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Warning: Gardening May Cause Injuries

By Rick Gush, Urban Farm contributor

Friday, June 3, 2011

Garden injury

Photo by Rick Gush

I learned the hard way that carelessness in the garden can lead to painful results.

As you may be able to guess from the title of today’s post, I’m typing this blog with only nine fingers.

Usually, everyone who fires up a chainsaw is aware of the dangerous potential of the tool. But accidents don’t usually happen if one is actively conscious of the danger involved, and such accidents are a big surprise. When one is not thinking about the electrical line in the ditch or the danger of a newly cut tree limb, danger sneaks up from an unexpected corner and strikes. I think of myself as fairly accident-savvy, and I make sort of a big deal of rehearsing and calculating all the different possibilities when I know I’m doing something dangerous, but …

Yesterday morning, I was working at my friend Richard’s garden. We were digging out a big tree stump so we could build a ramp to pass from one terrace to another. I was kneeling and using a pick to loosen the considerable amounts of rock and soil stuck between the various roots. I did remember to avoid hitting myself in the head with the pick on the backswing (because I’ve done that before), but I didn’t consider that situation otherwise dangerous. Aside from wearing gloves to protect my hands from scratches, the probability of any danger didn’t really enter my mind.

I was swinging the pick pretty hard, kneeling in front of the stump and pounding away. On one blow I swung extra hard to dislodge a big rock and ended up hitting the index finger on my left hand against a hard root. I smashed the finger really well, and right away, I knew I’d done major damage. Surprise, pain, and shame all flooded into my brain in an instant.

I’ll spare you the gory details, but suffice to say, I visited the local hospital and then made my way to the big orthopedic ward down the coast in Sestri Levant, Italy.

Italy might be weird in a lot of ways, but the healthcare system is pretty swell. The seven or eight hours I spent with doctors, nurses, X-ray technicians and surgeons didn’t cost me a cent. I did spend 8 euros that evening for antibiotics and an ice pack, though.

The biggest price I’m paying in the whole incident is in pain and shame. Today, I’m typing much more slowly and am a bit concerned for a big report I am supposed to finish later today. The whole deal was obviously my own fault, and I feel uncomfortable accepting the condolences of my friends and the loving ministrations of my wife.

So let today’s photo serve as a safety poster. If even one reader avoids injuring themselves as a result of seeing today’s unpleasant image, the blog will have done a good thing — for somebody else, at least.

Read more of Rick's Favorite Crops »

Give us your opinion on Warning: Gardening May Cause Injuries.
Submit Comment »
Hi, Rick.
No eggs on the sidewalks...yet. Have to wait for late July, early August for that. And, yes, I get to Plant world once in a while. Davis is almost gone now. Selling the lot they've been on for years. Another legacy lost.
Bruce, Las Vegas, NV
Posted: 6/23/2011 10:17:50 AM
Hi David,

Yep, toting bricks is tough on us geezers. Hopefully you've got a hot tub and a masseuse that makes house calls. Best of luck!
rick, rapallo, YT
Posted: 6/4/2011 8:02:14 AM
Rick, I must admit to stitches, pain, and embarrassment as well. I can't tell you how many times people I'm working with will say, "Did you know you are bleeding"? I didn't even know I'd been hurt. I figure those folks that don't have a stitch or two and bleed a little aren't doing much are they? Hopefully your finger will heal up quickly and be better than ever. I'm setting concrete blocks as a foundation for a retaining wall for a backyard patio so my pain is just plain old body pain at the end of the day. How'd I get this old? Oh, well, just keep on keeping on. Don't you think?
David, Omaha, NE
Posted: 6/4/2011 6:51:23 AM
Hi Bruce,

Ha! Well, I guess I'm a serious gardener then. I can't remember a day when I didn't bleed while working in the garden. Lots of my construction projects have a little blood smudge somewhere on the back.

How's life in Las Vegas? Frying eggs on the sidewalk yet? Do you ever go to Plant World nursery? Or Davis nursery?
rick, rapallo, YT
Posted: 6/3/2011 10:59:04 PM

About the Blogger

Rick Gush

Rick Gush
Rick Gush has long been a staunch organic gardener. While a student at the University of California at Davis he worked at local tomato and sugar beet farms and continued in the agricultural and horticultural industries for many years. A career move in the 1990s led him to design computer games, but no matter how much of a techie he’s become, gardening and farming remain his principal passions.

In 2000, Rick moved to Italy, where he writes to you about his cliff garden and other experiences in Italian urban agriculture.

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