Thursday, February 18th, 2016
I remember quite well when the term “gross” (meaning disgusting, revolting, embarrassing, unattractive, and just plain not nice) came into being, at least in my neck of the world – it was middle school, a time when, actually, gross probably was how much of us felt about life much of the time. I also remember thinking it was a very uncouth term, and I felt sorry for the girl in my piano group whose last name was Gross. As so often happens with slang, however, the term overcame me. I began to use it along with all my little classmates in school. I continued to use it throughout college and young adult life and I’m not sure how I would manage without it on the farm.
There are many “gross” things here. Let me be clear: I don’t think my farm is any grosser than anyone else’s, because whenever there are animals, things come out of them that many will find unappealing and whenever there is land and rain there is mud (mud being at the very least seriously inconvenient, if not gross). Perhaps true gross is more pronounced when dogs who have been out in said rain amongst said excrement-producing animals, jump on my bed. I do a lot of laundry.
I’m always surprised and delighted (and grateful) when city and suburban kids come out here to volunteer and don’t flinch at picking up 20 pound fresh cowpies, running wheel barrows filled with odiferous material to the compost pile, and assisting with a variety of animal care tasks that go way, way beyond brushing the horse. Folks, these kids are our future. The ones who show up and draw their t-shirts over their wrinkled noses – not so much. I’m sure my good old friend Jake (who was about 12 at the time and is now a world-traveller and college student) well remembers the time we did a full scrub of the chicken barn and discovered a few eggs long, long forgotten. The cleaning process managed to open up those suckers. Upon inhaling their fumes, I started my now (in)famous list of the Top Ten Bad Farm Smells.
As of today, I am starting a list of the Top Ten Gross Farm Sights. Yes, gross.
The farm is very fortunate to have snagged a part-time caretaker named Tanya who helps with both feeding the animals and looking after them when I am out attempting to earn a living. She’s pretty amazing – she gives massages to our massive arthritic steer Bullwinkle, and washes off our horse Bello’s legs which become, um, gross, due to a chronic and incurable bladder leakage problem. She notices things that I sometimes myopically do not. Last night she mentioned some “glop” on Joey the goat’s chest. She said it looked like he’d stepped on a tube of something and it had squirted all over him. Yes, I said cheerily, that sounds like something one of our goats might do. Alas, in the light of day I observed that it was not a tube of crème that was proliferating all over his chest.
“The THINGS I have to do”, I cried out with more than a touch of nausea, as trusty bunny room managers/cleaners Alex and Diana held Joey and handed me various sterile implements. I invited them to “take a closer look” – they declined. Being a farmer can be a dad-burned lonely thing.
I do not mean to make light of Joey’s lump, which is now squeaky clean but clearly cancerous. Soldered to his chest as it is, I doubt it can be removed. Joey is nearly 16 years old which is about the equivalent of a 100 year old man. Yet Joey doesn’t act old. He doesn’t act in sick or pain. In fact, just two days ago he slammed me against the barn wall when I looked at him the wrong way. He’s a son of a gun who will, however, speak to you nicely if you offer him cookies. I enjoy having Joey around. He’s full of personality, has a terrific smile, loves to take sunbaths under the heat lamp, and never beats up the sheep. I figure he’s probably due for daily cookies from now on.
And as to this thing on his chest – well, gross is, after all, in the eye of the beholder.
Till next time,
“When a goat likes a book, the whole book is gone,
and the meaning has to go find an author again.”
― William Stafford