I always have enormous respect for farmers at this busy time of year, but right now I’m feeling a special respect and a great deal of affinity for a particularly heroic subset: farmers who suffer with allergies and asthma.
I suffer from allergies and asthma, hence my commiseration. At this time of year, as harvest gets going out in the country and there are still clouds of pollen in the air, my nose becomes a torrent of snot, my head an aching and clouded lump of hamburger and my overall self a self-pitying jellyfish. And I have trouble thinking clearly, stringing together sentences and doing the other sorts of stuff reporters have to do each day. On Monday I repeatedly confused one of my editors by filing stories that contained nonsensical sentences that even I – the perpetrator – could not recall the origin of.
I have two choices at this time of year: 1) allow the allergies to run wild, and be totally distracted by them; 2) get drugged up on antihistamines and end up totally stoned and semi-incoherent and very spazzy. (Others are not radically affected by antihistamines, but they knock me out)
Imagine then, dear readers, how immeasurably worse it must be for farmers who have to spend months in the field immersed in pollen-spewing crops, churning up mould from the fields and creating clouds of dust all around themselves. Harvest must be appallingly bad, because churning through dust/pollen/mould-infused crops creates clouds of allergens that follow the farmer around, making life often very difficult. Basically, everything you should do to keep yourself healthy is what allergy-suffering and asthmatic farmers DO NOT do.
Yesterday I Tweeted out a question to farmers about how they cope with allergies and asthma. Here are some of the responses I got that reveal just how difficult life can be and how creative farmers become in finding ways to operate in a scarcely tolerable situation:
Life is manageable for wimpy urbanites like me, who are mostly removed from the annual allergy dust storm at harvest, but for farmers the situation is extreme. So if you are an urbanite, spare a thought for the farmers trapped in their combine cabs surrounded by an almost entirely hostile allergy environment swirling around them. And if you’re a farmer free of allergies and asthma, spare a thought for your colleagues who have to cope with that on top of harvest’s usual long hours, grinding labour and seeming endlessness.