JoAnne Skelly: Working smarter, not harder, as we age
Gardening and landscaping have been a part of my life now for over 35 years. Although I’m little, I was strong when I was young and could lift, carry and move things that weighed more than I did. I could work for long hours, go to sleep and get up and do it again. Now, after a short work session, my joints ache and my back expresses its dismay at my efforts to keep up some semblance of my younger pace.
I’ve lived in the same house, working on the same landscape for 26 years. Twigs I planted then are now trees more than 30 feet tall. My spare yard dominated by a large un-manicured lawn with trees lined up like soldiers has progressed to what a friend kindly calls a “mature landscape.” The landscape is not the only thing that is mature after all those years.
As the landscape has matured, my maintenance workload has increased. I have planted too many shrubs, too many flowers and too many trees. My body can’t keep up with the work. My gardening life is now about removing, scaling back and simplifying. If I don’t, the wild parkland I have created will overwhelm my husband, our house and me.
I have to pace myself, drink lots of water and take many breaks. I only work when it’s cool or when I can work in the shade. I use lighter weight rakes and shovels, carts with four wheels and dollies if I need to move something. I’ve found a good arborist — my husband is in charge of mowing and anything mechanical and my brother kindly helps me accomplish big tasks. I also have to be less of a perfectionist and allow a lot of chaos.
I can’t imagine my life without being able to work in our yard.
It is a great source of peace of mind. I can feel the stress subside when I’m pruning, raking or digging. I imagine many other gardeners feel the same way.
If you have found a way to work smarter rather than harder in your yard or have found techniques or tools to save your back, knees and other body parts, please share them with me. I will share them with others. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 775-887-2252 to share your tips. I’m putting together a workshop on gardening smarter as we age. Let me know if you are interested.
JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at email@example.com or 887-2252.