Thursday, April 8, 2010

Calluses are our goal

One of the more frequent comments received from friends and strangers alike note the rough quality of my hands. Our hands, really; the statement stands for all of us here at D Acres. It would seem that the trend is for smoother paws.

A fine ideal, but there are simply too many stacks of wood, beds of weeds and dirt, mounds of compost, heavy buckets, and various other odds & ends to thwart the silkiness of our digits. An opposable thumb is, after a few twists and turns, connected to strong arms and a willing back. So there you have it. Calluses.

It seems to me that there are some notable advantages. For one, sharp edges, hot surfaces, and ill-intentioned splinters have a challenge inflicting damages. Too, a hardened handshake can command some attention, especially in the realms of human-powered endeavors and general ingenuity. The badge of hard work, the certificate of consistency. This, at least, is what I tell myself.

And, here at D Acres Organic Farm & Educational Homestead, it’s what we tell others as well. This past week we hosted a group of students from Wisconsin (they gave commendable accolades to NH cheese). They spent the majority of their spring vacation at the farm, and four days engaged in fairly intense work. Without much grumbling they persevered through two days of hard rain and soaked socks. In fact, the sunshine that followed may have elicited more complaints due to the threat of sunburn.

A few eight-hour days accomplished a lot. In terms of farm operations, we were able to complete some major projects that we couldn’t have done half as quickly on our own. And with regards to the students, they rapidly learned how to run a wheelbarrow and use a screw gun. They sheet mulched new garden beds, built rock steps, planted peas, stacked wood, transplanted bulbs, pruned berry bushes, fixed fences…the list goes on.

As the time for goodbye neared, we gathered together with the students and talked a bit about the week. What we hoped to have taught was a sense of the work – its difficulty, its variety, it joy; the opportunity to build some calluses was our goal.

“You certainly did that,” one student laughed, “we’re sore.”

Arguably, the sort of soreness that lets you sleep real deep at night. And the sort of soreness, I’d add, that comes from simple hard work, where contentment is engendered by the process itself, not just in the finishing of a task. Perhaps, then, what we’re really working for is to broaden the confluence of hardened handshakes.

So here’s to a handshake economy in all its connotations, including our ability to proudly carry our stories, our lessons, and our experiences in our hands.

as published in the North Country News

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