Dealing with the dust and other irritants

Jenny Schlecht reflects on the little irritants on a farm, like the dust from pushing cattle or unloading corn and how it can affect parts of day-to-day life.

Particles of corn dust stand out against the sun in the background as a stream of corn falls out of an auger onto a pile of corn set between bales of hay.
Dust from unloading corn was a recent eye irritant Jenny Schlecht noticed around the farm.
Jenny Schlecht / Agweek
We are part of The Trust Project.

My eyes are a bit dry, the eye doctor told me the other day. He prescribed a warm compress for 10 minutes a day to help clear out my tear ducts.

The diagnosis was not overly surprising. I've always been kind of wimpy about my eyes, and I've always felt like maybe they were kind of dry. It has kept me from putting in my contacts in most situations, save occasional bouts of vanity or necessity. But, of course, there are always environmental reasons for the feeling that my eyes are burning that kept me from making much of it.

Read more of Jenny Schlecht's "The Sorting Pen"
Jenny Schlecht ponders the continuing legacy of her husband's great-grandmother, whose recipe continues to be used to raise thousands of dollars for good causes and whose progeny show up to help in the efforts.
The smell of the ranch in the fall is far more than just the manure; it's all the comforting things that farm kids grow to associate with home.
"I know 125 years isn't a long time in the whole scope of human history, but it's pretty impressive for this part of the world. What's more impressive to me is that the town hasn't just stayed alive but has recently found new and interesting ways to stay lively."
As the summer waned, Jenny Schlecht thought she had won the battle against garden pests and looked forward to a feast of sweet corn. The area raccoons made sure to let her know that she was wrong.

For instance, the weekend before my appointment, I helped work a new set of bawling calves that had arrived at the feedlot. My job was bringing groups of calves into the building. It's a job I choose because I don't enjoy giving shots and I'm a little short for squirting pour-on if the animals are the least bit tall. The downside of the job back in the pens is that it's the one position in our processing practice that requires going outside the building. And outside means wind and dust.

Now, the recent day of working calves was relatively calm, particularly in terms of the North Dakota fall. But still, nervous calves just weaned off their mamas kick up the dirt. And I, walking alongside or behind them, am constantly in those little clouds they kick up. I found dirt that night in my ears and nose and on my face and pretty much everywhere else, so it makes sense that it also likely was in my eyes. So, I thought, of course they felt dry and scratchy.

The warm compress helped quickly, from the first time I used it, to make my eyes feel like what I assume is normal. But, then I helped unload some corn that had just been combined. As the kernels flowed out of the trailer and into the auger and out of the auger and onto a pile, where it will be fed to the calves in the feedlot, puffs of corn dust swirled around. No matter where I turned, corn dust particles pelted my face. I spent the rest of the afternoon blinking furiously while sitting at my computer.


It seems likely that the doctor's orders will help my mild plight. But I assume my daily practices of staring at a computer, interspersed with occasional chores on the farm in dirt and dust, are at least part of the cause and will continue to create annoyance.

Soon, the air will turn colder and drier, and that probably won't help either. Dust in my eyes is just one of those little irritants, like chapped skin in the cold and sweat in the heat, that comes with the territory.

I'm used to it, in any case, and I'm glad to have a plan for relief. Life on a farm will never be perfectly clean or easy, but it's worth it all the same.

Jenny Schlecht is Agweek's editor. She lives on a farm and ranch in Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. She can be reached at or 701-595-0425.

Opinion by Jenny Schlecht
Jenny Schlecht is the director of ag content for Agweek and serves as editor of Agweek, Sugarbeet Grower and BeanGrower. She lives on a farm and ranch near Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. You can reach her at or 701-595-0425.
What To Read Next
"Life is short, ends in a moment, and we don’t think much about it some days. ... It’s a scenic highway, and we should keep it that way, go a bit slower, and enjoy life."
"Church worship now competes with everything from professional sports to kids activities to household chores. ... we can either have a frank conversation about what church can be, or we can continue to watch the pews empty in cherished houses of worship across the country."
"In the end, legislators are confronted with twin tasks: discerning and then pursuing the common good, and finding enough common ground with colleagues and the public at large to make progress possible," writes Lee Hamilton.
"I experienced two epiphanies a week apart that made me realize that far too many people see their faith lives and the rest of their week as distinctly separate," Devlyn Brooks writes.