The Fortitude of a Farmer

Today was a morning that threw into sharp relief how hard it is to be a farmer.

Last night, after nursing the three remaining live rabbits back to warmth and forcing mombunny to let them nurse, I put Tasty back in her cage outdoors and left for my weekly family roleplaying session. It’s a lot of fun, and we play some old-school D&D (3rd Ed). One of the major stats is fortitude. It measures how well your character can keep going when under duress. Sometimes the duress is mental, sometime is is physical, but fortitude covers both. You throw a 20-sided die and add your fortitude score to that to see if your character defeats a challenge through sheer fortitude.

The past 24 hours couldn’t have shown it more. Last night I came home after an exhausting day and just wanted to get chores done. I fed and watered all the animals and went to sleep.

I woke up a few hours early to a frantic call from my father. My mom has been in the hospital for the past week because of a surgery to remove part of her colon due to cancer.  The good news is that the surgery went very well. The bad news is her recovery has not been so good. She has been running high fevers and has been in a lot of pain and is starting to shut down a little bit mentally. I can’t really blame her, but she panics and demands to go home to where she feels safer when she’s still severely ill. We’ve seen this before back when she got her first diagnosis and the best solution is company from a sane, capable, confident daughter. Being the only one around that doesn’t “work” I got volunteered for the job by one of my older siblings my dad contacted previously. But I had three baby rabbits in my basement that had a mother that was bad at caring for them and they, to this moment, still aren’t holding their internal temperatures correctly. I could go to my mother who was in non-life-threatening distress or I could save the three rabbits in my basement that will someday get turned into meat anyhow. It was not a good situation.

In the end the sister that initially volunteered me to visit took it upon herself to go and took off of work. It’s a good thing because she is a very a-type personality with extreme optimism and can bounce just about anything mom can throw at her back with a gusto. I can take my mother’s attitudes better than most but in no way can I make any of it into something constructive. So her having gone was a benefit.

But I had gotten very little sleep all night as it was and now I was up 3 hours early. I decided to stuff Tasty into the cage with her babies to see if she’d nurse. And when I went outside I found two more kits, clean and pink, lying cold on the cage floor. These ones had been there quite some time and were dead.
I had a hunch that Tasty was NOT done giving birth when I collected the four. And in fact I had even sent Greg out earlier in hopes of finding any more babies as she produced them. But when I went out to feed and water that night, I didn’t check the cage. Normally I give their cages a cursory look anyhow, pregnant or not, just to make sure everything is normal but I was exhausted from nursing the three back to health earlier and just wanted to go to sleep. I missed the bodies in the dark and as a result I lost two more kits.

So today has been a test of my fortitude. I was exhausted, stressed, worried, sore and miserable. As I brought the kits in from outside and checked them for life I kept berating myself for loosing them. There was a chance they could have lived if I had caught them. And I knew, just KNEW, that she wasn’t done birthing. As I brought Tasty in to see if she’d willingly care for her kits, I thought about how if I’d just left her with the kits indoors overnight things could have worked out.  As I took out my sister’s dogs, I thought about how if we had come home from game just a little earlier, instead of finishing the dungeon, I may not have been as tired and I probably would have checked the cage properly.

I layed back down with Greg (since we were up three hours early) feeling horrible. Normally I am not one to dwell but a lack of sleep overtook my emotions. I wanted nothing to do with anything. I wanted to simply vanish. Things felt like they couldn’t be worse.

An hour later and I was up, poking around Tasty and her three live young. She was starting to care for them, though not very well. It was getting close to afternoon and I’d hardly touched my morning chores when the superbowl commercial, quoting Paul Harvey went through my head. I’m certain by now that everyone on here knows it. It was only posted on about 15 popular farming blogs right here on wordpress on the day it came out.

“God said, “I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt and watch it die, then dry his eyes and say, ‘Maybe next year,’”.

I knew the meaning of those words very personally. Nearly two years ago Greg and I had gotten a new puppy; a red and white husky, who died in our arms the week we got her. We cried for days and were deeply shaken. Six months later we had a new husky puppy. That was not the only animal I had held to their death, the only animal I cried over and had to move on from, the only animal that had died in my life and I knew the only way to go was forward… It was the hardest, but not the first nor the last and it is because of that, that when I heard Paul Harvey’s voice saying those things I understood just how real they were; not prose for a commercial.
Now I found myself knowing those words again. I had beaten myself up enough. I knew I had made a mistake, one that cost lives, even though the blame was hard to place. When I  watched my rabbit vigorously cleaning one of her kits I knew the only way to go was forward.

Mistake made, move on. Just don’t make those mistakes again.

Try again next year.

Besides, I’ll need my energy for days spent juggling my mother at the hospital with my recovering rabbits more than I’ll need it to feel bad about today.

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