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November 23, 2014

Overnight Open Thread, 11-23-2014 -- Workin' Man Edition

Well, 'Rons n' 'Ettes . . . me again. Apparently there's an epidemic of Cob Flu going around. Seems Maet has developed some mysterious symptoms which cause him to carouse in much the same way that CDR_M has the for past couple of weekends. And I guess the options are growing pretty thin since I find myself charged with filling in for a second consecutive night that would have otherwise been spent in typical sluggardly fashion. But, since it's been raining all day and the ground was already fairly saturated, my chances of getting in a full day at work tomorrow are pretty slim. So, I should be able to catch up on my indolence then. The paycheck will suffer, but hey -- it's that time of year.

Speaking of which, as some of you may recall from one of my earlier ONT contributions, there's been a bit of a shakeup in my life over the past few months as I suddenly found myself in the midst of an unplanned career change. At the time, I'd gone from tending bar at a local watering hole (some dare call it a roadhouse) to working for a friend of mine who owns a couple of poultry farms. Since then, I've found employment working for a company that installs fiber optic lines. The chicken farming job was essentially a favor from my friend to keep me gainfully employed until something more permanent came up. So, despite some turbulence, through it all I remained a workin' man.


The change in working conditions has definitely required some adjustment. After all, I'd spent the better part of the past 25 years working in climate-controlled environments. There's a lot to be said for that, but I have to admit I'd grown softer than Kate Upton's inner thighs in the process. Well, that's all changed now. I've adapted to working in some pretty ugly weather conditions over the past few months, spending the hottest part of the summer working in chicken houses, and now spending the winter months working outdoors. And, with that, I thought I'd share what I've learned about working outdoors and tap into the wisdom of the Horde for suggestions on how to prepare for outdoor working conditions.


The one universal suggestion I've gotten from people with regard to preparing for working in cold weather is: Layers, layers, layers. That's pretty much common knowledge, but what your layers should consist of isn't quite so obvious. As for me, my outer layer of choice is Carhartt insulated bib overalls.



I picked them up about three weeks ago -- the first pair I've ever owned. And, having worn them at work, as well as one day this past week when I went out to take photos in the snow, I wondered why I hadn't bought some years ago. They're one of the best investments I've ever made. Virtually waterproof and seemingly indestructible, I expect I'll be using them for work and leisure in cold weather for years to come. I picked mine up at my local Rural King for $89.99 and consider them a bargain.


For the upper half of my top layer, I picked up a quilt-lined, insulated hooded jacket made by C.E. Schmidt from my local Tractor Supply store.



I didn't get it until a couple of days after the low-teen temperatures had moved out of the area, so I haven't had a chance to see how it performs in frigid weather. But, based on the feel and the relatively cool weather I've worn it in, it strikes me as every bit as rugged as the Carhartt bibs I've been wearing. It, much like the Carhartt bibs, is a bit on the bulky side, so it will limit mobility somewhat. But, I'm not going to be doing any floor exercises in them. And, at the extremely reasonable price of $44.99, I'd say it's at least as much of a bargain as the overalls -- especially compared to the similarly-styled Carhartt jackets I saw at the same store.


Perhaps the most important decision when it comes to working outdoors is what kind of shoes or boots you're going to wear. I was surprised at how many people warned me away from insulated boots, but I wound up following their advice. A lot of people suggested either Red Wing or Justin boots -- mostly the slip-on style. But, I'm a devotee of Dr. Martens lace-ups and wound up buying my third pair of their steel-toed work boots. I opted for the 6" Ironbridge Industrial Grizzly boots, and I swear by them.



I ordered mine through a local Hayes Shoes store, and it took about a week for them to arrive. At roughly $130, they're the most expensive item I've had to buy for work so far, but they're worth every penny. They're well-made, ruggedly built, very water-resistant, and comfortable as hell -- if a bit on the heavy side. Boots, like anything else, are a matter of personal preference, and everyone has their own particular brand loyalty. But, if you haven't tried on a pair of Docs, you owe it to yourself to do so the next time you shop for boots.


And while I was at the store picking up my boots, I picked up a Carhartt acrylic watch hat to keep my head and ears warm. It's thick, comfortable, and very effective.



Since I do a lot of shovel work, I generate a good amount of heat even when the temperature falls below freezing. Usually, I have to remove it several times throughout the day to cool off when I spend a lot of time digging since it holds the heat in so well. Earlier this week, it stood up to the 12-degree temps and single-digit windchill with no trouble at all.


Underneath my coat (when I wear it) and overalls, I have a Covington fleece-lined, insulated denim shirt that's usually warm enough for temperatures in the upper 20's as long as I wear a t-shirt and a lightweight flannel or denim work shirt underneath.



I've owned it for a few years now and am always surprised at how warm it keeps me in fairly cool temperatures. As it gets cooler, I definitely need something a little heavier. But, it's damn-near perfect as the second layer under my bibs on most days.


The worst thing about cold weather is trying to work with cold hands. Every time you try to apply force by hand, it feels like pounding on a concrete pad with a wooden baseball bat. So keeping them warm and dry is a must. Personally, I didn't choose to spend a lot of money on gloves as they're the one item most likely to get lost in the course of a day. Instead, I picked up some cheap ones at Dollar General Store.



The orange ones with the rubberized palm-side were about $4.00 and the brown Jersey gloves were $2.00 for three pairs. I just put them on under the orange ones and swap them out as the day goes if they get wet. I try to keep one pair on the defroster vent in the work truck at all times to dry them out throughout the day, and so far, that seems to be working pretty well.


Of course, working in the cold, dry air and sweating in a pair of gloves wreaks havoc on the hands. The skin will start to crack, split and bleed after a few days, which can make for a pretty miserable workweek. In that case, you really ought to get yourself some of this stuff:



I first heard about it when I was tending bar and my fingers were splitting open from constantly washing glasses, and I can tell you the stuff works like crazy. And, best of all, it doesn't smell like perfume, and doesn't make your hands feel greasy. In fact, it almost feels like it enhances my grip when I use it. And, if your skin is already splitting and you start using it, you should see some noticeable improvement within a week. It really is great stuff.


As for socks, I haven't invested any money in the extra-thick, moisture-wicking ones, yet. So far, just doubling up a pair of regular cotton socks has done the trick, so long as my boots keep the water on the outside -- which they have.


And, finally, no matter what the weather is like, if you're going to be outside doing any kind of construction work, you're going to need a knife at some point. I've recently started carrying two, though I only carried one for about a month.



Construction is hell on blades, and I figure it's best to carry a cheap, essentially throw-away knife around for cutting the kind of stuff you have no business cutting with a knife you intend to keep. But, you also need a knife that you can count on to be sharp when you really need it. The top, dual-blade knife is my throwaway -- it has one standard edge and one serrated edge for cutting through tree roots, fiber optic cable, etc. The other was given to me by my brother, and it has a much better blade that easier to sharpen and holds a good edge. They're both Smith n' Wessons, but they're of vastly different quality.


At any rate, a man needs a good knife, irrespective of what kind of work he does. That's something to keep in mind as Christmas approaches.


So, that's my take on how to dress for working in winter weather. I'm sure the Horde has plenty of advice to offer on the subject, so have at it in the comments. Thanks for indulging me in all my tl;dr glory.


Tonight's ONT is brought to you by Hag.


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posted by Damn Dirty RINO at 10:00 PM

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