Monday, January 20, 2014

Illness ... A Setback For The Independent Farmer

Lotsa of people email me saying that they want to have their own farm homestead, that they want to be independent and support themselves. Well, this month has been an education on how fragile that dream can be. First if all, at this time I'm not totally dependent on the homestead for my survival. And that's a good thing because this month I've been dealing with illnesses having me partially hog tied. Nothing dire, nothing lethal, but effecting my ability to be productive none the less. But it's a good lesson on how an even minor illness can interfere with farm life. 

So, ya want the juicy gossip? First my mom came down with the flu. She's 91 and still living in her own home, so caring for her was time consuming. Right after she recovered, hubby and I came down with rip snorting colds. Not the wimpy kind, but the headache, fever, searing sore throat kind where your head either is so clogged up it feels like your sinuses are full of cement then switches to nasal Niagra Falls the next moment, and nights are spent choking and coughing. Just about the time I started feeling human again, mom came down with the cold. Gosh, I can't get a break.

Next I went off to Orlando for a veterinary convention. The long plane ride instantly tore down what was left of my fragile immune system. By the time I returned I was medically exhausted, tired beyond belief. Two days later I got knocked into bed with a high fever and chest racking bronchitis. I spent the next 4 days in bed. Poor hubby had to fend for himself and care for the critters. Just as I was feeling vaguely human again, he came down with it. 

The past four and one half weeks have been a bust on the homestead. I barely get the livestock cared for. There's no way the gardens get tended or the projects get worked on. Planting schedules are now well behind time meaning that there will be a month long gap in the harvesting. If I had to rely upon that harvest for survival, I'd be in trouble. I would have to rely on foraging and hunting. 

Seed potatoes sit waiting to be planted. Same with the onion seedlings and taro huli. Sweet potato slips were ready two weeks ago but luckily will hold ok. No seeds have been sown. No new pineapple tops started, no banana keiki planted. And on top of it, little harvested. Citrus, bananas, macnuts fall to the ground and sit there. Tomatoes rot on the vine. Beans and peas go to seed. Etc. 

This past month we've experienced just minor illnesses and see how disruptive it can be. Something major could shut the farm completely down. Something to think about if one plans to use a homestead farm as your sole source for surviving. 

Along the same lines of major illnesses....... I just learned that one of my friends recently experienced a serious farm accident. The tractor rolled and my friend ended up losing his right arm. Darn near killed him. But now their family have a major hurdle to deal with. NĂºmero Uno farm worker is in seriously bad shape. And in his case, recovery will always be compromised because of the loss of his dominant arm.

The loss of the ability to function, to work, is something new people getting into self sufficiency need to think about. What would you do? Would you just bail out or would you have a game plan to get you through it?  Would you be prepared financially and food wise? Saving money for a rainy day is difficult on a small homestead, but our stint of illnesses shows how important that strategy is. Plus having some food stored up is just as important. 

One thing I never see discussed on various Internet discussion forums is the need to have a community safety net in place in case of illness or injury. While I did not have to call upon my safety net of friends this past month, I have indeed established a network. These are people one could depend upon to help out when you need it, with the understanding that you'd be there to help them out if they needed too. I've seen this sort of community network work here, but it's something one needs to cultivate long in advance to it actually being needed. 

So one last parting comment........I hope that this string of ill health is over with! 


  1. What a horrible ordeal. I hope it's over for you as well. Folks so often want to prepare for the end of the world, when it's the little things like illness or joblessness that take more realistic tolls. Excellent advice about a community safety net. Those critters need tending regardless of our human situation.

  2. Thanks, Leigh. I was back to work today, but had to stop for sit down rests frequently. I haven't regained my stamina. But I've been sick for awhile so I expect it to take several days to get back up to speed.

    Boy, the critters were happy to see me back. Not that hubby wasn't caring for them properly, but there's no one like mom!

    I wandered through my various gardens and see that I have major catching up to do. But happily most everything looks fine. Not too many weeds. Lots of over mature veggies but they can be used for chicken and rabbit food. Since I haven't been using the irrigation, the water catchment tanks are full. That's a plus.

    This month long illness session has taught me that I need a better back up system in case it happens again. I know that I could call upon my friends for help, but I was thinking more on the lines of having reserve livestock bedding, better rotational pasture set up, rain shelters in each individual pasture, that sort of thing. Just steps and arrangements that would be easier for someone else to be tending the animals. As you said, they need to be cared for daily.

  3. Wow! I wondered what happened. I am so sorry about all the illness! We have been having a rough couple months, but nothing like on that scale! And, our farm is much smaller. For so long now, we have realized that it is too much for us to handle if we are to grow anything, because of our health fragility. But, yes, when we're sick, the chickens still need food and water. Our hydroponics have been inactive for months and our garden plots have gone fallow. However, we are hopeful now that we have a mature, hardworking couple downstairs that two things will happen. 1. When we need a backup, they will pick up the slack. They have so far. And, 2. They will get the gardens going. Fingers crossed.

  4. That's great that you have new helpers! I'm kicking the idea around about building a cabin for a Wwoofers. I'm not quite ready for the idea, but I aught to be prepared, especially since I'll probably go through a few before I fine the right match.