Monthly Archives: October 2014

Tool’s of the Trade: Shovels, Implements of Construction…and Maintenance

(I wrote this piece a few years ago. It was last printed in the Fall 2012 HPSO Bulletin.  It is updated here for my Blog.)

Cut from a piece of sheet metal the failure point is at the bottom of the 'arrow'

Cut from a piece of sheet metal the failure point is at the bottom of the ‘arrow’. Yes, I know this is a square point, but the are built using the same process.

I broke my shovel at home last week digging out a smaller-growing bamboo, Semiarundinaria yashadake ‘Kimmei’. It was at least ten years old, the shovel that is, and I broke it the way most people do, prying with it. I’m not nearly as hard on shovels as I used to be; I know their limits, but I was tired of this shovel. It was one of those thin-gauge “stamped” shovels that hardware stores sell these days to consumers, inexpensive and cheaply made; the kind of tool a person could buy many times over the course of their gardening life. I have broken several in the past jumping on them, with two booted feet, while trying to cut through heavy soil and roots, or like I did here, levering to hard before the object of my attention was adequately cut free of its earthly ties. Stamped shovels flex due to their thinness. Any flexion causes an inefficient transfer of energy when attempting to drive the blade against resistance. Think wasted energy and more effort. Stamped shovels have a soft fold where the smooth curve of its bowl bends into the vee that becomes the sleeve that then wraps around the shovel handle. This shaping of the blade adds some rigidity that the same material flat doesn’t possess. Any such bend in a piece of metal, however, becomes the weak point. This is where the metal breaks. Finding a quality replacement requires special ordering or buying through someone who serves the nursery or landscape trades.

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My Fall Garden After an 1.5″ of Rain

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Those big paddle leaves are Heleconia schiediana. The purple is Strobilanthes dyerianus next to a strappy Crinum powellii 'Alba' backed up with Canna 'Bengal Tiger'

Those big paddle leaves are Heleconia schiediana. The purple is Strobilanthes dyerianus next to a strappy Crinum powellii ‘Alba’ backed up with Canna ‘Bengal Tiger’

Cordyline 'Pink Sensation' in front of Canna 'Bengal Tiger', Xanthosoma 'Lime Zinger' and the fat pseudostem of my Ensete, Gloxiana floating in the shadow

Cordyline ‘Pink Sensation’ in front of Canna ‘Bengal Tiger’, Xanthosoma ‘Lime Zinger’ and the fat pseudostem of my Ensete, Gloxiana floating in the shadow

Mahonia x media 'Arthur Menziesii' flower buds beginning to swell for winter's bloom

Mahonia x media ‘Arthur Menzies’ flower buds beginning to swell for winter’s bloom

Brugmansia 'Miner's Claim' with the bloom of Canna 'Wisley Dwarf' poking through

Brugmansia ‘Miner’s Claim’ with the bloom of Canna ‘Wisley Dwarf’ poking through

Gardening as a Political Act: Growing a Better Public Landscape – The Ross Island Bridge West Approach

Peeling off towards downtown from the bridge westbound

Peeling off towards downtown from the bridge westbound.  The little landscape Roses and new trees…one mown down by a car further down.

I’ve said it before that everything we choose to do is a political act. Politics is not something practiced by ‘politicians’ exclusively. We are social animals. What we choose to do effects those around us…gardening is political. We have chosen to invest our time and energies into growing plants and maintaining our gardens. We do this as individuals. They feed our spirits and those of our friends and families. Beyond this are our neighbors and, to some degree, commuters passing by. I’ve had people I don’t know stop by and tell me, “I’ve been walking/riding/driving by your house for years and I just wanted to tell you how much I’ve enjoyed it.” There’s the bus driver who used to stop in his turn at our corner, open the doors and tell me how much he loved my Wisteria (now gone…Sad for him, good for me), the guy from BES who stopped one day to quiz me about a Grevillea and many others. People, gardeners or not, may be buoyed by your gardens. We change the world for the better. Politics need not be limited to the big divisive social, economic and environmental issues of the day. In fact, if we want to make a positive difference we better start on the little things that we can.

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