This morning has been like a surreal dream: as details come back in startling images. The barn engulfed in flames with Rj running towards it, desperate to see if anything can be saved. My near hysterical call to 911 as I watched the barn take a deep breath of air and the metal tin swell and expand before my eyes. Piglets trapped and screaming in terror. The three-story barn collapsing in on itself. Those split seconds of not knowing if RJ went inside… and if I’d be a widow.
There are so many questions this week: questions from our 5 children, questions from concerned family and neighbors, and questions of our own as we try to move forward.
Some questions are harder than others: “Mommy, are the baby goats and Penelope dead?” “What about the piggies?” “What happens if our house catches fire, will we burn up, too?” Others are easier to answer: “Is everyone ok?” “No one was hurt, right?” Then there is “What can we do to help?” “Did you have insurance?”
Those of you who have followed our story these last two years can understand how hard of a blow this has been for us. We’ve devoted our lives to this farm, taking a huge leap of faith to try and make it work. Our main barn is over a hundred years old, but that made us love it and its idiosyncrasies even more. We strive every day to show others that just because something is old, doesn’t mean you need to replace it. We’ve jacked the barn up and added more supports, improved the wiring, built numerous pens, restored the original wood siding on the inside wall, and other repairs. That barn was far from perfect, but it was ours, and we were going to use it to its maximum potential.
The answers to the questions this week are not very clear cut, as we try to explain to the kids that, yes, we lost over half of our farm animals, but we are thankful it was not all of them. It has been incredibly difficult to try to explain how we can be thankful in spite of such tragedy, without traumatizing them with “what if” statements, and their possible outcomes.
What if RJ had gone inside? What if we would have kept the goats in our kitchen one more day? What if it had been our house? We can play the “What If” game for the rest of our lives, but it doesn’t do to dwell. We must focus on what God has provided.
I never expected the amount of support we’ve gotten, not just from friends and family, but across the country people have donated to the Go Fund Me account RJ’s cousin set up immediately when she heard. We are eternally grateful and can never repay everyone’s kindness. More than one person has called, in tears, to express their condolences, even though they have nothing personally invested in our tragedy. We’ve had hundreds of comments on social media sending us prayers and good thoughts. To those of you who have specific questions, I hope to answer most of them below:
Insurance: Yes, we had about $10,000 worth of insurance on the barn, which is nowhere near enough. (We intended to insure it for a lot more once we replaced the tin, but that’s hindsight for you.) The barn was roughly 4775 sq ft, not including the square footage of the loft; to rebuild one just the same, it would cost over $100,000. There was no insurance on our animals that perished. There was no scenario in our minds where we imagined that we would ever lose so many animals at once, and to lose one or two hogs or goats due to something would not surpass our $500 deductible.
What now? This weather has been terrible, but I don’t have to tell any of you that. It’s been a horrible winter all over the world. What else can we do but clean up the destruction and move forward? There is no sense in dwelling on what has happened. Unfortunately, most of that insurance payment will have to go towards paying our current feed bills, some of which burned, some which we already consumed by the animals that had died, and purchasing more feeder pigs, as all of them were pre-sold for half and whole pork shares. We plan to rebuild someday, but until we can get our feet back under us, it’s hard to plan. (RJ, the eternal optimist, will heartedly disagree with that statement. He has been pouring over barn pictures and layouts since Wednesday.)
How can I help? Right now, we’re still waiting for the fire to completely burn out. (Yes, it’s still smoldering…) So there is not much to do. Once it warms up we will begin to start the cleanup process, and any extra hands are welcome. RJ and I have already discussed that when it comes time to rebuild we would like to have a large barn raising like they used to long ago. We can roast a hog to feed everyone and celebrate moving forward.
I do know a few things we are looking to purchase are about 25 feeder pigs to replace the ones we lost, and a couple boar goat kids. So if anyone has some for a good price, let us know! Our kids were especially devasted that their Boer goats that they were going to show for 4-H are gone, and our other goats will be kidding too late for them to be a showable age.
In the meantime, those of you who feel compelled or able can contribute to the GoFundMe account at https://www.gofundme.com/loving-farmer. All of the proceeds will go towards rebuilding. Though we personally feel uncomfortable asking for help, as we know God will provide for us, we are so thankful that Angela set up the account and the amount of support we have received in just 2 days. God works in so many ways. He can bring good from anything.