Hello Farmgirl friends! I hope your summers are going well. I’m getting married this coming Sunday…it has arrived so quickly! This is a great respite from the planning, list making, and overall excited anticipation of our “Big Day.” While I’ve spent much of the last few months with contacting vendors, searching for flower girl dresses and selecting our favorite dance songs, I have also spent a good amount of time in the fields of Sun Circle Farm.
One of the more “girly” wedding preparation activities I recently did was to get a manicure and pedicure with one of my good friends. As a farmer, this was one of the more embarrassing things I’ve ever done! The night before, my co-worker and I had spent the evening in one of the tomato houses on the farm stringing up and removing suckers from the plants. Do you sucker your tomatoes? It is a necessity in Alaska for both determinate and indeterminate varieties. Our season is just too short to allow any growth that isn’t off of the main stem of the plants. Have you ever worked with more than one hundred tomato plants? If you have, you know that they leave an amazingly resilient dark greenish brown stain on your hands and yellow dust on all of your arm hairs. Even after scrubbing my hands and taking a shower, the creases in my palms were stained. On top of that, I had also sliced my left pointer finger while harvesting the never ending spinach sowing that had exploded with huge, succulent greenery after the recent cycle of rain and warm sun. Needless to say, my mani and pedi took twice as long as the woman next to me. However, I did really enjoy the pampering!
While a decade of calluses were being expertly sloughed off my dirty feet, I reflected back on the last few weeks and one thing came to mind: “good thing I’m a dirtbag!” Dirtbag has several definitions, but I tend to refer to the rock climber/camper/outdoor person definition. It applies to people who follow their passions, often eschewing social norms such as certain aspects of personal hygiene. For example (here’s where I make one of my embarrassing confessions), I am perfectly content not bathing for extended periods of time. I have absolutely zero issues getting into a clean bed with dirty feet. Sometimes I don’t brush my hair for more than a week at a time (and my hair starts to dread after a couple of days). I have been known to “smell test” clothing to assess if it’s okay to wear in public (visible dirt is okay, body odor is not). I actually feel kind of cool going to the grocery store or other places with a dirty face and muddy pants. It shows I do real work, right? I try to tell myself that, but most times I fall back on: is this what adults do?
Growing up, one of my best friend’s mothers was both an obsessive compulsive germaphobe clean-freak (to the point where we couldn’t sit on grass) and an avid gardener—even working in a greenhouse. To this day, I do not know how she managed these conflicting aspects of her life. I find that my tolerance of being dirty has served me well as both a mother of young children and a toiler of the soil. The former tend to be sticky much of the time while the latter leads to soil, amendments, pieces of plants and all around “dirty” things working their ways into hands, shoes, hair and bras. Sometimes, after a long day of working, with the awareness that I will be back in the field in ten hours (this actually doesn’t happen much with my current schedule), a shower seems futile and like a waste of precious time that could be spent sleeping, eating or slugging water. I must add that it it also helps that I work on a fully organic, non-chemical using farm. If I were to be applying pesticides and chemical fertilizers, cleanliness would take on a whole new meaning!
That makes me pause, though—if we were to use chemicals to control weeds and pests and to encourage vegetable growth, then maybe I wouldn’t get so dirty? Our dirtiest days are weeding days because a lot of soil comes up with some of the more prevalent weeds…like chickweed! I know, I know, it’s nature’s super food and an amazing addition to anyone’s natural medicine repertoire…but we have enough chickweed at the farm to feed a small army. We all get burnt out on it by late May. Most of what we pull gets fed to the pigs, but we have to throw it over the four to five foot fence to get it to them—hence how soil and plant parts find themselves all over our bodies! A pesky insect or loose hair on the face leads to dirt smudged faces and any moisture at all leads to mud covered feet and legs because we spend so much time kneeling to harvest and weed. Ah! The dirty life :). Our micro biomes must be well stocked or something along those lines…
I am not farming this week, because we are in Minnesota finalizing some wedding plans. As we forge ahead (with hands still slightly stained five days after handling those tomatoes), I am appreciative of the pampering, salon appointments, and overall cleanliness I get to experience as a bride-to-be. However, I’m excited to get my hands and feet dirty! I’m even a bit excited to discover bits of weeds that end up in my undergarments…
How about you? Do you tolerate (or even enjoy!) the dirt, sweat and soil that comes along with working the land?
Until next time Farmgirl friends,
Sending peace and love from MN,
Alex, the (clean for now) Rural Farmgirl