Straight From the Hose By
Out playing with the little guy the other day. It was hot, and he got thirsty. Kids get that way sometimes. I directed him to the side of the house and a neatly coiled garden hose. A nearby parent shot me a look that screamed “child abuser”. Really?
I started thinking about my own childhood. I ate dirt. I chewed on blades of grass. My friends and I would splash in a creek that began at a huge culvert draining the detritus of our neighborhood. We would climb into the culvert in hopes of finding a secret city.
Further down stream we would flip rocks and gather crayfish. We rode our bikes home (without helmets), would play some tackle football in the yard (no pads), and quench our thirst with the icy cold water from a garden hose. Lunch was served al fresco, and anything slipping through our fingers to the ground was retrieved and consumed using a carefully timed five-minute-rule. Mom used to blow the germs off for us, but that was for sissies.
When we went home for visits we would exchange suburban exploration for rural adventures. The whole family was in Southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia. Beautiful, mountainous areas full of streams, hills, forests, and rolling pastures. The family had a small farm with chickens, cows, and pigs. There was a garden full of fresh vegetables and fruit trees everywhere. A creek that sat at the foot of an undeveloped hill, our Mount Everest, bordered the property. A day spent on The Mountain was a day away from civilization.
Packing for the trek involved picking fruit from the trees, grabbing some fresh veggies from the garden, traipsing across the pasture and avoiding the angry bull, wading across the creek, and climbing The Mountain until we could find a suitable campsite. A shelter would be constructed, a bonfire would be started, sleeping bags situated, and marshmallows would appear from a backpack. We would carefully sharpen some sticks and the festivities would begin.
Young boys camping alone in the woods, eating raw foods, playing with fire and pointed sticks. Call Child Protective Services.
Papaw taught us to wipe the dirt from the potatoes before we ate them. He showed us how to find the ripest apples. He schooled us in the art of picking fresh blackberries without getting snakebit. It was Papaw who showed us how to create the shelter and build a perfect fire. And you know what? He was never sick. I can never remember him having the flu, the sniffles, or even a cold.
The cattle that our family kept ate grass. Every fall we would walk the pasture and gather “cow pies” that would be tilled into the earth around the fruit trees and garden. Table scraps and ugly apples were fed to the pigs. Not an antibiotic or genetically modified seed to be seen.
The Food and Drug Administration is “recommending” that drug companies help to limit the amount of antibiotics used in animal farming. Big Ag is arguing that the drugs are a key part of meat production. They feed the stuff to animals from birth to slaughter because it increases weight gain, which in turn reduces the farmer’s feed costs. Plus, Mr. Farmer knows that his animals are going to get sick. If one kid in the little guy’s class has strep, everyone is going to have it. Imagine what it’s like with a few thousand cows penned up in horrible conditions.
The reason that the FDA is finally getting behind this (although in a somewhat tepid way) is because researchers are starting to find bacteria all over the place that is antibiotic-resistant. Have you heard of MRSA? It’s a staph infection that is common in hospitals, is resistant to most drugs, and kills people. The theory is that as we eat more and more mass-produced meat we absorb more and more of the chemicals that are pumped into the animals. Bacteria is clever, and genetically morphs itself to find another way into a host, namely us.
Back in 1977 the FDA issued a rule that banned penicillin and tetracycline use in farm animals. And how did that work out for us? About 80% of the antibiotics sold in the US of A end up in farm animals. Pharmaceutical companies even sell tons of it to ethanol producers. Why? They mix it up with corn waste that is then fed to livestock.
The really neat thing is that Big Ag gets its drug fix straight from big old Pharma. While you and I head to the physician to grab our meds the cow just dips his nose into its feed. No veterinarian, no prescription, no “Stick out your tongue and say moo”. It seems that the 1977 “rule” was more of a “suggestion”. “Yassir, I’d like two salt licks, some udder balm, and four bushels of cephalosporin.”
If you eat a bunch of garlic everyone sitting next to you the next day is going to know it. An overdose of carrots will give your skin an interesting orange glow. Asparagus will make your wee smell funny. It just does. Is it any stretch of the imagination to assume that consuming a bunch of meat that is better off stewing in a Petri dish than a bain-marie would wreak havoc on our own immune system?
Maybe if we sharpened some sticks and headed back to an actual farm we would be better off? Eating some dirt may have actually done wonders for my immune system. Cows are supposed to eat grass. Make no mistake; the water that we use here at The Urban Farmhouse has been treated and is sanitary. We take great pains to wash our utensils and equipment. We are big fans of food safety.
But maybe if we ate like Papaw we’d all be a little healthier and happier.
Whew. Now that I’ve got that off of my chest, if you need me I’ll be around the corner getting a drink out of our garden hose. Need something to wash out the dirt.