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Mulch mover, shaker is fit to be like Mom
VITAL TRIFLE, BY LAURI GROSS
Mulch mover, shaker is fit to be like Mom
My mother used to think it was crazy to drive her teenage kids to the high school so we could run laps on the track. Driving somewhere just to get out and run seemed silly to her.
She also thought people were crazy to pay someone to clean their house, pay someone else to take care of their yard and then pay for a gym membership. "If you cleaned your own house and took care of your own yard, you would get enough exercise that you wouldn't need to pay for the gym membership," she reasoned.
Of course, she was right in every case. So, around my house, we do clean our own house, take care of our own yard and do not have gym memberships. Pushing lawn mowers, hauling firewood, carrying laundry and vacuum cleaners up and down stairs, etc., provide adequate exertion.
For the record, I do supplement by running stairs and lifting weights, but it's all done in my own home.
Not impressed with tae bo, Pilates, yoga or any other trendy get-fit technique? Try a pile of mulch.
We recently had a truck load of mulch dumped in our driveway, and I watched the magic unfold. First, there is the smell. Initially, it nearly knocked me over and made me crinkle my nose, but then it seemed warm and mellow and bursting with opportunity. Opportunity to gather the family, break out the pitchforks, tractor, wagon and wheelbarrow and literally dig in.
It was together time for the family. It was for the betterment of our home. It was exercise for everyone. Besides the battery in our tractor, all the power was supplied by human muscles. While we were all moving mulch, no one was watching TV or anything else electronic. Even the dog enjoyed the effort and all the extra smells and outdoor time it meant for him.
But before we grabbed our first pitchfork full, I just looked at that pile. It was so-o-o-o huge. How would we ever move it? I took a deep breath and mentally reviewed how I usually spend my day and realized this would be different. It was going to be the same thing for hours and hours, rather than the usual running around and squeezing things into a minute-by-minute schedule.
When my kids were little, they enjoyed sliding down the mulch piles in a kind of summer tribute to sledding, only much messier ... and steamier ... and stinkier. But then I remembered, that's the smell of opportunity.
I took my first pitchfork full, which I knew would soon become my 10th, 20th, 1 millionth pitchfork full. Soon, my muscles began to protest, and my skin began to glisten. I ignored their pleas and settled into a rhythm.
As we dumped the mulch in various landscaped beds around our property, I got on my hands and knees and spread the mulch with gloved hands. Carefully, I lifted the leaves of hosta, black-eyed Susans, lilies, irises and more and plowed the much under and around the perennials. Every plant looked much happier when surrounded by a lovely, dark, rich blanket of steamy mulch. The colors were more vibrant. Even the greens seemed to glow.
We kept filling, dumping and spreading. The wind blew dry bits of mulch into our eyes. We all complained, squinted and rubbed our eyes with dirty gloves, making it worse. But we were all in this together, and things were looking good, so we kept going.
Crawling under an evergreen, I lifted the bottom branches from their covering of mulch, shook them off and released them to recoil back up into their natural position. In the process, a branch slapped me in the eye. I closed it tightly as it began to water, and I realized it's harder to spread mulch with only one eye, but I tried my best to ignore it.
Our beds are full of rocks about the size of a volleyball or basketball, just because I like rocks in the garden. During mulching, these rocks presented additional opportunity for exercise, because we had to lift or roll each one of out of the way so we could push mulch underneath before replacing the rock to its original position. Otherwise, the rocks become buried in the mulch. Maneuvering the rocks wore holes in the fingertips of my gloves, even though they were my new ones. I frequently paused to shake out the gloves and empty them of the mulch that collected inside.
My hair was tied up, but each time I ducked under a bush or tree in order to push the mulch where it belongs, I felt like Snow White becoming snagged on branches and twigs, my hair flying out from under my hair clips in wild, curly tendrils that stuck on my sweaty face and neck.
Although this sounds a bit horrific, I actually really enjoyed it. My mind wandered and solved everyday problems that required just this kind of free-thinking time.
I was wearing my favorite jeans with the huge holes in both knees but soon decided, as I crawled around my gardens, over ground cover, rocks and, of course, mulch, that maybe these holey jeans were not the best idea. Add red, sore, scratched knees to my list of mulching side effects.
And then, as soon as I noticed the pile seemed to be getting a little smaller, it was gone, and I found myself using the push broom to sweep the last dusty remnants off the driveway and into the beds that border it.
With sore muscles, a burning thirst, smeared in dirt and as happy as if I was returning from dinner and a movie, I went inside to call my mom.
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