There’s the old adage: “Bad things come in threes.” This winter provided us with a six-pack of bad things, with a few extra. Enough to last a good while, we hope.
    A couple weeks ago, Peter took a ride in the manure spreader across a field. There was ice underneath the bit of snow cover, and a clump of mighty trees stopped Peter and the spreader short of taking a trip into a gully. It ended with a wrecker pulling them out and a broken PTO shaft. His was the first of three broken shafts; two employees also had jackknifing experiences due to the icy inclines on our farm.
    My dad fell on the ice one night on his way from the parlor, and is suspicious he knocked himself out, because he woke up on the ground a few hours after he talked to me.
    On a trip to the milk plant one afternoon, one of our milk truck drivers veered to miss an oncoming car and took an unplanned journey across the road, over the side, up an embankment, and stopped in the trees. This bumpy path uphill caused the full tanker to flip on its top. The end result was a totaled-out tanker and truck.
    One of our calf team members was stranded on an icy hill as the fully-loaded milk truck crested the hill from the opposite direction. He did his best to swerve out of the way to avoid her, but milk tankers aren’t very nimble. Her truck and the tanker ladder met up, sending her in for stitches on her forehead.
 Oh, and there was that whole roof collapsing thing, too. No lives were lost with any of our winter incidents – and for that we are all extremely grateful.
    I think the entire farm, from the milkmen and parlor crew to the calf barn girls, started collectively breathing easier when the sun came out and the snow started to melt. It was a winter that tested the outlook of even those on the farm that are steadfast in their positivity. ‘Mud Season’ is slowly letting go to become spring. The tracks pushed into the soft earth in the daytime are less like mountains of frozen mud by the next morning. The ground is warming up, a bit more every day, as the winds blow and the sun heats.
    The roof is back on the barn, making the parlor crew as tickled as I am. Their work space is no doubt warmer now. The roof’s collaged look from a distance prompts a story for those who haven’t heard. I can attest to the fact that much like a patchwork quilt, it is cozy and warm underneath, for both humans and animals. Our dedicated milkmen are back in their own, newly painted truck. This one bears the names of Don Hubbard and Harold Pesik, listed as our ‘Chief Operators’ of Ocooch Trucking.
    There may be no more telltale sign of impending spring on a farm than when the spreaders get fired up in the wee hours of the morning to beat the frost coming out for the day. I don’t believe I had ever been so excited to clean out the calving pen before this year. While the roof was off, I didn’t dare touch it; the cows needed the warmth that the deep pack offered while calving in open air. The day after the last piece of tin was in place, Peter, Ira, and I worked as hard as we could to clean that pen before the sun turned the fields to grease. Even the potent potpourri of packed straw and manure on a crisp spring morning could not deter my enthusiasm as we pitched, swept, and hauled three full loads out of the pen.
    The melting snow mountains around our farm are as revealing as an archaeological dig site. Pairs of mittens (never matching), an array of garbage pieces, forgotten toys hidden by snow and smashed into tiny bits by vehicles, and an abundance of misplaced chunks of lawn, gravel, and silage were all pushed up by the plow while veiled by heavy snowfall. There are already sprigs of green pushing up in places. I keep watching for the bright, cheerful dandelions that line the side of the bunkers to let me know that spring is here to stay. I felt a slight pang of guilt this week as I was pulling weeds out of a flower bed. I had been mentally coaxing the green life to arrive, only to end it abruptly as I pluck the unsuspecting plants out of unwanted places. Dirt is taking its place under my fingernails, a much more welcome resident than the frost that was creeping into my hands a few weeks ago.
    I opened the windows, and the scents of spring are carried in on the breeze: earth, manure, animals. Before long the lilacs will be perfuming the yard. The tennis shoes are reclaimed from the bottom of the laundry basket filled with footwear. The heavy, clunky snow boots pushed aside for another season. Snow pants are washed and tucked away in tubs, as I secretly cross my fingers that we won’t need them again for a long while. A brilliant spring fireworks show shoots up into the sky as our neighbors, the Duneks, boil down sap. Inside, the sugar shack is filled with the intoxicating smell of sweet maple syrup and the wood fueled fire that keeps it cooking.
    As we were all at the mercy of Mother Nature and her violent moods this winter – Polar Vortex, ice, heavy snow – it seemed as though these days would never come. Perhaps like most things in life, we need some of the bad to appreciate the good to the fullest extent. As I listen to the robins and the red-winged blackbirds bidding me ‘good day’ outside, I am holding onto the promise of another saying: “April showers bring May flowers.”
    Jacqui and her family milk 800 cows and run 1,200 acres of crops in the northeastern corner of Vernon County, Wis. Her children, Ira (12), Dane (10), Henry (5) and Cora (toddler), help her on the farm while her husband, Keith, works on a grain farm. If she’s not in the barn, she’s probably in the kitchen, trailing after little ones, or sharing her passion of reading with someone. Her life is best described as organized chaos – and if it wasn’t, she’d be bored.