be kind to your tools

I’ve been reading Malcolm Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw, and this phrase jumped off the page: “The finger has hundreds of sensors per square centimeter. There is nothing in science or technology that has even come close to the sensitivity of the human finger with respect to the range of stimuli it can pick up. It’s a brilliant instrument.” He happens to be quoting Mark Goldstein, a sensory psychophysicist, talking about the superiority of well trained digits as diagnostic tools over the ubiquitous mammogram. We gardeners know what he’s talking about. No hoe, trowel or fancy weeding device can telegraph to our brains that gentle tug/release our fingers feel when the dandelion taproot gives up the fight and yields to our superior strength. Major digging may not be advised while the soil is still damp, for fear of turning it to a good imitation of concrete…but there is no better time to go after those pesky perennial weeds.

I mostly wear gloves, but when it comes to delicate weeding chores, nothing beats a bare-fisted, probing fingers approach. The garden ends up looking great, but don’t look at my favorite gardening tools too closely.


Enter Bag Balm, in the distinctive green tin with the cow’s head wreathed in flowers on the lid, and a discreet illustration of an udder and teats on the side. It is almost pure lanolin, and sticky feeling when you first slather it on. It absorbs fairly quickly, but even so, I only use it at bedtime to avoid mucking up anything I might touch. Having tried dozens of products over the years, I will say that this is the only one that really works. I buy it at our local feed and seed, but recently spotted it on the shelves of a one stop shopping center in town. Guess the word is getting out. Rest assured that no cows bribed me to write this post. I do so as a public service to fellow sufferers of cracked cuticles and callused paws.

10 thoughts on “be kind to your tools

  1. Between being a gardener and a florist my hands always look terrible. I tend to forget about it until I am at an event and accidentally look at them, yikes! It can be quite embarassing. Thanks for the tip on Bag Balm, if it is good enough for a cows teats, it is good enough for mine (my hands I mean).

  2. Deborah~Thanks for stopping by…it is always exciting when a new voice shows up here. Your floral arrangements are stunning…and yes, most creative endeavors are incompatible with the perfect manicure.

  3. Hi Ricki~~ The other day I was outside, dilly dallying as I’m wont to do while gardening. Suddenly a little voice prompted me to walk back to the house and get my gloves before going any further with my dillying or dallying. Did I listen? Nope. Little voices are easy to ignore. By day’s end, my hands were soiled, literally. Soap and water to the rescue. No problem. Yet. By bedtime that little voice was big and boisterous and all, I told you so-ish. My hands were irritatingly dry and in need of a big time rescue. Done. Lesson learned. Soil will dry out your skin faster than concrete in Phoenix. Ooh, how quickly one forgets!

    Thanks to you, methinks I’ll turn up the volume on the little voice next time I’m at the One Stop.

  4. I really would have liked to learn that a cow did bribe you to write this post.

    I remember the first time I saw Bag Balm on the shelves, I laughed so hard I cried. I thought they were just making it up (about putting it on the cows teats). Now I am married to an ex-farm boy and I know differently. I still haven’t tried it though.

  5. Loree~Back in the day…when I was doing graphic design…I actually had a client who needed labels for a similar product. I was like you: laughing/crying all the way. But man, does this stuff work!

  6. Ewes will shout: Misrepresentation!
    After all, it is them that produce the lanolin.

    I am trying not to picture your sheets. Your door-handles may be non-sticky, but what about the bedclothes?
    Maybe your lanolin cream isn’t like mine, which is so greasy that these days I put it round the outside of tubs to keep the snails from creeping up them.
    Have you all had the big nail cutting ceremony? They were just nice after the winter. Now it is all back to short and stubby.

  7. Jo~Ah yes, the ewes are the producers and the cows are merely the target audience. Good point.
    Short and stubby it is for me year round…even having convinced self that i like the look (self-delusion?)
    No prob with the sheets as long as i sit there like a freshly scrubbed operating room doc for a few minutes while the goop soaks in.

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