"}
Outdoors

Extreme Gardening

Less pain, more gain

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A couple of weeks ago, I spent an afternoon sprucing up the yard at my father’s house on Lummi Island. It was a rainy day, so I put on my heavy-duty work boots and a hoodie to protect me from the inclement weather and proceeded to cram as much work as I could into an approximately three-hour period.

After raking up the tree debris from the most recent storm, pruning shrubs, yanking a plethora of weeds and ferrying the fallout in many sodden wheelbarrows full of downed limbs and assorted greenery, I was proud of the effect. And, while the garden looked much better, it wasn’t long before I realized I was so stiff and sore I could barely stand up—let alone walk.

I wish I could say this is the first time I’ve forgotten that the muscles required for gardening need to be rebuilt every spring, and that it’s not enough to have the tools and clothes required to get the job done. Unfortunately, I only realize the folly of my ways when the pain sets in and I’m shuffling around the house like an octogenarian with severe arthritis. 

In the two-plus weeks since my seasonal reckoning, I’ve put in many more gardening hours at my own yard in Bellingham, and—like many others who get excited about the long growing season in the Pacific Northwest—plan to do so until after the first frost sets in next fall. Luckily, I’ve gotten smarter about how I go about it. You can, too.

Before heading outside, I’ve made it a point to spend at least 10 minutes stretching—including runners’ stretches to loosen my legs, and various poses designed to ease back strain and knee pain (Google “stretches for gardeners” and you’ll find a wealth of ideas and images).

I’ve also used my internet research to implement other common-sense gardening tips designed to keep those who get their jollies by working in the dirt from feeling crippled by the end of the day.

For example, I’ve been pacing myself and trying to do the hard chores first, before I’m tuckered out. Last weekend, I gave myself the task of weeding the walk to the front door and the stretch of greenery in the front yard. I deposited the wheelbarrows full of weeds before they got too heavy, and paused a number of times to drink water and re-stretch. When the job was complete, I took a lunch break and then re-evaluated what else needed to be done. I still had some energy—and wasn’t sore—so I continued weeding in the backyard until I reached the point where my muscles were starting to feel the strain. 

Other tips I’ve been putting into effect include keeping my back as straight as possible while weeding, bending from the knees instead of the waist when lifting, taking care not to lift and twist in the same movement, changing hands from time to time while working with tools and stopping more often to rest and listen to what my body’s trying to tell me. 

While I realize gardening isn’t an extreme sport, those of us who toil to grow flowers and edible items for our dinner tables take it seriously, and are rewarded by seasonal swaths of color and attractive landscapes. When we can do it without feeling like we’ve just been to boot camp, it’s even better.

SVCR Don McLean
More Outdoors...
Nordic Night
Putting the kick in cross-country

“It’s the perfect way to fly,” my old trail crew buddy Tryg said as he jammed his ski poles into the snow and pushed off into the night.

He was right. Even moving uphill on a pair of heirloom Madshus 210s he glided over the groomers so quickly and with such little apparent effort…

more »
Couples Therapy
The ins and outs of love

If you’re not in the right frame of mind to commemorate Valentine’s Day by gazing at your paramour across a candle-lit table, we’ve compiled a few alternate ways to spend time with your sweeties of choice in the coming days. They all involve going outside for an extended period of time, so…

more »
SnowSchool
Bringing students into the mountains

My life is focused in the mountains, so it is surprising how many local young people have never had the opportunity to visit our neighborhood peaks.

“So many kids in Whatcom County see Mt. Baker from the lowlands, but some never get the chance to experience the mountain environment,”…

more »
Events
Today
KMRE broadcaster receives citizen journalism award

5:00pm

17th annual Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival

10:00am|Whatcom County

New documentary focuses human rights film festival

7:52pm

Farm-to-Table Trade Meeting

8:30am|Bellingham Technical College

Community Preparedness

2:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Baker Backcountry Basics

6:00pm|REI

All-Paces Run

6:00pm|Fairhaven Runners

Putting the kick in cross-country

6:00pm

Dressings, Sauces and Stocks

6:30pm|Ciao Thyme Commons

Prawn Particulars

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Tides

7:00pm|Village Books

Books on Tap

7:00pm|North Fork Brewery

IGN Cascadia Bellingham Farmer’s Market
Tomorrow
KMRE broadcaster receives citizen journalism award

5:00pm

17th annual Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival

10:00am|Whatcom County

New documentary focuses human rights film festival

7:52pm

Community Coffee and Tea

9:00am|East Whatcom Regional Resource Center

Ukulele for Everyone

4:00pm|Everson Library

Garden Design Class

4:00pm|Blaine Library

Handmade Pasta Class

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Group Run

6:00pm|Skagit Running Company

Kombucha and Kefir

6:30pm|Cordata Community Food Co-op

Frankie Gavin

6:30pm|Leopold Crystal Ballroom

Unsettlers

7:00pm|Village Books

Nothing simple about it

7:00pm

Mike Allen Quartet

7:00pm|Unity Spiritual Center

Panty Hoes

9:00pm|Rumors Cabaret

Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Village Books
Thursday
KMRE broadcaster receives citizen journalism award

5:00pm

17th annual Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival

10:00am|Whatcom County

New documentary focuses human rights film festival

7:52pm

Incognito

6:00pm|Ciao Thyme

Pasta Faves

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Arsenic and Old Lace

7:00pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Ubu Roi

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Between Two Worlds

7:30pm|Make.Shift Art Space

Into the Woods

7:30pm|Whidbey Playhouse

Up the Down Staircase

7:30pm|Squalicum High School

see our complete calendar »

IGN Cascadia Bellingham Farmer’s Market Northwood Steak and Crab Bellingham Technical College Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Village Books Trove