I recently got a very strong message from my body. "He stupid, you ain't 30
I have been about 1/2 retired for four years and do contract consulting
about 1,000 hours per year. During off-time I stay pretty active in the
shop and doing other things. I finished a fairly difficult contract during
early June that had me working 50 to 70 hours/week for a few months. When I
finished I decided it would be a good time to build 225 feet of privacy
fence. Also a good opportunity to work off some of the weight I had gained.
Stupid idea without some pre-conditioning.
During weeks 2 and 3 after finishing the contract I spent 6 to 10 hours a
day digging holes, lifting 60 and 80 pound bag of concrete and erecting the
fence. In retrospect, my back was giving me little messages that I wrote
off to fatigue and need for exercise. Two weeks ago today I was standing in
the kitchen pouring a glass of water when I developed the first
sledge-hammer effects of Sciatica. For those who haven't pissed their
Sciatic Nerve yet let me describe it. It feels like the worst hip-to-toes
Charlie-horse you have ever experienced with added stinging and burning.
The bad part is you cannot walk it off. Also throw in numbness in toes and
ankles. I spent most of one week alternately lying or standing because
sitting was out of the question. During this period I felt goofy and sleepy
from muscle relaxants and large doses of Ibuprofen (I refuse to take the
narcotics). After getting some relief from drugs I started with a
Chiropractic therapist and I'm getting some steady relief. In a week or
two I might be able to pull my pants on or tie my shoes without hurting.
Guys, if your home or shop work has you thinking about cramping, stinging
pain in you lower back, buttock area and knees you might want to take a
break. I have "thrown the back out" a few times but Sciatica is nothing to
screw with. Doctor and therapist say it might take 2-3 months to get back
If this is what it feels like to be 60, I can't wait for 80.
PS - Anyone want to finish the last 16 feet of fence? That's the part with
the Arbor gate made from 10' 4x6's. Just askin'.
> I recently got a very strong message from my body. "He stupid, you
> any more!"
Understand your pain.
For me, building a fence, digging holes, handling bags of concrete,
etc, falls in that same class as brain surgery, something I let others do.
I "think" that the common mistake is to set the concrete such that the
top of the block is below grade. In this case the surrounding grade and
turf create a depression where water accumulates and dries in repeated
cycles which rots the post right at the surface. A fence professional
explained to me that the proper way to set a post is with the concrete
set higher than grade forcing the water to run off into the soil.
Sounds reasonable, but I have not verified this for myself. I do know
that some of the fences in our relatively new development have failed
after a very short time while others seem to be unaffected and are as
sturdy as new after four or five years. This theory is supported by the
fact that trees in man-made lakes rot and break off right at the
surface while the barely submerged stump remains for decades.
I don't think I will ever test the longevity of posts set in concrete
vs. posts set directly in the ground. I already know from personal
experience that a PT post (or at least the older discontinued CCA
variety) set directly in the ground here in Maryland will easily last
20 years; don't see much need for the concrete.
Oh, and to the OP, hope you recover quickly, I feel your pain.
In California Bay Area clay, concrete works well, used like Tom Murphy
describes. At least according to what my fence guy tells me, but then,
we've only know each other 25 years. The ground slides here first. ;-)
HE talked about having some serious challenges with redwood quality some
time back, and switching to PT fence posts. And then the mills had
challenges with the change of formula on the PT stuff, and ended up
replacing a bunch of his early-rotting product (3-5 years?). But that's
solved now, according to him. At least for here.
Regarding the sore back, I'm sympathetic. No scyatica here, but
leftovers from an adventurous, but _short_ high school sporting career.
I have to watch the signals, and pay attention, or pay the price for
weeks. Some activities have been removed from what I used to do. You
notice I have a fence guy? I have a patio guy too, now.
Pay attention to competent medical and physical therapy folks, and do
what you can to avoid the three-week dropouts. I do.
This is what I did. I built the concrete to about 1"-2" above grade when I
poured it. As it set I used the bottom face of a garden hoe to tamp it on
each side to form a shallow pyramid around the base of the post and the hoe
blade to pull over-pour from the edges. This formed neat square-shaped
"domes" at each base. I also threw about 2" to 3" of rough gravel in the
hole below the post base. This is supposed to allow water in the bottom to
drain off. Don't know if it works but river-gravel is cheap.
Been there, done that, don't even like to think about it. Funny thing is
it hit me almost the same way as it did you - standing at the counter in
For me it really is a weight thing. I can almost tell when I'm edging up
on 200 pounds by how my back feels in the morning. I'm still heavier than
I should be, but there isn't anything that puts me back on a diet faster
than sciatic pain.
Something that really helped me (after recovering a bit) was to do some
regular swimming. Helped work the back and torso muscles without putting
a big strain on them.
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