Last week’s bitter cold made challenges for accomplishing the everyday tasks on our farm, no doubt much like everyone affected by the “Polar Vortex”. We had frozen augers and iced over waterers. We had big calves with no water and an opossum taking up residence by the pipe workings. The milk tanker was a bit more slush than pure milk due to ice chunks. The torpedo heater that tries to keep the manure thawed in the channel broke. The extreme cold in the barns turned manure into ice, taking hours to load and haul. In the midst of it all; cruising around the farm with insulation, my serrated kitchen knife, ready to jump in a skid steer or a tractor—was Peter. “The Melter” is to the tune of Kenny Rogers’ hit song “The Gambler.”

On a cold winter’s day
In a truck bound for somewhere
I met up with the melter
We were both too cold to walk
So we took turns a-drivin’
‘Cross the farm up to the freestall
The problems overtook him,
And he began to speak

He said, “Sis, I’ve made a life
Out of keepin’ things a-runnin’
Knowin’ how to melt things
By the pieces that freeze up
So if you don’t mind me sayin’
I can see you’re out of salt mix
For a taste of the dumplings
I’ll give you some advice”

So I handed him a hot bowl
And he gulped down the last swallow
Then he grabbed a piece of cake
And asked me for a knife
And he headed for the front porch
And his face broke in a smile
He said, “If you’re gonna thaw the water,
You gotta wait to do it right

You’ve got to know when to bust ice
Know when to heat ice
Know when to shut it off
And know when to quit
You’ve got to find your peace
When it seems you’re out of patience
They’ll be time enough for fixin’
When the winter’s done

Every melter knows
That the secret to reheatin’
Is knowin’ what to insulate
And knowin’ what to salt
‘Cause every job’s a cold one
And every one important
And the best that you can hope for is it thaws on its own.”

And when he finished speakin’
He turned back toward the porch door
Cut the insulation
And headed to the barn
And somewhere in the vortex
The melter he kept workin’
And with his parting words
I found the hope that I could keep

You’ve got to know when to bust ice
Know when to heat ice
Know when to shut it off
And know when to quit
You’ve got to find your peace
When it seems you’re out of patience
They’ll be time enough for fixin’
When the winter’s done
    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.