Q: What happens when a farmer with a bad
knee chases pigs through the garden?
A: A farmer with a torn ACL!
Now, if this were a real joke the punchline would be funny
rather than painful!! Why was I chasing the pigs through the
garden? Because they were out of the pen and having a joyful,
if short-lived piggy frolic through the fall plantings!!
Last Wednesday reminded me of several things…the importance of
latching the gates, how much damage livestock can do in a
relatively short period of time, how quickly hogs can move when
motivated, that pride cometh before the fall, and the fine and
perilous line between health and injury.
On Tuesday I took some pictures of the garden to share with
friends because while it was a bit weedy it was producing like
gang-busters. Tomatoes, potatoes, beets, onions, corn, basil,
cucumbers, peppers…the list goes on and on! I was putting up
pickles like crazy, making pesto with the basil, freezing gallons
of green beans – and in one quick trip through the garden the cows
and the hogs took care of all that.
My laying flock – and the Rooster!
The flea-bitten, bad-smelling,
egg-sucking farm dog in the penalty box after running through the
Green beans (foreground), lettuce,
cabbage, beets, basil, onions, peppers and celery (bit of random
planting toward the end!)
Broccoli and corn
What? Cows too??
Yes. When I got up early Wednesday morning the cows were
standing in the front of the house having spent an hour or so
trampling things down and mowing through most of the beets, green
beans and corn. With a little cajoling and bribing with grain
the girls went back in their pasture, I got the chores done and
went on with my day. THEN, right before dinner and in the
aftermath of the bovine invasion, hubby looked out and said, “Are
the hogs supposed to be in the chicken pen??” The answer of
course is “NO!” We dashed out and herded the hogs back to their
pen. A couple thoughts about big hogs: capable of short
bursts of high speed, they are short on stamina and quickly get hot
and tired. Pretty soon they just want to go back to their
wallow and cool off! Before they get there they can make you
dodge and run a bit – which is when the torn ACL happened.
The hogs zigged, I zagged, and my knee didn’t so I ended up
hobbling back to the house for an ice pack.
Convalescing helps with the pain but my mobility is still pretty
compromised and I will find out on Monday if surgery is in my
future. In the mean time teenager #3 is doing most of the
chores, including milking and feeding the chickens, in addition to
her own chores. Regretfully, this solution isn’t sustainable as she
starts OC next week and won’t have time to milk in the morning
before school. To deal with my limitations we are working on
getting rid of the hogs a couple weeks early (okay – tomorrow!) the
flea-infested, egg-sucking farm dog is going to the groomer
tomorrow so I don’t have to wrestle her into the tub and I am
working on finding a temporary home for one of the cows. I
can milk but it takes forever because I move very slowly!
As I make calls and get offers of help with milking and chores
from other farmer friends I am very touched by the out-pouring of
compassion and concern. I have also spent lots of time thinking
about what would happen if I was farming full-time. I have
several other off-farm jobs, including my gig at WSU Extension,
most of which can be done sitting down. And, more
importantly, we have one full-time off-farm income with good
benefits and health insurance. As a full-time farmer I would
be hard pressed to take time to recover properly. Cows need
to be milked and hay needs to be cut. By way of illustration,
one of our hay growers took a fall off a horse last summer and
broke his pelvis and one leg. His neighbors cut and stacked
his second cutting hay and his father-in-law did all his irrigation
for the remainder of the season. We saw him in October and he
was still limping badly but he could get up on a tractor and do his
own farming again. It was a significant challenge for his
family and they are still digging out from the medical bills – and
his wife works for the local school district s they actually had
A frequent comment about farming in Kitsap is that it is
“Part-time” and while that is a valid observation – this isn’t
solely a Kitsap phenomenon. Nationally, 85-95% of farms have off-farm income. Kitsap
merely mirrors the trend nationally. Reasons for off-farm
income are varied – but many farmers I know rely upon off-farm jobs
for health insurance. Given that farming is one of the
most dangerous industries, the importance of medical
coverage can’t be understated. As more and more young people
enter agriculture (which is great given that 60% of farmers in the US is over 55) the trend of
relying upon off-farm income is going to continue.
The next time you are thanking a farmer for feeding you, wish
them good health as well. They can use it!!