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From then farm: Prepping for my 50-year reunion

  • Carole Soule’s go-to skin care product, Bag Balm, which was designed to soften cow’s udders. Courtesy of Carole Soule

For the Monitor
Published: 9/8/2019 2:54:07 PM

My 50-year high school reunion is approaching. On Sept. 21, a bunch of 67- and 68-year-olds will gather at a country club roughly in the vicinity of Lawrence High School in New Jersey. It’ll be the first reunion I’ve attended, and I’m a bit nervous.

Some classmates have posted recent pictures on the reunion website. None of us look like we did in 1969. As you know, I’m proud to be a farmer. Fashion is not our strength, but I do want to look my best. So the ragged, stained clothes, and manure-cured boots will stay at home. High school garb in 1969 consisted of skirts, jumpers, or dresses (for the girls, anyway). I intend to continue that tradition. I haven’t worn a dress in recent memory, but they do still sell them, right?

Makeup will be another out-of-character stretch. I used to buy potions and lotions and wear mascara, all of which were expensive and mysterious. At least they’d have been mysterious if I had wondered back then about their contents and possible side-effects. Alarmingly, the federal Food and Drug Administration does not require testing of cosmetics. The authorities ask the companies to self-test, and if an element is not safe, to voluntarily stop using it.

Working outside in all weather can mess with a farm girl’s peaches-and-cream complexion to where it’s more a job for Sherwin-Williams than Revlon. But mine has been preserved with agriculture’s best moisturizer.

While doctoring my cows’ cuts and scrapes with a particular medicated gel, I found that the greasy stuff softened my hands in the process. The gel had been created to soften and heal cows’ udders, and is inelegantly called “bag balm.” For years it has been my go-to, twice-daily moisturizer for hands, feet, and face. And unlike cosmetics, bag balm’s ingredients are listed on the container.

Oddly, ingredients for livestock treatments must be listed, but not those for human cosmetics.

Too bad cows don’t wear mascara, because I’d know what I’ll be applying to my eyes. And how about lipstick? Sure, they talk about putting lipstick on a pig, but it doesn’t happen often enough to require an honest accounting of what’s in it.

So, wish me luck on dressing up and turning back the clock 50 years. Given that everyone there will be past middle years, at least no one will say, “You look good for your age!” Age aside, my personal-appearance goal is for no one to know that I’m a farmer until I tell them.

(Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm in Loudon, where she raises and sells pastured pork, lamb, eggs and grass-fed beef. She can be reached at

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