Every year at this time of the year, photos start popping up on my Facebook newsfeed, photos of people with short-sleeved shirts and shorts on, displaying sun-kissed cheeks and broad smiles.
Perhaps the photo even shows a palm tree caught in the background, mid-blur, indicating a warm tropical breeze that was blowing when the photo was taken. “80 degrees and sunny” the caption reads beneath such a picturesque capture of vacation life.
As I think about these reflections of time away, I pull my hands deeper into the sleeves of a worn hoodie sweatshirt and imagine what that must be like. If one could not be at the mercy of Indiana winters where one day, the temperature feels like a tropical paradise, and others, it’s as if Mother Nature decided she needed to blow across the top of a container of liquid Nitrogen, freezing everything in its path.
Please don’t get me wrong, I have no animosity toward any of these folks who seek a warmer climate to escape the menopausal mood of our winter environment, but just one winter season, I’d love to hop on a jet plane and stay a week or so with my toes in the warm sand, the waves crashing against the shore and little crustaceans nearby amongst crushed seashells, searching for little tidbits of food.
All the while, people back home would huddle against 15 mph winds directly from the north. Ah, the dream of this farmer in winter.
So what do some of us farming folk do when we know the idea of leaving our chores and duties for any length of time in the winter months is most likely a distanced dream? We create our own fun.
Do any of you remember sledding down that neighbor’s hill when you were younger? Building snow forts and having snowball fights? What about those snow days in school when you were supposed to be staying inside, but friends in your neighborhood came knocking so you could go out and “skate” down an empty ice-covered street with just your sneakers? Yes, we farmers can do those things, too, if our imaginations allow it.
The past few winters we’ve had snow, I’ve donned my coveralls (dirt and mucked covered because who’s going to know or care) and taken a small plastic sled down the back hills of the farm. It’s still as much fun as it was in younger years, only now, it takes a lot more effort to climb back up the hill to do it again.
You also have to be crazily aware of dangers lurking, such as trees, rocks, etc. Time is not kind in that now if one were to run into those things even lightly, you may not bounce back as quickly.
I’ve involved the animals in my winter fun, namely my Newfoundland/shepherd mix, Ozzie, who loves the snow and enjoys following me down the hill on a sled, quickly rushing to my face to see if I’m OK when the apparatus stops.
The chickens have fun in the snow too, scratching at the white stuff for a short time to find corn that I’ve scattered about for them. Their fun doesn’t last nearly as long, though. Chicken toes get cold quickly, and soon, they retreat to their coop.
The news reports are predicting there to be snow in the next few days, and I’m pushing the longing thoughts of tropical breezes aside as I wait to see if there will be enough snow for this nearly 50-year-old to go flying down the back hill as if I were 40 years younger. After all, if I can’t take a vacation, I’ll create my own.
Until next time…
Stephanie Strothmann owns Purple Shamrock Farm LLC in rural Seymour. Read her blog at whattheclucker.blogspot.com. Send comments to [email protected]