While visiting family and friends this weekend, I had the opportunity to show off my “lovely” arms and hand that are covered in the parsnip burns. Many people were quite incredulous about this so I’ve been doing some more research.
“Parsnips are sold without their tops because the leaves contain a compound that can cause skin irritation and rashes in some people.”
All of the sources discuss WILD parsnip (or cow parsnip), but the reaction that I and the harvesters had is EXACTLY what is being described. Here is a handy description:
“Wild parsnip is of concern because humans develop a severe skin irritation from contact with its leaves. Plants have chemicals called psoralens (more precisely, furocoumarins) that cause phyto-photodermatitis: an interaction between plants (photo) and light (photo) that induce skin (derm) inflammation (itis).
Once the furocoumarins are absorbed by the skin, they are energized by uv light on both sunny and cloudy days. They then bind to DNA and cell membranes, destroying cells and skin. Parsnip burns usually occur in streaks and elongated spots, reflecting where a damaged leaf or stem moved across the skin before exposure to sunlight.
Wild parsnip burns differ from the rash caused by poison ivy in several aspects. First, everyone is sensitive to wild parsnip and you do not need to be sensitized by a prior exposure to develop burns or blisters. You can brush against wild parsnip plants and not be affected. Parsnip is only dangerous when the plant sap from broken leaves or stems gets on your skin. Lastly, the wild parsnip’s “burn” is usually less irritating that poison ivy’s “itch.” The worst of the burning pain caused by wild parsnip is usually over within a couple of days while the rash and itch of poison ivy can last a long time.
In cases of mild exposure to wild parsnip, affected areas turn red and fell sunburned. In severe cases, the skin first turns red and then blisters form. The arms, legs, torso, face, and neck are most vulnerable and affected areas may feel like they have been scalded. Blisters form a day or two after sun exposure and soon after the blisters rupture and the skin starts healing. But for many people the ordeal is not over as dark red or brownish “scars” remain in the burned areas for several months to years. Animals can also get parsnip burns if they have little hair and lightly pigmented skin, characteristics that allow the chemical and sunlight to reach the skin.
The burning sensation can be relieved by covering the affected areas with a cool, wet cloth. Try to delay blisters from rupturing as long as possible as blisters protect the skin by keeping it moist and clean while the areas heal. For those cases with extensive blistering, consult a doctor.
Tips to avoid exposure include wearing gloves, long pants, and long-sleeved shirts. Planning control activities for the early evening will minimize sunlight and thus activation of the blistering process. If you are exposed to the plant juice, wash the contaminated areas thoroughly as soon as possible.”
I have to say, I’m not looking forward to dealing with this skin discoloration and sores for several months, or skin sensitivity for months or years. But I bought vitamin E oil today (since I gave M back hers when Adamah ended), so hopefully that will help.
The other thing about seeing my friends is many questions about when I’m coming home, why I’m staying at Freedman, what I’ll be doing, why I don’t write much about my personal life on the blog…. etc.
So here is my attempt at some succinct answers to these questions:
1. I don’t know when I’m coming back to this area to live. I plan to stay at Freedman until I can afford to start school. I have not chosen which semester to defer until, and I have done that on purpose. I need to work on money details, and I need to see how things proceed at Freedman.
2. I’m staying at Freedman because I love it there. It’s really a home to me. I have friends there and new people will be coming who I’m sure I’ll become friends with too. I can make a bit of money and have free room and board. It’s a pretty sweet deal and a better alternative to living in Needham rent-free. I can keep a bit more of my autonomous adult lifestyle. Plus, at Freedman you can get by without much need of a car. I don’t go far, and when I do I can bike, or borrow a car or get a ride. At the moment, this is a good option for me, and I look forward to being back there in a warm community with people I am very fond of.
3. My position is not official yet. When it is I will let everyone know. I will likely be working in the kitchen. More details to come. I will also have other odds-and-ends tasks, such as driving for the camp (picking and dropping people off using camp vehicles). And I hope to take on other tasks so that I am not solely working in the kitchen.
4. I try to be sparing on the blog about my personal life because I want to have discretion so as to not incriminate myself or anyone else. I only used initials for everyone in my cohort, even if the initial applied to more than one person (like ‘M’ or ‘B’) and therefore could cause confusion. As long as I knew who I was talking about, that was all that mattered. Yes, there were a bunch of intense personal things that happened to me this summer, but I don’t see much reason for the public realm to hear about them. I wanted to talk about my experience not every personal detail. I do intend to go back to my posts and fill in some gaps and also talk about things that I failed to record. Maybe some more personal information will get filled in. Maybe not.
I’m going to continue to call this ‘A Farm Fresh Blog’ even though I’ll be working for Freedman directly and not an active Adamahnik. But I’m now Adamah alumni, and I will be attending the Tufts AFE program at some point, so the title is still relevant. I hope to branch into talking much more about issues related to ag, food, and environment, policy and nutrition — posting stories, petitions, and who knows what else. I’d like this to blog to branch out a little. But we’ll see how it goes.
Also, I’ve been asked to be a contributor to the Jew & the Carrot. I don’t know what my ‘angle’ for my posts will be, so I haven’t started posting yet, but I look forward to it.
Put away my egregiously summery clothes here in Needham and filled two duffel bags of Fall/Winter clothes. Clothing for cool and cold temperatures is much thicker and requires two big bags!
Oh… the cabin! Yes, so after the Ride, B, R, and I stayed in NYC for an extra day, and then we went back and lived in the Adamah house for the rest of the week while working for Adamah (they need workers in between our session and the incoming session [which starts tomorrow]). But before Shabbat we had to move everything out and make sure the house was in perfect condition (as much as that is possible in a dusty/moldy old house) and we moved into a cabin in the kfar (the tent and cabin area in the woods at Freedman). I can’t believe that I went the whole summer without sleeping outside and now when it’s turning quite cold in the morning and night that I’m moving into a cabin. Tomorrow night will be my first night sleeping in it. I know from stories how hard it is to bother changing your clothes because you don’t want to remove an article of clothing when you are that cold. I’ve been told to sleep in a clean pair of socks every night, sleep in a hat, create a fort and canopy structure on the beds to keep as warm as possible, and to cover the screens with fabric. Fun…
Well, actually, I am excited. I was kind of nervous, but I’m really looking forward to it now. I’m bringing back several tapestries and blankets, so hopefully R and I will make it work in our cabin. B will be in his own. And the other B is in a different one, sharing with someone who is only here for a month or so.
Oh, and to answer the inevitable follow-up questions: we will only be in the cabins for a couple months at most and then we will move into regular staff housing. There just isn’t room right now, and Adamahniks are the first to be placed in cabins since we’re outdoorsy and rugged and stuff.
Alright off to bed, then Hartford in the morning and then back to Freedman, yay!