Spent much of yesterday digging my garden again. Being a middle-aged fellow, I expect to have some aches and pains. Perhaps I just feel them too keenly? I’m planning on digging and sieving again today and tomorrow. I’ve done my best to swing the mattock from both sides, to keep as straight a back as possible, to take frequent breaks. My breaks are so frequent that the digging itself is beginning to feel like a break from other activities! In between digging, I weed, I stand up straight, I gaze at the view, I stretch. When sieving yesterday, I took to doing it in am unusual posture, working the earth through my giant sieve with my hands again, rather than the broom, so that my lower back was being stretched evenly. Still the aches came.
This morning, I decided to look up the solution to the problem, if there is one. Googling the words “how to dig without…” reveals it is a common search:
(I confess I did not know who Les Paul was until this morning, and then only after I had unwittingly played jazz on his virtual guitar. Strange world we live in.)
The advice online is all the usual sort of stuff. I am advised to do yoga and pilates!
Come off it! I’m a bloke! I’m not going to do yoga first thing in the morning, unless you pay me and even then I’m going to skive off and get the sack from the best job in the world. As for pilates, seriously, just the name puts me off. If yoga was renamed into “army training manual, part 3” or something like that, I might consider it. Similarly, if pilates was known as “the secret techniques of a sexual athlete“, most blokes would be furtively learning about it online and secretly practising it daily. They’d probably start locking the bathroom door to obtain the necessary practice time.
What’s left? Working the tool on both sides of the body seems to be a common tip. I will try to do that again today. When I tried that previously, with the shovel, the earth dropped off the shovel on the unfamiliar side. I’m so lopsided that I couldn’t hold it straight. It can’t be helping my back if it takes twice as long. I can swing the mattock with both sides but I find it most effective if I follow Dr Macdonald’s advice to gently chip away with it, which doesn’t strain so my back so much.
Using your body weight is a good tip. With a mattock, I let gravity do the work but gravity doesn’t lift the fucker up in the first place. One good tip is to walk the shovel full of dirt around to where you want it, rather than twisting. The trench I am working in is a little too small for walking, unless I were to have the incredible discipline of walking in a circle. Can’t see that lasting long. Taking smaller scoops of earth is a good idea. So that’s the plan for today, smaller scoops, less twisting, more walking and definitely none of this: