Putting in a vertical post feels as if it must be the easiest thing in the world, until you're faced with the reality of doing it. Possibly that's what prompted my recall of an urgent errand last week, five minutes into the afternoon that Husband and I had earmarked to erect the new raspberry supports.
"How did you know to do that?" I asked admiringly (and very soothingly) on my return.
Husband - sole excavator for four holes 18 inches deep in clay soil like concrete - was decidedly grumpy. But it wasn't muscle-power that aroused my conciliatory admiration. It was the way he'd got the posts upright.
Our nation's men are not exactly practical, according to Channel 4's research (released last Monday in time for their new series, The Island with Bear Grylls). While I can't get too excited by 62% not knowing how to light a fire without a lighter (I'm pretty sure it's been like that for some time; the tinder-box was around before lucifers), I can see a few jerry-built shelves going up in Wales, where 83% of men said they'd never been taught any practical DIY.
"I've watched other people do it," growled Husband - a little pointedly, I thought.
So, for anyone whose husband is Welsh, or who hasn't hung around building sites eyeing up the work, here's a quick run-down on how to ensure your posts are vertical enough to put the bubble between the lines in the spirit level.
We were putting in the Harrod Horticultural Summer Raspberry Supports that I decided to treat myself to, as the raspberry bed has been looking a mess for some time. The posts (which have to be accurately upright in order to accommodate the cross-piece) are therefore square and quite narrow. We also decided that the soil being what it is, we could get away with putting them straight in and not using concrete. However, the principle is the same, whether pouring concrete in the hole or using a round stake instead.
2. Bash in a baton (18 x 2 x 1 inches is nicely robust) at a 45 degree angle into the far wall of the hole.
3. Place your post against this and check that it's vertical by placing spirit level on opposite side from wooden baton.
4. Alter post position until it is vertical. It should stand flush against the baton. (You don't want it wobbling back and forth against it.) Tap the post in slightly to help it stay in place.
5. The post is now vertical in one plane (left to right, or front to back), and you need to ensure it's upright in the plane at 90 degrees to that (front to back, or left to right). Place the spirit level on the side 90 degrees from the plane you've just set and adjust until vertical.
6. Holding the post firmly, tap in another baton at right angles to the original, and against the post, so that the post is held vertical in both planes by the corner made by the two batons (as you can see clearly in the top picture - the third baton, on the left in front, in the top picture, is adding stability to the middle baton).
7. Fill the hole.
It seemed undiplomatic to break off in the middle of hole-filling to take photos, so the pictures all illustrate holes with soil replaced, but you can see the baton placement. (We had two uprights in one hole as we bought two sets of supports and placed them next to each other, so the left to right baton in the bottom picture is serving two uprights.)
We watered the soil in, so it would fill the hole properly. Once it had all settled and dried out a bit, we pulled out the wooden batons. (If you were using concrete, it would be a good idea to bang batons into the surrounding ground, rather than into the sides of the holes as we [er - he] did.)
And voilà. Vertical uprights. This is obviously easier to do with two people - one to hold the post, and one to bang in the batons. However, Husband would like you to know it's perfectly possible with just one. Alone. without help. In fact, all by himself.