Frigid farming

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cattle in snow

We don’t have serious earthquakes.

We don’t have hurricanes.

We don’t have alligators.

I repeat this to myself, as I reside in a region where the snow is drifting past my shins, and the air is so cold that it hurts my face. At this point, one does not walk so much as trudge. I’m considering adding a slide to our porch steps so I can just “swoosh” out to the driveway from the door.

As our nation dealt with “winter weather advisories,” a popular meme circulated that reminded us all that due to extreme cold and winter weather there will be NO farms closed. Farmers and farm workers will be out in the frigid temperatures and blowing wind tending to livestock and praying that all the equipment works.

All of the farmers I know are braving the weather to keep their animals comfortable and safe. My cousin spent a bitterly cold day helping her father unfreeze a well recently. She reported, cheerfully, that her dad went into the “spidery area” while she did other — equally cold and gross — things. She seemed fine with it. Farm people are just built differently.

I had to lead our goat back to her pasture after she wandered out of the gate, and I felt like I had trekked the frozen tundra. On the plus side, the goat’s parka (yes, an actual thing) made it easy to grab her and lead (drag) her back to her barn. Her barn, I should note, is heated. Her coat is a fancy brand. All she needs is Starbucks, and she’s officially trendy.

Plenty of announcements remind us, “If you’re cold, they’re cold. Bring your animals inside!” While this may be true of domestic pets and of course your goldfish and such, I know many horses, cows, goats, etc. that simply cannot be convinced that being house pets is the life they seek. Or, at the very least, they cannot be convinced to behave. Can you housebreak cattle? They were, after all, raised in a barn.

I know that country and farm folk enjoy tales of how far removed and, frankly, clueless some folks are. Disney has convinced too many that all animals spend their days singing, dancing and making good choices. If Cinderella, Snow White and Sorcerer’s Apprentice are to be believed, they are also probably doing some light housekeeping. For the record, none of those things are true.

I’ve been sent anecdotes such as “A woman walked up to my house after parking by the road and knocked on the door. “Your chickens are on the ground. I hope you know that it’s winter and they don’t go on the ground, you know. Are you going to go get them and put them inside?”

The answer that they do not care about ground temperatures and that they have the option to go inside did not suit the complainant one bit. She was assured that those chickens had OPTIONS. They were choosing outside at that moment. Still, she contacted the agricultural inspector who came out and, of course, found nothing wrong.

Our very nice Mennonite neighbors run an amazing farm market offering homegrown goodness. Their sweet corn is a marvel, and their honey is the only one we will eat. It doesn’t get much more locally grown than across the field from us. They have been asked by tourists if the produce was organic or GMO. One woman made loud comments about toxins while perusing the goods. This was ironic since she was smoking a cigarette at the time. Obviously, the zucchini was the real risk.

Free range chickens produce yolks that are rich and orange. I have personally met people who are adamant that they will NOT eat farm fresh eggs. Eggs “come from the grocery store and should be white.” Yes, friends, there really are folks who think brown eggs are “dirty.” Bless their hearts.

Another neighbor has the cutest donkey who likes to randomly scream across our collective acres. It sounds a bit like I imagine a murder in progress. I can only imagine what a newcomer to the area might think. Trust me, that donkey is FINE. We should all live his life. He just has something to get off his chest I suppose. He’s a hoot.

I work in an agricultural-forward career. Once, when explaining about the many benefits of agriculture, a listener responded, “Farming? I just don’t believe in it.”

Fortunately, plenty of people still do. We know that at this point in the winter, it sometimes takes as long to get dressed/undressed as it takes to do the activity you are going outside to do.

Come rain, shine or frigid temperatures, farmers do it because they have to, especially if they have livestock. Farming isn’t a job, it’s a life.

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