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We Are Flying Solo

February 7, 2015

Priceless Tips For Working Safely Outside

Still my favourite safety graphic...
All of us have reason to challenge The Great Outdoors.  Some of us even get paid (sort of) for it.  Although we in the latter group try to be certain we only hurt ourselves when NOT covered by Workman’s Comp.  Why lessen the burden on our already meagre salaries??

However, unless you are a cave troll (in which case, congratulations on mastering literacy & internet use!), if you are involved with horses, you will find yourself faced with Outside Tasks.  Whether it be opening a hay bale, removing a loose nail from a fence post, or something else, it is critical to always use all available safety gear & plan ahead to avoid needless injury (the last bit is our horses’ job, duh!).

Because Eventer79 Wants To Keep You Safe:  Things You May Not Have Considered
For example, you may have a few pine trees in your horse’s pasture, carrying a collection of small spears dead snags & branches on the lower portions of their trunks.  Should you decide to take care of this on a whim one morning, it is first important to choose an undersized tool.  The more ineffective it is, the more fun you will have!
My pines only LOOK innocent
When you engage your tool of choice, in this case, a very sharp hatchet (because borrowing an axe or chainsaw from neighbours within shouting distance will only hinder the insistence of your brain that you are going to do this NOW), try these techniques:
  1. Pine trees have brittle bark, which splinters into tiny shrapnel with every blow.  You should definitely not bother walking back inside to get sunglasses to protect your eyes.  Your prescription is already –8, there’s not much to lose anyway.
  2. Make sure & stare directly at the branch when you hit it, preferably with your mouth open, so that all of your mucous membranes can enjoy the shower of bitter, painful pine shards.
  3. To avoid this, you can adjust your position in relation to the branch.  I suggest standing precisely downwind, so now, the shrapnel can be blown right into your face with no effort whatsoever.

Another Easily Forgotten Phenomenon

If you are standing below say, a dead limb, & you whack at it with a sharp, metal object, the limb, being subject to a force called Gravity, will fall down when loosed from the tree trunk.

No worries!  By ducking & cursing, you may get lucky & only part of it will bounce off of your body (layers are your friend).

Returning To The Brittle Nature Of The Pine

Another special characteristic to enjoy goes something like this:

  1. After whacking at the base of a larger branch with your hatchet for a few minutes, you may decide this isn't fun anymore & your shoulder is tired the connection has been weakened enough that you can now use your body weight to snap off the whole thing at once.  
  2. Nooo...not like that!
  3. Remember your physics:  the farther away from the pivot/breaking point (where the branch joins the tree) you are, the greater force you can exert with the same amount of effort.  So you don’t want to try this right at the base.  Torque = Force x Moment Arm, people!  (No, I have no idea why that one stuck with me, but it's been endlessly useful since 1998.  If you know what a breaker bar is, you know what I mean.)
  4. Pull back hard a little ways out & if you do it correctly, the part you are holding will break off in your hands so you fall down immediately.  Success!  
  5. Even better, the large chunk between your hands & the tree trunk will also break off at both ends & become a completely unpredictable 12” projectile of 2” diameter wood.  Remember:  DUCK & CURSE.

Finally, If You Can Still See

And you have not managed to cut off your ear while scratching your nose with the hand holding the hatchet (sharp end right next to your face, of course):

  • Halfheartedly whack at poison ivy vines as thick as your arms.  
  • These are even better because instead of splinters, the vine disintegrates into a powdery dust.  Just like campfire smoke, no matter where you stand, this delightful cloud is guaranteed to blow directly into your face & eyes.  
  • In optimal conditions, you are also allergic to poison ivy.
Since you're probably now exhausted due to the completely impulsive nature of this effort, undertaken before you have eaten breakfast (but your horses have!), it is best to just give up after a handful of completely useless cuts.  You may have filled your eyes with poisonous oils for nothing, but you sure told that vine a thing or two!

Oh, sorry, too late...


  1. on no - not the poison ivy!!!! lol at least you showed it who's boss?

  2. Busting a gut here. Especially relating to the knowing which way the wind blows corellary of your sage advice. Definitely had pine shavings invade all facial orifices - blinding, choking, smothering...

    Being as DIY as they come (cheap + impulsive), it helps to consider my wise father's theorem:

    Savings on materials / labor must be much > the value of your time x the likelihood you have to hire a professional after the fact anyway. (aka "cleverage")

    I've had really good luck with ZANFEL for immediate curing of poison ivy. (it binds with and removes the ushriol oil) It's expensive but if you follow the directions precisely, one tube lasts forever.

    1. Ah, I adopted the term "strategery," it's just a great "word." LOL!

      I 100000% agree on time value!! There is not enough & even though I CAN do most things myself, that is the reason it is I now am ok with paying someone else to (a) change truck oil, (b) deliver & stack my hay-actually cheaper when I calculate diesel+time, (c) build/install run-in, (d) deliver & lay driveway gravel, even though the quarry is 10 minutes away...

      Heavily contemplating paying "some guys I know" to install the gutters I bought for the run-in. I CAN do it, but the needed end is ~12' high, I'm bloody exhausted, & I get mad and erm, throw things off ladders. They just redid Epic Neighbour's shop roof in 1.5 days for insanely cheap. When I watched the poor guys who put up the run-in in freezing rain (hey, I was out there with them in sympathy), who were done in two hours, damn, that drove the point home!!

      As for the P.I., for work, we actually have huge stockpiles of TechNu & these awesome special handiwipes you can buy in bulk tubs from Forestry Suppliers (loooove) that we keep in all our trucks, so I wiped down all exposed skin about 10 times & washed with soap as wel, flushed eyes & contacts, & I think I escaped. Just need to wash jacket & gloves...

      One must admit though, Club Cheap & Impulsive makes for great stories!

  3. Replies
    1. I exist to (inadvertently) entertain! I think my biography should be titled, "What Not To Do."

  4. This is how I do pretty much everything. Seriously, if it weren't for Half-assed and Inadequately Prepared, I would never get anything done! Just a few weeks ago a tree fell on my fence. We were out of fuel for the chainsaw, and instead of driving to go get fuel, I decided to go at the tree with a (dull) axe. When that didn't work, I tried to cut up the tree with an electric saws-all. Finally, I used the bucket of the tractor to just heave the tree off the fence (not a recommended use for the tractor). The tree is still sitting exactly where I left it weeks later, because I still haven't gotten fuel for the chainsaw.

    Thankfully, I am not at all sensitive to poison ivy. If I were, I am certain my dumb ass would be constantly covered in rashes!

    1. FULL STOP! So are you telling me the giant reciprocating saw with the rescue blade will NOT cut through, say, a 5" diameter sweet gum trunk??? I NEED TO KNOW! o.o

      On the tractor note, that sound quite acceptable to me -- throwing things with the bucket is the best part! Ok, it doesn't actually have a "fling" function, but I wish it did. Does it have a bitey bucket (4-in-1), because I have successfully chomped & twisted some branches in half with that (ENORMOUSLY satisfying).

  5. Laughing my butt off - but I wouldn't have said that if the poison ivy had caused you problems. I completely get the temporary (but frequent) insanity of the "insistence of your brain that you are going to do this NOW" - I end up doing more damage than if I had just left the friggin thing alone until I ate. The temporary insanity ALWAYS hits when I'm hungry.

    1. I appreciate that -- we have the same rule at work: if you fall, say on a giant boulder in the river or are hurled against the bow of the boat, we only laugh AFTER we are sure you are ok. Common courtesy!

      What is UP with that pre-breakfast impulse? One morning I spent two hours weeding dead plant matter from under ~400' of fenceline. I DON'T WEED & I DON'T CARE. But I kept going because..."well, just this one bit more..." Damn cabana boy never did appear with breakfast - really, I just need a mail-order bride!

  6. love this. I did stream ecology work in a poison ivy field, but luckily am thus far immune. Don't forget deciding with which outdoor tool to bash the snake (we liked rock hammers for this during field work - also useful for extending the food supply by bopping quails on the head).

    1. *gasp* NO SNAKE BASHING! I heart snakes -- plus they eat rodents. I have spent a lot of time at work swimming with the water snakes, one even begged like a dog so we threw him dead fish, gorgeous Banded Water Snake, he was kewl. Plus the Sandhills have the beautiful orange morph of the Cottonmouth, love seeing them (do not hug, merely admire from distance & politely ask him to swim the other direction).

      I never had a problem with PI as a kid, but during grad school, BAM, I had to go get steroid shots, I had a horrific rash on my entire body. I guess my exposure threshhold was breached...

  7. Oh my god, I just hit the mucous membranes part right before having to take a call and I was still chortling into the phone.

    1. Just don't hold the sharp end of the phone next to your face. You could lose an eye!

  8. This post is hilarious AND informative, haha!

    1. I'm always here to sacrifice myself for entertainment!! :D