Joe

The Dirt: My favorite work gloves

In this series of posts called “The Dirt”, we highlight some of our favorite homesteading products.  In our first edition, we reviewed our favorite wood splitting tool, the Chopper1 Axe®.  In this edition, we will look at another homesteading essential, the work glove. 

Even as a little kid, I quickly learned the value of a good pair of work gloves.  Be it raking the grass after Dad mowed our 1 acre yard, raking apples from our three huge crab apple trees in our back yard (which I hugely undervalued at the time…wish I had those back!), to splitting wood with my Dad and brothers, nothing was worse than the blisters that I would get in the webbing between my thumb and forefinger if I wasn’t wearing gloves.  Fast forward to some labor jobs that I took over summers during college, and work gloves were not only nice for comfort and avoiding blisters, but they were really important for safety when working around power tools and high energy sources.  Now, I wear gloves almost every time I go to work outside.  Even if it is just for some light gardening, I like the feeling of security and comfort that they provide.

The problem is, I am hard on gloves.  Really hard.  Truth is, most gloves that I have owned are lucky if they last a month or two, and if a glove was durable enough to endure the beating that I put on them, they tended to be bulky, uncomfortable, and useless for jobs that require any kind of tactile feeling in my fingers.  The most common failure point for my gloves is just at the inside tips of my right pointer finger and middle finger.   

Another blow out!!

Another blow out!!

I started going through gloves so fast that it became a habit to just pick up a new pair every time I was at the hardware store; whatever the latest/greatest happened to be.  That became an expensive habit.  You name it, I have probably tried it.  While there is some prudence to the saying “you get what you pay for”, no matter how much they cost, almost every pair of gloves I have owned has blown out at that same point; inside tip of pointer finger and middle finger.  Until now!  Read below for a quick run-down of my favorites.

Carhartt®

I used to own a pair of old school leather Carhartt gloves.  Nothing fancy, just tough, rugged leather work gloves.  These used to last me the better part of a summer working construction, but I found that for more moderate work that I did around the house, they were too bulky for routine use so I don’t get them out too often anymore except for really heavy duty jobs.  They are a also a little on the pricy end, usually in the $20 range.

Wells-Lamont®

My local hardware store carried a few nice versions of these gloves in a fitted variety.  Made with deer hide, they were soft, comfortable, and snug; allowing for a tight fit and good dexterity.  However, these were among the least durable that I have used, lasting only a month or so before the soft deer hide wore down, rending the gloves near useless. These were a little cheaper ($12-$15), but not worth replacing every month or two.

Mechanix®

I saw these at the bigger box-hardware store, and figured that because they cost more, they must be better.  Ehhhht. Really nice fit and dexterity, and perhaps very slightly more durable than the Wells-Lamont (by a few days maybe), but not worth the extra price (most around $20).

Workright®

Eventually, I decided to search online for whatever the great masses of Amazon had to say about the search for the “best work gloves”.  This search yielded a hit on Workright gloves, which ended up being my favorite for a couple of years.  Again, good fit and dexterity, reasonably priced ($15), and lasted twice as long as their other “form fitting” contemporaries of Wells-Lamont and Mechanix.  Eventually, these too yielded to the finger blowouts, but I enjoyed a few pairs of these. 

Madgrips®

Close to a year ago, I was at the hardware store and saw a pair of these Madgrips gloves, which are basically a cloth knit glove with a soft rubber coating.  I tried them on, and while they looked a little more “Terminator” than I thought was necessary for a work glove, they had a really nice fit, excellent tactile feel, and as you could imagine, an amazing no-slip grip.  On further research, it seems these gloves are popular among obstacle racers (think Tuff Mudder) due to their extreme grip and snug fit.  I found them to be extremely comfortable, and after nearly 9 months of pretty hard use, show very little sign of the normal blow outs.  At $12-$15, the only downside to that I have seen with these guys is that they don’t breathe very well (get a little stinky after a long day of hauling mulch in the summer) and are not as puncture resistant as leather gloves might be (not unheard of to get stuck by a briar when pulling out bramble bushes).  So they are not ideal for all applications, but for 95% of my jobs, these are my go to gloves these days.

 

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One tough glove!!!

 

Here is a quick summary of my thoughts.  In short, there is probably no glove that is perfect for all situations.  If you are doing a big, nasty, rough construction job, the old school heavy duty Carhartt style leather gloves are probably your best bet.  For almost anything else, it is hard to do better than the Madgrips, especially for more moderate work around the homestead.  That said, if you have a favorite workglove that I haven’t listed, let me know!  I’m always up for trying something new.

gloves comparison

 

Regaining My Balance…Literally!!

It is probably evident from the fact that I haven’t done any posts in the last 18 months, but for a variety of reasons, life has been more than a little hectic around here lately.  For me, a lot of it came to a head last November impacting me in a pretty scary way.

 

I had just taken on a new role at work which was (and still is) really demanding.  Longer hours, faster pace, more travel, etc…  It is a positive thing career wise but definitely puts a tax on the whole work-life balance thing.  Thankfully, the kids have been taking on more responsibilities around the homestead, taking care of the chickens and rabbits, but it was still becoming awfully hard to keep up with everything.  We were also bearing down on the holidays, which felt extraordinarily busy this year for some reason.  Thanksgiving was coming up fast, followed by a week long hunting trip with my father-in-law and brother-in-law (a fairly recent addition to my annual tradition which I have come to cherish), followed almost directly by a work trip which would take me out of the country for another whole week, after which we had only a few short weeks until Christmas/New Years.  I know…boo-hoo me, getting a great new role at work, having nice holiday time with my family/friends, a rejuvenating week in the woods with the guys, and a trip to Europe for a week before being off for a long Christmas break; but as Maria could tell you, I can get pretty easily overwhelmed by a continuous stream of plans, and with the new job, I knew that this was all going to bring a world of stress trying to keep up with anything.

 

With all of this on the horizon, I woke up one morning feeling a little stuffy in the head, like I normally feel when a bad cold is coming.  I hit the pre-emptives pretty hard that day, taking in as much raw garlic, elderberry syrup, and vitamin C as I could stomach.  Things stayed mostly stable the rest of that day, except for a feeling of increasing pressure in my head, to the point where I started feeling “water-logged”, making my vision a little slow to stabilize when I turned my head suddenly.   I went to work, but by the middle of the next day, I started to feel what I can only describe as really drunk (without the pleasant feelings of euphoria).  It was getting really hard to focus my vision, and I started to lose my balance a bit when walking.  Early in the afternoon I had a meeting with my new boss, and was hardly able to keep it together.  He probably thought I was crazy as I could hardly look him in the eye without feeling nauseous.  I left work right after that meeting…that 45 minute drive home never felt longer.  I ended up pulling over at one point to throw up after being at an intersection where I had to look back and forth a bunch of times to find a break in the traffic (sorry to whoever’s front yard that was!). 

 

I got home and laid down hoping that it was just a bad virus and I could sleep it off.  Only when I woke up, things had gotten even worse.  By that night, I couldn’t focus my eyes enough to make out words (let alone read the kids a bedtime story), and when I walked, I stumbled around like a drunken sailor.  I couldn’t keep much food or water down without throwing it up a few minutes later when I moved my head too fast.  When I looked blankly at Maria, she said that my eyes were constantly moving back and forth really rapidly despite my best efforts to keep them still.  The only thing that didn’t feel completely awful was to lay down in silence with my eyes closed (which even then my eyelids started to get sore from the CONSTANT eye movement). 

 

By this point, I was getting really freaked out.  So, I did the one thing you should never do when you are freaked out by an unexplained medical condition…I searched the internet.  Fighting with every ounce of energy I had to focus on the screen, I was able to convince myself that I was probably dying from mad cow disease, which I must have contracted from the super-rare cheeseburger I had eaten over the weekend.  I went to bed filled with crazy thoughts of what would happen to the family if I died, or maybe worse, what life might be like for all of us if stress had caused a permanent snap in my brain where I would live like this for the rest of my life; a deranged madman…”Crazy Eye” Joe.

 

At this point we had to wait until the following morning to see the doctor.  In the mean time, it came out from discussions with lots of different people that the symptoms were very synonymous with vertigo; a disruption in the inner ear which basically controls every part of your body’s ability to balance itself and equilibrate vision, caused by a number of factors including the dislodging of small stones in your ear (what the hell…I have stones in my ear?!??!) or the rupturing of small liquid “endolymph” sacs in the inner ear (a condition known as Meniere’s disease).  Basically, it can cause all of the things I was experiencing; nausea, loss of balance, “horizontal nystagmus” (that damn eye movement), etc…  I was very surprised to find that a number of people I knew had gone through this, including a few for which it is a recurring issue (which is really scary considering how debilitated I was…I could not imagine having this consistently).  Many of the pieces fit with that vertigo diagnosis, so at the recommendation of some close friends, I did all sorts of funny exercises to try to reset the stones in my ear, hoping that it would make it go away.  Unfortunately, they didn’t work for me, and only made me want to throw up again. 

 

The next day I went to the doctor and she pretty much confirmed that diagnosis that it was something like vertigo, though postulated that it was probably caused by an inner ear infection which caused a pressure buildup which ruptured those fluid sacs.  She gave me an anti-nausea medicine (a God send), some gel drops to relieve my eyelids which were pretty much raw at this point (a HUGE God send) and a round of antibiotics (which knocked things down, but didn’t totally resolve it).  It took about a week until I was able to function normally again (read, drive, etc…), missing quite a few days of work while Maria chauffeured me around (which might sound nice, but I hate to be dependent like that). 

 

Fast forward 3 months and I am mostly back to normal (though still not sure that I have totally kicked that inner ear infection since there is some residual imbalance and I still suck down some pretty nasty looking phlegm throughout the day).  We ended up having a great Thanksgiving, a good hunting trip (though came up without any meat in the freezer :-P, but 4 days in the woods is never bad), a successful work trip, and a really nice Christmas holiday.  Things have stabilized mostly with the new job, and we are getting close to hitting stride in our family routines again.  The whole experience reminded me how fragile our delicately balanced life is, where the  imbalance of only a few micro-liters of liquid in my ears could completely change our world.  I am thankful for my wife, family, and friends who so quickly rallied to help me out when I was down.  I am proud that we had positioned ourselves for resilience to absorb (for a short time anyway) the disruption that this caused in our lives.  While we are passionate about natural treatments and remedies, I can’t deny that I was really happy that a few select pharmaceuticals were available to resolve an acute condition like this.  I am eternally grateful that my condition mostly resolved itself (be it by pharmaceutical or divine intervention), and my heart goes out to those that deal with this condition on a routine basis. 

 

Looking back, all of the things that were stressing me out were meaningless in comparison to being able to just lead a happy, healthy life with people that I love.  It is a perspective that I already find it difficult to maintain on a daily basis…I will just need to set a reminder to come back and read this post every once in a while to remember how crappy it was to be debilitated, and how lucky I am to have my health, my wife, my kids, my family, and my friends!