So I'm picking up lots of useful information working for Spotts. Not just run-of-the-mill garden info like plant names and pruning techniques, either. No, I'm learning such helpful tips as how to use a wheelbarrow without turning it upside down or banging it into your shins (I'm still working on this), how to corral debris using a backpack blower (ditto), or the proper way to store tools.
Terry is the best equipment manager in history. His tools are spotless, sharpened, oiled, and returned to the correct storage place. I have yet to go to the truck for something and find we don't have it. Frankly, it makes me a little embarrassed about the condition of a lot of my tools, so I'm making a real effort to keep them clean and organized.
Did you know, for example, that the worst thing for your pruners is dirt? Given that most gardens have quite a lot of that, you want to keep your pruners in a holster, not set them on the ground. If you have to set hedge clippers down, put them with the point toward the ground so that the pivot point is facing up.
We use gardener's knives for nearly everything. They dig out weeds, act as trowels, saw off recalcitrant root masses–you name it. The orange handle gives you a fighting chance of remembering where you left it. Still, it's awfully easy to set one down and leave it behind. Instead, you fling it toward the ground, snapping your wrist so that the knife stands upright in the soil. The orange handle sticks up so you can see it, and the sharp part is in the ground where no one can cut themselves on it.
My knife throwing skills are not great yet, although I manage to stick it about one out of two times. Amy F has trouble with knife flinging; her technique involves something that looks a bit like spear-throwing instead of the twist-and-flick Terry uses. Terry, of course, can flick a knife into the ground without even looking at it. Sometimes all three of us fling knives at the ground over and over; we look like a demented circus act.
Other helpful hints: Like knives, shovels and spade should be stuck into the soil so they stand upright. This requires a bit of a forceful heave, and you should do it slightly away from where you're working. I've backed into spades more than once. If you have to put a rake on the ground, place it with the tines facing down, so as to avoid the Tom-and-Jerry rake to the face situation.
And if you're working in a garden with low-voltage lighting, you might want to check to make sure that the cord is buried. If it's not, you might want to keep an eye on where that cord is. Otherwise, you might be talking to Amy F over your shoulder when your big toe catches on the cord and sends you flailing through the air to skid across a concrete path on your hands and knees, at which time you might roll over on your back and try to breathe while reassuring Amy and your boss that you are not seriously hurt, even though your knees look like hamburger and are bleeding freely.
You might have to hobble to a nearby bench, graciously thank Amy for retrieving the first aid kit, pour water over your knees to clear out some blood, and ask Amy to poke around in there with a pair of tweezers looking for any stray gravel. You may then have to try to clean out your knees, slop some ointment on them, bandage them, and attempt to continue gardening. You may find that the fabulous combination of sweat, sunscreen, and bug spray you have accumulated ensures that bandages of any kind are not going to stick to you, so you may have to just do the best you can to keep dirt and bugs out of them. You may find that gnats particularly love your open wounds.
You may find that skinned knees at 35 are an even bigger pain in the ass than they were at 6, when you fell down while running a race on the playground while wearing party shoes. You may recall your father doing the picking-gravel-out-of your-knees thing while muttering abut incompetent school nurses who didn't bother doing it, followed by a bout of iodine to your scratches, which prompted howling (from you) and blowing over your wounds (from Dad). You may be grateful you don't have to use iodine anymore, although you may still do a little howling when you clean out your knees with hydrogen peroxide at home that night.
So, you know, check for the cord. That's all I'm saying.