Shoveling dirt

The past couple of days I shoveled 15,000 pounds of dirt and poop.  Yep.  And I — a moderately fit, middle-aged lady — did it with a shovel.

I know, because the weight-limit on the rented flat-bed truck was 3,000 pounds, which I reached four times, and nearly reached another 3 trips.  OK, I had some help.  The dirt and the poop was loaded into the back of a truck with a front-loader, and I drove the truck into our driveway.  But from there, all of it got hand-pushed on to our driveway with my shovel.

I had a good time meeting people who traffic in dirt and poop.  The dirt came from the Needham dump (recycling and transfer station, RTS).  I walked into the office and found a bunch of guys in neon jackets converged there — morning break — so everyone heard that I wanted a very large pile of loam (usually it is sold to residents by the bucket, not the truckload).  A guy named Dave volunteered to get it for me and he loaded the truck with a little front-loader.  Then I went home, shoveled it all off the truck, and drove back to the RTS for more, five times.  Dave did four of my loads and a guy whose name I did not catch, did one.   They were all super nice about it, and we had a good time!   The loam is composted from Needham’s fallen leaves – fall trash.  The horse-poop came from a horse farm – Sunny Ridge Farm — where it was loaded on to the truck by a no-nonsense woman my age, who gave it away for free.  Horse poop happens!

Dave loading loam into the back of my truck at the Needham RTS

Shoveling 15,000 pounds of dirt by hand takes time — about 7 hours, so I was able to hone my shovel-dirt-and-shit-off-the-truck skills (always handy).  First, I tried using the short shovels.  Way too hard on the back!  Ouch!  I recalled a description of using knees and legs with a long pitch-fork from the book “Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind“.  Indeed, the long-handled shovel worked much better.  I experimented with swooping motions, like a scythe – that works pretty well.  Then I tried scooping the dirt, using the shovel a bit like a canoe paddle – good for getting stuff from the back of the truck.  Pushing the dirt – like in curling – works pretty well for those last couple of feet.   Initially, I worked from the end of the truck to the back.  This is great at first – all the dirt goes right off in a single swoop – but then stinks when you get to the back of the truck and have to take two passes – one to get the dirt to the end of the truck and the second to toss it off.  Double work right when you’re getting tired.  Better to work your way along the side of the pile in 3 or four passes so you distribute that back of the truck nastiness.   I can tell you, I felt like I had moved mountains, I was very, very proud of myself.

Shoveling dirt off the flat-bed truck using the “push” method. 🙂



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