Most farming families talk about the “what ifs” in farming. What if something happens to one family member and they can no longer farm? What if there was an accident or even a death? What does one do when the farm must go on without the farmer?
The past week has proven to be one filled with many challenges. On Valentine’s Day, Hubby went out to the bush to cut fire wood, but something unexpected happened. The tree just happened to go the other way, the snow gave way beneath Hubby and he could not get out of the way in time. The tree ended up falling on him, pinning him beneath it. His leg was pinned between the tree and a rock.
My sister-in-law got to the scene of the accident within minutes and had to take the chainsaw and saw him out from under the tree. She also had to dig him out from the snow. Moments later, my other sister-in-law and her husband came. They splinted Hubby’s leg with what they had. It was pretty impressive how they splinted his leg with two snow brushes (the kind you use to remove snow from your vehicle). They managed to get him into their sled that they use for hauling firewood out of the bush and our brother-in-law pulled Hubby in the sled all across the field.
Those close to me were surprised that I was calm the day of the accident and the days that followed. They knew that I was likely in shock and that the reality of what had happened had not set in yet.
I was more concerned with Hubby’s health. Thankfully he only broke his tibia and fibula and required surgery (rod and screws placed in his leg beneath the knee, which will be in there for the rest of his life). I am not downplaying the injury, because though it was a bad accident, things could have gone very differently. He ONLY broke his tibia and fibula. Nothing else was broken or punctured. The tree didn’t land on his head, he didn’t sustain any head injuries, and he didn’t die! I’d say that was pretty good!
It’s not JUST a broken leg when you’re on the farm
No weight-bearing for Hubby until his follow-up with the surgeon. He won’t be going anywhere anytime soon anyway since he is in incredible pain and is not mobile.
A broken leg is not just a broken leg when you’re on the farm. So much of a farmer’s work is physical. There’s everything from feeding cattle, bedding up cattle, and all the day to day chores and little things that we do not really think about. Our calving season is just after mid-March. I’m already stressing about planting season and then haying season. Even when Hubby heals, he will not be able to go as hard as he did prior to his accident. He cannot jump off the tractor as he once did. He could do more damage and extend recovery time. Forget about chasing cattle. There are so many things to consider.
We have been very fortunate that Hubby’s brother-in-law, his sisters and his friends have been helping out so much. The cattle are being fed thanks to the help of Hubby’s sister and brother-in-law. I’m handling all the smaller animals on our farm (chickens, rabbits, dogs, cats) and caring for Hubby and Little One. Our house is in complete disarray, but at this point, that is secondary. My family needs to be taken care of, fed, tended to, the animals need to be cared for, and I need to continue working. Now that Hubby is not able to work, I need to keep working more than ever. I know the road ahead is going to be full of challenges, but we will find a way to keep the farm going while the farmer is recovering.
Little One was a wreck all last week. She was so concerned about her Dad. We’re all slowly getting into a routine and figuring things out.
Experiences like this one really make us re-evaluate our lives. It’s forced us to recognize what is absolutely necessary, what needs to be whittled down, and it really puts all of our priorities in check. I’ve learned that Hubby and I cannot keep adding more onto our plates. We are so blessed and so thankful to have such amazing and supportive family and friends.
I was recently told, “Christine, all those people who you and John help out all the time, all the people who attend all your dinner parties…ACCEPT their help. They are offering it. Take it.” I suppose we’re not used to being on the other end of things. We’re always happy to help others, but are not the greatest at accepting help from others. It’s so easy to think of all the negative things, but I know we need to have faith that everything will be okay. Perhaps it will change the way we farm. Who knows?
How to manage when the farmer cannot farm (temporarily)?
Though we have briefly discussed the topic in the past several times, it feels like nothing could prepare us for the actual “what if”? Our “what if” happened. We think that nothing like this will ever happen, but it can and it does. I have to admit that I do not think we were adequately prepared for the “what ifs”.
- Have a back up plan. Make sure you have support who can come and help with farm chores and who know their way around the barn, equipment and who are good with the animals. Not just anyone can fill in and do the job. There are things like knowing how to fix a tractor if it breaks down or unfreezing the cattle’s water bowls. There are so many little details that end up being really big in the long run.
- If you have a support network, perhaps let them do whatever they can for you to make your job as a caregiver easier and the patient’s job (recovering) easier as well. For example, a friend whose children go to dance classes with Little One has said that they can bring her to dance. Another friend said she could get Little One to piano and choir. It’s little things like those that make it easier to care for Hubby. I can’t take off for a few hours to drive Little One everywhere and leave him unattended, lest he fall and injure himself further.
- No job is done unless the paper work is finished. All the documents and papers required for insurance and all the appointments with follow-up and physio all need to be taken care of.
I used to joke that we don’t get much family time (not including the times spent when we’re all working on the farm together). Now, with Hubby not mobile for the next few weeks or months, we have nothing BUT time together. 🙂 It sounds odd, but perhaps this accident was in a strange way, a blessing in disguise as it has really forced us to restructure and re-evaluate every aspect of our lives.