I’ve never given much thought to winter farming until this year. In the past few years that I have visited the farm at Christmas, I guess I’ve been so involved with family gatherings, that I failed to notice the activities and daily outdoor comings and goings of my brother-the-farmer, my brother-the-farrier, and my sister-the-chicken-wrangler/cattle baron.
This year, I arrived in snow, and the temperatures were sub-zero. I wasn’t particularly effected, because my efforts regarding outdoors were just running from a heated house to a pre-heated car. That’s me. The year ‘rounders have a whole different thing going on.
The brothers who work outside were rugged up in gear I have not really looked at before…ski-pant-type coveralls, hoods with masks that are called balaclavas, moon-man type gloves that are semi-rubberized, and super-duper fuzz-lined, waterproof boots. Carhart is a big name in outdoor wear, here. Even my sister wears those coveralls to take care of her chickens.
I noticed the men were engaged in stapling plastic to the outside of the barn windows to keep the cold out and the horses alive. They plow the snow off of driveways and around the horse track. The farmer brother drives a skid-loader with a round bail of hay over to my sister’s from the folks’ to feed their cattle. He comes over in the mornings to water the cattle and to give them grain. My sister closes up her chickens each night and lets them out each morning. She rugs up, too, and carries water and grain out to the chooks. To keep them warm in the wickedly cold days and nights, she rigged up a lightbulb in their coop and set up a heated water bowl. Everyone goes out to start the cars and let them run before departure. For the ones that go to work, that can happen at 5:30 AM.
One of the hazards of winter farming here, is that the fuel can freeze. That’s what happened last week. When there is a sister available, one of us can go pick up our brother or follow him in case of a breakdown. I don’t know what would happen otherwise, and I shutter to think of it.
There is no plowing or planting or harvesting involved in winter farming, but there is maintenance. Keeping everyone and everything alive is the goal. Getting in and out of the driveways to go to work or in case of emergencies is the goal.
I feel embarrassed that I haven’t been more appreciative of the effort winter living takes. In the future, and even when I return to North Carolina, I intend to take a few moments to dwell on that thought.