With regards to safety. Safety starts with awareness and your mind in sharp focus. A pair of kevlar chaps and carbon fiber hard hat and a thousand barricades will not help you if you are not present. You have to acknowledge that nature and the world we live in is dangerous, and can cause harm to you. This can happen if you are not careful, but can also happen because it is some crazy fluke. So you want to be prepared irregardless, and try to avoid getting hurt.

Hazards in gardening are many. The soil is full of bacteria. Some of it is helpful, others can get inside of you and try to take over and eat you alive. You will swell up with an infection, the bacteria will make their way into your blood, sepsis amputation and death are not far off. Lucky these days hospitals are equipped with antibiotics made from fungus and precisely other soil bacteria. Otherwise lights out. Many people who reminisce about the old times, or who have an idyllic vision of nature, often get into trouble because they want to put their bare hands in the soil and be one with mother earth. Maybe out in the country but in town it is right dirty and best to wear gloves. If you have an open wound for sure avoid contact with the soil. If you get an open wound or cut from a hori hori knife or a long barb of blackberry remember to wash it out good with soap and water. Not sloppy either wash it good.

Another common hazard is stinging insects. Around here the worst is yellow jackets that nest in the ground cause sometimes you don’t see em till its too late, you’ve already stepped on their nest and they come roaring out really mad. It really sucks when they go up your pant leg or chaps, are trapped, and really panic and sting and sting. Then you have to drop your drawers in the middle of the park and hope your underwear is not too unsightly. It would be a good idea to know if you are allergic to the venom. You can get tested by a doctor or wait and see if you have never been stung before. If you are allergic and persist in the great outdoors get an epi pen which is a shot of epinephrine which is adrenalin, so that you can inject yourself in the leg and not go into shock. Then get help. Just so you know bumblebees can sting also, as can of course honeybees. These are all insects in the colonial matriarchal clan called the hymenoptera. Ants are in this group too. Lucky here we do not have the stinging red ants in the south nor the massive conga paraponera bullet ants of the tropics. So before you go into a patch of ivy to weed it, observe to see if some yellow and black bugs are flying here and there. Watch where they are going. Preventive practices is a big part of being safe. Black widows are a concern too. So watch out for irrigation boxes and cleaning out the potting shed that hasnt been touched for a decade. Mostly with the spiders it is like with the moray eels, don’t just stick your hand down in some place some hole you cannot even see. Give em some warning, stir around with a stick. You are not superman or the widow whisperer.

Something along the lines of stinging things but human created is hypodermic needles. Around here there used to be a clean needle exchange. You bring in a dirty one, you get a clean one. Then it went to you bring in a dirty one, and they give you four clean ones. Now folks working on the street tell me its unlimited clean ones. So the needles, after being used to inject plant based chemicals, end up in the litter, in the ground. And if you are gardening, sweeping raking leaves and branches, that needle will likely end up jabbing you right in the hand as you go to pick it all up. So what do you do? Use a scoop shovel, use a rake, avoid contact. Bring a sharps container for such days. Until public health starts to care about you, you gotta care about yourself and take precautions.

Branches and trees are a big safety uh oh. Any tree worker can tell you stories. And stories. And stories. Its not that trees get mad and want to kill us, its just that they are so big and sometimes rotten and unpredictable. Yes physics and leverage and the lean are all important to know, but some trees… Eucalyptus in particular… Then when you are dragging branches or cutting a hairy trichome covered limb, you realize that wearing some eye protection does not make you a nerdy weenie, its just being safe. Like my buddy Gus says, “You only get one pair of eyeballs”. Haven’t heard of eyeball transplants or artificial AI eyes or stem cell grown eyes yet. Protect them. And hearing protection goes along with that too. Of course both Gus and I are probably a little guilty of this, and so do as we say, not as we do. So many good friends be jackhammering, shooting their 12 gauge, running that chainsaw, going to a rock concert, with no hearing protection at all. It takes a while but sooner or later. You are trying to talk to them. “Hey! Hey! Hey there you over there!” But nothing, they cant hear you no more! They see you motioning, and they smile back, but they are in a cloud. Sigh.

There is endless hazards working in the landscape and garden (rodent poo, human feces, poison oak, holes in uneven terrain, etc) and I won’t bore you with much more about safety. Just pay attention and dont rush things. I’ll finish this section with a story about an accident that occurred a couple of years back.

We went out to do our labs after lecture. The lab was pruning. One student went to prune the Lophostemon Brisbane box tree out front of our compound. He had a long 12’ fiberglass pole pruner and saw combo, and was pruning this tree from below. “I know what I am doing, I do this all the time”. Gus is supervising from a distance, sitting in his little electric cart. Then as the student pruned a small branch, it was falling down, he wanted to catch it. So he let go of the pole and the pole saw came down right on top of Gus’ head, hitting him square, luckily with the blunt part of the metal end not the sharp part, otherwise he would have died right then and there. Now Gus is one tough codger, born 1934, been through polio at 19, and been through all sorts of garden arborist diving fishing hunting accidents. So he took it like it was nuthin, still smiling and conversing with the students. Blood gushing and staining his white hair all red. I think some students were about to faint; we had some super competent nurses Nancy Lewis and Ana Trejo and Arete Nicholas as students in the class, and they luckily helped him out good. Scott took him to the hospital. If Gus was a wee bit younger he probably would’ve just shook it off and wrapped it with some duct tape and stayed to finish the job! So lessons were learned by everybody. No use blamin’. Gus learned to position himself a little further from the action, and wear a hard hat. The student learned not to let go of the pole saw. And I learned that I should tighten up the supervision and keep hammering on about the importance of safety.