What a week. Actually, the past 10 days have been a little difficult for us.

The Saturday morning before last, my husband, Robb, had a little accident with the skid loader. The 400-pound bucket fell on his foot and he thought he had broken his ankle. After they hauled him to the hospital and X-rayed him, though, they determined it wasn't broken - only badly bruised and swollen. His thick rubber boot had saved him. What a relief!

However, it didn't make much difference to Robb for the next three days as he sat with his foot elevated and an ice pack on his ankle. He hobbled around when he needed to, and thank goodness a friend and a brother were able to help with chores. He's still sore now, but he's getting better.

Unfortunately, just after that happened, we had to load hogs, which is not a fun job on a nearly broken ankle! He made it through somehow and then spent another day with an ice pack. We are in the middle of shipping the hogs, as I mentioned last time, and have more to go out today and tomorrow. They weren't as big as we thought they were, so they had to stay with us a little longer to gain some more weight.

This little accident reminds me how dangerous farming can be, and how lucky we've been so far. There have been many near-death experiences, even at our place, but no serious injuries so far. (I touch wood for luck as I write this!) Farming is ranked as the second- or third-most dangerous occupation in the country, and there are deaths every year, including in Iowa, on farms and in the course of farm-related activities. Just think about the heavy equipment, the moving parts, the big grain storage bins, climbing onto piles of hay or up into barns and silos, the animals, driving farm equipment on the roads, the chemicals and various gases, and the long hours. There are more dangers than I can count.

On another topic, our cattle are exceptionally fuzzy and puffy right now as they try to stay warm during this cold snap. Add to that the fact that they're pregnant and have big bellies, and they sort of look like black watermelons on legs! I love to see the cattle when it's snowing and they have a layer of snow on their backs, frosty whiskers and clouds of steam coming from their nostrils. They just look like they're defying Mother Nature and daring her to make them miserable. Freezing rain and ice do make them miserable, of course, but they don't seem to mind the snow much.

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The horses also are fuzzy now with their thick winter coats. Unlike some people, we don't have barns for our horses. They live outside all year and rely on their winter coats, and shelter from the trees and hills. They don't seem to be bothered, and they stay nice and healthy because they are used to it.

As I write this, I am just waiting until the cattle waterers freeze and need thawing out with a torch. I know it's going to happen - it's just a matter of time. Here's hoping it's warm where you are!

Jennifer Ewoldt, DVM, and her husband, Robb, are farmers in the Quad-Cities. Her column about life on the farm is published every other Monday.

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