The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

NATALIE Schmitt: Thinking Out Loud – Keeping Warm!

1-27-2009 column

Is winter over yet? I keep looking at the calendar to see how many more days it can be this cold. I remind myself that we have made it through January, February is short and March is the promised land of warmer temperatures.

While warm Bahamas breezes gently call my name on commercials, they are drowned out by the blustering northwest winds whipping across the yard and the mind numbing thought of wearing a swimsuit at this time of year. Since we won’t be on a cruise anytime soon, I have discovered another form of escape to warmer places.

Just before the Christmas bills start to arrive in the mail, the seed catalogs signal the start of a new year. With dreams of lush green plants, ripe red tomatoes and the first bite of corn on the cob, I have warmed up to summer temperatures and bare feet. Just as I’m about to lay out my garden plans for this spring, the phone rings and I’m off another errand to the hardware store.

It seems like every couple of days we are replacing burnt belts on conveyors and barn cleaner motors. We’re having a hard time convincing the equipment that it will be warmer if it keeps moving. I have reached the point where I pick up 2 belts at a time because I know I’ll be back for more, sooner rather than later.

As the temperatures drop and the winds pick up, the more layers I put on. I don’t mind going outside with my long johns, 2 sweatshirts, turtleneck, t-shirt, jeans, insulated bibs and 2 pair of socks. That is just the base layer. Then there is the stocking hat, gloves and coat. I keep telling myself that the “layered look” is in fashion, but I have to be part contortionist to get everything off. My arms and shoulders just don’t bend that easily. It is when I go to town without all my gear on that I really realize how cold it is outside. Vanity is heading south very quickly as I put on my extra pair of thermal long johns to go grab groceries. I think the “bundled look” is in fashion for these next cold days.

With all the layers everyone is wearing lately, my washing machine is getting a little vacation. Only the outside layer gets dirty. It seems that as the coveralls get dirtier, they get warmer. I think the dirt acts like barrier from the winter winds. But I can tolerate only so much ground in dirt until I have to throw them in the washing machine to soak.

The best way to keep warm is to keep our blood moving. Here are two thoughts that get my blood rolling…”happy cows from California” and PETA. Both suggest that our cattle are not well cared for. It seems like our cattle are doing ok in this cold weather.

They have plenty of feed, water and shelter from the wind. They actually look cute in the morning with wisps of frost on their fuzzy, shaggy hides and a “beard” around their muzzles.

This is the time of year that I actually think dairy cattle look “healthy” because of the extra winter weight they are carrying. (Remember,

I’m a beef girl at heart.) I don’t think our cows would want to go trudging across snowbanks to get to California. They know they have it pretty good right here in the Midwest.

PETA is always so concerned about the “welfare of animals”, but what about our welfare? I wish they could have shadowed us these past couple of cold days to see who really needs protection. No one can go in the house until everything is done outside regardless of how cold we are. Fresh bedding in all the sheds and domes, feeding, chipping ice dams away from the waters and temping calves who just seem a little off are a few of the things that have to get done everyday. It seems to take a little longer to get the basics done when it is cold outside but the cattle are counting on us to take good care of them. Then there are silos unloaders that need to be babysat and convinced to keep chipping away until warmer weather comes along. By my calculations, that should be about March.


As their 4 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 Minnesota farm. Natalie grew up in Stronghurst, the daughter of Becky and the late Larry Dowell.