Thanks again to all of you for your concern about my finger. A few stitches and a course of antibiotics later, and I am good as new–plus a scar. Before the doctor sutured my cut, the nurse had to irrigate and clean out the wound. She commented on the dirt that was imbedded in the cracks in my fingers, and I replied that I could never get that dirt off, no matter how hard I scrubbed. But I am proud of that dirt and now the scar. It’s tangible evidence of the work I do. Prior to farming,sometimes I struggled to find evidence that the work I did amounted to something besides a paycheck. Now just looking at my hands reminds me that I grow food, good food that nourishes others. It also reminds me of my father’s hands.
Sometimes the work that we do leaves unwanted traces on the human body. I come from a long line of coal miners in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. My father would come home from work, carrying his work on his body and in his body. Even after showering, the coal dust remains in the eyelashes and makes miners appear like they are wearing eyeliner. It settles in the pores and cracks of the skin. It settles in the lungs, sometimes forever. It was normal to see my dad with a bobby pin trying to clean out the coal dust from inside his ears, so he could hear us better.
Most of the radioactive elements in the atmosphere comes from burning that coal and not past atomic explosions. Where I grew up, the leaves of the trees along roads would be black from the coal dust that settled on them from the trucks and railcars that transported the coal out of our little part of the world. The cancer rate in the region where I grew up is phenomenal.
My father still works in the mines, six days a week, at the age of 61. Over the years, he has had rocks fall on him–one hurt his knee quite a bit when I was a teenager. Both of his knees are shot from all the crawling in the mines, and so is his neck. Human vertebrae evolved to be vertical not horizontal, so all of those decades my father spent crawling underground have left his neck vertebrae liable to slip past each other. He suffered all of this to provide for us. And my dad swore that he would be the last of our line to enter the mines, and that I would go to college.
And so I did. This was a tremendous gift to me. I am lucky that I only have dirt in the cracks of my hands not the coal dust that made all of this possible.
This week at market we will have heirloom tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, finger cucumbers, cauliflower, spigariello, collards, lettuce, erba stella, green beans, chard, cilantro, basil, parsley, catnip, beets, fennel bulb, sorrel, endive, zucchini, green onions, ficoide glaciale, chives, cress, garlic, and our braising and salad mixes. Spigariello is an Italian leaf broccoli; it forms multiple side shoots with a small floret at the end and a riot of deep bluegreen leaves underneath. You can sauté or steam them just like regular broccoli. The ficoide glaciale is a unusual French green–the leaves are fleshy with a light taste. They’re great as a simple salad dressed with lemon juice, salt, and olive oil.