Winter just snuck in (like it always does) - Heartstone Farm

Winter just snuck in (like it always does)

By Farmer Dan

Winter has just snuck in here at the farm.

I say that, but I know it’s not true. (How can winter sneak in to Maine in November? That’s like saying daylight snuck in this morning!)

The past couple of weeks it has rained a ton (over 4 inches), followed by a windy, frigidspell. And my winter prep list - well, so much of it is not yet done. (That’s the same list that, when I made it, I committed to getting it all done by the end of October.)

It all seems so absurd really. I knew this was coming. Is it some sort of weird denial that causes me to just put off winter preparation? I know, from my neighbors, that I am not alone with this affliction.

Here’s an example that makes no sense to me: we have a watering station for the cows that’s designed for the winter. It’s fed by a water line from our well which is wrapped with electric heat tape. And the trough has a heating element to keep the water from freezing. The problem is that the trough is overflowing because the float valve needs to be adjusted. And the electricity needs to be connected to it. These things are not yet done, yet they could have been done so much easier when the temperature was, say, above 50. Last night it was 16.

I am not a great fan of winter in Maine. It is hard work and a burden in many ways - especially for farmers. Last December into early January we endured the most frigid spell of weather that I can ever recall - more than two weeks where the temperature did not rise above 10. It hurt to go outside. It hurts, still, to remember it.

Each year it seems I have to wrap my head around the ability of the cattle to endure the cold. A windblock and extra feed and they are good. Farmers with many more years experience than me know this truth intuitively. But each winter I go through a process of accepting it. I remind myself that the deer and the moose are out there in our woods weathering the cold nights. And so our animals’ genetic forebears have managed for thousands of years. They need extra feed to produce warmth and I am only too happy to oblige. I gladly give them the wrapped haylage which they seem to prefer over the dry hay.

We humans in the 21st century have grown so accustomed to our creature comforts. It wasn’t so long ago - just a few generations back - that the farmers who lived in this very house where I am writing this somehow survived winter without indoor plumbing, or heat that did not come from wood burning in a stove. Our threshold for enduring discomfort or inconvenience is absurdly low. (Witness the internet going down in any household these days!)

There is something about winter here on the farm that might be in some ways familiar to those earlier inhabitants of this house. It’s the welcome time time to read, think, and plan for next year (and, these days, to do some binge watching on Netflix).

I’ve begun - mostly in my head - to sketch out things for next year. Fields which we might plant with annual grasses for grazing during the dry hot days in August. Fencing we might add. And I want to spend time this winter working on our marketing and the website.

I might wish it would stay 70 degrees outside all year long, but then when could I watch all the new episodes of House of Cards?

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