There are several websites which describe the rules. You bury him by the For Sale sign, or in your yard, facing the house. You have to unearth him when the house is sold. You are supposed to bury him upside down, to make him uncomfortable. This will make him want to get out of the ground quickly, so he will work to get your house sold as rapidly as possible.
We buried him in the fall. He took his time about things, but eventually the house sold. (Well, almost sold. We still don't have a closing date, though it's supposed to be coming any minute now. I hope.) In theory, you're supposed to wait until the sale is finalized to retrieve him, so nothing goes wrong. However I'm not superstitious, or at least in theory I'm not, so I thought move-out day was a more convenient day to do it. That way there is no need for me to go back, and I'm not digging in somebody else's yard.
What the websites don't tell you is how you are supposed to disinter him in the dead of winter. Especially when all of your tools are already packed into the PODS.
As we packed up the house last saturday, we kept in reserve a Joseph Unearthing Spade. On wednesday, we returned to the house to take out the last of the trash and dig him up.
I started out brushing off the snow with my hands, then scraping off the ice underneath with the spade. Then I started hitting the ground. It was frozen solid. I fruitlessly tried stabbing it with the spade with as much force as I could, but nothing happened. Then I applied the tip, started wiggling it and trying to work it into the earth. I got a tiny dollop of the frozen dirt to come off.
"Here, let me try," said M. He had a screwdriver, and he started stabbing it into the ground to loosen it up. This was at least making some progress: it was pointy enough to pierce the ground, though it couldn't actually remove any of the dirt.
Once he'd loosened up the earth around, I tried again with the spade. The ground won, and my spade bent into a weird S-shape.
"I have an idea," I said. "We'll grab some of those cups we were throwing away, microwave some water, then pour hot water on to soften the ground."
"Great idea, except the microwave is gone."
"Crap. Okay, can we cook them on the stove?"
"We'll just use the kitchen sink, that should get hot enough."
After several cupfuls of hot water, Joseph's feet were sticking out. I reached into the muddy hole and grabbed them, trying to wiggle him back and forth to free him.
"I know, I have an entrenching tool in my trunk!"
"It's like a shovel. It's got real Iraqi dirt on it."
He attacked the hole with the folding shovel, although we never quite got it to stop trying to fold back up whenever too much pressure was applied. Maybe Iraqi dirt is softer, or less frozen. I heated up more water.
By then half of Joe was exposed, but he was still solidly entrenched. A good deal of the frozen ground had turned to mud, but it must not be enough. I kept trying to grab him by the feet and jiggle him free, but he wasn't moving. "Has he grown roots?? Why won't he come out. I thought you wanted to get out of here, wasn't that the whole reason you arranged the house sale?"
Finally, as I was getting more hot water and M was taking his turn with our meager set of tools (folding shovel, bent spade, and 4 inch screwdriver), I heard a yell from the front yard. I hurried back out, and there was St Joe, finally freed. He was a lot longer than I'd remembered him, eight inches I think. Maybe he did grow in there, just like a daffodil!
M took him downstairs to wash the mud off, while I cleaned up the kitchen. When they came back up, I pointed my finger sternly at Joe, "Now don't you do anything to mess up the sale, or we will put you back in that hole!"
"You can't threaten him," M exclaimed. "Thanks for all your help," he told the statue instead.
"Yes, thank you. Just make sure the house sells. The hole's still there."
"Stop that. No, you did an excellent job selling the house. We appreciate all you've done."
We will put him on the mantel at M's house, and when we're ready to sell this place we'll do the whole thing (hole thing?) all over again.