These hands started today much like any other, tucking in blankets around Little man who would sleep for two more hours after Mom was well into her day. Last night these hands assisted in the birth of three of nine piglets; even though towels and rags were involved, these hands were colored red before the six healthy piglets were settled in for the night. A thorough washing with soap, bleach and water, these same hands tucked that Little man into bed last night. Downstairs to washing some dishes, feeding the indoor animals and emptying the trash. Washed with soap and water, brushed teeth and hair, change of clothes and hand lotion applied, these hands skillfully maneuvered the car to the feed store. Feed and hydraulic fluid paid for; these hands loaded them into the car and headed back home.
A quick sweep of the kitchen floor, a load of dishes into the dishwasher and some more hand lotion - these hands hugged her Little man and headed outside. Grabbing gloves, the battery powered drill, the screws and a bottle of water; these hands went to put up a few more arches on the high tunnel. The tractor wasn't big enough and Mother Nature added her ample supply of rain - these hands moved jacks, 4x4's, and concrete blocks. Amidst the rain, three arches are raised instead of eight. These hands clean up the tools, move the mud from tractor parts where it doesn't belong and start doing chores.
While still wearing gloves, these hands collect chicken eggs, water and feed the chickens and rabbits and remove the gloves only to gain tactile advantage on the bag of feed that was inadvertently placed under the one spot that leaks in the shed roof. Un-gloved hands clean up the ruined feed, placed the salvaged feed into a clean 5-gallon pail and head for the stump to stoke the fire that amazingly remains aglow after all of the storms that rolled through today. Forgetting the gloves, burnt chunks of wood are rearranged and the fire burns strong again. Black with charcoal these hands head over to the hose, grabbing a splash of car wash soap, the hands get a quick rinse before finishing chores for the evening. Over to the pigs, who have moved their feed buckets into the muddiest, wettest, slimiest part of their saturated spring paddock. The gloves are completely soaked so these hands delve into the mud to relocate feed dishes and rinse out water dishes to ensure that all of the swine start with a clean meal - though they don't finish it that way. Ear scratches, tummy rubs and rearranging hay; these hands exit the pig pen in a lovely shad of muddy brown.
Back over to the hose for another splash of car wash, these hands show a few shades of pink amidst the stained cracks of black and grey. A few tosses of the baseball and some misjudged kicks of the soccer ball; these hands are brown again before they get another great hug from Little man before heading inside to prepare dinner.
Some baking soda, some warm water and some soap are generously applied to these hands for several minutes to ensure they are bacteria free - if not pink and clean - before dinner prep begins. Everyone gets fed and then it is back outside to put the chickens to bed for the night, close up the rabbits, re-stoke the fire (of course without gloves) and put the farm to bed for the evening.
These hands trim Little man's hair, prepare a quick dessert and ready him for the land of slumber. After he is settled, copious amounts of hand lotion, some more soap, water and bleach this time are applied in hopes of making these hands somewhat presentable for work in the morning. They look OK, not great, but OK when the pigs start squealing - one has gotten stuck in the fence between the new piglets and its regular pasture. Back outside - without taking even half a moment to think about gloves - the six month old piglet is freed from its fence entanglement, the pants which were once tan are now several shades of brown and the hands that might have passed for normal have returned to those of the overtired farm woman and mother who sometimes has an off-farm job.
A thorough scrubbing and some more hand lotion later - these hands set down just after this picture to write this blog post. In a moment they will get yet another bath, a lathering of lotion and some old white cotton gloves so they can settle in for the night in hopes of resembling a plain old calloused hand in the morning. But, with all the abuse and chores and tender-loving care these hands both receive and dish out - behind them is a farm woman who wouldn't change all that comes with these tired, dry, cracking, stained hands - for anything else in the world!