There was a time, not too long ago, when a 30-minute, 3-mile run would send me running to the shower. A time when mowing the grass was immediately followed by a bath. Those days are long gone.
Farming has completely re-calibrated my notion of “dirty.” A little sweat from a short run hardly seems bad compared to chicken guts. Dust from the mower is nothing next to cow manure. These are my new reality.
When I first arrived at the farm I wore my gloves for everything. Everything. Though, in fairness, that was partly due to the fact that it was still pretty cold. Still, I remember the first time Steve showed me how to clean the pig waterers. He took the lid off and it was filled with cobwebs and mud and spiders. I thought, “You expect me to stick my hand in there?!?” Of course I didn’t want him to know I was thinking this. There was plenty of skepticism about this crazy city girl who’d come to learn about farming. So I gritted my teeth and stuck my hand in the water. I did keep my gloves on. My leather work gloves. Not a good plan. They were pretty much ruined my first day on the job.
These days I don’t think twice about cleaning out the pigs’ waterers. Or grabbing a manure-covered egg. Or castrating a piglet without gloves. With everything else that’s been on my hands, a little dirty pig water doesn’t seem so bad.
All this got me thinking about all the things that we put on our skin and in our bodies that are considered “clean.” Chemicals, preservatives, artificial dyes and flavorings. Read the label on your lotion or shaving cream or deodorant. All those things you can’t pronounce are absorbed by your skin and incorporated into your body. Dirt is dirty, even though it is about as all natural as you can get while these mystery chemicals are applied without question. I’ll take a little mud, thanks.
I’ve definitely had to make a mental shift when it comes to dirt. But I think it’s been a good thing. After all, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?