Spring can’t come soon enough


“In February a farm is like a child’s hand, opened and held palm up to show that nothing is concealed in it. Without leaves to veil the farm buildings and fields, the naked facts of a farmer’s work habits and holdings are revealed even to the casual traveler passing along the road. Did the farmer get the disk put away after he finished the wheat field last fall, or is it still out in the field rusting away its spring trade-in value?”

Rachel Peden, Rural Free

This winter has been a long one, it seems to me. I have to keep focusing on the beauty of it all so I don’t get too stir-crazy.

As I look out my window, I see the brittle grasses poking up through the snow. Icy coverings on both large and tiny tree limbs glisten in the morning sunshine, providing a beautiful scene to behold.

Though the sun shining down is bright and beautiful, it remains anemic, and the winter wind blows a crazy cold in to my bones as I walk down to the barn. The snow provides an easel on which various paw prints remain from the night before.

I notice rabbit tracks, squirrel tracks under the big trees, and lots of cat tracks leading out and back in the barn door from the farm cats out on hunting ventures. The barn is surprisingly warm.


The two big Haflinger mares, housed together in a nice, large pen in the underbelly of our old barn, greet anyone who enters, nickering for attention. I have named the pair Jericho and Jezzibelle, and everyone who visits admires their calm presence. They twirl around to see what I might have to offer them as I pull a peppermint treat from my coat pocket for each of them.

Jericho allows me to fuss over her a bit as I pull off my gloves to feel the velvet of that equine nose.


I walk past the horse pen to check on my fainting goats, Dolly and Clover. Clover has begun to nicker to me a bit more each day, and Dolly tips her head as if to ask just what it is I want from her.

I offer each a bite of a graham cracker, but they both turn up their nose and walk away.


And then there is Channing. I hesitate to tell this story, but it is a story worth telling, I guess. I shared the trials and tribulations we had over our English Shepherd dog who loved to visit neighbors while we were away.

As a result of her wandering, we decided to tie her up or pen her up in the barn until we can secure a bigger section of the farm with invisible fence.

Preferring to be outdoors, she had been tied up for several months when we realized a neighbor’s dog was coming to visit. My hubby followed the dog home and asked the owners to please keep their dog confined.

It was a male dog, an all-black mixed breed. Since it continued to show up from time to time, several return visits were made, repeatedly asking the owners to please keep their dog at home.

One day in November, my hubby let me know that it appeared Channing was gaining weight. I pointed out it was unfortunate that she couldn’t exercise like she used to, since she had to be tied up all the time.

In December, the weight gain reached unbelievable proportions. Yep, you guessed it. The unscrupulous neighbor dog had been back, and he had been up to no good. I was way beyond upset.


So, Channing is bedded down with lots of straw in the depths of the barn with six rowdy, rolly-polly pups of questionable heritage. The family tree is not going to be anything to write home about.

I never thought this would happen on my watch. I feel sickened with shame. Channing, her reputation forever sullied, now stands atop a bale of straw, looking at me with pleading brown eyes, attempting to get away from the little heathens. We have stood the cost of extra feed, vet bills, puppy shots.

The neighbor dog has not paid a penny of support, and apparently has moved on to someone new as he no longer comes around. What a cad.

As I worry over this population explosion, I fight off a head cold along with the blues brought on by a lingering winter. I remember that my great-grandpa Charlie used to say that in February, it thaws a little every day.

As I turn the calendar, I remind myself that we are one day closer to spring. It can’t come soon enough to suit me.


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.


  1. Dear Judith-
    I have been reading the Farm and Dairy for over 10 years. I always turn to your column first. It has been a long journey for you, but you have stayed strong and gotten through. It is an inspiration to read about your daily life and your family.
    I was touched by the story about Channing and her pups. I have always wanted an English Shepherd. They are a breed that just touches my heart. I have in my family now dachshunds and 1 old beagle who thinks she is a doxie.
    I would love to have one of Channing’s pups. I am sure you have folks lined up for a puppy. Please consider me for one of them. It would be such an honor to have one.
    Thanks so much for your excellant stories and writing. I will continue to read it as often as I can.

    Thank You
    Vicki Weinrich
    MoonDream Meadows
    Raising Mini Rex & American Sable rabbits
    Coming soon- Buckeye Chickens


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