All I can say is, what a wonderfully delightful summer we’ve enjoyed in the Potomac Highlands of West Virginia! As autumn enters the stage, I can look back at the past spring and fall and appreciate all the pleasant weather we enjoyed this year. While our highest temperature reading for the year topped out at 95 degrees, and we had at least two-and-a-half cumulative weeks of typical hot and humid weather spread out through July and August, the vast majority of the other days were sunny and dry with crystal clear skies. We had very little of the milky haze that accompanies the most torrid summer weather and washes out our view of the mountains. Although we are experiencing very dry conditions in late August and September with little rainfall, the respite from all the excessive rain over the prior year-and-a-half can be appreciated. Hopefully, the dry conditions will end before the leaves on the trees dry up so that we will enjoy a brilliant fall foliage season. The initial glimpses of fall color we see at the highest elevations of our region certainly give us hope.
I awoke this morning to a brilliant and colorful sunrise with gentle shades of red, yellow, and aquamarine framed by bold strokes of con trails from early morning flights leaving Dulles Airport. Later in the morning, I drove across mighty Shenandoah Mountain to Harrisonburg, VA (our local “big city”) to do some essential monthly shopping. Some items we need are hard to find in our rural region and others are more affordable where there is greater retail competition. As I ascended the Pendleton County flanks of the mountain, I was treated to a broad brushstroke of brilliant yellow foliage on the trees above a tall rock cliff from which the highway was once blasted out. The brilliance of the leaves was a welcome preview of the fall splendor we anticipate each autumn. Soon our mountain ridges will be dappled with a montage of bright red, yellow, orange, crimson, and bronze colors that only nature’s artist palette could create. The intense beauty of the fall season is nature’s encore performance for the bountiful spring and summer season we have enjoyed. I certainly hope it will as joyful to behold.
Summer gave us a very good return from our Grant County Farmers Market appearances in Petersburg. We were able to make a record number of appearances this year and our net proceeds were strong. We also appreciate the return of dairy goats to our farm after a two-year absence. We were proud to see our son purchase his first home in Berkeley Springs, and we are making good progress on our proposed raw milk sales bill. However, we have experienced a significant setback on Friday, September 20, when Barb was admitted to Winchester Medical Center for emergency surgery for a hernia operation. She experienced a setback to her recovery two days later, when she received follow-up surgery to remove a subsequent hematoma. She is now in recovery, and we hope that she will be released at the end of the week.
Our next concern will be the financial impact from the surgery. Medical and health care costs are a heavy burden for rural farmers to bear. Statistics reveal that at least 200,000 Americans are forced into bankruptcy each year due to mounting medical expenses from which they can never recover. When I see statistics like that, I am forced to believe that our health care industry may be one of the leading contributors to the persistent epidemic of poverty in our country. It is certainly one of the most pervasive impediments to economic self-reliance for most rural citizens. Like many of those unfortunate people, we here at Peeper Pond Farm live on the margins of fiscal solvency, which leaves us with few resources to afford the huge medical expenses we will incur.
This is the point at which I feel the Hippocratic Oath that governs professional doctors and nurses becomes the “Hypocritical Oath.” It is relatively easy to make decisions about how to save a person’s life when your interpretation of Hippocrates’ “Do No Harm” rule is limited to the immediate task of curing a patient’s illness. However, if the doctor’s work is successful, the patient must still be able to survive after the surgery. That is as much an economic necessity as it is a medical one. Would it be so easy for a doctor to decide how to “Do No Harm” if he/she had to consider the ongoing financial implications for the patient after surgery? It is much easier to just place blinders on “Do No Harm” and look the other way. Unfortunately, it is an unavoidable consequence for all lower income people like us who live on the political and economic margins of society. It is a concern that our political leaders have failed to effectively resolve and health care professionals casually and, in some instances that I have already encountered, callously dismiss when you appear before them for medical services.
Welcome again to Adversity University—which I ironically discussed in my prior September 6, 2019 website post. We now face a graduate degree in Adversity that we may not ultimately be able to afford. Be careful, lest you become the next financial victim of our unaffordably overpriced, dysfunctional, and increasingly bureaucratic health care industry. There may be more room for you in our growing select club of impoverished Americans than you may think.