In the last few days I have undertaken to shift a variety of shrubs hither and yon, it being that sort of weather. This gives me plenty of opportunity to practice my hole digging abilities.
I always laugh at the earnest illustrations that accompany many plants…though I have discovered that probably the majority of people out there do Not know how to dig a hole (never mind plant something), so the illustration is needed. Still, the hole is so elegant: a nice symmetrical hole, a nice pile of dirt, a person leaning contemplatively upon a spade… Right. Now, I have had the occasion to dig a few easy holes. It was a revelation when I was helping to plant some trees down in a river valley, in an area of deep soil and no mature trees; this it was clear was what they meant, a few easy scoops and voila!
Now here…well, first off it is sticky, heavy clay till. It can be wet enough to merrily adhere to the shovel even when it is shaken vigourously. There are the rocks, ad infinitum. Then, well then there are the tree roots. Having hacked through the mat of fiber roots at the surface, you hit (usually just where you need to place the root ball of the new plant) great writhing roots. Anything up to two inches can be severed by a shovel* but often, as was the case today, these are roots the size of an arm. I try to dig around those, so much for the symmetry of my holes. Hole digging is a vigourous exercise, aided by a sharp knife at times, sturdy boots, and determination.
In my morbid turns of mind, I have always wondered how on earth grave-diggers did it. You can’t do six feet deep around here. At least I can’t.

*I’ve always felt that ‘blunt instrument’ is a misnomer when applied to a shovel.