question for farmers and rural people : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) Preparation Forum : One Thread

I have been gearing up to move away from the city life to rural life for several years now. I have been gathering information and tools, food and seeds, etc.

I am now 46 and have had a difficult time lately with various illnesses compared to years of great health in my early life. It is beginning to occur to me that I may not be healthy enough or tough enough to do farm life.

And yet there seem to be no shortage of older farmers and rural people. So my question to you is, with daily farm chores so critical as milking the cows and feeding the livestock, what happens when you get very sick for a period of days or weeks?

Is it essential to have a family big enough to handle more than the essentials so there can be back up people to do the work for the sick ones? Is there an attitude on the farm that everyone must work even when very sick? If you have a temperature of 103, do you put on your coat and go out to the barn in 10 degree weather and do the chores at the risk of getting sicker?

What if you literally can not get out of bed? What will happen to the animals? How long can they go without care without risking their lives? Are farm people more healthy do you think? Less apt to get sick or be forced into bed with the latest winter virus or some other illness?

Since your animals and gardens are critical for the family to eat, how is it that farmers have been able to harvest crops year after year and still deal with measles, mumps, flu, etc.? I can not picture how this has been accomplished all these years.

Specific stories and examples would be most helpful as well as descriptions of the way illness is perceived and dealt with in your particular farm family. I would like to learn what is needed to deal with this aspect of life on the farm, without overestimating what I can do and find out how much help I am going to need.

Thanks very much.

-- Lora Ereshan (, July 17, 1999


Two words: Friends - neighbors

-- Love those chores (steve@green.acres), July 17, 1999.

Do it or die

-- Daryll (, July 18, 1999.

Let me qualify the following by stating that I am neither a farmer or a rancher. I do, however, work with hundreds of them in my job.

The average age of today's rancher is about 60 years old. Many have fingers missing or mashed. Some walk half bent over from being stove in by cattle or horses. Lots of the really old ones have skin cancers. During the spring, summer and most of the fall, the cattle are in pasture or range. They only have to be fed in the winter or when there is no grass. Most also grow grass hay crops so they have winter feed. Course, there's calving when ranchers sleep upright in chairs. (When they can.) And there's branding time, (also castrating and immunizing,) but they have help for that. There are also cattle drives from pasture to pasture or range, but that is a group affair and others are usually paid by a mighty good barbecue. Lots and lots of fencing and fence repair. The whole family is expected to help on a ranch. (The wife gets to open gates a lot.)

Farmers seem to spend their winters fixing equipment and planning. They do get vacation then. Spring, summer and fall is farming time. Gotta plow when the weather gives you a window with the soil dry enough. Gotta move the wheel lines on schedule to irrigate the crops or they will stress. Sometimes, you only get water on ceratin days at certain hours. When the crop is ready to harvest, you might work till wee hours - or when the hay is on the ground drying and rain is coming. If you borrow equipment, you had better use it when you can get it. Ground squirrels can kill you by underminig the soil, dumping your rig. Accidents with equipment are more common than with other professions.

Get yourself a "ranch hand."

Just don't try a dairy business. A dairy cow MUST be milked.

-- marsh (, July 18, 1999.


Make sure you have at least 1 or two people who will help in a pinch if you don't wear out their kindness. Sometimes when I wake up and feel lousy/back killing me once I get up, have coffee and make it outside the fresh air, a friendly goat face looking for her baby (me!) and the next thing you know you're appreciating the sunrise. There will be times however when you are too sick for a day or so or can't make it home from town in time to milk so you must not try to do this without backup support of some type.

One nice thing is that usually you can do the work at your own pace - slow and steady is ok. Get a childs wagon (Little Tykes works great) for a bale of hay or bag of feed and use your head instead of straining your body.

Keep in mind I only have 2 goats, approx. 20 chickens, garden for my family and 18 fruit trees - still quite a bit of work but if you are wanting to do more than that it would probably be too much. Just my thoughts. One thing it does seem to help with is depression - milking a friendly goat, watching a broody hen with babies or watching home grown fruit and vegies ripen is very satisfying and uplifting. Good luck with your decision and your health.

-- Kristi (, July 18, 1999.

My father had a simple rule: you either get to work or get to the hospital. No inbetween.


Bandages? We don nee no steenken bandages.

-- Greybear (, July 18, 1999.

i have worked i rural healthcare for 13 yrs. these people have a work ethic thad defies description. i think that you should reconcider your choice to actively farm if you have health problems as you describe. also most of these folks have been doing this type of work since they were a child. if you arent used to it it is a killer. good luck al

-- al (, July 18, 1999.

Thanks so much to all of you for your advice. It is all very helpful.

Marsh, thanks for your description of ranchers and the work involved. This is news to me. I was unaware of the hazards you mentioned. This kind of insight is just what I need.

My respect for the difficulties involved and the tough discipline it requires is growing the more I learn about rural life.

And I am sure that I would need to be part of a group now. I can see where having a large family would really be an advantage in farm life.

Kristi, I can more easily imagine myself in your situation with a few small, manageable animals close to home, a family garden and fruit trees, and a few friends and neighbors to call upon if family is not available. I have 2 sons who would help me out now and then. I have been learning more about goats and getting to like the idea of them rather than the larger dairy cows.

The only thing more I would like to add is some kind of fiber animal like sheep or Angora rabbits or goats. Llama and alpaca are ideal but too expensive. I am a beginner at weaving and spinning, but I would be able to create cloth if I had to. I could also trade the wool. But so far, these are all just dreams and plans. Thanks for your input Kristi.

Wow, Greybear! Sounds like you were raised with much discipline and toughness. I can see that in rural life this is an advantage. I am not sure if I can acquire this now. But I see that there are a few of us town people who are making the transition to country and eventually do adjust. But I can see that this will not be easy.

Thanks Al, I see the truth in what you are saying. I appreciate your first hand view. If I do make this jump, I am going to gather lots of people to work with me. I can see, I am going to need help.

I am learning so much from this forum. What a great idea! Thanks everybody.


-- Lora Ereshan (, July 18, 1999.

THe whole secret to a small sustaining operation as opposed to a hobby farm is need. If you really need what is produced by your little farm, a way will be found to do what needs doing. Sometimes things we would like to do have to be postoned or forgotten altogether because of things that need doing. Goats, chickens and rabbits are good choices but, even they require a commitment of time and effort. An honest evaluation of your capabilities and commitment are an absolutely necessary first step. I have had to change my livestock both in number and kind because of the passing of so many summers (70 and counting). Many illnesses disappear when the need to perform a task is greater than the discomfort. The bible tells us to"rise and be healed" and it works for me. Too often we want our healing before we will rise.

-- Lumber Jack (, July 18, 1999.

Always make sure the animals (chickens, dogs, rabbits, etc) have more drinking water than they need - say three days worth, kept topped up. You ALWAYS have to check the stock's drinking water before it could possibly run out.

Dairy farms are slavery, and you need lots of mutual slaves to do the milking twice a day, every day, without fail. A milch cow (or goat) for domestic use is another matter - they come with babies attached. You normally pen the calf, kid, whatever overnight, milk the mother in the morning, then allow them to run together for the day. If you can't pen the baby at night, it's not a disaster - you just don't get milk in the morning. If you have to be away for a couple of days, no sweat - although it's a good idea to have friendly neighbours with reliable teenagers on tap. If nothing else, free-range poultry needs to be penned at night and released during the day; or they'll fly out, then stay out at night with the predators. You could give thought to a covered pen that could hold them for a couple of days if necessary, though.

-- Don Armstrong (, July 18, 1999.


I grew up on a dairy farm. I will never forget one winter night when we were due for a "Siberian Express." Temps were already well below zero and winds were expected to come through at speeds that would drop wind chills to eighty or ninety below. My dad was supposed to go in for a doctor appointment earlier that day but cancelled it because he was worried the doctor would hospitalize him and he was more worried about no one to care for the cows. When he went out to milk the cows that night, he was doubled over and told me to "watch from the house and make sure I make it to the barn." I said I think we should call an ambulance. He told me "just watch." He started out, but then he did come back and said, "I guess maybe call the ambulance." He still insisted on walking down to the road to meet it when it came. Heart attack and pulmonary edema.

-- reminiscing (not my usual id) (emailis@not.real), July 19, 1999.


I agree with Kristi. Rather than full fledged farming you need to be thinking homesteading (self-sufficient living). When I was a single parent, I lived on a couple of acres with my goats, chickens and garden and we ate pretty well. We had a few fruit trees as well.

Now I am married and the kids are pretty well grown and we do have a full sized farm and both work off farm as well. Like Kristi said, when things begin to get to you or you are a little stiff and sore, going to the barn to visit the goats and sheep or grooming a horse makes everything seem better. Watching the sun rise or set, listening to the poultry make their noises is great.

Living in the country either on a homestead or a farm is definitely much healthier for the mind and body.

-- Beckie (, July 19, 1999.

Lora- this question has several answers. Yes- in general- if you have chores to do, you gotta do them- no ifs ands or buts- if you can't find someone else to help. Neighbors, friends and family are abig help here. I find that i stay healthier here farming- in terms of illness. BUT- I get hurt on the job- and yes- I do need to keep working. Last spring, I put a digging fork thru my foot- in the top and out thru the bottom- went to the doc- got a tetanus shot and got it cleaned out, picked up some antibiotics, and back to work digging tree holes.... just a for instance. Same goes for broken ribs, etc-

So..... no sick days here-

But- even on a homestead type operation and not a commercial farm- stuff breaks and needs fixing and it's always in the worst weather. One of my not so fond memories is when I had the flu several years ago, and the water pipes under the crawl space froze up and it was 25 below zero...... So- I crawled under the house with the propane torch and unfroze the pipes, and dragged my aching feverish body back upstairs. Then- the next day, they refroze, froze the water pump as well too, and burned that out. then- the pipe going down to the septic system from the toilet froze and my kid had diarhea- and it backed up....... fun in the country......

took several weeks to get pump parts as the company shipped it COD by mistake, UPS wouldn't release it no matter who said what, the company reshipped via air and a blizzard grounded the we kept a garden hose running via gravity for several weeks as a water supply- in 20 plus below weather......

but- I wouldn't trade it for anything.....

The other thing to consider is if you like this kind of lifestyle- that alone should keep you healthier. Also- much has to do, I think, with regular exercise, meaningful work, good company, fresh air and water and good food. My neighbor is 80 and just sold the dairy herd.....

so- why not go for it small scale if you wish- and pick your location carefully. Find some good neighbors and be a good neighbor-

-- farmer (, July 19, 1999.

The one rule I operate by is: The animals come first. No matter what is going on with me, the animals must be cared for, after all I made a contract with the animal when I brought it onto my farm to take care of it. It does not matter how bad I feel, the animal is going to feel much worse if I do not go out and attend to her needs. In turn, the animals reward me with much more than just food and income. I guess it is like having a child, the needs of the child always comes first.

-- chicken-farmer (farmer@gods.countrry), July 21, 1999.

Lora: I'm a city girl now but was raised on a farm and can tell you that "country" magazines have done a great disservice to those contemplating country living. Living on a working farm is not gingham at the windows and tasteful clutter-it's getting up no matter the weather to tend to all the animals before you tend to yourself.

One of my most 'colorful' reminscences is getting up at 5:30 (as usual), milking 'my' cow, feeding and watering pigs, chickens, and rabbits, eating breakfast, washing dishes, throwing up and then dressing and leaving for school (I was 15 at the time.) I knew I was sick when I got up but Dad (and the sheer amount of work to be done) insisted that I get on with business as usual.

Then there was smashing my finger and showing Dad, only to be told that it wasn't bleeding much so I'd have to wait to go get a bandage until the work was done.

There was also the time that we had to hand turn hundreds of bales of sorghum hay (each bale weighed in at 50 pounds) because they had been rained on. They got rained on again and we had to haul them anyway--then they weighed 70 pounds each. My sister (12) and I (14), and Dad loaded them onto our hay wagon and then unloaded them at the barn. (Despite the heat, humidity, and excess weight--it had to be done and we did it.)

Or the time when our wheat was ready for harvest and I got the job of working inside the silo, shoveling grain away from the door. I coughed up dirt for several days after that. (In an off-moment I noticed that I had 2 beads of sweat on each arm hair and that each bead was covered with dust.) There was no getting out of the silo 'til each truck was unloaded-it was so hot inside the silo that when I finally got out, it seemed cool outside. (the temp. outside was in the 90's.)

There were animals to feed, water, milk, clean up after (Oh, those Saturdays spent shoveling out the chicken house!), handfeed(baby pigs only *look* cute, they stink to high heaven while you are trying to feed them), there was castration, de-horning, shots to be given, herding, butchering...and those were just the chores I did with Dad. I also had to help my mother with cooking, cleaning, yard work, gardening and hours of canning in the air-conditionless kitchen.

Was there 'fun'? Sure, going noodling in the river, fishing, reading (when my mother wasn't looking for me), and going to school-I cleaned up pretty good!

But enough of the fun stories (lol!), if we absolutely had to leave the farm, we had a neighbor (2 miles away) that would stand in for us, just like we would stand in for him. There just weren't many days that we went on vacation.

So, when I hear of people (no offense, please guys!) wanting to get into the 'farm life', I cringe. It's a full time job, extremely difficult and yet I have know-how that I would never have gained if Dad hadn't decided to retire to the family farm. Would I do it again? ONLY IF ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY!!!

Linda, a "Renaissance woman"! (or in other words, jack of all trades and master of none, lol!)

-- newbiebutnodummy (, July 21, 1999.

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