Do you remember as a child, eagerly waiting for a good snow fall so you could build a snowman, go sledding, or just have a fun snowball fight? Every kid eagerly watched the morning news, just hoping they got enough snow that school would be closed for the day. I remember looking forward to lots of hot cocoa, and a warm bowl of tomato soup.
As an adult, I somehow lost that appreciation for snow. It doesn’t have the same appeal to me it did as a kid. My body doesn’t tolerate the cold well at all. But my children still love it. They get so excited to see those first flakes falling. They ask every few minutes if they can go out and play in it yet. They want to have a snow day of playing in the snow instead of completing their school work for the day.
If I’m being completely honest, it used to really make me cringe. Getting the kids ready to go out in the cold was not much fun. We would have to search for hats and gloves, because they never seem to get put back where they belong. Inevitably, someone ends up having to wear mismatched gloves. (Thankfully, the boys weren’t too cool to wear girly gloves when needed!)
When their fun was over, they would come in tracking the melting snow everywhere, leaving a trail of wet gloves, boots and snow gear behind them. Their cheeks and hands would be so red from the cold. They would rush over by the fire to warm up as quickly as they could, and anxiously wait for mom to get their hot cocoa ready. I really do love how simple it is to make them happy with a hot cup of hot cocoa. They would be so excited to relive all of their adventures for the short time they were outdoors with mom watching from the window.
When you own livestock, winter brings more challenges. Keeping livestock hydrated is essential to keeping them healthy, especially in poor weather. Frozen hoses and spigots mean hauling water from the house each day. We have invested in several tank heaters to try to keep the water tanks thawed, but there are plenty of water bowls and buckets that freeze in a short period of time. Rabbits are especially difficult. Twice a day, their bowls of water (or should I say ice?) get dumped and refreshed.
Chores take so much longer during the worst possible conditions. The animals tend to stay in their shelters more, which means lots of extra straw and checking each day that they are relatively clean and dry. We have to make sure they get extra hay and nutrients so they can keep up their body temperatures.
I can’t help but roll my eyes every time I see the posts on social media or the news, “If you’re cold, they’re cold. Keep your animals indoors!” I am NOT bringing goats and cows into the living room for the winter. They are actually designed by the Creator to handle the weather. I wish I was as adaptable as they are! That goes for our livestock guard dogs as well. Some breeds not only handle cold weather well, they actually prefer it!! Our outdoor dogs are at greater risk in the summer heat than they are the winter cold. They love it! We provide them with good shelter, lots of straw bedding, and fresh food and water. The one dog kicks all of the straw out of his shelter every year. He burrows into the snow and is happy as can be. I know it is hard for some people to understand, but farmers love their animals and usually know how to best care for them.
Farmers don’t get snow days off. Our animals are 4-H animals. So our children are out there caring for them every single day. This week, our temperatures are supposed to reach record-breaking lows for our area, with windchills nearing -50°! Frost bite can occur within 10 minutes of exposure to the cold. Guess what? The animals will still need fresh water. They still need food. They especially need checked for fresh bedding, secure shelter and any signs of illness. Maybe some of those people who are so concerned about animals being outside in this weather should volunteer to help their local farmers to care for them, instead of just blasting farmers on social media with ignorant cliches.
As challenging as winter can be on the homestead, it does have its beauty as well. Everything covered in pure white. Crisp fresh air. Being forced indoors a little more than usual, we also can take advantage of some extra school time – reading, or educational videos that we might skip over otherwise. And the joy of children playing in the beautiful wonderland God paints for them.
Excuse me, I think I have some hot cocoa to make.