Column: Farming in a foot of snow


If you tell me it’s going to snow again this season, I may just pack up everything and move to a warmer climate.

My car is roughly the size of an oversized egg, but I’m sure I could figure out some way to pack around 70 chickens, eight ducks, four dogs and two cats in the rear. It definitely would make for an interesting road trip.

Snow is beautiful, don’t get me wrong. It turns brown, drab, winter landscape into a sparkling, pristine wonderland, and I’ve enjoyed watching big, fluffy flakes fall during the years that I’ve been on the farm.

In seasons past, I’ve marveled at the way the snow transforms everything into a picture worthy of a postcard. The snow from years past would hang around for a day or so and then was gone. This year, however, something changed.

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Maybe it was the effects of going through the rigors of a pandemic the past year, having more animals than years before or maybe I’m just getting old, but I was not prepared to handle around 12 inches of snow that fell a week or so ago.

At first, I was excited to see how much snow was actually going to fall. I watched the tall grasses in the back field slowly disappear and be replaced by a smooth, glistening, layer of white.

My working tans, what I call my insulated coveralls, hung ready at the back door for evening chores that first evening, and I trudged lightly through the falling snow to collect eggs, fill waterers and feeders and make sure all creatures were snug and cared for. I could handle this snow as snows before. It was going to be fine.

The second evening following the snowfall wasn’t so pastoral. Donned in three layers of clothing, I walked out my back door and realized the snow was about mid-shin. I did a sort of shuffle/scoot to get to the chain-link gate that leads to the open field and down to the barn and noticed the gate couldn’t move easily because of the massive amount of snow.

I might just have a bit of my father’s temper that if something doesn’t move, I tend to put my full weight into it to get it to move. No amount of pushing, pulling, tugging could get the gate to budge, so I tromped back into the house, saying some interesting colorful language and grabbing the small snow shovel from just inside the garage.

After some hefty shoveling, I managed to get the gate open just enough to ease through and then headed to the barn. I made it to the barn doors and figured a good tug would pull the doors open and I could get inside to make sure that chickens were fed and watered.

Nope. The barn doors were completely frozen shut. This resulted in more colorful language, a lot of banging, kicking and another trip back up to the house to get a garden shovel and digging at the track on the ground to finall get one door to move just enough that I was able to squeeze into the barn to get to the birds.

Again, in the past, if the doors had happened to freeze, they would remain that way for a day or so and then all would be well again. Not this time. It took three more days of dread for fear of needing to enter the barn. Some folks are fearful of chickens. I was scared of frozen barn doors.

My parents stopped by during the weekend following the big snowfall and asked how things were going. At this point, the snow had pretty well retreated, and I knew they probably thought I was crazy when I said I had seriously considered quitting the farm over the past week. It’s incredible how much influence the weather can have over a person’s mood and willingness to do things.

Thankfully, we’ve gotten a bit of respite over the past week or so with some spring weather, and I find myself a much more peaceful, kind, non-colorful language using individual. I think the birds are happier about it, too, and when my folks stop by again, I won’t be so dramatic over how I felt about farming in a foot of snow.

It really brings to light the old story that grandparents love to tell about walking to school in a foot of snow uphill. I’ve actually lived it.

Until next time…

Stephanie Strothmann owns Purple Shamrock Farm LLC in rural Seymour. Read her blog at Send comments to [email protected].

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