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Farmers have to make major decisions dictated by the weather

The question on nearly every farmer’s mind right now is the weather.
Just what is it going to do? Are we going to have a year like 2015
where it started out so wet we couldn’t make hay and ended up so dry
that there was no hay to make?

Most of us think about the weather nearly every day, but we use the
television news and our phones to see if a huge snowstorm is about to
hit us, how cold it might get,  if the kids will get a snow day, or if
getting to work will be rough.

But farmers have to make major decisions dictated by the weather that
impact their entire farming operation. They also have to be ready for
the changes Mother Nature throws at them year after year.

My dad told us his parents talked about the winter of 1918 here in
Ashtabula County being especially rough. They told him that if the
horses and sleigh came to a snow drift that was too deep, they would
take down the rail fences and go around it.

Both my mom and dad talked about the huge snow storm of March 17,
1933, that kept milk trucks from getting into Cleveland. There were no
county snowplows, just privately owned ones such as the Prior Brothers
of Orwell. It took more than a week shoveling by hand to open the
Stanhope-Kelloggsville Road curve south of Rt. 6. Kids within walking
distance of the school at Wayne Center made it to classes, but the rest
of the students couldn’t even make it on horses.

My dad also told about the summer of 1935 when there was only half as
much hay as usual. He and my grandfather cut all the corn by hand that
fall and after removing the ears, fed the dry stalks to the cows for
roughage that winter.

Then there was New Year’s Day of 1943. My parents had been to Wayne
Center to visit my grandmother. The snow was so deep that their car
stalled north of Rt. 322 on Stanhope-Kelloggsville Road. They borrowed
a horse and rode home, but both were nearly frozen since it had
started out such a nice day and no one was prepared for the storm.

Do you remember the Thanksgiving of 1951? That was also a beautiful
day to start with, and my family had been to Cleveland for dinner with
relatives. The trip home in the snow took four plus hours and when we
got to the railroad tracks on Rt. 6 in Cherry Valley, my dad got out
of the car to listen for an approaching train; it was impossible to
see anything.

The winter of 1977 dumped so much snow here in Ashtabula County that
most students missed more than a week of school. When pictures of this
snow arrived in West Germany where my husband was stationed at the
time, most of our German friends thought it was trick photography.

And then there was the ice of 1981 that lasted all of December. We
couldn’t back the grinder up to the corncrib, get the milk truck out
of the driveway or get the manure out of the barn.

In farming we are so totally dependent upon the weather that we just
have to complain about it. Of course that doesn’t change anything does
it? We may just have to change our farming to fit the weather.

Kathy Smith is a farm wife from Wayne Township and writes articles for the Northeast Counties Farm Bureau.