Dirt is Our Friend

Read letters from our readers about growing watermelon, stories from the farm, maypops, watermelon, harvesting honey and more.

Photo by Adobestock/AHAENICKE

I was inspired to write after reading “Dirty Beginnings” (Our View) in the May/June 2019 issue. Like editor Rebecca Martin, I grew up on a farm. I played on a plywood floor as a baby. When I was 6 months old, Dad decided I needed a dog. So, my first playmate became a licking, germy, dirt-covered Chesapeake Bay Retriever.

My dad was from Germany and had a different attitude toward dirt and germs. My mom didn’t worry about germs either; she was more concerned with what type of snake wriggled in my pants pocket. Our farm was on the Wisconsin River and many summers were spent on it. Despite Mom telling me not to drink river water, I did anyway. The farm grew all kinds of weeds and grasses: pigweed, plantain, sumac, white pine, clover, dandelions, and so on. I grazed like the critters (and still do). The land is a living buffet.

Our property ran a gamut of animals, including bats, cats, cows, chickens, pigs, rabbits, sheep, and rodents. Later, as an adult, I had horses as well. I often joke that I’ve been splashed in the face with every species of manure. I’ve walked in it, worn it, and inhaled it, along with grain dust, hay, grass, and various weed pollens.

I’m now 69 years old. My health is excellent; I’ve never had an allergy and haven’t seen a doctor for more than 30 years.

My last visit was because I passed a dead parasitic worm. I fished it out, put it in a bottle with alcohol, and took it along to the doctor. I told the medical assistant that I needed worm medicine for a parasitic worm. When she asked how I knew, I sighed and said, “I’m a farmer. How do you think I know?” She checked my belly and said she’d get the doctor. When they returned, the doctor said, “This is a great learning experience you normally don’t get in America. Go round up the rest of the team!” The entire staff ended up in the room, hunkered over a book of parasites, until the doctor confirmed it was a horse worm. I must’ve gotten it from contaminated soil, somehow brushing the larvae or eggs from my hand to my mouth.

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