Another ungrounded (ahem!) tale
Here's the reason I've had ditch-digging on my mind today. I've been thinking of summoning a big load of mulch to do some paths in my back yard and I started thinking through what would happen if a driveway full of mulch appeared tomorrow. There is no vehicle access to the back yard, meaning that I could move it into a pile in the back yard and then move it to where it needed to go, or I could move it directly where it needed to go. One of the things I want to do is make a path through my side alley, but before I put a path over that alley, I want to put in a pipe from the sprinkler system timer toward the back yard. Hence the trench.
The whole thing, about 15m long and the depth of my trenching shovel (give or take), took about 2 hours. It needs some of the loose stuff cleared out of the bottom (I'll let a length of pipe tell me where it's too shallow) and, of course, pipe laid and the trench refilled. The soil is dense clay. It was wet and sticking to the shovel, but because it was wet I can get a shovel through it. In summer, it dries to an impenetrable consistency.
Here are a couple more stories about digging holes that (I hope) are more amusing than yard work itself.
My parents dug their sprinkler system in the front yard some years ago. The trenches were open on Halloween night, and my mother, fearing that some hapless trick-or-treater might accidentally step in one, donned a costume (a Renaissance-looking gown with a large headdress) and spent the evening handing out candy from a chair at the base of the driveway so that nobody would have to cross the lawn.
While she sat there, she regarded the trenches, and noticed that they looked a bit like open graves. She spent the later parts of the evening asking at least the older trick-or-treaters if they would like to try any of these nice, fresh graaaaves. I think she scared quite a few.
One of California's lesser-known is the underground home and gardens of the Sicilian Immigrant Baldasare Forestiere in Fresno, California. He dug the place partly as a shelter from the heat of California's central valley. Apparently not content with however much digging he did as a farmer, he spent forty years chipping away at the hard soil with hand tools, carving out an elaborate maze of tunnels and caverns. You can get an idea of the man and his creation at the website. The place is open to the public as an historic landmark.