Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Making Sure You Have The Right Shovel Before You Kill Yourself

The other day, a friend of mine was joking, “I don't know why people have to keep buying snow shovels. What? Do they throw them out at the end of the year?!” I hope not. My husband and I have had the same shovels for many years now, but I can understand that snow shovels might break. The blade could disconnect from the handle or a plastic blade could crack. A shovel might become ineffective if, for example, the edge on a metal blade dulls and doesn't break crusty snow or if your physical condition changes, leaving you unable to lift a heavy shovel.

The experts at Popular Mechanics (www.popularmechanics.com) list a variety of snow shovels and I'm sure more models hit the market every year. Our family owns several  and I didn't understand why until I realized that they're designed to do different tasks. Our 30-inch scoop-blade model (the gray one in the photo) works well for pushing/scraping ice and snow; its curved blade and weight make it prohibitive, however, for shoveling by anyone except my husband. The red, square-nosed shovel is also metal, which means it's durable, but the weight is, once again, problematic for me, although the teen does well with it. The blue, plastic 18-inch shovel is my tool of choice because it's light and great for even the heaviest of snow. Lastly, we have a child's shovel; initially, I thought this was a waste of money, but the one pictured is at least ten years old and was passed down from the teen to his sister. It performs well for my little girl, but is more important for the message it sends: everyone in our family pitches in to help, even the youngest member. This shovel is also great to keep in the trunk of your car for those times when you're plowed in.  Tip:   If you don't have room in your trunk for a shovel, carry a dustpan. Before I had kids, I carried a metal dustpan and it came in mighty handy if I was stuck in slush or mud.

Before and during the Winter, it's important to keep shovels well-maintained. Check any screws to make sure they're tight and before a snowfall comes, coat the blades with WD-40 or a lubricant so that the snow slides off the blade and doesn't stick to it. There's nothing worse than lifting a load of heavy snow only to have it stick to the blade!

Speaking of lifting, stretching before you shovel is a MUST! Shoveling requires the use of muscles that may not get used the rest of the year and it can be a very strenuous workout. Stretch your back, shoulders, and hamstrings. Dress in layers so you don't get overheated. Pace yourself and keep hydrated. Lift using your legs, not your back.

As for a “shoveling strategy,” my husband contends that shoveling before the snow has completely stopped is silly, while I insist that it's valuable (and the folks at Popular Mechanics agree). It's easier to shovel several layers of snow than a foot of the stuff, especially if it's heavy and wet.  I clear off our cars first so that I don't wind up re-shoveling the same area twice. Next, I clear off the area between the car and the street next, knowing that I'll probably have to do at least part of that area again once the snowplow comes through. Lastly, I do the rest of the driveway. I also shovel a path to the garbage cans and, if a big storm is on its way, an area for the generator in the back of the house.

For more resources on shovels and shoveling itself, visit these links:

Our local weather forecaster is, once again, predicting several inches of snow later this week, so I may be heading over to Home Depot to buy a new shovel since I think we could use another plastic model. I'll be trying a few models out, before I buy one, to make sure I'm comfortable when I have to twist and dump the snow. I may only use a snow shovel for a few months out of the year, but during those months, it's an essential piece of equipment.

Thanks, once again, for reading! Please check in with me for a bunch of jokes related to snow and Winter as I desperately try to see some humor in it.  Snow-kidding! (Sorry, I couldn't resist...)

I can't wait until Spring!

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