I’ve never been particularly squeamish, but I’ve always had an issue with gagging when I touch something gross. As a child, when it was my turn to do the dishes, I couldn’t touch the remainder of certain cooked food left on a plate because I would dry heave from the texture. It always ended up being several minutes of watering eyes as I gagged my way through the chore. Moving to a farm has certainly toughened me up a bit. It has been my own version of “exposure therapy”.
I’ve compiled a list of the gross things I have touched recently.
Chickens. We handle the broiler chickens three times while they reside on the farm: the day they arrive, the day we move them to their outdoor pasture and the day we butcher. During the first year of living here I did those transitions with thick leather gloves covering my tender little digits, especially during the last move on butchering day because their bulging bellies felt disgusting against my skin. Now I just roll up my sleeves and scoop those chubby little creatures up while their huge tummies and nasty little clawed feet rub all over my hands and forearms. Not one gag.
Bird shit. We butchered chickens a couple of weeks ago and as a final act of defiance a dead chicken shit on my shoulder and the side of my face. I also touch bird poop daily while feeding chickens and moving the broiler coop. It is inevitable because bird crap is EVERYWHERE. In years past I would have screamed and begged Steve to remove it for me. Now I just wipe it away with my hand and continue on.
Chicken heads. Yes, on butchering day the Wiz Bang Plucker occasionally gets over zealous and not only removes the feathers from the dead chickens, but also the entire chicken head. I have to fish out those suckers, hidden in a pile of wet feathers, from the bottom of the drum before putting the next chicken in for it’s final ride. Late in the afternoon, when exhaustion is setting in, I’ve even been known to make that chicken head open and close its beak and talk to Steve over at the butchering table. I know, I know, I am one twisted motha’.
A slobber filled water dish. Rebel has this amazing ability to submerge his entire mouth into his water bucket. Within moments the water bucket is transformed into about ¼ water to ¾ thick slime. The slime is a mixture of his drool combined with pieces of dog food. Therein lies the problem. The Rhode Island Red chickens wait with great anticipation for him to walk away from the repulsive mess so they can come eat the dog food slushy. Ummmmm, that is not exactly an organic diet so I have to scoop out the softened dog food and hand feed it to Rebel before I dump the water into the field. I came this close to gagging the first few times.
Fish Emulsion. We don’t use any chemicals on the farm so making sure our plants get some much-needed nutrition is a challenge. We use fish emulsion as a natural fertilizer. Fish emulsion smells, looks and feels exactly as you imagine. The smell is so overpowering, in fact, that the entire property will stink of it for hours after I have sprayed the plants. I dilute this thick sludgy goo with 2 gallons of water into my pump sprayer. I typically spill at least an ounce of the undiluted crap onto my legs as I attempt to hold the sprayer still. In addition, the hose to the sprayer has a small leak so the entire time I am feeding the fruits and veggies, I am also bathing my hand and arm with this brown colored foul concoction. It doesn’t wash off easily so I will stink of it for hours. Chanel #5 it ain’t.
What strikes me most about all of this is that this insightful realization about all the gross things that I touch came to me while I was elbow deep in a gooey mountain of rain-soaked horse crap, joyously plucking out big fat purplish-white grubs that I was certain the laying hens would gobble up as a big time treat. Now THAT is gag worthy.