Monthly Archives: April 2012

Dave’s Guide to the Superior Shave

I really did miss shaving.

I know I just lost most of you right there. Given the popularity of the neo-70s hipster beards, shaving, amongst men, is on the wane. But this past week as I played Wooly Willy with my face and began carving away six weeks of follicle growth, I was reunited with my manly ritual and reminded just how satisfying a good shave can be.

It is my opinion that the reason most men don’t like to shave is that they don’t know how to do it right. To this end I humbly offer, Dave’s Guide to the Superior Shave.

With a little effort in your Google search engine you can find many a good guide to shaving. I’m certainly not the first nor the last to weigh in on this noble subject, but I have two cents to share on shaving and it’s here I’d like to share them.

First of all, I’d like to remind you that shaving is as old as civilization itself. Romans shaved their faces. The Chinese shaved their foreheads. The artful removing of facial hair is indicative of a man capable of self examination. Shaving, done right, takes a little time and at its best requires a mirror, setting the ideal opportunity for self study and, pardon the pun, reflection.

The grooming industry for the modern male has made shaving quite ridiculous and unnecessarily expensive. The shaving aisle at your local drugstore is crammed with razors made with space age technology and cans of foams and gels and goos touting all manner of competing superiority.

Shaving should be simple, a mirror, a razor, warm water, and soap. A towel is nice and for the occasional rushed shave I have found an alum block to be handy. A good aftershave can also be helpful, especially if you use your lady’s favorite scent.

I am by no means a Luddite, but I am a bit anachronistic and often find older technologies to be superior to the modern. Modern technologies are most often driven by convenience, while those of earlier days were based more on effectiveness. Many times these two values do not quite meet. The most convenient method is rarely the most effective and the most effective invariably requires a bit of effort. So it is with shaving.

To be precise, what most men do with their faces in the morning is referred to as a wet shave. A very important distinction, especially when considering the alternative irritation of a dry shave. The key component of this then is water and it’s effective delivery. I prefer to shave in the bathroom. The convenience of water, a mirror and a basin all in one place makes it almost a foregone conclusion. I fill the basin with warm, almost hot clean water and then splash said water, liberally over my face. If I have been slack in my shaving habits and allowed for the development of a few days growth, I soak a wash cloth in the water and hold that on my beard for a few minutes. The hot water serves to soften the bristles of your beard and makes for a much more comfortable shave. In terms of shaving creams, convenience has really let the modern man down. Nothing can compare to a well made shaving soap applied with a badger bristle brush.

Why specifically badger? God and nature have seen fit to make the badger’s hair especially water absorbent. This makes for an excellent shaving brush as it creates another opportunity to deliver warm moisture to your beard keeping it soft.

The initial cost of a good shaving kit, soap, brush and razor, may seem off putting at first. But these are mere initial costs and you will find that the maintenance of these items much cheaper than the repeated purchase of their disposable counterparts. A good bar of shaving soap may put you back twelve or fifteen dollars, but I can attest the last bar I purchased was well over eighteen months ago and is only half way gone.

Dip the end of your badger brush into the warm water and then shake off the excess water. The key to developing a rich lather with your shaving soap is to not get the brush too wet. This is why we took the extra steps of moistening the face beforehand, too much water on the brush makes for a very sloppy lather. Rub the brush in circles over the surface of your shaving soap until a thick lather is formed. Then take the brush to your beard and apply the lather in a circular motion as well. The goal is to lift and suspend your whiskers in the lather. The razor can do it’s job more effectively if the hairs are perpendicular to the surface of your face.

Now that you have lathered your beard it’s time to approach your razor. As you might guess I am not a fan of the modern multi-bladed razors that populate the market. My beard is thick and the multiple blades just clog up and render the razor useless. In fact for the gym and travel purposes I keep single bladed disposables on hand and find them far cheaper and superior to the Mach whatevers.

My razor of choice is my father’s safety razor from the sixties. As a child, playing at shaving at his side on a Saturday or Sunday morning, this was the razor he’d give me. Fully made of metal, there’s a ferrule on the bottom of the handle that you unscrew which opens the top of the razor and allows for double edged blade to be dropped into place, due to this function these razors are sometimes called “drop blade razors.” When I was little he’d give me this razor, sans a blade, and I’d use it to remove Barbasol foam and imaginary whiskers from my face. Today, I use that very same razor. Replacement blades are still available. I buy my blades online either through Amazon or other specialty shops. Currently I’m enjoying a Japanese blade called Feather. Samantha usually buys me a few packs of blades for Christmas and that’s more than enough to get me through the year.

With your beard fully lathered it’s now time to begin shaving. The great thing about my safety razor is that it’s relatively heavy. I don’t apply any pressure and just allow the heft of the razor to do it’s job. Start by shaving with the grain of your beard. Also shave the softer areas first and allow the lather and moisture to further soften the more coarse hairs of the chin and sideburns. My shave usually follows this order of operations; cheeks, the down growth under my jawline, then the up growth of my throat. I return to my sideburns and finish with my chin. Currently, I’m rocking a most impressive moustache and so there’s nothing to be done to the upper lip other than marvel at the one of the joys of being a man. Before I became aware of just how great a moustache could be (thanks, Dad) I would finish the shave with my upper lip.

It is at this point that convenience and effectiveness sharply diverge. If this is a week day and I’m preparing for work this is a sufficient shave. However, if it’s the weekend, date night or the Monday after a few days growth, there’s more to be done. With my beard, one pass is a decent shave, but if I’m really looking to impress, nothing beats the three pass shave. By taking the time, to rinse, lather and shave three times, each time changing the direction of the razor’s pass; with, across and then against the grain. I achieve the perfect shave. My cheeks are as smooth as the proverbial baby’s bottom and Samantha can’t help but coo and fuss over how great my face feels, which is worth every second of additional groom time.

After I’ve finished with the razor I rinse with cool water, to re-tighten the pores, and apply a light splash of Bay Rum aftershave. Your scent is, of course, subject to your own personal tastes, but if you have a lady, stick with what she likes. Once it’s applied you won’t be able to smell it any more anyway.

A note on nicks and cuts, all veterans of shaving understand that these do occasionally happen. I find the alum block to be the best way to stop the flow of blood. Tissue paper looks stupid. Styptic pens hurt like the dickens, but the alum block stops the bleeding with a minimum of discomfort.

So there you have it, the superior shave. A ritual of manhood that when properly done helps raise our higher natures, brings our more civilized natures to the forefront, and hopefully just might help ignite your woman’s wilder nature. Couldn’t hurt, right?



Filed under self reliance, shaving, sustainability

Agoge Fitness Systems

Today marks the one year anniversary of my father’s death.

One year ago today, while the rest of the state was reeling from the first of two of the worst tornadoes we have seen in years, I was sitting in a nursing home in Forestdale holding my father’s hand as he slipped away.

If you’re friends with me on Facebook you may have noticed my profile picture going through a series of changes.  Over the past week I’ve treated my face like a Wooly Willy toy, slowly whittling my beard down to it’s present state.

Back in March I decided to mark this day by growing the moustache my father always wore.  It’s a gesture of respect and remembrance.  An attempt to see if I couldn’t see my dad one more time.  This time in my own face.

After he died I wrote about it in my old blog. …

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One Step Closer

Friday evening Rob came over.  We had made plans previously to fix the collar issues I was having with the goats.

It all came down to this.  They weren’t working.

When we first fitted Honey and Harriet with their collars we had to make modifications.  Goat necks are not the same as dog necks.  Dogs have relatively round necks while a goat’s is much more oval in shape.  This meant that a) the collars were too big and had to be twisted on themselves to take up the slack and b) the electrodes did not make sufficient contact to administer the appropriate “correction.”

With the huglekultur beds finished and spring rapidly on the wane we are ready to plant.  Our only hold up being the necessity of keeping hungry goats at bay.

Rob showed up around six and we promptly commenced the manly ritual of a pre-getting-down-to-business beer.  Once properly fortified with a Guinness (for strength) we gathered our tools and set to work.

The tools in this instance being new collars, fresh batteries for the collars, hoof trimming shears and my newly acquired shepherd’s crook.  I bought the crook from Tractor Supply Company a few weeks ago thinking it would be handy in wrangling the goats.  In truth I did snag Harriet at one point but she quickly twisted free.  For the most part the crook was a hindrance.  A long cane with a hook on one end is not the ideal tool to be carrying through thickets.  It tends to slow you up.

I should remind you that the goats are not overly fond of me.  My windows of opportunity are far too short to set aside any quality time with the goats and so my time with them is largely practical.  I’m the big hairy ape that chases them into corners, grabs them by the horns and subjects them to such horrors as hoof trimming and battery replacement on their collars.

Everyone else who goes into the back either leaves them alone or just brings treats.  I’m such a bastard.

Were it not for Rob I’d probably still be chasing them.

Using sweet feed for bait we first nabbed Honey (she’s the easy catch only having three legs.)  I trimmed her hooves while Robe re-outfitted her with a new collar.  This new design has the electrodes spaced wider so that they make better contact and will administer the “correction” in such a manner the she will actually notice it.  It’s also smaller, so it’s a better fit and has a vinyl outer covering, co it will last longer.

We then spent close to an hour chasing Harriet all around the Back Forty.  Through brush and bramble, from one near nab to the next, this wily ruminant made fools of us.  All the while I could hear Grandpa laughing, “Get that goat, boy!”

I have this ongoing debate with myself over just how smart goats in general, and these two goats in particular, really are.  Having lived with and around animals all my life I have no doubt to their own brand of intelligence.  I have seen pigeons, either smart enough or too lazy to fly a block, drop down from the 22nd Street viaduct and ride the train down to 21st street and then fly up into the rafters.  I’ve seen my cats willingly and purposefully taunt my dog.

But these goats, they’re something else.  Once caught they bleat and cry and wail, but stick their food bowl in front of them and all seems forgotten.  They’ll run through the brush knowing I’m slowed in my ability to follow only to circle back around to the feed bowl where they’re more likely to be caught.  Intelligent or not, Harriet made fools of Rob and I for almost an hour.

Finally, Rob caught her and we were able to change out her collar and trim her hooves.  To hear her carry on you’d think we were trying to eat her on the spot.  Again once we set the food bowl in front of her nose, she shut up and started eating again.

I’m not totally in love with the hoof trimming shears I bought.  They were one of two styles TSC offered and appeared to be the sturdier of the two.  They do the job but they’re not as sharp as I’d like and require a good bit of hand strength.  The first time I trimmed their hooves I used a pair of Chinese kitchen shears.  They’re easy to sharpen and performed beautifully.  They’re cheap enough at the Asian market that I might just buy a pair and dedicate them to this use.

After our labors Rob and I celebrated with another well earned beer.  Samantha was about to grill burgers and the weekend was about to commence.  A good time was had by all, even the goats now that we were done abusing them, and we’re one step closer to planting.


Filed under goats, hugelkultur, organic gardening, organic produce, self reliance, sustainability

Stick to the Plan: Part II

On Saturday I had planned a full court press.

Now that I had the tools in place, once I finished my morning at the gym (the 8 am boot camp, my Tai Chi class and a 10:30 massage client) I was going to go home and tackle the yard.

Bronwyn comes in with Samantha every Saturday morning. Samantha attends my boot camp for her third workout of the week and Bronwyn cleans the gym. I’ve mentioned before her obsession with horses and this job is part of her efforts to raise money for that future steed.

After our gym work, the Beebs (as we like to call her), and I stopped at Hamburger Heaven for our lunch. A burger sans the bun and an order of onion rings for each of us. Despite my best efforts I could not convince her that the staff of Hamburger heaven had given her too many onion rings. Hmpf.

Once home I changed and set to work. First the riding mower to cover the front and those areas of the back not too steep to be gotten. Then the new push mower, adequate for the job but in possession of far too much plastic for my tastes. I had to make three passes in three height settings to get an area that had not been mowed in over three weeks. Once the mowing was finished it was weedeater time and I trimmed all the fence edges and the drainage ditch.

Grandpa always made it clear that it was a man’s responsibility to keep his ditches clean. To rely on the city or county was to invite problems, mainly in water flow, that would affect you or your neighbors. I’ve always looked on this as a discipline in responsibility and have done my best to live up to my grandfather’s example.

Once I finished our yard I loaded up the tractor, the push mower and my weedeater in the truck. The ramps performed their function admirably and I was able to drive the tractor into the bed of the truck with relative ease. (Backing out, however, requires more solid nerves and a great deal of faith.)

Samantha, Bronwyn and I headed to the girl’s school and under the cover of Saturday afternoon set about mowing the grounds. Samantha teaches at and my youngest two daughters, Bronwyn and Thalia, attend the Alabama Waldorf School. My oldest daughter, Madeline, is a graduate and now attends Shades Valley IB (and yes, that is a note of pride you hear.)

Alabama Waldorf School rents space from the Community School which is a part of Birmingham Public Schools which actually rents from another private school, Altamont. The Community School, through the City, provides building custodial services which apparently do not extend to maintenance of the grounds.

These needs are usually met through parent volunteers on regularly scheduled “Playground Work Days.” These are held on Saturdays throughout the school year and since I work at the gym those days can’t make it.

There had been some discussion (of which I was not a part) about providing my riding mower for the next Playground Work Day. It’s at this point that we get to discuss how Dave is maybe not as altruistic as he at first seems.

See, the grass desperately needed cutting. Ours is a small school with a small budget and unkempt grounds reflect poorly on first impressions. Remember what I’ve said before about borrowing tools? How the first rule of borrowing is not to break? I wasn’t willing to risk it. It’s just to awkward.

“Um, Dave, your mower stopped working.”

“What do you mean? It was fine when it left the house.”

“I dunno, I was just using it and it, well, stopped.”

See? Now there’s bad feeling. I’m out a major tool that somebody needs to replace and usually that somebody ends up being me. I mean who wants to buy somebody else a $2,000 tractor?

It’s just easier if I do it myself. I had intended to remain anonymous on this point. Again it just seems easier to blame it on the Easter Bunny, but I got outed, so there you have it. Yes, I did it and I’m not the least bit sorry about it either.

What I am sorry about is Sunday.

Remember the title? Stick to the plan?

Well here was the plan: Work like hell on Saturday and take Sunday off.

Samantha was concerned about how to get the girls outside on Sunday and for us to enjoy a day together without TV or computer screens.

With all the suave assurance of Jim Anderson or Ward Cleaver, I suggested that perhaps Samantha and I just spend the day barbecuing and basking in the warmth and glow of our newly shorn front lawn. The girls would naturally gravitate toward us. All would be happy and we’d avoid any wailing or gnashing of teeth. That was the plan.

I did not, however, stick to it.

Sunday morning I woke and began thinking of my upcoming trip to St. Petersburg in May. The one I had promised to front an airline ticket to a business partner for. The one I had promised to take Samantha along with me. The one for which I hadn’t bought tickets, secured a car or gotten a room. So, Sunday morning before, during and after breakfast I was securing travel plans and making reservations.

Without even realizing it I had slipped into full on work mode.

Next my thoughts turned to the ten sugar snap pea starts that my friend, Mwenja, had left me. They needed to go into the ground. And peas can’t go into the ground without some sort of trellis.

Now, I’m really working.

I’m cutting bamboo from the absentee neighbor’s lot. I’m re-teaching myself how to tie a clove hitch. I’m figuring out how to weave a halfway decent trellis net.

I’m trying to cajole Bronwyn, my best helper, into assisting, her hand skills are amazing for a twelve year old, but she senses without even knowing full well the plan, that I have abandoned it and she’s having none of it.

I’m frustrated, growling like a bear, and grousing that no one appreciates how much work I do or seems willing to even try to match my effort. In short, I am being an asshole.

The kids do end up spending the better part of day outside of their own free will and I do get some help from Bronwyn, but my mood is not where it should be. Somewhere I know I’ve abandoned the plan and I’m not happy with myself, but Ego is in full control and we are accomplishing things!

Once the trellis was complete and Samantha and I picked it up, one of the bamboo poles broke in the middle. I was NOT about to start all over. Bamboo is hollow. I whittled a stick of poplar to fit inside the broken section and then split another bamboo section to use the halves as splints. I put the whole thing together and bound it with electrical tape. It’s not exactly pretty but it does the job and right now that’s okay.

By dinner I realized that I was wiped. I showered after and managed a few hands of “Who Knew?” with Samantha and the kids. Later, in bed, I turned to Samantha and realized that I had just wasted an entire day.

Was it all really necessary? How was the day I had better than the day I planned? Why hadn’t I stuck to the plan? Do I really need to do everything, right now?

The day itself was not a total waste, not if I take these questions to heart, make sure I learn their lessons, share those lessons and maybe try to repeat it too often.

I hope you had a happy Easter.


Filed under organic gardening, organic produce, self reliance, sustainability, urban farming, urban gardening

Stick to the Plan: Part I

This weekend is not what I would call my best. The weather was perfect. In fact it couldn’t have been better. But as I look back on it I realize that it was just a little off from the beginning and the fault for all of it lies squarely at my feet.

It all comes, you see, from not “sticking to the plan.”

Two weeks ago I couldn’t get my push mower to start. The weedeater wouldn’t cooperate either. I spent some time futzing with both of them and decided my time was more valuable than my money in this instance and opted to take them both in for servicing.

That Monday I got a recommendation for a mower repair shop and drove the not inconsiderable distance to drop both units off.

I should have know something was amiss from the get go but I chose not to pay attention. The shop wanted a $35 deposit for each item which would be taken off the cost of repair. That seemed reasonable enough. They also said they would call me if either repair ran over $50. Again reasonable and appreciated. They said they would call me when the repair was complete.

Here’s what I should have paid attention to. After having made my deposit I went to go get the mower and weedeater out of my truck. As I was waiting to hand over said items to the repair guy another customer came out of the office fuming.

“And I want my old parts put back on!” he yelled as he stormed out of the office.

Seeing me he made it a point to register his opinion of the shop. He told me how his equipment was, after servicing, in worse shape than when he brought it in and that if he were me he wouldn’t leave his stuff to be worked on here. Obviously.

I listened to the man, but didn’t heed his warning. Honestly, because I thought it was bad form.

What I should have heeded was how they handled him. The woman working the office (maybe the owner) came out and told the man to leave with her own level of vehemence. She made no effort to assuage his feelings or mollify his anger. She kicked him out and made it clear she didn’t care that she was losing his business or lowering my own expectations. I left my equipment with a slight uneasiness. Suddenly my earlier recommendation of their quality and service was under suspicion.

A week went by and I heard nothing. The following Monday I called about my stuff. I was told that the weedeater was finished but not the mower. I asked what was taking so long. She told me she didn’t know she didn’t have the work order in front of her. It could be that they were ordering parts or that they just hadn’t gotten to it yet. I asked again whether I would be called if the bill exceeded $50 and was assured I would be.

Friday morning I was called and told my equipment was ready. Finally. I had a full day and asked what time they closed. 5pm. I knew they weren’t open on Saturday (Really?) and my yard desperately needed attention.

Friday afternoon I finished my final appointment at 4:30. As I ushered them out the door I gathered my gear and began high tailing it to Centerpoint. To be safe I called the shop and alerted them that I was on my way.

“Okay, “ she said, “but we close at 5pm.”

The interstate is the fastest route but the interchange between the Expressway and the Interstate 20/59 is a bear, especially near 5 o’clock on a Friday. The gods were with me though and I juked and shimmied through down town and avoided getting caught in traffic.

I exited onto the Centerpoint Parkway at 7 minutes to 5. Heeding my inner voice I called the shop.

“Hey, this is Dave Hall. I just called a few minutes ago. I’m coming by to get my equipment. I just exited onto the Parkway and wanted to make sure someone would be there.”

“Well, everyone’s getting ready to leave.”

“I’m just a few minutes away from your shop. I just need to get my gear. I have cash in hand.”


“I’ll see if I can’t find someone to find your equipment.”

Two minutes later I pull into the lot. Two of the mechanics are outside with my stuff and take the time to show me that they both crank and operate. Cool.

I go into the office to settle up.

“That’ll be $142.53.”

“What? I thought you guys were supposed to call me if the bill ran over $50. I’m not going to pay that.”

The looks on their faces told me that this was all to common a scenario. Turns out the carburetor needed to be rebuilt on the mower. I’m not surprised as a member of my household, who shall forever remain nameless, inadvertently ran 2 cycle fuel mix through the mower. In case you didn’t know, they don’t like that.

The last time I was in Home Depot I checked on mower prices and for a non-self propelled model I could get one new for between 150 and 200 bucks. $140 to repair an old mower just didn’t make any sense.

“I assume you guys can resell this one to recoup some of your expenses.”

I paid $14 for the weedeater and was on my way. On the way to Home Depot to buy a new mower I checked the service bill for the weedeater. They replaced the spark plug.

Including the deposit I had just paid $84 for a new spark plug. You know what they say about a fool and his money.

On the way out I called Samantha. Allergies were kicking her butt and she wanted me home. I explained the mower situation and she pointed out there was a Lowe’s that was closer to my route home from where I was. Okay, Lowe’s it is.

I bought a mower and ramps to get my riding mower in and out of the truck.

Once home, I sat down with a beer and watched We Bought a Zoo with the girls. I was done for the day.


Filed under self reliance, sustainability, urban farming, urban gardening

April Fool

So, I’ve been absent for a few weeks and for that I apologize. It is not I assure you from lack of work on the farm, more a shift of writing priorities and spending more time on the Agoge Fitness Systems blog and my gym business.

Since I last posted here I finished editing a book on weight loss, attended a transformational workshop in St. Petersburg, Florida and still manged to keep things moving on the farm. Oh yeah, I also kept my business afloat and trained my clients.

So what’s been happening at the Acre?

The weekend after my last post I had my good friend Bob Maharrey, an experienced arborist, come and help me fell the more troublesome trees on the lot. Which he did with aplomb and grace. In two short hours he helped me drop three of the four intended trees. His schedule was tight and the fourth looked to be well within my skill set, so I sent him off with my blessings and thanks.

I probably should have gotten him to help me with that last tree. Instead with all the confidence of one whose knowledge is just enough to get him in trouble I set into felling this last tree.

I thought it grew straight. Really, I did.

But it was only after I’d made my pie cut that I realized it had a decided slant in the direction I did not want it to fall. (Are you noticing a pattern here with me and felling trees?)

So here I am once again in a total “oh crap” situation wondering how I’m gonna get out of this one. Somehow the situation loses it’s humor when you are both Laurel and Hardy.

“Well, this is another fine mess you’ve gotten us into!”

Blessed be the meek, for their ego is not so big they cannot ask for help.

And ask I did.

Luckily my neighbor, Bobby, a landscaper, was working with his guy, Jose. (Yes, there are still Latinos in Alabama.) Jose came over and we finally resolved the situation by getting a rope high enough into the tree that I could pull it in the direction we wanted it to fall as Jose finished the cut.

I spent the rest of the afternoon cutting logs to border our hugelkultur beds and dragging them out of the woods using the brilliant new technology John Paul had introduced me to the previous week. By the end of the day I had everything in place except for one log that was just too big for me to move. Again I called on Jose. He capped his day by helping me pull the log in question down to the garden space and I showed my gratitude with a surreptitious $20 tip.

That Sunday I finished laying out the beds.

The following weekend I had a workshop in St. Petersburg, Florida. You can read all about that here.

Last weekend I drove some 50 miles to Shelby, Alabama for a $5 load of composted horse manure and sawdust. When we got back I was met by my Emerson’s Acre partner, Stephanie McDonald, and her husband, Rob.

Together, with the added muscle of my wife, Samantha, we made short work of a truck load of composted horse poo. In less than two hours we had the entire load moved and two of the four beds filled and ready to go.

I distinctly remember a feeling of disappointment when we were done. We still had an hour or so of daylight and I still had energy. The job just seemed a little too easy.

Fast forward a week.

Yesterday after working at the gym until 11 am I loaded up Bronwyn, Thalia and Bronwyn’s friend, Ella, another girl under 12, and headed back to Shelby. The guy I get the compost from has four horses, one of them a miniature, and the girls were eager to see them.

In my experience the only way to maintain the upper hand with a gaggle of pre-adolescent girls is to beat them to the punch, subdue them with embarrassment as it were. As such we listened to the 90’s grunge station loudly and I sang along, loudly. It worked like a charm.

We stopped at Tractor Supply Company, my new favorite retail store, on the way back. Ella goofed, Thalia laughed, and Bronwyn searched for a halter “small enough to fit the goats.” She abandoned that search when the smallest one she could find was “twenty dollars!” and she found out I was going to make her buy it herself.

I bought a shepherd’s crook, will full intent to make it easier to catch Honey and Harriet, a bag of sweet feed and a new rubber feed bowl.

Once back at the house everyone scattered, as I expected. Resignedly I assigned the girls the task of keeping my water bottle full, stripped off my shirt (doing my best to defeat the farmer’s tan, you know) and set to work.

Rob and Stephanie were off camping this weekend and it didn’t seem right to call anyone else at the last minute.

“Hey Buddy, wanna come over to my place and shovel shit?”

Like any veteran personal trainer I began with the compulsive counting of reps. 25 shovels to the wheelbarrow, 100 yards to the garden bed…I lost track of the trips. I started around three thirty and worked until after seven. The final run was a hard blitz to get finished. A thunder storm was brewing up and I really didn’t want to spend today extracting the remaining mud from the bed of my truck.

Halfway through the chore I was reminded of my love/hate relationship with my boots. They’re a pair of ten year old Red Wings I bought back when I was still in the construction business. A well meaning chiropractor had sent me to an equally well meaning orthopedist. The orthopedist had outfit me with shoe inserts (after all that’s what they do, right?) and recommend that I look into Red Wings for work boots. Out of the near $600 investment the only worthwhile component was the boots. Man, I love those boots.

So much so that three years ago when the soles wore out, rather than replace them I had them resoled. Being a cheap bastard I opted or a local cobbler who was closer and cheaper than the closest Red Wing outfit.

Not knowing any better I let them replace the sole with a lug sole. Mudcatchers. Those soles have caused more heart ache than I care to recount. They trap dirt and mud and then release them the minute I step in the house. No amount of boot scraping or stomping will allow me to grab a glass of water or run to the bathroom without an earful of scolding for tracking dirt in the house.

Once I had moved half of the load I decided to climb up into the bed to make shoveling more effective. Instantly my soles filled up and my traction was reduced to nil.

On my eleventy-billionth trip up the hill I slipped. Falling face first into the hill I struck my left knee and planted the wheelbarrow handles hard into the ground in front of me. I dumped half of my load into my face and suddenly not wearing a shirt lost most of it’s charm.

Quick to recover, lest the goats start to snicker, I brushed myself off and dumped my load.

More and more I began to consider just what my friends might be doing at that moment. In my mind’s eye they were all lazy, shiftless bastards. Probably doing nothing more productive than just “hanging out” and drinking beer. Shameful, I admit, but it’s true. In all honesty I don’t know if I was questioning the sanity of my own actions or trying on a little superiority to motivate me to finish. Either way I still had half a truckload to move and move it I did.

Given the propensity of my boots to clog up and lose traction I stayed out of the truck bed and used a rake to pull the compost closer so I could get at it with the shovel.

On the last load to the garden rain drops began to fall. I had finished filling the garden beds but there was still two or three loads in the truck. It was here I began to negotiate with God.

“Hey God, I’m almost finished. Can you hold out just a few minutes more?”

Lightening flashes.


Scattered rain drops and the occasional lightening flash spurred me to finish. God was holding up but He made it clear He wouldn’t be doing so for long. Samantha pulled up from her grocery trip as I furiously swept the remaining compost out of the truck bed into the wheelbarrow.

Side note: Compost, topsoil, mulch and the like hold moisture. If not effectively removed from the truck bed they can encourage rust and the early degradation of an unlined truck bed.

The good news is that I finished. I dumped the remaining three loads into an unused portion of one of my existing garden beds to be tilled in later. Before doing so I had to hoe up a a whole bunch of weed growth, but I did that too.

Before coming in I harvested a mess of spinach, collards, mustard greens and chard for Samantha to to cook into one of our staple dishes, Beans and Greens and Sausage.

Today, it must be said, I have done nothing. It’s almost three o’clock and besides getting up to eat or make food I have been in this chair pretty much all day, reading and now finishing this blog post. It must also be said that I am sore. My entire posterior chain, from my calves to my shoulders has something to say about yesterday’s work. As a weightlifter I consider those things to be good things, but nonetheless they are also excuses for why I ain’t doing diddly for the rest of the day. That and eliciting groans of discomfort every time I get up.

I hope you’re having a good one, too.


Filed under compost, goats, organic gardening, organic produce, self reliance, sustainability, urban farming, urban gardening