Lifting Heavy Things

by Sarah

I’ve noticed, both with building and with sheep ranch work, that many of the materials and tools we use are designed for people larger and stronger than me.  We bought the ultralight weed-whacker with the easy-pull string, and it’s hard for me to get it started.   The tubs of nutritional molasses that we give to the sheep weigh more than me.  And the impact driver twists my wrist, rather than twisting the five-eighths bit into the two-by-four.  I have felt small and weak in my environment before, but never more so than now, when I am spending much of my time on building and ranch care, and am working side-by-side with Joseph.

These tools were designed, and standard material sizes were determined, with a man’s dimensions in mind.  Like many things in our physical reality.  Those are very different than my dimensions.  Of course, many women are also strong enough to use the tools with ease, but I am not, and may never be.

Instead, I am figuring out how I need to use tools and move materials.  Sometimes it’s a little different, and sometimes very different, than how Joseph would.  I’ve gotten more playful about this.  It feels more like a creative challenge than a roadblock.  How can I “hack” these tools that were designed for people with larger hands, stronger arms,  etc., and make them work for me?

In the following video, I convince a sheet of plywood and a six-by-six piece of lumber to cooperate with me.

Occasionally, it’s been useful to be small, as in the photo at the top of this post.  Screwing the nut onto the anchor bolt inside the Simpson Strong Tie is work for tiny, tiny hands!

I wonder, have any of you felt that you are taking action in a physical space that was not designed with you in mind?


15 thoughts on “Lifting Heavy Things

  1. sarah this is a great post. especially appreciate the ‘hacking’ attitude. i experience this currently as a question of how to work in the cc kitchen while caring for medial tendonitis and a newly injured right index finger. as a woman, i appreciate our hips and their helpfulness in balancing or helping to carry boxes and other heavy objects.

    1. Thank you, Mimi! And I’m sorry to hear about your injuries. Yes, I have also experienced this working in ZC kitchens. In the Tass kitchen I was up on those little wooden footstools pretty much all the time. And yes about hips too – I can lift a lot that way!

  2. Hi Sarah, your post is great… something I’ve been aware of for a long time. I’m 63 now, and have been single since my husband died when I was 32. I’ve learned to move heavy things “smarter”, using leverage and physics rather than muscles & brawn. When considering a “man” task, I take a few minutes to think it through. Usually I can figure out a better way to do it than pure physicality. Don’t get me wrong, though! I take advantage of all the man-muscles out there I can find when possible!

  3. I really empathize… I am not strong, not tall, not physical, and have a bad back. I’ve been painting, just painting, a room in my house and it is really ludicrous how difficult it is for me. When my husband, who is 6′ 3″ paints, he has no problems reaching all the high spots. I’m constantly on and off a step stool. I’ve got a system now where I just work in sections and give up on the idea of finishing fast. It will get done, just more slowly.

    1. Thanks, Diane. Yes – giving up on the idea of finishing fast – I am doing that too. Then it just takes as long as it takes and I’m not behind, just doing my thing.

  4. You are funny Sarah. A few years ago, I bought a Tempuredic mattress and tried to move it from my kitchen where the driver dropped it off, to the bedroom. I wanted to get this done and the bed made before Chris came home from work. Those mattresses are HEAVY and it was falling on me so I just let it drop and it stay there in the kitchen until Chris came home. He moved it and after he was done, he laughed because he knew there was no way I could do it..
    Well I got my trailer here but now the snow is flying so I may have to wait to build until Spring. I would love to start it now but I’d turn into a iceberg for sure. Where are you building and how is the weather there?
    Take care

    1. Thanks, Megan… yeah, sometimes the “hack” is to ask Joseph to do it! But usually I want to try, I want to find a way! We are building north of San Francisco, CA, so not too cold but it gets rainy this time of year. We’re out of town for a month and rolled our house into a barn on the property for now. We’ll be back at it in January – whether in the barn or outside, we’ll see.

  5. I really appreciate that you don’t blame yourself for being too small, too weak, too anything. Frequently when things don’t fit we blame our bodies and by extension ourselves. Your approach seems really centered and workable. So often we’re all disgruntled Alice’s and feel we are either too big or too small and wind up swimming in pools of tears. It’s so exciting to see you creating capability as you go. This project of yours and Joseph’s helps me see that everything is constructed! and constructable! and that patience and flexible/experimental openness blazes progress. Building a house, writing a novel, learning a new skill–whether you’re stewing wool and having to abandon it or raising walls… anyway, thanks for this.

    1. Thank you, Amy! I feel like I’ve gotten better at not blaming myself and getting frustrated with my physical being. I’m offering what I’m offering… and sometimes that is carrying one piece of siding while Joseph carries four. But it all counts. When I’m able to be playful about it, and flexible and open, it is so much more fun, and I do learn, and I do get stronger and more capable. And I loved what you said about everything is constructed and constructable… building is changing how I look at the world, what I notice, what makes sense to me in a different way… It’s really pretty cool.

    2. That’s an awesome way to phrase the learning process: I wager that each one of us feels like Alice when doing something new or finding ourselves in a new, and foreign-ish, world. And I like what you wrote about how patience/flexibility/openness “blazes progress”; sometimes that’s easy to forget.

      Sarah: reading about you and Joseph’s experience building your own tiny home and working the sheep ranch is incalculably refreshing. The details, frustrations, the reminders of keeping perspective are all so honest that it’s like a balm to a spirit that has forgotten what another’s non-glossed-over experience can look like. Thanks for the candor!

  6. Sarah have you ever tried to use one of your feet as a third hand? When I’ve had to carry boards that are too big/heavy i rest it on my foot and keep it there- I lift it with my foot with each step, and my hands help lift/balance the board. Or buy a skateboard. Love you!

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