How Embarrassing! A Farmer with Pansy Hands 3

I invest in good work gloves. I work a lot outside, so I get the supple leather ones that come three to a pack at Costco. And I ride them hard.

I normally wear out a pair of work gloves every 2-3 months. It’s always the fingertips on the left hand that go first. Can’t tell you why; just is. I can work through a small hole in one fingertip, but when the hole starts getting bigger so my whole finger can slip through it, I generally chuck that glove and get a new one.

I came to grips yesterday with just how much I’m relying on my gloves. Read that, just how tender my hands are. I was using the gasoline hedge trimmer to beat back the weeds in the orchard. I had sliced through the 1/8″ aircraft cable at the east end of Row 7 (yeah, pretty clumsy, I know), so I had to repair the cable, and I needed my gloves off to do it. After the repair, my gloves were at one end of the row and the hedge trimmer was at the other with me, so I decided to operate the hedge trimmer barehanded to cut down the weeds on that row and work my way to the gloves.

lees-blister-for-siteLet’s clarify the small size of this job. I was operating a gasoline powered hedge trimmer, one that does most of the work for me; all I have to do is to hold it in the right place – or more importantly, avoid holding it in the wrong place – and the row is less than 150 feet long. It’s really not much of a job. But the combination of the sweat, heat, and vibration from the tiny engine was too much for my tender hands. By the time I had covered that one row, I had a painful blister on the inside of my right hand.

For someone who prides himself on the steps he and his beloved are taking to make themselves more resilient, I felt distinctly brittle. Am I that tender?

My little blister will heal itself, and my hands will get tougher. This embarrassing episode has taught me that I need to reserve my gloves for dangerous jobs and let the skin of my hands become more sociable with the work its master does.

But my little mishap prompts reflection: in what other ways am I allowing the convenient tools of industrialized society to make me less able to cope with its decline? One splendid example, of course, is the extent to which we US southerners rely on air conditioning. Amanda and I are intensely aware of it because we don’t use air conditioning at our home and have therefore become quite comfortable with seasonal variations in temperature. It’s cold in the winter (you northerners would say our lows in the 20s are “pleasantly cool”) and hot in the summer. We expect the seasons, and our bodies are accustomed to them. Our friends who spend most of their days and nights in air conditioned comfort are far more vulnerable to changes in temperature.

But there too many other ways I rely on conveniences, ways I’ve not resisted:

  • We watch television every night, when we could be reading a good book or just talking with each other.
  • I often drive the short distance to open or close the gate to our property; Amanda tends to walk, which is healthier.
  • My stamina has increased dramatically since we moved to the farm, but I’m still stubbornly overweight. Too many high-calorie treats (and not enough walking to and from the gate).
  • I wear boots whenever I’m working. My feet are as tender as my hands. Maybe I should be working more barefoot.
  • We still use air conditioning when we’re driving in a motor vehicle.

And these are just the ones I’m aware of. The real vulnerability comes from my reliance on conveniences that are so pervasive, so insidious, that I don’t even think about them. As complex society declines, the conveniences it has provided to make our lives more comfortable will become more difficult to obtain and their costs harder to justify. Those of us who perceive them to be essential for our survival will find our happiness illusive.

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