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The change in weather stirs memories

Life on the farm


Thanks to a groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, we were going to have six more weeks of frigid weather. Phil, the groundhog, lives in an indoor natural habitat connected to the town library all year and is ceremoniously brought out on February 2 to predict the weather. If he sees his shadow, there is six more weeks of winter, and an early Spring means he didn’t see it. As they held him up and made the declaration, he was shivering. A pampered groundhog, clueless to his celebrity role in our lives.

Due to the timing of this article, I am happy to report that we only have three more weeks of winter to go. Dipping below zero degrees with the snow and wind, I’d say that we have fulfilled the word frigid weather forecast, quite well.

I have a friend who lives in the coastal region of Oregon and she posted a picture on Facebook recently, of a few snowflakes falling on green grass. The temperature at a mere 50 degrees. Snow! as they all took pictures of the dog and the kids frolicking in the sparse flakes. I turned to my window and looked at the snow piled up two feet high in three degrees and thought…green grass would be really nice right about now.

This snow we have in North Dakota is labor intensive, but I must admit it does pay off later on in the year. I have lived in places and actually grew up on a farm and snow is a valued commodity. So, I will continue to bundle up and buckle down and quit complaining.

Our daughter from California and her family came here for Christmas and got in on the snow we had then. When we FaceTime our three year old grandson now, he likes to look at our snow, but politely declines the thought of being in it. I guess that 75 degree weather in February feels pretty good, even to a toddler.

Punxsutawney Phil got it right this winter, though. In the past 100 years he has only predicted an early Spring 18 times.

I come from a long line of farmers. Snow in the mountains means great skiing, but it also means a lifeline for crops. My dad’s father emigrated from Denmark and came over on a tramp steamer at the age of 15. He settled in Nebraska, and that is where he set up his homestead. Later he would become a legislator, but farming and ranching was to be the way of life for the next generation, my dad.

It was in the 1930’s, that my dad heading West with the family to Idaho and Oregon to start ranching there. Remembering his story telling at suppertime, I heard about the harsh winters of Nebraska. The Midwest sounded challenging in the winter as he described scary stories of people perishing in the blizzards back them. Little did I know then, that I would be living in the Dakotas, which is even farther to the north, and get to experience the weather that I had heard of as a kid. Thanks to 4-Wheel drive vehicles and modern conveniences, I’m able to survive!

As a kid growing up on the ranch in Eastern Oregon, the winters were cold and we had snow too. The only difference of weather is that Oregon lacks the persistent wind and relentless sub-zero temperature.

Winter or summer, every morning my dad would flip on our bedroom light and announce “it is morning!” at 6:30 sharp. Yes, even in the summer when we didn’t have school. The night before, I had usually fallen asleep to the howl of coyotes as our ranch was located on the edge of the desert.

For a while, we had milk cows. Long before that 6:30 wake-up call, Dad had been up and getting the jerseys rounded up from the pasture and into the stanchions. There was always milk in the fridge with cream that floated to the top of the pitcher. Mom would skim it off the top of the milk, for her famous baking and cooking.

With my kids grown and having babies of their own, it is now a big concern in the prenatal community to make sure milk is pasteurized. How times have changed when all we had growing up was raw milk. Of course, our cows were grass fed and that was another time for sure.

I can still hear the milk cans clanking on their way from the barn to the milk cooler waiting to be picked up and taken to our local creamery. It was a crisp fall morning and my sister and I were headed out the door to catch the school bus. My dad was reading the morning newspaper in his chair by our big picture window and my mom opened the door for us and shouted, “Dad! The barn’s on fire!”

Looking in the direction of the barn, sure enough, the blaze was reaching for the sky. My mom made us get on the bus and the bus driver enlisted help when he could, all the way to school. At some point during the day, my teacher relayed a message that everything was ok back home. However, when I got home and saw the charred black remnants of once was, it was far from ok. It was over. We were out of the milking business.

That old barn still holds a lot of memories for me though. It’s where the chickens would roost and lay their eggs, and also where we would bottle feed newborn calves. The smell of hay, animals and manure make an unforgettable aroma of wholesome country living. It’s a smell I capture when I go to the agriculture buildings at the fair or when our local college holds a farm day for the city kids.

Maybe the aromatherapy candle industry could come up with a new scent and call it ‘Barn’. I’d probably buy it.

Written by Gloria Hart

Gloria Hart

Gloria lives in Dickinson, ND and lives her life with a grateful
heart and is blessed with three grandchildren.

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