If Eskimos have a hundred ways to define snow and the Yanomamo in Brazil have at least that many ways to say death, then farmers have twice as many ways to describe pain.
There’s the good kind – the deep ache after hand plowing a field, the sunburn on the back of your neck after the first day in the fields during spring, and the slight splintery feel all over after spending a day chopping and stacking wood.
Then there’s the bad kind – Plowing straight into a red ants’ nest, the raw feeling when you have to rip a strand of thorns out of your back, and the feeling that you’re not quite as young as you once were when you stand up after harvesting rows of lettuce.
I know I am absolutely, irrationally, in love with what I do. Who other than a love sick girl would wake up in the morning with a smile, knowing that she was going to spend an hour and a half harvesting stinging nettle?
I remember crawling under trampolines or picking berries in the summer only to have my arms and face suddenly erupt with bumps and stinging. Personally, I would rather get stung by a bee than deal with stinging nettle. Bees come and go, even the most vindictive little devils. (I would know. I’m bee-nip.)But, stinging nettle is always there. It grows, hides, and is easily forgotten.
This morning, however, I was searching the stuff out, so I could finally dig that ditch for the fingerling potatoes. The nettle has taken over part of our garden, so in an effort to exterminate it… we are eating it.
I hate wearing gloves. I can never find my size; they never last more than a month. Currently, I have a pair of leather ones I use for everything, but the holes in the grip and seams meant it would be unwise to try to harvest nettle with them. So, in an act of pure brilliance I grabbed a pair of gardening gloves with a cloth back and plastic front. Within a minute the nettles had worked their way through the cloth section, every time I turned my hand wrong they bored into the back. The plastic was alright for grabbing the plant, but after a while it wasn’t enough to repel the persistant ones. The moral here is to wear elbow length, leather gloves that, if possible, repel everything.
Act of Idiocy #2: Wearing the Wrong Type of Sleeves
If I can impress anything in your memory, let it be this. There is a special level of annoyance when you start pulling off your favorite worn out, second hand, sweatshirt and time released burrs bury themselves into your arms and neck. Cotton is the wrong material. Also, polyester and rayon combos because they are tacky. Your best bet will probably be a barn coat, heavy, thick, and canvas on the outside like the Carhart I was too lazy to go get.
Act of Idiocy #3: Touching
This was possibly the biggest failure of common sense that occurred during the whole debacle. If your nose itches, don’t touch it. If a hair falls into your face, don’t brush it out of the way. And, if you have the urge to brush the back of your neck and face with a prickle filled glove, SQUELCH IT.
If you haven’t figured it out, my family has been forging into the world of foraging. B makes wild camomile teas, mom likes purslane salads, and C pretends to not be “weirded out” by our strange interests. As a mountain girl, I know my poison ivy, oaks, and nettles. Still, I made a rookie mistake and now sport a line of white bumps on my neck and chin. Fortunately, the layer of nettle on my hands is more annoying, so I can ignore it.
A post on the facts, processing, herbal remedies and usage of nettle will be coming on Homestead Revival shortly.