January 8, 2022. We got our first blast of Winter 2022 on the farm this week – wind, snow, and sustained cold. Thankfully, the worst was short-lived. By “sustained” I mean consistently below 40 degrees. By “short-lived” I mean two days of it. New Englanders, be patient with me. It’s all relative.
I’m not a big fan of winter, and in recent years have turned to truly grousing about snow. It’s cold, wet, and inconvenient. Yes, I know I’m bucking the crowd on this one. I grew up in the Midwest where winters were winters and more vigorous than they are in Southeastern Virginia where I now live. So I shouldn’t complain. But I do. My kid delights as I beat my brother to making the first foot prints in the fresh powder, to the thrill of sledding down our backyard hill, to the breathless wonder of white dusted pine trees along the lane – these things ended with motherhood. Snow became endless wet socks, school closings, and scraping windshields with a credit card when snow scrapers went missing.
Now, as a farmer, wintery weather brings a new level of challenges, mostly centered around two important things: navigating my body clad in bulky layers of outerwear while trying to lead horses to and from the barn and trying to keep ahead of freezing water and malfunctioning water bucket heaters. Winter can be hard work, I’ve discovered, not just an inconvenience. So, I don’t relish it right about now because the first blast always makes me question why I don’t live in Florida. I know I’ll be ready for the second blast, and it’s coming. I’ll be ready with more grace and less grouse because the first blast reminds me of how, as a farmer, I need to embrace it. It helps to look back at pictures of last year’s white-blanketed fields and videos of our frisky dogs and horses in delightful snow play. I am just about ready to admit to the beauty of snow, and the joy and warmth I love about the fire and a cup of coffee after all of the chores are done and the icy coat hangs to melt and dry. I think this year I’ll throw off adult concerns about the inconveniences and do a little more wondering.
My observation of those who make winter a practice rather than a passage is that they linger in the wonder of the season. They make sport of inclemency and shorter days and carry forward their childhood delight in the unpredictability of nature. I’m reminded of our first winter on the farm, perhaps one of the coldest in Southeast Virginia history. We only had fenced fields, a tool shed, and a barn. No house. No water. No electricity. We lived in a small cottage at one end of the farm while we build our farm house. We made it through on love and adventure, hauling water tanks each day to the horses, sometimes compensating for frozen outdoor hoses by filling the tanks from the cottage kitchen sink. It was hard work for many winter weeks that year. But I remember thinking at the time that I was miraculously never cold. I never thought twice that I had made the wrong decision to leave the comforts of our in-town lifestyle, or that I had made a poor choice of soul-mates with whom to share our new adventure. When I go out each winter day to battle the elements – and in no way are these elements comparable to my New England counterparts – I have learned to embrace the season. The first blast is a reminder!
Despite my grumblings about snow and cold, I do have to admit its challenges have made me a better person in the spring.