163: 9 Tips for Taking Care of the Homestead When You’re Sick

163: 9 Tips for Taking Care of the Homestead When You’re Sick

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There are no sick days on a farm, but life guarantees that you will be sick at some point in your homesteading journey. So how do you deal with homestead work when you can barely get out of bed?

I don’t know what kind of homestead you have, what animals you’re dealing with, or how big your garden is, so obviously this is a generalization. Take the advice that works for you, tweak what doesn’t, or leave it all together.

I’m also talking about short term illness here—like when you wake up and have the flu, or have an injury that sets you back for a bit. Long term illness, disabilities, or major injuries will obviously require a few different things than what I talk about here.

1. Don’t procrastinate

Do the things that need to be done before they need to be done, which is to say when you realize you’re going to need feed, go get feed now. Before you’re out.

I’m usually two steps ahead of myself, but if there’s ever been a time where I think, “you know, what? I’ll just get feed tomorrow…” that’s usually when something happens where I really wish I would have gotten feed the day before. No one wants you at the feed store when you’ve got the flu, you don’t want to be at the feed store when you’ve got the flu, but your animals still need to eat when you’ve got the flu.

Get the feed now. Fix the fence now. You get the idea.

2. Don’t make things harder than they need to be

Make your systems as easy as possible so that when you are sick, it’s less work. Automate when possible. The less you have to deal with something, the easier it is to deal with that thing when you’re under the weather. I know it’s not a big deal to go out and fill the pig’s water four times a day because you’re always home and what’s the big deal? But a larger, more efficient watering system means you won’t have to go out four times a day when you feel like crud.

Aim to make your farm run as efficiently as possible for the hardest day, not the easiest.

3. Know what the priorities are.

Do the tomatoes really need to be processed today or can they wait a couple more days? Stressing out about stuff you don’t need to stress out about isn’t going to make you feel any better. Can the kids go out and pick all the red tomatoes and pop them in freezer bags for you to worry about at a later time?

Realize what the bare minimum is and stop feeling guilty about it. 9.9 times out of ten, the incapacitated portion of your illness won’t last long, and you’ll catch up on the other end.

4. Bring a bucket

Let’s be brutally honest here. If you puke while doing chores, it’s okay. I distinctly remember a time when we all had some nasty bug and I was the person who was most able to be upright so I had to go take care of the barn. I hadn’t even got to the barn and I was already throwing up. And before chores were done, I’d thrown up again. It scared the dog but life went on.

Nobody is watching you do this except the animals. And if someone is watching you throw up while you’re doing chores, kick them on the way back to the house and tell them chore time is all theirs.

5. Space things out, take a break

If you do need to do chores while you’re sick, space them out. If it normally takes you an hour to do chores, don’t try to be upright for an hour and get everything all done at once. Do what you can (even if that’s going out to feed the barn cats) and then take a break. Then go out and check the water in the duck’s pool. Take a break. Then go out and fill the turkey feeders.

You might have a lot of chores to do, but if you can’t do them all at once, don’t.

6. Be realistic, give yourself grace

I’m just gonna toss this out there. No one is going to die if I miss morning chores—at least on my farm. They will be angry, and they’ll let everyone on our dead end dirt road know about it, but they aren’t going to die. So if I’m home alone and I am sicker than a dog and I can’t get myself out to the barn, my animals aren’t going to die if I miss morning chores, or if morning chores have to become afternoon chores. 

7. Enlist help

Make sure everyone in your house knows how to do stuff on the farm so when you can’t, they can—at least enough to get by until you can.

Do you have someone else in your arsenal who can help if you get really sick? Your neighbor? A family member/friend who doesn’t live that far away and would be willing to come over if you called? 

It’s worth noting here that if you do enlist help, you have to let them help. Don’t spend your time worrying that they fed the cat in the wrong place or gave the chickens too much food or did things out of order. Let them help. And it’s easiest for them to help if they have…

8. A giant to-do list

Write down what you do in a typical day so if you need to tell someone “can you take care of this for me” it’s written down somewhere. Things like who eats what and how often, how to turn on the water, where the feeders are, any special precautions with certain animals, etc, are all good information for potential helpers to have.

Revisit the to-do list often to make sure it’s still valid. If you made the list three years ago but you now have more animals and a completely different watering set up, your list no longer makes sense. There’s nothing worse than wanting to help someone in a time of need, being handed a to-do list, and realizing you won’t be much help because the list makes absolutely no sense.

9. Finally, learn from your mistakes

If you have had the lucky fortune to experience being sick on the farm, you will know there are things that come to your attention. Make note of those things so you can remedy those situations. What would have made your farmer with the flu experience easier? Now that you’re feeling better, go attack those things.

You know, so you’re ready for the next time illness or injury strikes.

— Amy Dingmann, 8-31-21

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Sick woman laying in bed with her eyes closed, holding a tissue to her forehead

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