Updated: May 6, 2021
Winters on the farm are a special time filled with unique challenges. A time of fun and endurance. The children's biggest anxiety was watching the morning news to see if school would be closed. While the adults were concerned about having enough hay for the cows, enough coal & wood for the stove, enough food for our bellies, and trying to keep the water pipes from freezing through the winter months.
Nowadays we occasionally we get a warm winter but typically winters here are still very cold. Even so, it never seems to feel as cold as they used to be. Maybe that's because there was a hole in the floor underneath my bed, I could see the snow outside. I also used to spend a lot more time outdoors in the winter than I do now. I'm not sure you really know cold unless you have survived a blizzard with no electricity. Have you ever had to pull a calf at midnight in -10 degree temperatures? The kind of cold where there was absolutely no traffic on the roads and you have to travel to the nearest Kroger on a tractor to fetch coffee, dog food, bread, and cigarettes. That's the kind of winters we have here on the farm.
Watch your step
"Hey, Hey! Where'd you go?"
We would wear several layers to go play outdoors. Always essential was tighty whities (long johns), a couple of pairs of socks, pants or overalls, t-shirt, either a flannel shirt or sweatshirt, toboggan, gloves, and boots. When it all became soaking wet from playing in the snow, we would pile in the living room and set our boots near the wood stove and hang our clothes up to dry over the register. Then we would put it all back on and go at it again.
I recall one year it came a blizzard. I've never seen such a deep, heavy snow. School was closed for about eight weeks. It literally changed the landscape with huge snow drifts. My cousin and I went walking across the field and there was so much snow that the deep banks disappeared and so did she. I heard her yell and turned to look and all I saw was a toboggan poking through the snow. The snow was over her head (she was about 4' tall), she managed to raise her arm and I grabbed her hand to pull her out only to be re-paid by being jerked in with her. We liked to never dug our way out of that one.
Fun & Faithfulness
Our days were full of sleigh riding. We had a couple of runner sleds and a HUGE innertube large enough to fit about 6-8 of us kids. All day long we would haul it up to the top of the hill and ride all the way down. The runner sleds were great for going down the long driveway which was covered with ice. So long as you have a 'spotter' to watch for cars. The snowball fights... Someone, usually my brother, was always waiting to clock you in the head with a perfect throw. Putting snowballs down each other's shirts was another form of entertainment we seemed to enjoy quite a bit.
It wasn't all fun and games though. Looking back on it, I have to say my brother probably worked the hardest through the winter months. He had the worst chores. While I was delegated to warm and easy inside chores, he had to chop wood and shovel coal. During one winter the wind was blowing so hard we had to tie a rope from the porch to the wood shed so he could hold onto it bring in the wood. The cows need feeding throughout the winter too. I miss seeing Dad walk in from feeding the cows with icicles hanging from his beard.
Sometimes the power would go out. Which meant we would close off doorways with blankets and light candles and oil lanterns. It didn't effect dinner time though, we would put the food on the wood stove and cook it. Those were fun nights, sitting around and having fellowship with each other without the TV, phones, or a radio to distract us. Sometimes we would play cards or work a jigsaw puzzle together or pass the time telling stories.
The cupboards runneth over
"You reap what you sow"
Thankfully food wasn't something we needed to worry about. Gran did a whole lot of canning throughout the year from our garden and we had a potato bin full of taters. Our freezer would be well stocked with beef, pork, chicken, and turkey. Dad would also go hunting and fishing for a few weeks and bring back several buckets of fish and some venison. We had taken our own wheat and corn to the mill to be ground into flour and meal. We made our own soap and candles, milked our own cows. There were very few things we had to buy from the grocery store. Things like coffee, tea, sugar, various spices, cereal, pet food, and baking soda & powder for the most part.
These days my biggest worry in the winter is making sure we have enough oil to last the winter. Other than that, just sealing up the doors and windows. Farm houses are big and drafty. The older, the draftier. My brother works hard at keeping the machinery in running order. Oh and the mice... I don't remember that ever being an issue here when I was young. Of course we had several farm cats, and dogs, to keep pests under control. Farm cats are an essential occupant on the farm, always. Mine however, is not at all concerned about mice as I am though. He's more concerned with grooming, eating, and sleeping. So it's up to me. When I first moved back mice were trying to get out of hand. They always make an appearance at the start of cold weather, that's the best time to attack them and don't hold back. Anyway, now that I am here full-time, I don't see many. Maybe a handful at the start of fall-time and only on the closed in back porch.
Morning has broken and the cows are lingering at the top of the hill. As I have my coffee while gazing outside, I am reminded of how blessed I am. It is a beautiful morning, time to get started.
Take care and thanks for reading.