October has to be one of my favorite months of the year. It is a month full of energy, excitement, stress, colors and peace wrapped up in 31 days. October is a month of both closures and new beginnings. It is an adventure awaiting every morning when I pop out of bed.
Take the weather, for example. The weather vane on top of the old hip roof barn is getting dizzy from the shifting winds. It is like watching a tennis match between the seasons, and we are the net. The frigid northwest winds start the match with an opening serve of freezing temperatures bringing a shrieking halt to the growing seasons. Blankets wrapped around my tomato plants can’t keep the killing temperatures at bay. My garden is officially done. Next year, I’ll know to put out the plants a bit earlier if I want to have ripe tomatoes in the fall. The end of June is pushing the limits on our growing season up here.
It was quite a shock to wake up one of these cold mornings to find snow covering the yard. But, I have to remember we do live in Minnesota, home of the Halloween blizzard of 1991 when 2-feet of snow fell. It also snowed this same week two years ago when we had our sale. Fortunately, this snow melted by noon, and we knew we had limited time before the snow would return and stay until next year. These cold morning temperatures are nudging me to start pulling out the winter gear from summer storage.
All of a sudden, the weather vane spun around with a blistering return volley of warm southerly winds as summer tried to stay in control for a bit longer. Sweatshirts and stocking caps were shed as daytime temperatures rose. It was a second chance for us to wrap up our outside jobs with warm hands. The tarps on our calf domes have all been folded and stored away. I pulled out the tote with all the calf blankets and jackets to keep our new replacements snuggly warm on cold winter days.
I’ve noticed our recent newborn calves are already dressed for cold weather. The last calf born is so fuzzy with a wavy thick coat of hair twisted in cowlicks across her poll and body. She is so cute and yet fashionably dressed for the weather ahead. Here’s something to ponder. When her dam was bred nine month earlier, it was springtime and her gestation period was during the hot summer months. How did she know she would need a thick coat of hair when she was born? Just asking.
This second chance at getting ready for winter around the farm has been a welcome reprieve. Austin was able to plant a rye cover crop over the barren soybean fields to hold the top soil in place during the windy days. This is one the new ideas he brought home to upgrade our cropping operation. He had a couple of small cropping experiment projects around the farm this summer. I’m looking forward to hearing the final take on how these new ideas are working. It is different than how we’ve done things, but there is room for everyone to learn new things and apply this knowledge.
October is one of the few months where you can dress for all four seasons of the year in four weeks. We went from shorts and T-shirts to stocking hats and winter gloves in a matter of a few days. I take it as a personal challenge to see how long we can hold off before we turn on the furnace. I cheat by baking on those really cold days, but when the temps dropped to the teens, that was it for me. I turned on the furnace to take the chill out of the house. Then, the winds shifted and summer returned. I refuse to turn the air conditioner back on. I’ll let the warm air help to warm up the house.
I did notice the fan in the tractor cab quit working on a consistent basis when I was chopping corn stalks. The sun warmed up the cab to the point where I wanted to run the air conditioner for a bit. Instead, I had to settle for the side windows being cracked and hopefully catching a cross breeze. Once in a while, I noticed the fan would kick on when I hit a pivot track a bit too fast and jarred it into operation, sending a cooling breeze around the cab. We’ll need to get that fixed before winter. I’ll add it to our growing to-do list.
I can cross two things off my list. The whipping winds have cleared all the trees of their colorful leaves and scattered them across the yard. The general rule around here is if you make a mess, you clean up your mess. Since the winds made the mess, they are cleaning it up by swirling leaves and corn stalk debris across the yard and pushing the trash into the cleared corn fields surrounding our farm. The wind is returning the organic matter back to the soil. I’ll have to touch it up a bit where some leaves were caught in the hedge row. Because the trees are clear of their leaves, I can also get the rain gutters cleaned and maybe hang up some Christmas lights while it is warm outside. The only downside of letting the wind help with my jobs is all the dirt swirling around. It is difficult to wash windows until things settle down. Oh well, a job for another time.
I guess the best part about it being October is the dust and cobwebs collecting at my front door are now considered Halloween decorations to welcome trick or treaters. I just need to add a few colorful mums and pumpkins to finish the look.
    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.