Finding gratitude in a winter storm


As predicted, we were hit with another winter storm this weekend. Rain fell through the night and then turned to sleet after the sun rose. My husband had carried three chilled-down calves in before I’d even made breakfast.

“It’s just ice falling from the sky and the wind is blowing it sideways. The worst possible thing for these guys,” he said when he laid the second one down on the entryway floor.

I quickly ran out of dry sheets and towels. And floor space. The third calf ended up in the cab of the pickup, the heater blowing full blast. As the ice turned to snow, and the wind picked up, I started scrambling, loading up the washing machine, filling jugs with water in case we lost power. Outside, the whole world was as white as a sheet; we couldn’t even see the barn across the yard.

After a hastily prepared lunch, my husband finally came in, his coat soaked through, and said, “We’ve done what we can. Now we just have to wait.”

Staying calm

My husband could teach a master’s class on how to remain calm when worrying won’t change the outcome of a situation. I could teach a class on the opposite, but I tried to act normal so the kids wouldn’t start to worry too.

I took them down to the basement to check on the chicks we’d brought home the day before. We watched a movie. I added onions and carrots to the roast in the crockpot. The puppies asked to go outside, then asked to come back in, their coats completely covered in snow. I did another load of laundry. Then another.

Finally, darkness came and I lay down with the kids. I read them a bedtime story but could barely hear the sound of my own voice over the shrieking wind. We turned out the lights and I stayed with them until they fell asleep.

Bottle feeding

When I went back downstairs to make the last bottle of the night for my little bottle baby, a twin whose mother rejected her at birth, I couldn’t even tell if I was tired. I felt the kind of weary I knew sleep wouldn’t solve, but in the barn, my little calf danced with joy at the sight of me. She’s so tiny — half the size of a regular calf — and since she’d spent most of her short life in the barn instead of outside with the rest of the herd, her white face was so clean it gleamed in the shadowy barn.

She latched onto the rubber nipple right away and slowly blinked her long lashes with pleasure as her belly filled with warmth.

After I fed her, I fed another calf who was spending the night in the barn too. Once the storm broke he would go back out to his mom, but after a rough start he needed some extra care until then. He didn’t really want a bottle, though, and by the time I was done wrestling some food into him I was soaked in sweat beneath my winter coat and coveralls.


That’s when I realized: Whoa, it is spring! This really won’t last much longer. And now we have moisture. We won’t have to sell all our cows. We will have green grass. I let myself exhale for the first time in … weeks? In a year?

The calm stayed with me as I trudged across the yard, empty bottle tucked under my arm, the wind blowing the limbs of the trees around wildly. I looked up to see the light from our windows, a cozy circle against the darkness. How we still had power was a mystery, but I have never been so thankful for the warmth of the hearth, for the comfort of those rooms.

I often write about actively cultivating gratitude in this column because, first and foremost, I need the reminder. Sometimes, though, gratitude rises up to meet me when I least expect it. Like in the middle of a storm, in the middle of the night, when I realize at long last everything really is going to be okay.


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Eliza Blue is a shepherd, folk musician and writer residing in western South Dakota. In addition to writing her weekly column, Little Pasture on the Prairie, she writes and produces audio postcards from her ranch and just released her first book, Accidental Rancher. She also has a weekly show, Live from the Home Farm, that broadcasts on social media every Saturday night from her ranch.



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