February may be the shortest month of the year, but it sure is starting to feel like the longest. It is kind of like being in the middle of raising a young family. The days seem long but the years are too short. Just think, the first days of spring are only one month away. Looking outside my office window, warm spring days are at least another three months away. I guess we need to hunker down and wait it out.
The weather forecasts have been pretty accurate this winter despite the wild swings from sub-zero to almost tropical by Minnesota standards. While the temperatures have been vacillating between extremes, a neighbor pointed out there were 23 sub-zero days in January. I don’t even want to think what February’s count will be.
I do know the sun’s power is growing stronger. White clouds were rising off the roof of the old garage the other morning. Mark and I looked out the kitchen window trying to determine if it was steam or smoke. Mark asked who was going to put on their boots and go check it out. That was my cue. I slipped on my boots and grabbed my hat and coat. I didn’t know what I was going to discover. The old ’52 Ford truck is parked in this garage, and I sure hoped it was just steam and not a freaky fire starting from bad wiring in an old building. I slowly opened the door, just in case there was a fire. Nothing. Walking around the garage, I could feel the warmth of the sun’s rays and realized it was just steam rolling off the cold shingles.
Thankfully there are still shingles left on the old garage. Wicked north winds pushed through here in a hurry a few days earlier. One moment I was looking out the window and suddenly a wall of wind arrived, picking up every drop of snow in the yard not frozen down. I struggled to see the outline of the barn through the white-out conditions. We topped out at 50 mph.
Because of the warm sun and swinging temperatures, much of the snow in the yard has softened and then froze again to create the largest ice rink. Knock on wood, I haven’t wiped out yet, but I try to be prepared. I’m fully protected and padded from numerous layers of clothing. The only thing I slip on are my big winter boots with the large tread to hold my feet stable on the slippery slopes surrounding the calf domes.
We pulled our last December calves out of the domes, and I have the next few days off. We have not had any calves during January and February for the last two years. They say if you do something three times, then it becomes a habit. Fingers crossed for next year. I am enjoying not having to pamper new little ones through stretches of sub-zero days.
Right now, we are hunkering down in the house, or in the barn, waiting for the latest round of snow to arrive. We are forecasted to end up with 8-15 inches of snow over the next two days. Of course, this is also the week we are scheduled to classify a barn full of 2-year-olds. That should prove to be interesting. We have been clipping and cleaning cattle getting ready for the big day. Sure beats working outside fighting off frostbite fingers and frozen toes.
One of my favorite things to do while we hunker down in February is to dream. As I flip through the seed catalog, I dream about a summer garden. I dream about trips I hope to take to celebrate anniversaries and family weddings. I dream about the upcoming batch of spring calves and which one will be the first calf our grandson Ethan will show this summer.
I stumbled upon this quote from the winner of the 1957 Nobel Prize in Literature, Albert Camus of France. He wrote, “In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love. In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile. In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm. I realized, through it all, that in the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”
Here’s to the summer within us all, pushing through this winter season to find spring just around the corner.
    As their four children pursue dairy careers off the family farm, Natalie and Mark are starting a new adventure of milking registered Holsteins just because they like good cows on their farm north of Rice, Minnesota.