Friday, September 7, 2018

Sunday, August 12, 2018

My Left Thumb, or How I Learned To Start Worrying And Love My Body

By Forest Puha

Note: the following article has graphic medical pictures. Viewer discretion advised.

A month and a half ago, I was cutting wood with a circular saw and then I cut open my thumb.

Yeah. I make that seem low-key, but it's actually more painful, time-consuming and life-altering than it sounds.

It was fun to drop everything, including my tools, and yell in pain. It was fun to run inside and watch my family try not to faint. It was fun to rush to the nearest clinic, freaking out the staff, getting injected with whatever painkillers they had and arguing about whether or not antibiotics are covered under insurance while I was mildly stoned. Fun times all around.

Partly as a record to remind myself of what NOT to do in an emergency, and partly as a teaching opportunity to everyone else, this article will go over what happened and how you can prevent the same thing from happening to you. I learned a lot, including that ignoring common sense will only result in bad things for myself and everyone around.

Here's what happened using re-created photographs of the incident.



The equipment I was using at the time. As follows: 3M-brand eye wear protection, 3M brand silicone earplugs, a Master Mechanic brand handheld electric circular saw, and cheap generic black elastic gloves with yellow leather finger protection.

Note that the gloves are neither full leather or employ knuckle protection. This is Mistake #1.



I was sawing wood for a project, using my wooden table as a cutting platform. Note that I failed to secure the wood to the table surface with a clamp. This is Mistake #2.

I operated the saw with one hand, while holding onto the piece of wood with another. This is Mistake #3. Never, never, NEVER hold a handheld power tool with only one hand, ESPECIALLY a saw.



When operating a power saw, sometimes the wood will shift while cutting. Because the saw blade can only move in one direction at a time (forwards) any subtle movement will gather more wood than the saw's engine can handle, which forces the blade to suddenly stop. The momentum generated by the blade will be transferred into the saw, and as a result, the saw kicked back on me while I was holding onto it. It's not a problem with two hands...



...but I was only holding onto the saw with my right hand, and holding onto the wood with my left hand. The kickback of a power saw is like the recoil of a full-size rifle or shotgun. I had no control and I paid the price. I felt the saw and it really hurt more than normal. I looked down, saw drips of blood and very gently pulled the glove away. It was a gashing, gaping wound. The saw had hit the spot of the glove that wasn't covered with leather or any protection, but simple black fabric. Which happened to be right on my Metacarpophalangeal, the middle thumb joint.

 


Photos taken two hours after stitches were removed.

I calmly rushed inside, while my family freaked out over my accident.

Mistake #4: I washed the wound with cold water. Don't do that. The wound has particles of dead skin, leather, plastic, fabric, oil, wood and heaven knows what else inside; it needs to be properly disinfected with sterile solution found at the neighborhood clinic. The clinic promptly informed me I was very lucky; my wound didn't completely expose the tendons in my knuckle, so I wouldn't have to be airlifted to the nearest emergency room for surgery. They could simply put in stitches where I was at.

Then they gave me a shot of something to numb the pain while they stitched up my hand. It took a couple of weeks to be able to grab things and use a computer's keyboard, and a month to where I could bend my fingers around and not be in constant pain.

I learned a great deal from this incident. Mostly, I learned that overconfidence is a slow and insidious killer, and that even when I thought I had the required safety gear, I didn't have the RIGHT safety gear. I nearly paid for it with my thumb. It could have been my hand, or my life.

I'm in the market for a new pair of gloves. These Youngstown Utility Kevlar-lined gloves seem like a good start, roughly $30 on Amazon. Supposedly the entire glove is lined with Kevlar, even the fingers. I think they're cheaper than surgery and I'll have to review a pair.


From top to bottom: a carpentry wood clamp, a cast iron C-clamp, and a spring clamp. These are three kinds of clamps I have on hand, cheaply found in any hardware store, and I recommend everyone not only buy them for their tool box, but also USE them whenever you need to hold something down. I neglected to do so and paid the price for my stupidity.



Step 1: slide clamp over object and surface. Step 2: tighten until they don't move. Step 3: you're done. They're so much better than using your hands.
And the clamps allow me to use both hands when operating my power tools now. I have more control over the tool now! It's amazing!


It could have been so much worse.

Our Family Tire Garden: Unusual but Effective!

By Forest Puha

Car tires. They start out new, you drive a while, they wear out and you replace them. But instead of just throwing them away, people have been coming up with ways to re-use them. I've read accounts of people learning to reuse tire rubber for shoes, for new roofing tiles, for protective surfaces, anything they can figure out a need for. 

So this summer, my family decided to try experimenting with tires too. Instead of buying increasingly rare and expensive straw to protect our plants, or figuring out a mulch that wouldn't hurt them, we planted with old tires


Ta-daaa! A garden that grows in the heat! Zucchini in front and middle, with radishes in a rear tire hidden from view. Yukon Gold potatoes in the back. Lavender plant in top right to attract pollinators. Plenty of ground space to walk around while watering.






It turned out to be very good thing that we did, because it's been extraordinarily HOT this summer, with the temps well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit most days. (That's 37 Celsius and above, for non-Americans.)  

It seems the tires do a lot. First, they keep the dirt damp and cool as we water the plants, and really slows the sun's evaporation that would otherwise occur. It also seems the wild jackrabbits and gophers do not like tires. Unlike when we've used animal fencing and other means to protect our plants, the critters have stayed out of our garden this summer. In addition, the tires shielded the baby sprouts from wind in early spring, so they could sprout wide and tall without getting blown around. And the tires have protected the plants from getting trampled very well. I accidentally kicked a zucchini while wearing slippers and my toes ached all day.
  
Close up of zucchini. They matured in two months and became giant with the tires.
IMPORTANT: we used tires that were only in good and recently new condition. We did NOT use old tires that were starting to degrade or leak chemicals, which is where we think the major problems come from.  We cut the inner walls off the tires. This means the tires only ring around the plant, and do not keep the roots enclosed in the tire, but grow down into the garden soil. Then we filled the tire with garden dirt and compost and planted the seeds and plant starts. We used large tubeless SUV and pickup truck-sized tires, which give a lot more room and protection for the plants.

A used tire in suitable condition. The inner sidewall has been cut and removed. Take the big tire, flip, and plant seedlings in the middle. The sidewall can be used as a smaller growing bin, or for whatever use that comes to mind.
Name brand, naturally, does not matter. However, tires with nylon belts are easier to cut apart and manipulate, using a sharp knife and scissors. More common steel-belted radials will require a pair of sturdy wire cutters, a lot of strength and significant patience to cut open the inner wall.



Havasu Hot Peppers, sold by Bonnie Plants. Scoville Heat Scale: 3,000 to 5,000 in the JalapeƱo category. Good eating if you're used to them. 

We planted zucchini and Havasu peppers and they are doing great compared to previous gardens. Next year we will use more tires, especially as the climate keeps getting hotter.  There is some online conflict about tires leaching chemicals anyway, but I read up on this issue and many organic farmers say it is not a problem. I like to wash the tires off before we use them around our food anyway. When the tires finally degrade so they can't be used anymore, we'll cut them up and take them to the dump for official disposal.

Give tires a try at your homestead. Meanwhile, there's tortillas with grilled zucchini and chili peppers with cheese and sour creme on the menu tonight!