Thursday, January 31, 2013

New leaf

January means making resolutions for many people, and I am no exception. Only in my case, this year, my resolutions aren't about what I eat or how much exercise I get (okay, I make some of those, too...) but about how I care for my tools. And about what tools I choose in the first place.

I am someone who has refused to spend more than $10 for pruners because I keep losing them. My speciality is dropping them into the bucket I'm collecting weeds and clippings in and then forgetting where I've put them so they eventually end up buried in the compost pile.

Well, no more. I have turned a corner. Turned over a new leaf. Crossed the street from the Land of Lost Pruners to the Country of Responsible Tool Owners. Yes, I have taken the plunge and bought myself some Felco Number 8 pruners.

You may be wondering what has motivated me to risk $60 on pruners that, if I don't reform my habits, may end up at the bottom of a pile of weeds and chicken poop. Three things: Paula's repeated advice, Harry's tutorial on tool care, and an occupational therapist's suggestion that I focus on the ergonomics of my gardening.

Paula is a skilled and sensible gardener who has suggested more than once that I stop spending my money on cheap pruners, buy a better pair already, and then take good care of them. (Thank you, Paula, for being so patient with me!)

Harry is a new friend, a retired master gardener and arborist who is spending his retirement passing on a lifetime's worth of knowledge and experience to anyone he think might use it. In the fall he spent an afternoon giving me a lesson on how to prune shrubs and trees, which culminated in a practical demonstration on how to take care of a good set of pruners. Here's the drill.
  • Use a green scrubby to clean off any wax, pitch or sap. If the pruners are really dirty you might need to use a razor blade.
  • Then use a small piece of 220 grit sandpaper on both surfaces of the blades. Use each small piece only once.
  • Check the tightness of all the screws.
  • Finish by spraying WD-40 on a piece of towel and using it to wipe down the blades and all the mechanisms. This will also disinfect the pruners, which is always a good idea. 
Lastly, a few sessions with an occupational therapist at the Arthritis Society convinced me that if I used better quality and more ergonomically friendly tools I could reduce the strain on my joints. My triumvirate of friendly advice givers all suggested a set of Felco pruners, and who was I to argue? Harry suggested the Number 8 model as being particularly good for people with arthritis.

I have used them in the garden a few times so far, in exactly the kind of circumstances that in the past have led to loss: big cleanups with lots of buckets of clippings and weeds being dumped in a wheelbarrow and then the compost pile, and I am happy to say I haven't had a moment of not knowing where they are. And the cleaning routine is quick and easy and so far has kept my new pruners looking pretty good.

If you, too, are sometimes challenged by your arthritis in the garden, Harry had another suggestion: wavy bladed shears take much less force to use and don't get stuck in whatever you're trying to cut down. Given the quantity of bunches of stems I have to cut down in the perennial garden in the fall, and how hard I find it on my wrists, shoulders and elbows, I think this will be a good purchase.

Provided I prove I can hang onto my Felcos, that is.


Stephanie said...

Thanks for the tips on the care of pruners. I have two on the go, thought I had lost the first one only to find it stowed away in a secret hiding place that I had forgotten where. February is pruning month on trees.

~Kim at Golden Pines~ said...

Great tips!! I have to tell you, I have a pair of Felcos that I was given, and I loved, but I've no idea where they are....I'll check my compost pile! :-)

jeanives said...

Congratulations on taking the plunge and adding to your "responsible adult" repertoire.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this; I have a beloved pair of Felcos in terrible condition because I don't know how to take care of my tools. I will follow Harry's advice and hope they can be resurrected!

Paula said...

Yay Miriam!! Congratulations on your taking the pruner plunge. Harry sounds like a wonderful friend to have.

May your Felcos serve you well and for a long, long time.

Lyssa said...

I am notorious for leaving tools out in the rain, but my good pruners...I've managed to keep them good for almost 10 years now! They did get left out in the rain once, sadly, but I was able to bring them back to life with some elbow grease and WD40. Perhaps your habit of losing pruners before was your wrists telling you to buy better pruners?

Lindsey at NW Backyard Veggies said...

I had no idea that word existed.
Thanks for the vocab, darling.

Maybe because you shelled out 60 bucks for killer pruners means that they will always be on your mind. Like how I take care of my dansko shoes SO MUCH better than any others. Because I basically had to sell plasma to buy them.

Extra money = extra special.

I need to use Triumvirate today. I'm gonna make it my mission.

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