Farmers in Winter

Farmers in Winter

Roll in the snow


Winter is a busy time for farmers. We break the ice in the chickens’ water bowls and gather their eggs several times a day before they freeze, too. Klaus brings the horses into the barn on snowy, blizzardy nights. Each one heads to his appointed stall where they warm each other side by side as their icy breaths curl up to the barn loft. Klaus gives them extra hay because the grass in the meadows has become short and trampled.

Klaus cuts down trees to tidy up our fence lines and hedgerows and the horses pull the huge logs home to be cut, chopped and stacked for firewood. Two wood-burning stoves heat the house all winter and have quite an appetite for locust, hackberry and mulberry logs.

When we get lots of snow, Klaus hitches up Charlie or Norman to his homemade wooden plow and they scrape gentle curves of passage through the farm drifts.

We visit the Amish liveries and farmers in Jamesport to buy another plow or a part for one of the horse-drawn mowers. This is our time to clean harness, repair equipment, patch up and paint our old farm buildings, tighten up the clothesline, and scoop the poop out of the chicken coops.

We study stacks of seed catalogs and make garden lists. Klaus organizes his planting successions so he knows which vegetable will follow the one just harvested. This keeps the soil healthy and the harvests abundant. We list our goals for the new season and research new vegetables to grow. We go to growing conferences and farmers’ meetings—scheduled in winter because none of us will show up for an afternoon of Power Point in the middle of June.

Spinach is already growing in the high tunnel. We tuck it in at night with row-cover blankets and pull the covers back in the morning so the tender shoots can feel the sunshine coming in. The gardens have been cleared, disked and spread with compost to prepare them for spring planting.

The last-to-ripen tomatoes are canned and dried. The jars of canned goods are arranged and rearranged in the root cellar. This year’s hard cider pushes slow bubbles from its barrel beside them and sends a sweet apple fragrance up the stone steps.

We talk to other farmers over coffee at their kitchen table or ours, supporting each other in growing food for families; sharing successes and frustrations of the last season. We reconnect with neglected friends too, and make promises to get together more—until spring planting beckons us to our living soil, awakened from its winter rest and full of vigor and promise for a new season.


A roll in the snow.

A roll in the snow.

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