If you are reading this as you sit in Wisconsin you completely understand how cold it is, has been, and will be for the foreseeable future. The good news, yes it’s cold but we are looking forward to about 5-8 inches of snow on Monday and Tuesday of next week. So we have that going for us……..which is nice.
I remember some of these days from back when I was a kid and we were milking cows. Cold weather and snow adds a whole different dynamic to dairy farming and makes a difficult job almost impossible. In Wisconsin, invariably, both items accompany each other. Usually, we get the 5-12 inch snowfall and then the arctic air follows it, (this isn’t Denver where it snows 5 inches and the sun comes out and melts it, you weaklings.) This is more of an Old Man Winter-Bataan Death March in which he throws everything at you in quick succession. The negative degree temperatures are simply hard on everything involved, tractors, manure spreaders, water pipes, cattle and people. Everything just simply isn’t designed to function in negative degree temps. A cold weather/heavy snowfall day for a farm kid in the 1970’s went something like this.
First, the night before you always got a little excited because the prospect of a large snowfall is exciting for everyone. However, as a farm kid, you quickly remember, if school is called off then you have to do more farm work. A school snow day was not a welcome event, it simply was another day for your father to find that dirty job he needs done. And guess what, special bonus, he still hasn’t forgotten that time you stayed out with the wrestling guys too late and came home after midnight. Typically it meant the unscheduled jobs such as bleaching the milking parlor, tearing apart the milkers, pitching out the calf pens you couldn’t get to last Saturday, scraping off the stall area where the cows lay down……………. I think you get it. Just think of the dirtiest, or the wettest, jobs imaginable. Side note: during these winter events I looked forward to wrestling practice because it usually got me out of the dirty work. (Yes, we still had wrestling practice back in the day, even if there was no school.)
One positive with these weather events as a kid of the ’70’s, we got to move snow! While this may not seem to be a big deal for you, it was one of the most enjoyable tasks during the winter, especially if you had a tractor with a cab. For several hours, or as long as you could continue to make it appear you were actually doing “work”, you would use the tractor and blade to move snow off the driveways and parking areas. It was fun, the cab had good heat and a radio, and actually shoving snow around is a little cathartic to the soul if you want to feel like you actually control something.
The worst issue with the cold weather that followed the snowfall, like death, taxes, and the Minnesota Vikings always falling short in the Super Bowl or NFC Championship game, something would break. I believe when I meet St Peter, and God is making his judgment on my soul, I am going to ask them if there is a rule of the universe that states, Paragraph 3, Sub-Paragraph 13.2. “When cold weather strikes at any negative temperature Fahrenheit, vital farm equipment or a major machinery item must break thereby crippling the whole operation.” I think there is also a subrule that states: “It is also a rule, and extra points are awarded (if God keeps some kind of point system for testing us in life?), that such breakage must occur on Sunday morning or the morning of a family gathering, thereby delaying the family from making it to the appointed event on time.” I swear there is a rule of the universe that states this is fact.
It was simply fact that on the coldest morning of the year, usually on Sunday morning, or just before a family gathering, the barn cleaner would break, the tractor wouldn’t start, the manure spreader web would break, the water pipe would freeze, I think you get it. Something major would always happen and you would then waste a couple hours recovering from this issue, further stressing the poor farmer who just wants to get the chores done and get to church. And I can tell you as a survivor of many of these situations, by the time we got to church, or the family gathering, we weren’t very Christian-like by that point.
So, while we are hiding in our warm homes the next couple of days, snuggling up next to the wood stove or under 3 layers of blankets, (you know, those blankets your mother-in-law has been giving you for the last 4 years that you swore you would never need?) remember those who are out in this harsh environment. Think of those working every day, no matter the weather, milking their animals, feeding those animals, and keeping the feed trough full for their cattle as well, as keeping our food trough full. Thank a farmer this week for what they do, it hasn’t been an easy week this past week and it won’t be any easier this coming week.
I thank our partner producers for all they do and endure. I am weak and thin-blooded anymore, so there isn’t much physical “help” you want me to provide, but I am thinking of your day and the extra it takes to just get the basics accomplished. I will also focus on purchasing the products from our producer partners in the hopes this adds to the value and demand for the products produced. I encourage others to join with me and be mindful to find products from our producer partners this winter. Let’s be safe out there and we look forward to milder temperatures and farm tours in late spring!