The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
Once it gets below zero, cold is cold regardless of the number. However, this latest cold spell is ridiculous! Therefore let us count the ways when you know it is cold outside.
Everything takes longer. I have to wake up earlier just to make it out to the barn on time. By the time I retrieve my warmed socks from the heat vent, put on three layers of turtle necks, t-shirts and sweatshirts, stuff my long johns into my jeans and wiggle into my insulated coveralls, I’m already 10 minutes late. Of course once everything is on and I’m ready to head out the door, I realize I need to go to the bathroom. I guess we can’t be too mad at the little ones when this happens to them after we get them all bundled up.
Equipment becomes cold to the core and can’t be pushed. Silo unloaders dribble frozen feed down the chute. It feels like hours before there is even a dent on the scale but you know from experience you can’t push cold equipment unless you want to take the next couple of hours in sub-zero temperatures without gloves working with nuts/bolts/wrenches and frozen metal while you stand on a pile of frozen feed 40 feet off the ground. Nothing like being cold from top to bottom! The bright spot with slow unloaders, I’m practicing my patience because the alternative serves as a strong incentive to take my time and not push things along.
Cows have brain freezes. They can’t seem to remember how to walk across the yard from one barn door to the other. They make the same trip twice a day with no variation but can’t seem to remember which direction they are suppose to go when it gets this cold. Of course this condition also happens when the temperatures rise and their brains thaw.
The barn walls look like the inside of an igloo as frozen vapors cling to the idle fans and frozen windows. The special effects guy at the haunted house would be jealous of the fog rolling in from the back of the barn when the doors are opened. The fog fills the gutter and surrounds the cows until you lose sight of the last 10 head of cattle in pea soup. The fog is the only thing moving quickly. As we slowly move along, it gives us time to notice how the ice crystals highlight the delicate intricacies of remaining spider webs. The webs no longer capture unfortunate flies but floating flakes of frozen moisture. Another winter wonderland sight is the way the arches of the hip roof twinkle from the lone light bulb in the straw mound providing a sense of peace and beauty.
All unused old sleeping bags, blankets and rugs are stuffed and wrapped around outside waterers overnight to prevent one giant ice cube in the water tank. Despite all efforts to keep them warm, somewhere down the line there is one cold spot that sneaks up on you. The bad news is the waterers are over 40 years old. The good news they were made 40 years ago when things were a simple fix and made to last.
The cats quickly lap up their milk so they can crawl back into the heated dish to keep their undersides as warm as their insides.
The temperature drops low enough to activate the “Cold Weather Premium”. After quick deliberation a consensus was reached in the barn. We agreed that dairy farmers should be paid a $2/cwt premium when it gets this cold outside. No one really wants to be out here but we know people need milk for their oatmeal and cheese for their pizzas as they snuggle up in the house enjoying a mug of hot chocolate. Think of it as hazard pay. No one else wants to be out here doing this job in these conditions! Now if only Congress could reach a consensus on the Farm Bill before the next deep freeze. They’re free to use our idea to start deliberations.
You look for jobs in the house that “have to be done now”. Cleaning out the storage area under the staircase. Cleaning out and reorganizing closets. Sorting through photos and newspaper clippings to put into a scrapbook. Mark will even look for jobs to do in the house when it gets this cold.
You’re happy to put another candle on top of your birthday cake for the extra heat.
Good luck staying warm!
As their four children pursue dairy careers off the farm, Natalie and Mark are starting a new adventure of milking registered Holsteins just because they like good cows on their farm north of Rice, Minnesota. (Natalie grew up in Stronghurst, the daughter of Becky and the late Larry Dowell.)