid steer with a posthole digger that you in the photo above, and towed it back home. This is a heavy track-powered device with a 35 horsepower diesel engine that provides far more torque than the two-man systems with have 2.5 to 5 horsepower engines. I expected it would do a much faster job and be easier on my back.

The Blessing of Power Equipment

Power equipment definitely makes things easier. I will miss it after the end of the world as we know it.

The Vermeer 800TX is a very nice unit. You stand on the back when you use it, its controls are easy to use, and you can get multiple attachments for it. I wish I had a valid excuse to own a piece of equipment like that!

The only problem is that this sucker was heavy! Chevy says my truck is rated to tow 7,000 pounds. I guess that rating applies to level ground, not mountainous terrain. I barely made it up the mountain to the house. Then we had the challenge of backing down the driveway. Backing up with a trailer is never my strong suit and doing so wit ha trailer that weighs more than the truck is an even greater challenge. We ended up parking before it got steep, unloading the skid steer and driving it in under its own power.

Drilling Commences

The nice thing about working in a field is there are no tree roots. That made some holes so easy to drill we might have well have been using a kitchen mixer to make cookie dough. Of course, there were others that had so many rocks we had to keep pulling the auger up and fishing out rocks the size of your fist or bigger. We used a shovel, a couple spades, and a post-hole digger to clean things up. The auger got the holes to be between 2.5 and 3 feet deep, which was our target.

We only ran into one place that the rock about 18-inches down was so big we just gave up and moved the hole over a couple feet. Without a decent size backhoe, I don’t think we could have gotten that rock out of there.

We got all the holes done in about three hours. The most laborious part was the need to knock the compacter dirt off the auger every time we pulled it up. While the ground was no longer frozen, it was damp all the way down.  As a result, dirt would be packed onto the auger every time we pulled it up. We’d pull it up, back up so the dirt wouldn’t fall back into the hole, and then scrape it off.

After lunch, we loaded the equipment back onto the trailer and made another two-hour round trip to return the auger. We got it back so early they gave us a refund on the 24-hour rental, something I was not expecting.

Next Steps

We’re planning to get pea gravel and concrete tomorrow. I expect we will be back in time to brace and plumb a number of posts using 2x4s to keep things steady. I don’t know how long it will take to do all of them, but assuming the weather cooperates, we’ve got the rest of the week before my helper leaves.

So expect to another report in a day or two.