Saturday, July 24, 2010

2nd Place

Way cooler than the ones I used to get on Field Day

Here it is, a cool yet non-rainy evening (yes!), I've got a beer nearby (Yes!) and I'm lounging in my hammock on the back porch (YES!!!)  The dogs are quietly keeping me company out here, which is nice.  I can tell that Lucy is really wanting to bark at something (she's in that "ready to bark" stance that she's got) but can find nothing to bark at, so she's staring intently at the garden in hopes that the stray black cat that has taken up residence there will show itself and provide a reasonable source of agitation and excitement.  Dagny has her front paws hanging off of the porch, is staring contently towards the lava floes to the south, and is quietly wondering if I'm going to feed her anytime soon (which I am).  In short, things are great.  Or at least would be, if it weren't for all of the blood.
*cue ominous music aaaaand cut to commercial!*

It all started earlier this week.  I had to cut some burlap bags into 8"x14" swaths to use to cover the pineapples that are getting sunburned (I know what you're all thinking, and so I'll just explain right now that SPF 30 sunscreen is outrageously more expensive than burlap, so it's not an option (6)[side story: I once was at a surf shop buying some board shorts because I was on the other side of the island with nothing to do.  Having decided to do a bit of snorkeling {why I had the snorkel gear and no board shorts is completely beyond me, but let's just leave it as clear that sometimes I'm  not too bright}. I stopped at the nearest store and  found they were having a great deal on shorts.  I found a pair I liked, tried them on, then put my street clothes back on {quite a feat in the 18"x18" dressing room} got the next bigger size, sighed, tried them on, put my street clothes on again, got the NEXT bigger size, fought my depression and tried those on, put my street clothes back on again, and took them to the counter.  I wisely chose to get some sunscreen as well, and they had this cool little two-ounce bottle of SPF 30 on a carabiner.  I grabbed one and took it to the counter as well.  

"That'll be $45," the guy said.

"You must be smoking crack!" I politely retorted. "These shorts are on sale...should only be about $18."

"Yep.  They are.  That'll be $45 please."

"You mean to tell me that these 27 drops of sunscreen cost $25?" I asked.  "What are they, made out of unicorn poo or something?"

"I dunno....I just work here.  It does seem pretty outrageous though."

"Ok, ok.  Um, well, take that off of the sale obviously...."


"...and...uh...where's your other sunscreen?"

"Well, we have the one made of unicorn poo there...they've got a cool carabiner with them...."

"Yes, we've covered that."

"...and....uh...that's it."

"You only carry the $25 bottle of two ounces of sunscreen?"

"WITH a carabiner!" he added.

"Yes, with a carabiner....and that's it?"


"You sell many of those?" I asked.

"Not a one," he replied with a sigh.

"Just the shorts please."

I paid my $18 and drove about five miles away from the beach to a gas station where I had my choice of any number of sunscreens in 10oz bottles from SPF 15 on up to 45, all under $10.]).

ANYWAY, where was I?  (7) Sunscreen....burlap...RIGHT!  So here I am cutting up burlap bags into swaths.  All of our previous burlap cutting (and it has been plentiful, although never into swaths) has been done with scissors.  So I was cutting with scissors.  And it was taking forever (like this story).  So I switched to my knife.  I fashioned a kind of cutting board out of a piece of 4x4 I had laying around, and it worked great!  I was cranking out swaths left and right!  I made a ton of swaths in a hurry.  Had I been on a production line, I would have been yelling "KANBAN!" all of the time¹, but as I was alone and it was clear the dogs didn't get the joke, I just smiled at my productivity.  But after an hour or so, things took a turn for the worse.  My cuts were getting more ragged.  I wasn't always cutting through both layers in a single swipe.  I was having to apply more pressure to the knife (acquiring some nasty blisters in the process) and overall production was slowing.  So I got the knife sharpener from the kitchen at the house and sharpened my knife.

Eureka!!  Back to quick production!

And thus began my inclination to make things really really really really really really really really really really really really sharp.  And it was good.

That afternoon I sharpened the kitchen knives.

Two days later I started sharpening the machetes.

I tossed around the idea of sharpening the tines on the potato rake, but I figured a line had to be drawn somewhere.

I sharpened the stirrup hoes, the weed-eater blades, and pretty much anything with an edge that I could get my hands on.

For the record, I wasn't using the 7-million-grit auto body painter sandpaper that my uncle uses when sharpening his hand-planes, and therefore I know there are sharper tools out there in the world, but given what I had on hand, these things were (and are) pretty darn sharp.

Amongst my sharpened items were the hand scythes.  We use these to cut weeds from the pineapple bays.  They're basically a stick with a 5" knife sticking out of the end at a 90° angle.  Very handy.  And now very very sharp.


The first day after I'd sharpened them, I went out to cut down some weeds and it was amazing.  If you had the blade even close to some weeds, and just kinda thought about cutting them, they'd fall.  So cool and so easy.  About every hour or so, I'd stop and give it a couple of swipes with the sharpening stone, just to keep the edge, and weeding has never been so easy.  Sure, I got a couple (seven) nicks on my left hand, but not enough to make me worry.

And that brings us to today.

I'd decided that I was going to weed this one bay today.  Freshly resharpened scythe in hand, I took to the fields.  I was wearing the usual weeding gear (gloves, safety glasses, iPod earphones and, of course, shorts) and all was going along great.  And at some moment, for whatever reason, I then tried (and thankfully failed) to cut my thumb off.  This was followed by, in chronological order: swearing, inspection of the wound, more swearing, and then heading off toward the nearest first-aid kit (which was accompanied by more swearing).

At this point, let me tell you a little about my gloves.  They're cloth-backed with a rubberized grip.  I really like them, as I can still feel what I'm grabbing as I reach between pineapple plants, and they don't get hot (and therefore sweaty) inside, which leads to fewer blisters.  The drawback to this design is that the cloth side deteriorates very quickly in this climate and with the kind of abuse I throw at them (both physical and verbal) (8&9).  The end (or at least current) result is that the cloth side is worn away and some of the fingers flop around off of my own fingers, and  generally get in the way.  But I'm used to them working this way, and mostly ignore it.

Of course on my walk toward the yurt and my backpacking first-aid kit, I was beginning to wonder about the safety issues involved in half-loose glove fingers, and finally settled on the conclusion that it's probably not good.  To be fair and honest, Kalewa had offered to buy me a new pair of gloves the last time we were at Home Depot, and I told him that whatever wear and tear my current gloves had, I could sew them up or something.  Which, of course, I never did.  But as we'll discuss later, that really doesn't matter.

So I learned something today, and it's this:  Although (to the best of my recollection) there are no major arteries or veins between the nail and the first knuckle of the thumb on the left hand, given an adequate cut, it can still bleed quite a bit.  Good to know, good to know.

So I got to the yurt and found my first-aid kit.  First thing in it?  Snake bite kit.  A snake bite kit in Hawaii.  That's like taking a yacht to the desert or $25 sunscreen to the dark side of the moon.  Totally worthless, and yet humorous enough to make me laugh out loud.  I found some gauze and a knuckle-style band-aid, and in the cabinet I also found a bottle of hydrogen peroxide.  I poured the peroxide over my hand, and while it did nothing to wash away the blood, it did make my whole hand fizz up.
First thought: "Wow."
Second thought: "I really need to wash my hands....."
Third thought: "Ow, my thumb!"
Oh yeah, I'm here for a reason.  So I wash out the wound, dry it off, bandage it up (all with my apparently filthy and bacteria-laden other hand) and I figure everything's going to be ok.  I mean, the cut was plenty deep, but I don't think it was deep enough to need stitches.  If it had been longer, maybe, but a thumb is only so wide, so it wasn't very long. (10)
My thumb's always blurry after I wash it...

A short note on first-aid kits:  First of all, they always seem to either have exactly what you need, or exactly what you don't need.  In this case, I was very lucky.  Apart from the snake bite kit, I found the bandage and gauze very quickly and easily.  But that's not always the case.

The big question now was what to do next. Of course there was only one thing to do: get back to work.  So I walked back over to the house, and on the way I was trying to think of a way to avoid this sort of incident in the future (very good thinking, yeah?)and I decided that while I couldn't fix my gloves, and while I really didn't want to make a special trip to town to buy new ones, I'd have to do something.  At which point the old saying popped into my head: "If you can't fix it, duck (or 'duct') it."  Sounded good to me.  So I proceeded, for the next half an hour, to carefully apply duct tape to my left glove serving to both confine and protect  my precious digits.  What this work culminated in was a glove looking not at all unlike the hand of Ash in "Army of Darkness."  Again, my first thought: "Groovy."  After lunch, all protected, I headed back out into the fields. Of course I stopped on the way to sharpen my scythe (of course, of course).

About 45 (11) minutes into it, I seriously slashed my pinky finger.  This time not laterally, but vertically across the knuckle.  Soon after, again over the sink on the yurt-porch, having had more swearing and walking and bleeding and much contemplation about the complete lack of protection both cloth and duct tape provide against really really sharp objects, I thought " hand's not so fizzy this time with the peroxide."

Another short note on first-aid kits:  First of all, they always seem to either have exactly what you need, or exactly what you don't need.  In this case I was quickly able to find a snake-bite kit (again), a very very large-bore needle (presumably for bleeding someone dry in the case that he or she instantaneously becomes allergic to their own blood), some anti-itch cream, a pill that was supposed to be similar to (but not actually like) aspirin, a pair of extra large tweezers, a map to Jimmy Hoffa's grave, the entirety of the lost city of Atlantis, and a Q-tip.  And all I wanted was a stinking band-aid.  Eventually I found one, way in the back next to the secret FBI file on the JFK assassination and the emergency mouthwash.  After the proper cleaning and dressing, I decided that it must be a sign from whatever higher power you should choose that I should quit weeding for the day and start drinking beer and lounging in a hammock and perhaps write a tediously long blog post.  And obviously that's what I've done.

For those of you who are prone to worrying, I'm fine.  My thumb is A-OK, and while the knuckle in my pinky throws fits every time I bend it at the moment, I'm sure after a couple of aspirin and a night's rest, and perhaps a good dose of emergency mouthwash, everything will be back to par.

A final note on first-aid kits:  First of all, they always seem to either have exactly what you need, or exactly what you don't need.  But no matter what, I've learned they look infinitely cooler with bits of blood on all of the packagings.

So why "2nd Place" as a blog title? (as if anyone can remember back that far.....)  Well, that's easy.  No matter how badly you or I might think I've messed up my hands, Kalewa has me beat (due to a really interesting incident involving a [not running at the time] chainsaw, it's tree-fork, and some ornery uluhe.




¹ When Kilzer and I worked at CMS for a short time assembling external hard drives, if you had more than 5 items stacked between you and the next person down the line, you were required to yell "KANBAN!!!" and wait until said next person (and the rest of the line) caught up with you.  It became our perpetual goal at that job to try and maintain a constant state of kanban.


  1. 1. you can never have enough carabiners!
    2. poor thumb & pinky - did you type that whole thing with your right hand? as a recent thumb near amputee i can totally sympathize. if it weren't 97 degrees here i would bake you cookies. Oh right, i recently read when you are gushing blood that you shouldn't worry about the washing out part b/c the gushing blood is going to push any dirt out. the object should be to stop the gushing. just an fyi for sharp tool weilding days.
    3. i can't believe you didn't explain anything about Kalewa's hand - that looks nast-y.
    4. 8x14 burlap? are you gift wrapping the pineapples individually? hmmm. interesting. couldn't you just build a shade structure like a lattice or something?

  2. JEN! Nice to hear from you! (see other post)
    1) Very very very very true.
    2) Thx, but they're mostly ok now. And no, for all of you followers I toughed it out and typed the only way I know how: sloppily with two hands. Sorry to hear about your thumb... how did that happen? (as you don't have a blog, please feel free to post in here in the comments, as I'm sure everyone would love to hear about it!) Good to know about the cleaning/bleeding ratio.
    3) Well, I figure that's his story, not mine.
    4) Yep. Gift wrapping is the perfect explanation. And no, we can't do a structure, as the ones that aren't burning could use the sun. That, and we'd have to build a whole lot of shade structures, and the cost would very much surpass that of the time+burlap of this method.

  3. :) thanks.
    2) it's my story, not yours (see #3 above-hee, hee) & not nearly as entertaining either.
    4) what about parachute material? Jax has a bunch of parachutes (i want one -just to be cool). seems like it might be worth the math excercise to see how building a shade structure to be used yearly vs buying burlap, time to cut & wrap and medical costs every year compares. And I think light would still pass thru white ones? anywho, it's your pineapple.