Sunday, September 09, 2007

Cardiologists, Frogs and Concrete

I enjoy manual labor. Throughout the week I sit at a computer developing software. My knees get stiff and my eyes have more and more difficulty focusing. When the weekend arrives, I enjoy doing something outside that is physical and strenuous.

For the last few weeks I've been leveling an area about twelve feet by forty feet and digging 104 feet of footer averaging 30 inches deep. I've moved about 27 yards of earth and filled the area with 10 yards of gravel. This weekend, Julie and I finished pouring the concrete for the footer.

The work that has taken me several weekends could have been done by a backhoe in about three hours.

This frog is missing one toe. (Larger version)

I chose to do the work with hand tools for several reasons.

First, but not the most important, the cardiologist I saw in July said LDL cholesterol should be below 100 and mine tested at 123. Exercise and weight loss lower LDL and raise HDL cholesterol. I try to exercise daily but don't have time for the sustained exercise that I get on weekends. The labor has helped. I used to average 205-207 pounds. I'm down to 194. Next month I'm going to have another cholesterol test and I expect to the near 100 and hopefully below.

Second, slow hand work protects life. Three years ago I decided to locate my cistern behind some trees. When I dug a hole for the cistern and 100 feet of trench for a water line I dug over and under major roots to prevent stressing the Junipers. A backhoe would have cut them and possibly killed the trees.

As I dug the footer, I saw a frog. Apparently, he had buried himself in the ground to escape the sun and I unearthed him and he fell to to the bottom of the trench which was about 24 inches deep at that point. When I caught him I noticed blood on my hand. I must have injured him with the shovel. He was missing one toe but appeared strong. I took him to what I hoped was a safe place and set him free. This isn't the first time I've dug up a frog. Last summer I was working on a stone walkway and uncovered one. A backhoe operator would never have seen him.

My camera-shy assistant, water girl and quality control specialist. (Larger version)

Third, manual labor strengthens the bond between Julie and me. Several times each day she brings water, tea and an occasional salt tablet and demands I stay hydrated. She helps with the lighter labor and we discuss the plans together. When the project is finished and the years pass, we'll enjoy the results because we worked together to create it. Writing a check to a contractor can't build that depth of shared experience.

Cleaning equipment at the end of the day. (Larger version)

Fourth, I have lots of plans and ideas for the future. Julie and I have discussed Habitat for Humanity and other volunteer projects that require physical strength. I remain determined to hike all 800 miles of the Arizona Trail after I retire. Physical labor keeps these dreams alive as viable options.

Souvenirs of enjoyable labor. (Larger version)

Fifth, if I hired the work done and it wasn't done to my satisfaction, I'd be irritated. I don't get irritated with myself. If I make a blunder, I chalk it us as a learning experience. I like learning; I don't like irritation.

Possessions can be enjoyable but they are a distant second to experiences and good momories. I like doing manual labor for the experiences and memories.


Blogger Anvilcloud said...

You are a wonderfully unique guy.

9/10/2007 07:45:00 AM  
Blogger Tim Hodgens said...


You are living the good life - good for you!

I admire your process.

A few months ago I struck a similar vein and posted the following, if you care to look at it.


9/10/2007 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger Buffalo said...

I'm thinkin' that cardiologist flat pissed you off.

9/10/2007 11:44:00 AM  
Blogger Whitesnake said...

If ya wanta job done well, do it ya self!

Manual labour and my injury do not mix however I have been known to push the limits. An ice cold beer or 2 can do wonders for the aches and pains.

9/10/2007 09:06:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Clayton said...

Good post, Paul; my circumstances (at 81) are similar to yours, even my career to some extent.

After open heart surgery (5 bypasses and an aortic valve replacement) Ellie and I got interested in our diets.

Like you I spend too much time at the computer, primarily working on my Blake book, but we play tennis almost every morning (a pretty fast game) from 1/2 to 1 1/2 hours. About every day except Thursday when I report to the hospital at 7 to pray with the heart patients.

When you reach a certain age, especially after a serious medical problem, you have a tendency to remember that "your body is a temple of the holy spirit." I was just reflecting this morning that we have a pretty monotonous routine, which I like because it keeps the ole body working pretty well-- maybe for a few more years. God bless us all.

9/25/2007 08:07:00 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home