HOMEGROWN Life: Forging Ahead, Even in Winter

| 3/11/2013 10:52:52 AM

This post originally appeared on HOMEGROWN.org.  

Once the winds had died down after the recent nor’easter, I looked across the back pasture of my Maine dairy farm, saw the tops of my sheep’s heads, and realized I had a bit of work cut out for me. The snow had drifted waist deep between the dairy barn and my wooly booly Irish lad and lasses. Anticipating the storm, I had filled their rack with extra hay bales, so I knew they were well provisioned within the snow fortress surrounding them. Getting to them would be another matter.

With my dairy girls dried off this winter, the dairy barn has become a sanctuary. I ration the girls (and Barnie, the boy) their grain, throwing open the stall gates and allowing each to choose where she would like to eat. Frannie usually heads straight to the milk stand. She’s a creature of habit. Dollie wanders over to the trough at the front of the smaller stall—the one where, in three weeks’ time, she’ll be birthing her kids. Sea Princess, the youngest, can never decide which spot to try first, but Dollie usually decides for her, as Dollie has taught Sea Princess her place in the herd. I laugh as she comes running over to me, and I sit down on the little wooden milking stool my son made in high school shop class so many years ago, a grain bucket in my lap so Sea Princess can have her portion while I reassure her that, some day, she’ll be the herd queen.

HOMEGROWN-Life-dyan-long-walk-snowI give them all a good brushing — Barnie’s favorite part — and fill water buckets while they sneak into the sea mineral and alfalfa cube bag, helping themselves to this extra treat. They return to their stalls, bellies full, and content to go back to the hayrack, now brimming with fresh local hay, which, thankfully is banked directly above. Now I sweep the floor, gather up empty buckets, and climb into the Volvo, a.k.a. the goat mobile, to head two miles up the road to Harborside Market for coffee and maybe a breakfast sandwich as I contemplate my impending mountain of snow. Living on the main road to the village of Port Clyde has its advantages, as it is plowed first.

I’m greeted by Donna, the owner, and Wanda, who works the morning shift, as I wander past the front counter and over to the coffee station. All the while we’re chatting away, remarking about the storm, the wind, the drifts. Carpenters, plumbers, snowplow drivers, and retirees are stopping in for their morning cups, egg and bacon sandwiches, homemade muffins, lottery tickets, and cigarettes. The store is alive with storm stories. As I choose between a breakfast sandwich and a sticky bun and share my tale of woe about the waist-high drifts, a gentleman walks up to the counter, morning paper in hand. He has joined the conversation and shares a story about his grandfather, who had a farm in Nebraska. It seems the animal barn was far away from the house, and when the drifts were high, he, too, was faced with insurmountable snow taller than himself. His solution was to string a rope between the barn and the house so he had something to hold on to in case he sunk down into a drift.

 HOMEGROWN-life-dyan-three-friends-snowI returned home with the image of this farmer holding on to his lifeline, plodding through winter’s deposit of white. As I stood at the kitchen sink munching on my breakfast sandwich, I glanced out the window. The light bulb went off as I realized my own lifeline was already in place: Last summer, I had put up a line of new fence stretching from the house to the barn, defining a space between the pasture and my garden. It would serve as my handhold through the snow.

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