A hearty thank you to those who have made a miserable winter bearable
A long, difficult winter definitely has been made easier by people like weather forecasters, smart school leaders, plow operators and helpful neighbors, Jenny Schlecht says.
"Can you come out and help me? I've got a cow that's going to calve, and we need to get her to the barn."
I was just heading down to my office to start plugging away on my work day when my husband called around 7:45 a.m. Neither of us, of course, wanted to be out in the blizzard. Winds were gusting to 40 mph or more, and while the snow totals from the storm had stayed far below what had been forecast, there was still plenty of loose snow to blow around.
But we also don't want calves to be born in the bitter cold and wet, windy conditions. So, on went the coveralls and coat and hat and boots and gloves, and I trudged out to the corral to join him.
The cow came in easier than expected, which is to say that she only went the wrong direction twice before we got her to walk toward the barn. She seemed to have an easier time plodding through the snow than I did. The corrals that had been scraped clean only two days prior had a good half-foot of snow in some spots and was closer to knee-deep in others.
As I write this, she's still in the barn where we put her. I haven't heard a report on whether she's had the calf yet. But if she does, it'll be in as warm and dry of conditions as we could give it to take its first breath. And that is something for which to be thankful.
We have used quite a lot of ink this season in writing about how miserable the winter has been . Some weeks, I have to force myself to write about something other than winter weather. But that's been the constant for my brain for five solid months. It impacts all of our plans, for the farm and ranch , for my work at Agweek and for our personal lives . Every glance out the window comes with a sigh at the sight of snow to be pushed or, more recently, mud to be trudged through.
But, just like how we were able to get that cow to the barn before the calf was born, positive actions have helped make the season more bearable.
A big positive for me has been how helpful our weather forecasters have been in letting us know these storms are coming. No, they're not always perfectly right. The forecast for April 4-5 at one point had put us in the crosshairs of the storm, with expectations of 18-24 new inches of snow. Thankfully, that didn't come true, though I honestly can't tell how much snow actually fell because of the wind. Plenty of people have had complaints about the forecast being off. I'll bet ranchers aren't among the complainers. Because we knew a strong storm was coming, the cows were brought in closer to the barns, which gets the credit for allowing us to get that cow to the barn. I don't think we'd have accomplished it out in the little pasture where she had been days earlier.
Many schools in the region canceled classes ahead of the storm. Some people complained that the weather early Tuesday would have been fine to have school. I bet not a lot of the people complaining live in rural areas. Even if they could have gone to school for half a day, the conditions coming home — even if they ended classes early — could have been treacherous to send buses out. I'm thankful to the school leaders for making the right call, even if it wasn't popular.
And finally, as bad as this winter has been, I'm thankful for the plow operator in our part of the county, who has put on many miles trying to keep all of our homes and farms accessible. I'm also thankful that we live somewhere with good neighbors who have worked cooperatively to keep paths open even when the plow couldn't come.
I have — and will continue — to grumble about the weather, at least until the snow has melted and mud has dried and green grass emerges. But I won't complain about those who are doing their best to make a bad situation safer and more livable.
Jenny Schlecht is Agweek's editor. She lives on a farm and ranch in Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 701-595-0425.