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Dirty Fingernails (reflections of a farm apprentice)

by Susan Cook, Ecosystem Farm Apprentice

(an excerpt from Field Notes, week 3)

It’s a little after noon and it’s time to eat lunch. I look at my hands and they are caked with dirt. I’ve learned by watching Sky and Becky that one quick and natural way to wash your hands is to pull up a bunch of long grass and rub your hands with it. Voila! Your hands are “clean enough” to eat with. (My standards of “clean enough” have evolved.)

a farmers hands

photo credit: Susan Cook

Learning to eat with semi-dirty hands is just one of the many adjustments I’ve happily made since becoming an apprentice.

There are the bruises on my legs I discover when I get home. “How did that happen?!!” is my usual reaction. They look terrible and I usually have little idea about how they got there. And on the hunt for the perfect strawberries, my back aches like crazy. So every now and again, I stand up straight to stretch it out. But wow, once you taste those strawberries, you forget all about it. And then there are the stiff hands that come from using the walk-behind tractor (our BCS) all day to prep some new beds.  And oh yeah, I’m always hungry.

At the end of the day, I usually pick up my partner at the middle school where she teaches in Northeast D.C. By the end of the week, we often stop by San Antonio’s, a local Mexican restaurant for a quick drink and dinner. (A margarita at the end of the day really hits the spot.) Maybe I’m a bit paranoid, but when we walk in, I feel people looking me up and down. Clearly my attire and level of cleanliness is a bit different than theirs. So I immediately head to the bathroom to scrub up. But no matter how long I wash my hands, my fingernails remain dirty. Oh well, luckily I’ve got some good stories to go along with them.

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