January 17, 2009
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.