During the thirty-three years I lived in town, summer was my favorite season. Not because of the weather – because fall weather in Kansas is, without a doubt, the most pleasant – but because of what summer meant. Summer meant a three-month vacation from school – a three-month vacation from the demands of the classroom for me as a teacher, and for our two sons as students. We traveled, we went to sporting events, we relaxed by the pool. I had the freedom to garden, visit friends and family, and read for pleasure. I had time for none of those things during the frenzied, hectic school year.
But since our sons are grown and gone, since our move to the farm, and since my retirement from teaching, I find that summer no longer embodies the same sense of freedom and relaxation that it once did. In fact, summer has become my busiest season. With the demands of gardening, canning, mowing, watering, weeding, and additional heat-related animal care, “summer” is now synonymous with “work”. Often physically-demanding, back-breaking work.
In addition to that, summer is when we receive the vast majority of our farm visitors. Why would anyone want to visit a farm in winter and spend all your time inside a house? You can do that in town. As much as I love our farm visitors (and I do!) there is no denying that there is preparation before a visit, and clean-up after.
None of this should have come as a surprise to me. Having grown up on a farm, I needed only to think back to my childhood days when my father and mother would rise before daybreak early on a summer morning, work all day in the searing heat, eat supper, go back outside and work several hours longer until finally, after sunset, they would shower and then drop, exhausted, into bed only to get up the next day and do it all over again.
But in winter, once the animals had been fed and cared for, and cows milked, there was very little reason for them to be outside when the weather was cold and blustery. It was only in winter when I remember my dad, in the middle of the morning, sitting in our living room, visiting with Mom while warming his hands in front of the furnace. It was only in winter when a farm neighbor might pop in unexpectedly for a quick game of pinochle or checkers. It was only in winter when Daddy would agree, with no objections, to spend an entire afternoon in town while Mom shopped.
I thought about all this recently as I was preparing our farm for winter. As I (with Junior’s help) cleared the garden, …
…picked the last of my rhubarb, …
… and clipped the asparagus…
…and the basil.
I thought about the upcoming winter as I removed, washed, and stored all the window screens…
…and when I replaced my tack room fan…
…with a heater.
And it appears that I completed all my fall farm prep just in time.
So now that the snow is flying, what will I do all winter?
Ahhhhhh. Whatever the heck I want to do.
(I share some unique winter memories in the January chapter of my third book, The Return to the Family Farm.)
Next Week: Sunrise, Sunset