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Working smarter

 
Posts: 19
Location: Mississippi
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In looking for ways to make the best use of energy and time, and avoid unnecessary injuries, my mind has turned to finding ways to work smarter and safer.  I just turned 61, recently divorced, and already have some old injuries that create limitations, so I need to do things in ways that allow me to be as self-sufficient as possible and prevent additional injuries.  I created this topic so we can share methods, techniques, or tools we have found to make efficiency and safety more attainable as we work.

A few things I've found to be helpful, (and, I'll post more as they come to mind):
-- Wait to pull weeds and grass until after a good soaking rain, (or use a soaker hose a day or two before tackling the job).  Wait until the ground is no longer mushy, but still damp.
-- To move a bag of something heavy like a 40 pound bag of manure, first lift up the middle of the bag so the contents get divided in half, then cut across the middle and lift/carry half the bag at a a time.
-- Maybe another topic would be a better place for this entry, but I'll mention it because it was such an interesting thing that I learned through observation... For plants that thrive in cooler soil, grow them above an in-ground storm shelter, but be careful not to damage the shelter when digging.
--When breaking new ground for small-scale beds, I use an old serrated steak knife to score the perimeter grass roots with a 90 degree cut, and then undercut at an angle toward the first cut to lift out chunks of turf.  From that point, I work toward the middle by using a putty knife to undercut sections of turf for removal.  This is much easier for me than using a shovel to remove the surface layer and if you're careful, the weed and grass seeds on the surface won't end up getting mixed into the soil below.  For the next layer, I loosen with a garden fork and use hardware cloth as a sieve to separate roots from soil.  Doing it this way, I usually have very few weeds and grass for the first 2-3 years.

Looking forward to hearing your ideas!
 
steward
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I use my cheap hand truck a lot to move heavy-for-their-size items.  Having many styles of wheelbarrows and wagons can also help move heavy or awkward things around the homestead.

Hand truck:
 
Suzanne Shaddix
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Location: Mississippi
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Mike Haasl wrote:I use my cheap hand truck a lot to move heavy-for-their-size items.  Having many styles of wheelbarrows and wagons can also help move heavy or awkward things around the homestead.

Good idea, Mike.  I had a nice two-wheel wheelbarrow that was easy to use until it got run over by a bush hog.

 
pollinator
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Location: Canadian Prairies - Zone 3b
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"Good idea, Mike.  I had a nice two-wheel wheelbarrow that was easy to use until it got run over by a bush hog."

Whoa, time out. There's a story there, and I'd like to hear it. ;-)
 
Douglas Alpenstock
pollinator
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I am only kidding.

Workplace ergonomics is a big deal, and that includes the properties where we spend long, hard hours. Young or old, preventing injuries is important. The risk is shutting down everything we want to achieve, and that's no small risk.
 
Suzanne Shaddix
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Douglas, I was trying to be kind... My ex was very careless when using a tractor.  I was scared to death to be nearby any time he was on it.  He ran over my wheelbarrow, as well as a concrete sculpture I had made, and pretty much anything else in his path.  He was a one-man demolition team.
 
author & gardener
Posts: 1685
Location: Southeastern U.S. - Zone 7b
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Part of my working smarter involves finding tools and equipment that won't be intensive in the maintenance and repair department. For example, we grow as much of our own hay as we can and have both a sickle mower and a scythe. The mower is faster (not so much easier because it's heavy and a bear to handle) but it breaks down a lot. So the scythe gets used more. Or in the kitchen; it's faster and easier for me to chop vegetables by hand than to get out a food processor and have to clean it up!

My husband and I have also learned to analyze ideas and projects in regards to how they will fit into our daily work flow, and how much maintenance they will require. The question for us is, will the benefit outweigh the energy to maintain the project? (Both personal energy and fuel energy). How will it change our work routine? Will it help us toward our primary goal? There are a lot of excellent ideas out there (most of the on Permies!) but not all of them are necessarily smarter for our needs. I emphasize "our" because it's different for each of us, of course.
 
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A junior edition Yanmar tractor (1610D) is my goto helper.
In my prime I could walk flights of stairs with a full 24 gallon bottle of propane on each shoulder, but now I groan at the thought of simply lifting a refrigerator into the bed of my truck,
The tractor and a block and tackle keeps me capable of raising walls, and puttering heavy loads between house and shed, and uprooting trees in spring.
A thirty horse would have been ideal but this one at 19 hp gets it done. It takes the place of wheelbarrow, the hydraulics run a wood splitter, and of course its ideal for scraping snow. A four and a half foot tiller and four tine chisel plow makes the garden easy and if I don't get too enthusiastic a disc although the disc if set at too steep of an angle will set the tractor on her heels. A drag harrow and weed mower keep it occupied too.
The 1610D is remarkably easy on fuel, a five gallon can will last about two months, on the current two acres
 
gardener
Posts: 2933
Location: southern Illinois.
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Hi Bill,

The front end loader is my friend.
 
pioneer
Posts: 203
Location: NW Arkansas
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My go to is my 4 wheeler. I have a ball hitch on the back and I pull a small trailer. The trailer bed is like 4' square and it's as handy as a pocket on a shirt!
I can throw just about anything on it and haul it away. I've named my 4 wheeler Legs.🙂
I have another trailer that is 4' x 8' for the bigger jobs. This setup has saved me countless steps.
Additionally, if a project has me in hostile tick territory, Legs just runs over them saving me. I also carry trimming shears for low hanging branches and briars.
 
gardener
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Location: Pacific Wet Coast
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@ Suzanne Shaddix: if you haven't found this thread - https://permies.com/t/146023/aging-homesteader - it is well worth a read.

I totally agree that now is the time for you to be setting up your life for ease going forward and "working smarter, not harder" takes time and practice.
 
Suzanne Shaddix
Posts: 19
Location: Mississippi
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Thanks so much, Jay!  I bookmarked the thread you suggested so I can go back and read it thoroughly!
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