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applestar
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Ergonomics in the garden

A friend who is a doctor has been telling me for at least a year -- maybe over a year -- that I need to refrain from deep knee bends and squats when gardening because there is a tremendous pressure exerted by the knee via the thigh bone to the hip joint. I have not been listening to the good doctor and have been experiencing additional pain in the joint and leg, though I won't go into such boring details.

A little while ago, we had a flurry of discussion about garden scooters and knee pads. I remember saying I have a nifty folding cooler/stool but I didn't remember where I put it. :?

Well, yesterday, I found it -- whenever some dumb luck, fumble fingers, or misjudgment causes me to drop things or things fall over, or I trip, I blame it on the resident gremlins and gnomes. Maybe House Brownies per Spiderwick Chronicles. Yesterday, one of those mischief-makers made me drop my clip-on telephoto lens for the iPad between the work table and a bunch of stuff stored underneath it. I couldn't see it at all when I peered from the top, so I had to pull out entire piles of buckets, boxes, tool bags from under the table... And miraculously, the lens was unharmed, having been cushioned by soft stuff, and there, in dusty cobwebby glory was my cooler/stool.

I took it outside and brushed it off, and discovered that I still had the basic picnic/outing stuff inside -- a set of colorful sporKs, emergency teabags (of now exceedingly questionable freshness), etc. as well as a shriveled Trader Joe's balloon which they give out to little kids (notice the spare/backup juice box straw :> ) -- that's how long it's been. :lol:

Image

As you can see, it's a soft cooler with a sturdy frame and seat and a shoulder strap. I immediately put it to good use, and I intend to make it a regular part of my gardening tool arsenal. :wink:
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Re: Ergonomics in the garden

That's really nice. Never heard of a cooler stool! But I think I need one now! :)

I have a tri-pod stool that doesn't get enough use. It's lightweight, meant for treks. So it'd be perfect for this kind of use.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Ergonomics in the garden

I just take my little wooden stool out with me:

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imafan26
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Re: Ergonomics in the garden

I have a rocker seat. It has an adjustable height and a wide seat. It pivots in the garden. I also got a separate cushion with pockets that were made for the seat but sold separately. Only caution was to make sure you don't sit on it backwards or you fall off. I have a couple of other seat but they are much lower and a garden scooter with a storage compartment but it is better to use on a flat surface and it does not have a break and takes up too much space working in the confines of the garden bed. Sometimes I just sit on an upside down terra cotta pot or a 5 gallon bucket or two.

The real body saver though are long handled tools.

https://www.homedepot.com/p/Garden-Rocke ... /100388263
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applestar
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Re: Ergonomics in the garden

Have you noticed that if you have to carry a bucket of water, it's easier to carry two full to the brim 2 gal buckets without spilling than one 5 gal bucket only filled enough for 4 gal to avoid sloshing? Same with two big watering cans one in each hand.

...but maybe this is because I'm short and barely have enough clearance to dangle a 5-gal bucket. Maybe it's easier if you are taller.
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imafan26
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Re: Ergonomics in the garden

Actually I think because the weight is balanced and your center of gravity doesn't change much with an equally divided load.
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applestar
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Re: Ergonomics in the garden

Right? I was hoping that made sense. I think it's better for your back. It's actually less straining for my hip and knee joints, too because there's less wobbling and you can walk straight.

Of course taller people might still be able to easily carry TWO 5-gal buckets. :wink:
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imafan26
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Re: Ergonomics in the garden

Only if they regularly lift weights. I think how much you can carry is dependent on conditioning. I know some smaller people who can lift quite a lot but they have been lifting weights and have built up muscle regularly. If you don't use it, you lose it.
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Vanisle_BC
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Re: Ergonomics in the garden

applestar wrote:Of course taller people might still be able to easily carry TWO 5-gal buckets. :wink:
Only if they're US gallons :lol:. But even then most of us can't. We'd probably get shorter real quick. Heartily agree about the discomfort and skeletal stress of carrying unbalanced loads.
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imafan26
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Re: Ergonomics in the garden

Of course, I try to avoid it whenever I can. I reduce the load, even if it means more trips and If I can put it on a wagon even better.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Ergonomics in the garden

Yup! I love my little garden cart. I have one about like this:

Image

It's how I brought all that manure from the horse ranch behind me. Just throw a sheet of painters plastic in it so that the manure doesn't come out the holes. But the cart has many uses.
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LIcenter
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Re: Ergonomics in the garden

When planting small shrubs or gallon, and up size plants, I find it much easier to use a post hole digger, rather than a long handled shovel. You would be surprised how less stressful it is on the back.

Vanisle_BC
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Re: Ergonomics in the garden

Rainbow; yes! I have a similar cart but with a solid plastic rather than mesh body - VERY useful in the garden. If the plastic ever disintegrates it will get a custom-built new body. And it's British Racing Green!! :lol: I'm naming it Bentley.

LIcenter; interesting idea about the post-holer. I wonder how many other tools get used for gardening beyond their intended purpose. One of my fave garden tools is my long-handled swoe and I've often thought of trying to make one with a smaller blade, for weeding between close-planted rows. It would have some kind of side guards to avoid slicing stems in the rows.

imafan; I too have a garden scooter with steering and a swivelling seat. I guess it would be great on a level paved surface but in my more "natural" garden it's fairly useless; I believe it does my skeleton more harm than good.
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LIcenter
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Re: Ergonomics in the garden

Used it today, planting two Dappled willows. I'm not one of those who dig the hole twice the size of the pot being planted. Just a tad bigger works just fine.

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Re: Ergonomics in the garden

I use plastic milk crates, turned upside down of course. There are a 2 or 3 in the yard, easily moved around. Most of my work is with containers so they are about the right height. For moving bags of stuff, use the plastic garden carts.
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imafan26
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Re: Ergonomics in the garden

Some garden tasks just got to be done but to save my body, I try to switch tasks every half hour or so so I am not in the same position or using the same muscles for any length of time.

I also found out that the right tools do matter.
I prefer the round point shovel to the spade, but the cheap ones are straight, the better ones come with thick wood handles and the shovel is at an angle to make digging easier and it has a level spot at the top to save my instep.

The garden fork is good for breaking hard ground and aerating.

My all around weapon of choice is a hoemattock since It has multiple functions for weeding, digging holes, hammering, digging shallow trenches, and smashing african snails. It has a cultivator on the other end but I use it mostly to pry between pavers.

I usually have a 5 gallon bucket for weeds and another bucket for tools. But I still manage to throw out tools with the weeds.
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ButterflyLady29
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Re: Ergonomics in the garden

I used to have one of those cooler stools. I used it when fishing with Grandpa. Last time I saw it, it was on a wagon with the rest of the odds and ends for the auction.

I can't use a stool when working in the garden. I still have to bend over too much. I now use a sheet of cardboard to sit on. Which explains why my nether region is covered with chigger bites, despite showering as soon as I am done in the garden/yard.

I must be an oddball. I regularly carry 2 nearly full 5 gallon buckets. But then I've got arms that make teenage boys jealous. It's harder for me to make 2 trips than 1 with a heavier load.

The right tools do make all the difference. A couple days ago I was trying to plant a flower when I ran into another of the many chunks of concrete buried a foot or so underground. Thankfully I wasn't too far from the house and the handy spud bar. A few well placed blows and I was able to get the end of the bar under the chunk. A little prying and out it came.

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applestar
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Re: Ergonomics in the garden

Parts -- especially joints -- start to fall apart when they get old. My right elbow decided it was old. I was dealing with unbearable pain until I assessed the situation and realized two things --

(1) I was sleeping on it
(2) Even when I'm not sleeping on it, I was somehow holding the arm/elbow in weird ways while I was sleeping that made it hurt in the morning.

So I decided to buy an elbow brace. Lots of choices at the local store. Picked this one at random.
Image

It has turned out to be very supportive. If my forearm muscles are hurting, then I wear it slid down a bit to apply pressure with the pads, but mostly I pull it up so the upper pad is over the elbow dimple. This restricts bending and movement while I'm sleeping and definitely keeps me from bending the elbow in ways that can hurt.

I also wear it in the garden when I'm doing stuff like pounding fence posts in. First time I did, I didn't realize just how much it helps. ...it REALLY helps.
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applestar
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Re: Ergonomics in the garden

I've used this several times since I bought it, and have been happy that I did. This was what I was using again this morning -- 3 new posts plus one that wasn't all the way pounded in, and a couple more that loosened in the clay from all the rain. Between this and the brace, my elbow is NOT hurting. :()

Subject: Back saving yard tool I love.
applestar wrote:Not at the caliber of your tools, but I bought a gadget called t-post driver/pounder. I used to make a pilot hole with a 4 ft rebar, pounded in with a hand sledge hammer, then laboriously pulled it out, then set the t-post, stood on an old picnic bench and pounded away with the hand sledge hammer.

But I developed a bum elbow and realized there was no way I was going to be swinging that sledge around if I expected my elbow/arm to remain at least somewhat functional -- so I gave in -- bought the t-post driver. Used it this morning --- oh WOW :-()
Image
You can't tell from the photo but the handles are not straight pointing 180° out to the sides -- more like ...160°?... anyway pointed inward at a good angle for you to grasp with both hands. Maybe this is a standard design, but definitely a worthy feature. There are different brands and slightly different weights. This one is just a little bit lighter (and better for me when lifting it to fit over the top of the post).

I still have to stand on the picnic bench to pound in a 6.5 ft t-post, but so much easier -- can feel most of my meager force being utilized and effectively pounding down the post, so much easier to keep straight/plumb, plus my gadget has a doo-hicky on top called t-post straightener, of which I was skeptical, but does grip the t-post and lets you turn it like a wrench.

Image
...and someone pointed out a forehead-slapper and I no longer have to stand on the picnic bench -- I slip the pounder over the top of the post BEFORE standing it upright. :lol: This involves a bit of top-heavy balancing at first, but definite improvement, and once the post is pounded down, I can lift the pounder off.
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imafan26
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Re: Ergonomics in the garden

When I am out in the garden, i have my rocker stool and two 5 gallon buckets. One to carry tools and the other for weeds. My rocker has pockets, but except for a few seeds, labels, pencil, a small bottle of water, and paper, It doesn't hold a lot of tools. I need long and short loppers, pruners, hoe matic, zip loc bags (for snails and slugs), hedge clippers, a sprayer bottle filled with alcohol, plant ties, stakes, sickle, and maybe a trowel. The bigger tools I have ready are a rake, bow rake, hoe, and shovel. I like to get everyting I might need in arms reach before I sit down, because it is really hard sometimes to get up again.

I have a wagon but, I have filled it so much and put so many things around it that now It doesn't move much anywhere. I am thinking of getting a gorrilla cart for the yard. I just don't know where I can put it.

One of the things I have learned to do in the garden to save on some of the aches and pains is to make sure I get my gear on first. Have my hat, ice water in a 2 liter cooler, sunscreen, deet, and bandaid my fingers. Bandaids help cushion the fingers against blisters. I am bad about gloves. It is hard to pull weeds with them so I often just do without. However, it doesn't take long working a hoe or a shovel to get a blister or splinter without gloves. I try to work early in the morning as soon as the sun is up and after I get breakfast. I work for about 3 hours then I have a long break from 11-3 pm and then maybe get a couple of more hours in at the end of the day. (Providing, I actually have a garden day). I try to vary my position and tasks every 30 minutes for variety and also so I don't end up in the same position for a long time. I will sit on my stool and weed for 30 minutes and then I will do some pruning with the loppers or clippers standing up. When it gets hotter after 10 a.m. I switch to working on seeds and cuttings in the shade. In the afternoon, I will do the watering and maybe some weeding and snail hunting at the same time. I hate weed whacking so I have to do that first before I do anything else. I do have a radio by the door, but I rarely turn it on. My cat usually sits by the door or the window and watches me in the yard. He used to push the screen out and go gallavanting in the yard. My other cat could open the screen door to get out and find me. I had to keep the doors closed all the time. I went to da screen shoppe and had my screen redone and added a pet screen so the cat can't push the screen out any more. My other cat died and the two I have now don't really open the front door, but I keep the inner door closed anyway.

I don't have a lot of stamina for sustained work, so I usually work slowly with the shovel turning in compost and fertilizer. I have to take breaks after I go a couple of feet, but eventually it does get done. I have a tiller/cultivator, but I haven't used it in such a long time I don't know if it still works.

Before I go to sleep, I try to plan my goals for the next day. I usually don't get to all of them, because I frankly run out of gas to do anymore, but I try to prioritize and do the ones that matter first. My to do list is getting longer.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.



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