You’re not the only one who doesn’t like cold weather. Animals don’t like it much either, although they’re better equipped to handle cold or wet weather. Cows grow a thicker, winter coat, for example, and can easily be outside in a snowstorm. We’ve occasionally had them come in the barn for morning milking with a few inches of snow on their (insulated) backs and icicles hanging underneath them. They’re fine in spite of how they look! A few winters ago, one heifer wouldn't come in at all, even during the worst storms. Ruminants have an advantage: their constant chewing and swallowing keeps the blood flowing even when standing still. Actually, cows are healthier outside than stuck in a damp barn with stale air, which is a perfect environment for pneumonia.
Chickens will fluff up their feathers creating air pockets to help insulate them. They’ll often huddle together in a corner of the coop or spoon (alternate facing front and back) when sitting on a roost. And they will tuck one leg up in their feathers to keep it warm. A draft-free environment is more important than heat.
Of course, it takes more calories just to stay warm so milk or egg production suffer during the winter months, especially during cold spells. The shorter days with less sunlight also contribute to lower production. This is why you will find fewer local eggs in stores (or CSAs!) during winter. Egg production can fall off as much as 40%.
All of which is to explain why we don’t have enough organic eggs at the moment….
Saturday's CSA pickups did not go as planned. The “2-3 inches of snow changing to rain mid-morning” turned out to be over 10” with occasional white-out conditions. Oi. At the time though we didn’t know this. Lisa loaded up the van and headed off early only to get stuck at the end of the long driveway. The town truck had plowed a giant berm of wet, heavy snow across the end. No problem, I thought. I’ll get the tractor and soon have her out. Ah, hubris before the fall! I immediately got the tractor stuck too. So we hand-shovel the berm at the end of the driveway, but the wet snow is just too slippery for the studded tires on the van. Now what? So I trudge through several inches of snow to steal the neighbor’s tractor. (After all, one more stuck vehicle isn't going to make a difference). I back it up to the van, grab the chains from the stuck tractor and…. Where do you attach these things to the van? All I can find is plastic. Lots of plastic. Cars don't have axels anymore so that doesn't help. We open the engine compartment. More plastic. So we whip out the manual for the van because there obviously has to be somewhere to attach the chains…. To discover you can buy an OPTIONAL screw eye thingie, which after popping lose a PLASTIC cover you can screw in COUNTER-CLOCKWISE because it’s threaded lefthanded (why?!!). None of this matters because said piece of optional equipment naturally didn't come with the vehicle. And because it's a left-handed thread none of the large screw eyes I oddly enough have in stock will fit. Aagghhh!
We are now way past when Lisa needed to leave. So she tries to call everyone. Cell service at the farm is spotty in the best of times. With a heavy snowfall it’s almost non-existent. Aagghhh!
Lisa is stressed because her entire weekend is now upended and she's afraid folks are going to be upset. I’m soaked through and exhausted. After flinging sand everywhere we finally get the van moving, and by late afternoon it’s back where we started.
But our sorry story doesn’t end quite yet. Lisa has arranged to deliver on the following day; everyone is readily agreeable and appreciative. She hops in the van to head out only to discover it’s stuck again. This van, which I used to like, but is now annoying me like a pebble in a shoe has all of 4” clearance underneath it. Apparently, there is about 4.2” of snow under there and the thing is stuck like a beached whale. Lisa shovels, I push and somehow it breaks free.
Farming. It’s so peaceful. The simple, stress-free life.
To be honest, it seems just like the previous one so far.
I tend to live in the present, so each day is very similar to the last. As an animal farmer, I’m often forced to be in the present. It’s challenging to make grand plans when you have to milk every morning and afternoon. And that’s generally good, I think. The only thing that is real is….now. Yesterday is gone; tomorrow doesn’t exist (at least not in this time continuum).
Children and other animals live in the now. A fed cow is a content cow. There is no tomorrow or next week. And therefore no anxiety about what they might bring. Obviously, we need to prepare some for the future. We need to have enough hay bales before snow covers the ground, for instance. But animals can teach us much about life and ourselves. Perhaps we too can strive more to live in the moment.
Eat lots of good food. Hang with our herdmates. Look after the calves. Occasionally kick up our hooves and run around. Chew cud and ruminate. Give and receive lots of cow loves.
This is my wish for you this new year.
Randy Robar, co-owner of Kiss the Cow Farm