Just when we thought we were going to get off with an easy winter, February showed up ready to fight. The gloves came off. This was going to be a bare-knuckled brawl of windswept snowstorms and knock out temperatures against our stamina and stubbornness. A month ago, we had no snow. A year ago, we were enjoying 50 degrees above zero. But, this year’s winter fight is a new round.
    When the mercury fell out of the bottom of the thermometer, Mark adjusted his sleep schedule. It was almost like calving season. Every couple of hours he went out to warm up the tractors and bobcat so they would be ready to work in the morning. He walked around and checked to make sure the waterers were closed over night to keep in the heat. The cattle were all snuggled down in belly deep corn stalks and had no intention of stepping out to get a drink of water in the middle of the night. Fortunately, no calves arrived during the polar vortex. There were enough concerns without nursing a new little one through this winter fight.
    The only things needing nursing through this arctic blast were the silo unloaders. Mark gave up counting how many trips he has made up the silo chute to replace busted shear bolts or to help the unloader make a round as it bounced and pounded its way across the frozen feed. It takes almost an hour to get enough silage down for the feed ration, lowering it one crank at a time so as not to bury the unloader and make another trip up the chute. We are learning patience on a daily basis.
    As you look across the fields, you can see the waves of snow swirled on the landscape. It is such a peaceful and artistic setting. I always hate disturbing the snow when you break open a new track across the field. Fortunately for us, Austin has taken on the responsibility of spreading manure every day, and he gets to make tracks in the snow. Well, they say you should never drive through flooded streets because you do not know how deep the water is. Same thing holds true for snow. Just because it looks level on the top, does not match the terrain underneath. It is easy to forget where there are dips in the fields. Austin found one of those dips and had the tractor buried in snow up to the steps. After he walked back to the yard, he and Mark grabbed the heavy chains and the big tractor with duals. Just like when he was a kid, his dad pulled him around in the snow, or should I say out of the snow.
    We have a few smaller snow piles in the yard. Nothing like when the kids were moving the snow building their own sledding and jumping hills. With no one in school, snow days do not mean as much fun, rather more work. To cut back on some of the work, Mark has been using the tractor to blow most of the snow out of the yard. He did notice that if we get much more snow, we will not be able to drive through the fields for a while. And, if a wind comes with a new round of snow, driveways and roads are going to fill in quickly. The snow banks along the road will catch and bring the snow to a dead stop. I do not know where much more snow will go.
    So far, our water lines have been OK. I hope I did not jinx us. The milk truck driver was picking up at his brother’s farm as the polar vortex was about the come in. As he was walking around his truck, he noticed steam was rising from underneath it. It was an underground leak that had finally bubbled up to the surface. Joyce said it is never good news when Ronnie calls that early in the morning. At least they caught it early and were able to repair the line. It is a miserable job, but, if you look at the bright side, at least when you are working on it, you are out of the wind and 8 feet closer to the center of the earth and all the heat.
    We did not have a line leak, but we did have a flooded barn on Monday morning. You know it is going to be a long morning when the feed is floating in the feed manger. At least it was only 10 degrees below zero and not minus 30. But, it was the morning when we had to be done early due to farm meetings, deadlines and other commitments. We got the mangers swept out, barn clean, cows milked and fed. We were a little late for the meetings and deadline, but we stuck it out and finished out the round.
    I know that sometimes it feels like we keep getting knocked down again and again. Just as you dig out from one storm, another one is bearing down on you. Will it ever end? Remember, every storm runs out of rain or snow. The skies will clear. The sun will shine, and you can keep moving because you made it through.
    Natalie, Mark and his brother, Al, Schmitt farm together near Rice, Minn. They milk 100 registered Holsteins under the RALMA prefix. Their four children are great help around the farm and are pushing Natalie out of several jobs. Therefore she is thankful to have something else to do. For questions or comments please e-mail Natalie at mnschmitt@jetup.net.