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March 5, 2012: Calling a Spade a Spade

Yesterday, Pete decided to bust up the hard-packed snow layer in front of the left horse gate. We’d both been shoveling out the area in front of, and behind the gate, and in the process had created a pit. You had to step down into it to open the gate.

Pete busted the snow into chunks, and tossed them on a nearby berm. He was about three-quarters of the way through the job when the shovel broke. I was saddling up Raudi when he showed me the blade and shaft. Yep, it was broken. I said that I was glad he didn’t break his wrist. He could have – he was using a great deal of torque. In this case, the

shaft gave in first. We have three shovels, so Pete trudged up to the goat shed and got another. In all fairness to my partner, he told me that this second shovel was different than the first. He gave me some particulars, but by then I’d moved on to other things.

Last night I went out at 9:30 p.m., to water, give hay, and scoop poop. It was cold, and I was tired. My fingers quickly grew cold. And my headlight was dimming. I finished my chores, went back into the house, and remarked to Pete that cleanup seemed to take longer than usual.

This morning I again went down to the horse barn, in order to do what I do so well. I’d gotten a good night’s sleep and was wearing warmer gloves. I fed the horses, broke the ice in the water bucket, lined up the buckets, grabbed the shovel and rake, and began shoveling manure into buckets. In less than a minute, I knew something was amiss; however, I could not say what.

I stopped and examined the shovel. It then occurred to me that it was the wrong one for the job. The shovel I was using (as Pete later told me) is a spade. It has a flatter, and more narrow blade. It’s also heavier, and has a shorter shaft. It came with Pete’s Michigan house, and remained with us as we moved from South Carolina, to New Hampshire, to Montana, and to Alaska. And I suspect that it will accompany us on our next move.

I gritted my teeth, and resumed work. I could not (as I usually do) daydream, for I had to focus on getting large amounts of manure onto a smaller shovel blade.

I later realized that I had never before given my choice of pen cleaning implements much thought. However, this is yet another instance (and Pete would agree) in which it’s important to have the right tools for the job. Plastic five gallon buckets with rollers on the handles work well—otherwise, the metal handles cut into my fingers. And hedge rakes with wooden handles work well—otherwise, the cold metal causes my hands to freeze. And the shovel, well, the shovel. I can now say with utmost certainty that I’m most efficient when using one that has a wider blade, a slight curve to that blade, and a proper length wooden shaft.

Pete’s a stickler for having the right tool for the job. This is because he hates tool-use hardship. Being Pete, he didn’t empathize with me when I told him about my dilemma. Rather, he said that we’d go to Spenards Hardware today, and purchase the proper type of shovel. I was glad to hear this. It’s an instance in which empathy will not suffice. I need a new shovel, and I need it now.

Next: 89. 3/6/12: Aging