By Donna OShaughnessy AKA The Midlife Farmwife
When I was 8 we moved from the north side of Chicago to the rinky-dink village of Warrenville. I quickly made friends with two sisters, Barb and Pauline. Their parents owned a small dairy farm. They taught this city girl how to drink raw milk from a ladle dipped into the steel milk can, and how to "bronc-ride" 400 lb calves. On cool spring days when we played "Bonanza" in the pastures, they taught me the best way to warm up my bare feet was to bury them in a fresh hot cow pie. I thought I was just playing. I had no idea I was growing a healthy immune system.
I have been an RN over 25 years. In an average 12 hr shift I would wash my hands at least 50 times, before and after every single patient contact. I did it because it is hospital policy and because I was exposed on a daily basis to a slew of infectious diseases, most resulting from the ever-expanding overuse of antibiotics in our country. I wash my hands to protect myself, my family and my patients. But on the farm...its a very different story.
On an average day I handle a lot of goop. Calf bottles that get pushed out of their holders and then get picked up by me will have slimy calf spit on the nipple and maybe some manure on the sides. Chicken eggs come out of their hosts, clean some days, other days are spotted with whatever the chicken had on her feet prior to laying. It usually isn't glitter. Cows love to dance when the weather is cool which can result in flung-poo-hair-do if you are standing too close. You name it, we've stepped in it, fallen in it, accidentally tasted it. (Hey, if your mouth is open when the cows are dancing...)
My husband and I believe strongly that the more germs you are exposed to the healthier you will be in the long run. Less infections, less sick time, less recovery time. Studies have validated this belief especially in regards to children. One pet good, two...even better. Its not that we don't wash at home. Certainly we do before meals, and before cooking and we ensure our cows and equipment are clean before and after milking. But we don't hit the hyper button when a grand kid kisses a goat, hugs a duckling or gets a little calf drool on their hands. Life is for living and farms get messy.