Small Farm ‘Winter Sports’

My husband calls them “winter sports.” But if the images of gliding down a picturesque slope on skis or cross-country skiing with every twig and tree branch covered in snow; or beautiful, graceful iceskaters doing long glides and jumps or even the brutal clash of ice hockey sticks comes to mind, you would be thinking of “normal wintersports” not Ashtabula County style, small farm “winter sports.”

You see, it’s a whole different ballgame in the winter on a farm. What usually takes you 30 minutes or so turns into hours and I’m not talking about just getting dressed to do chores in sub-zero temperatures. In the winter, nearly everything from feeding to watering to thawing things out seems to take all day.

The first sport for me is usually shoveling-I don’t think this is an Olympic sport but it should be since the effort it requires leaves me exhausted. It’s necessary to keep from falling down the back porch steps while carrying water and food to our resident livestock menagerie.

Next comes the ice skating. Trying to keep from slipping and sliding across the icy driveway on the way to the barn while carrying tomatoes for the emu, scraps for the cats and chickens, hot water to thaw out the horses’ water tank, and carrots for the rabbit is a daily juggling act for me. Thankfully most days are successful.  If I do fall, the 10 extra minutes it took to get dressed in all those layers sometimes pays off. It only takes about three more trips to the house, cleaning the snow off of the greenhouse and trudging through the knee-deep snow in the north yard to feed the birds before I’m finished.

Now the Longhorns have to be fed.  Our tractor has to be plugged into an outlet during cold winter nights to help warm up the engine.  It simply will not start if someone forgets to do this. We’re constantly asking each other, “Did you remember to plug in the tractor?” The Longhorns have to have at least one large round bale, sometimes two per day as well as about five square bales.

All of this takes time and especially when the snow and mud are deep.  Since we burn firewood for heat, a trip to the woods is almost a daily event. This is when the winter sport of cross-country skiing (without the skis) usually happens. Someone nearly always gets stuck or has to be “helped” out of the mud or snow. It is easily one of the most aggravating winter sports for everyone.

I know it sounds like I’m complaining, but our farm winter sports are so much better now than when we were milking cows. Back then we had to thaw out water cups, the silo unloader and the manure spreader every single day.  It was no wonder that we just finished milking and it was time to start all over again. We’re so lucky that our winter sports are somewhat manageable now.  How many days until spring?

Kathy Smith is a farm wife from Wayne Township. She writes for the Ashtabula County Farm Bureau.