January 17, 2009

farmer's hands


photo: Life Magazine Ed Clark
The evidence of nurturing, milking, thinning and weeding weave a tale in the tissue and callus, hangnails, muscles and cracks of those wonderful tools that are so adept and willing. How very beautiful and powerfully expressive are the hands of farmers. I always notice people's hands...they reveal a lot about the life and character of the individual. I googled "dirty fingernails farmer class" wondering if anyone was writing about the disdain our culture has for the uncouth working sod with those heretical hands. Instead I found a fabulous blog by a young woman farming, and she said:
"I am inordinately proud of my hands. My fingertips are pitted from the horse nettle thorns hiding among more innocuous weeds. The skin on the sides of my index fingers refuses to come clean—it is cracked and stained brown from winter and weeding. My fingernails have never been shorter, and yet somehow, when I think that they have no quick left, the dirt still finds a way beneath them. The skin on my left index finger has blistered away at one point from the sharp, taught line of the tomato trellising twine. My hands are callused, cut, never quite clean. They declare, more eloquently than I ever could, that they are useful".
She is yeomanfarmgirl. She has a great blog.
At the markets, customers exclaim about the state of my hands and many people have advice for creams and of course, gloves. Its never been easy for me to keep a pair of gloves on for long. I've tried a number of models, thanks to well intentioned friends or family who think I ought to protect myself from the dirt and thorns. But I lose them, or rip them and they're just ackward- they get inbetween and I can't feel the soil or grip the weeds beside the tender plant. And I like this contact, this attentive precision. The intimacy leaves its mark on willing hands but I think they are beautiful for it.

4 comments:

Grace Peterson said...

I have to laugh. During spring, summer and fall my hands are perpetually stained. I wear gloves but I'm often taking them off for the more tedious tasks. But last year I learned a valuable lesson. I was digging, alternating between a hand trowel and my bare hands when a piece of glass embedded in the soil sliced one of my fingers. No need for stitches, thank God, but since then I keep my gloves closer.

Layanee said...

I have thought that the days of 'white gloves' should return if only to hide the spots and stains on my hands. That is a wonderful photo and post.

anne said...

Hi Grace, my dreaded owwie is the piece of wood or carrot jammed up the fingernail that takes much probing pain to get out.
White gloves eh Layanee? And to cover the tiny scratches and chaffs of haying time: full length. Perhaps in the spring when I have a full load of manure in the manure wagon I'll get a friend to take a photo of me in my coveralls with the white gloves. Have a pair?

Layanee said...

Anne: LOL at that image...maybe black gloves would be more appropriate now that I think about it!