It is with a heavy heart that I write this as a week ago I got the dreaded news from my Doctors; despite 14 months of surgery and treatments, my cancer is spreading. I did not need a Dr to tell me that, I could feel it in some weird way.
I have lived a clean life; no smoking, drinking or EVER used drugs of any kind, but I was a workaholic and that is what killed me. A welder by trade, I liked my welds to look a certain way, played by the rules and got good results. Because of that, most of my welds were critical to what was being constructed or repaired, so they were subjected to x-raying. I might make 155 passes on 4 inches of steel, yet x-ray would find a flaw, and minutes later i was back on top of the area, cutting it apart and redoing it. It sounds like failure, but its not, flaws in welds happen, its fixing them and making them perfect that matters. (You cannot just throw out a ship because it has a flaw in the weld). Anyway, being aound all that radiation caused my cancer, not to mention numerous burns that ended in infections and high doses of antibiotics by IV for weeks on end. It is no wonder that on average, the shipyard where I worked had only an average retirement payout of 18 months. In other words, people die on average, 18 months after retirement.
I retired 2 years ago almost to the day. (May 27th 2016) Sadly I just turned 44 years old last week.
It has really been a tough winter. Fatigue caused me to stop cutting wood in January, but in order to pay our property taxes I ended up selling one of my bulldozers. Naturally that was not enough to cover the cost of property taxes which have doubled in only a few years here. So I had a logger come in and clear 70 acres of our land. I wanted to do the logging myself, but still it was according to plan as we want to convert forest into more field. (property taxes are higher then what the value of forest is worth). In short, a farmer can make money with more sheep than forest products.
But after trying to get a few loggers here, the third logger came, clearcut all 70 acres and only paid me $1100 of the $15,000 or so he owes me for my wood. So we got an attorney, the forest service and district attorney involed and now will have to go to court. We will get our money, but it will be 2-3 years from now. To pay for our taxes we called the cattle dealer, rounded up all but (2) lambs, and sold our entire flock of sheep. That was a sad day. We had to send our entire flock of sheep to slaughter because some logger thought his bills were more important than mine. I was incensed, but that is what farmers do; use their resourses they have when they have too.
However, just as we were dealing with all that, along with cancer treatments and appointments, Katie found out she was pregnant...then she had a miscarriage 2 months later. We have 4 daughters so we are thankful for that, but still love children and would have loved to have another, but just when we thought it could not get much worse, the Dr's told us my cancer was spreading. Darn it! For those keeping track I lost my health, equipment, part of my forest, my sheep, and an unborn child.
Up to this point I had hope...had feelings even if they were sad ones. Now...nothing. I am not mad, I am not sad, I don't cry, and I don't laugh...NOTHING.
I am getting my affairs in order so that my wife and four daughters will be all set when my time comes. My dad makes caskets so I am getting the wood for that, and money wise my family is all set, probably even more so with life insurance (which is a huge misnomer by the way). But I have had a good life, been all around the world on trips, and accomplished some things. I do not have many regrets.
But I will be around to the end at least. I am tired, but still get around, and on my tractor can get a lot done, just not by manually labor as I get tired easily. So anyway, it has been like plowing granite lately, with yields that match the soil conditions, but I am still here.
As a full-time farmer, I do my best work with a hoe, but what does that say about my wife Katie?
Travis, I dont know what to say, there is nothing i can say.
nothing in my life has compared to what you have been and are still going thru.
but i now sit here with a sad heart and tears in my eyes for someone i will unfortunately never get to meet or know.
Travis, my heart goes out to you and your family. Phil's words ring true for me as well. I'm very sad that I'll probably never get to meet you in person. Please know that you have made a difference in the world and you've made it a better place.
"Hundreds of years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in or the type of car I drove... But the world may be different because I did something so bafflingly crazy that it becomes a tourist destination"
You've put up one hell of a fight, and all of your hard work is a monument to your dedication and strength. While the time horizon has changed and the obstacles seem ever more steep, I hope you stand tall and keep fighting the good fight. You've been a great example to so many here, and by the sounds of it, to your family as well. Best wishes Travis. If there are such things as miracles, I'm hoping you get one. You deserve it.
I have come to expect nothing but grounded practicality from the suggestions in your posts, and they have been storehouses of wisdom for me.
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-Robert A. Heinlein
I've read a lot of your posts over the last couple of years. You are great at showing how to; get a lot of work done efficiently and safely, be self sufficient, be frugal without being stingy, solve real problems on your real homestead, take time with and provide for your family, and plan for the future while exhibiting plenty of grit and determination. You are one of the inspirational figures that encourage me to get up and get out and try to make some progress every day. Thank You.
I appreciate your sharing your life so openly. Others have said well the feelings I have. I to, read your post with teary eyes and a great appreciation for finding permies and being able to follow other folks as we struggle to navigate thru this life...
Travis, spend every minute you have left giving your family great memories of you ! Spend some time writing down some thoughts to your children's future selves. Advise that they might need as they go through life. Show them strength and compassion. My prayers are for you and them tonight.
Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
posted 7 months ago
You've been an amazing inspiration to this aspiring sheep farmer (more of a sheep hobbyist at the moment) Travis, moreso than any other source.
It sucks to hear you seem to be on the way out, I hope you have the opportunity to write that book you've been planning (possibly as an ebook to avoid the hassles and delay of dealing with physical publishing) to preserve that amazing accumulation of practical farming wisdom.
My heart is filled with sadness for you and your family, Travis. Know that, for the first time in probably 5 years, I got down on my knees in prayer. May you be healed, and--most importantly--may your days be filled with laughter and peace and as many good times as you can cram in.
It's with a very heavy heart that I read your post. You will be missed Travis, but also very much remembered. Your knowledge and practicality as well as your willingness to experiment with things will stand out in my mind, as will your humble and revealing personal posts about your life. You are a great man, of much strength and intelligence and values, and I hope that you find a way to laugh in the face of death as it approaches, knowing that you are a resounding success. May you and your family be blessed with shared humor and hugs and love and understanding. Go serenely my friend, or fight it like I know only you can. Either way, it will be the right thing to do. :)
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."-Margaret Mead "The only thing worse than being blind, is having sight but no vision."-Helen Keller
so sorry to hear this Travis. i have lost many friends and family around here to cancer. many never smoked or drank but were hard workers like you and didnt always work in the best conditions. ill pray for you and your family. hopefully your girls are as passionate as you are and keep the farm running. my great grandfather was the first to farm virgin land up here back in the early 1900's. they immigrated from Quebec. although no longer farming, my cousin reopened my great grandfathers maple sugar camp and is keep it going that way. he also leases the fieilds to other farmers. was hoping some day to get down your way to see your place. try to keep positive and live life the best you can , while you can. thank you for your inspirational posts on here over the years. its not easy farming in Maine. our soil and weather are as tough as the people who live on it! God bless you and your family sir!
Incredibly sorry to get this news, Travis. Your direct and practical approach to homesteading and everything that it touches has been an inspiration to me...not to mention many others, I'm sure. Take time for yourself and your family. I hope you give yourself permission to let go of some battles for now and concentrate on the stuff that strengthens you.
I have read all the well wishes and honestly delayed because I did not really know what to say. Facing your own demise, I guess it is natural to get philosophical, and I do not want to be that type of person, not to mention that cancer plays havoc with your emotions and energy levels. It is really easy to snap at someone with harsh words when you really do not mean too, or say something really sad. I have to battle that.
Right now I am battling something called Cancer fatigue that only cancer patients can relate to. It can get to the point where picking up a fork to eat can be too much. It is that debilitating.
As for the farm, it is interesting because as an multi-generational farmer, I have never felt like it is "mine". I knew when I was 4 that it would be someday mine, and someday it would belong to the next generation. In those terms I am merely a caretaker and so there is no real sense of ownership, just that I need to make the best decisions that I can for it while I am at the helm. This is no different then the CEO of JC Penny's or something, where no one wants to be at the helm when it dies, but for farming, being at the helm typically lasts 40 years and not 6 which is the average for big corporations. I got 23 years in anyway...
The biggest thing now is to put things in place so they can continue after my shift is over. Get some people in to get the clearcuts put into fields and that sort of thing. Maybe sell the house, that sort of thing. I should have time to do that. We shall see.
As a full-time farmer, I do my best work with a hoe, but what does that say about my wife Katie?
Travis, I'm so sad to hear this — especially having to part ways with your sheep and dozer (I can honestly say I've never known a person that loved a dozer like you did). I always enjoyed reading your posts and your outlook on life. I'm sure you've set a good example for your girls and encouraged more than a few people you've never met to live a better life. This stuff is never easy, but it seems like you're approaching it with courage and dignity. I'll be keeping you and your family in my thoughts.
I'm still reeling from having been through this with my husband, which is why you havn't seen much of me for the last six months or so. One thing I can tell though is this - if you're not experiencing it already, you are about to experience the deepest, strongest love you've ever felt with your wife, and discover the true meaning of that 'two shall become one flesh' thing. There will be good days and bad days, there will be days you'll be able to talk about all the things that you somehow forgot to talk about all those other years, and days where the two of you will just sit/lie side by side and there is no need for words, just companionship and someone to speak for you and care for you.
And on a secodary note, when oh when will we learn that the jobs we do to support the families we love are sometimes what cause us to be lost to those same families. For anyone reading this, please look at the dangers in what you to, be they x-rays or toxic chemicals or whatever, and think what effects they might have in years to come. We really, really need to find better ways.
All my love to you Travis, and to your wife too. xxxxxxxxxxx
I am so very sorry to read your bad news. I have always enjoyed your posts and style of writing even on topics that dont apply to me. Your strong love of your family, land and farming always shine through. Thank you for sharing with all of us.
I do hope your family reads your postings in the future to appreciate and learn from the history you have shared in so many areas. That will be a truly valuable gift especially for your children to continue to know you, learn from you and to see how much love you have for your family.
My thoughts and prayers and with you and your family.
I keep thinking about you and your situation Travis and I just wanted to say how much I've appreciated you sharing in the form of your posts over the years. You are leaving a legacy behind when your time does come. Most importantly in the form of your family....you have a very lovely family to be proud of.
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