Marilyn Hershey
We knew it was coming, and there wasn’t anything we could do but buckle down and await the arrival of the arctic forecast. Not only was the impending weather all over the news, but our farming friends in the Midwest were posting high wind speeds, ridiculously low temperatures, and farming mayhem. There was no doubt that we were going to be hit with some magnitude.

The media called it a “bomb cyclone.” The hype cleared the grocery stores of milk, bread, and eggs while people rearranged their schedules “just in case.” I have often wondered if there is a way we can capture that shelf-clearing mentality every day? I think our fluid milk problems would be history.

The news was a cross between unbearable and hilarious leading up to the freezing frenzy. According to their predictions, I would be lucky to survive two steps outside my door, let alone brave the storm to feed the animals in our barns and hutches.

Truthfully, though, warnings are nice. It gave me plenty of time to secure hutches, load up on propane for portable heaters, and make sure all our various locations have running water, fresh bedding, and a block from the wind.

As much as I dislike cold weather, last winter’s mild temperatures brought a different issue. It was so warm throughout the winter months that some of nature’s most annoying creatures remained intact, giving them a head start in the spring.

After being diagnosed with Lyme disease twice in my lifetime, deer ticks are always on my radar. The 2017 Lyme disease was particularly bad for our area, since our winter was not harsh enough to kill them off.

Our county is already overloaded with deer ticks, and we hold one of the highest Lyme disease rates across the country. That’s not necessarily something I want to be associated with.

Maintaining the farming lifestyle and recovering from an arthritic prone disease is not easy. However, having a farm and animals to care for were also part of the remedy that helped me overcome the sickness.

I am happy to say that I have fully recovered, although the last round was more difficult to overcome than the first. I have learned to take care of my body much more than I did prior to having Lyme disease.

All that to say, despite my distaste for cold temperatures, the upside that made me smile as I ventured into the tundra was the fact that no ticks were surviving the sustained low temperatures. It would be a good year for us in that regard!

Last spring, I heard a fun fact that opossums are a valuable tool to rid an area of deer ticks. According to this study, opossums eat up to 5,000 deer ticks a season. Being a farmer, I love and respect animals, but honestly, an opossum is not one that I ever fondly admired. In fact, I may or may not have swerved for one or two in my driving lifetime. They are just not pleasant creatures to come upon.

But that is all in my past. I do all I can to keep them in our county now. I thought about possibly getting a few for our yard, but that type of farm expansion did not pass the board, so I am back to relying on a good, cold winter to get me through.

Morale can soon freeze over with the wind chill, and one of the hardest things is keeping a positive attitude through the cold weather. It is exhausting to work outside in these conditions, and I try not to let my positive attitude blow across the fields with the snow.

One thing that helps my attitude is a good game of football. I love watching a good game of football.

This year, a seed company representative offered us tickets, free of charge. After a year like this, an offer of “free” anything is a true gift, even if it means freezing toes. Attending the game with our farming friends, Neal and Mary Lou, was an added win. Mary Lou loves and understands the game as much as I do, and sitting beside her at the game was exciting.

As we anticipated the game, the weather forecast became a factor. They predicted frigid temperatures and high winds to affect the players and the fans. Boy, they weren’t lying. I washed my barn bibs and dug out more cold weather layers, so we could enjoy the game comfortably. It looked like the players needed my bibs as some of them jumped up and down to stay warm between commercials.

That day was the start of a lengthy cold snap that dipped down into our farming core. Pipes froze in our heifer barns that supposedly never froze before, and for several days following we spent our time thawing water bowls, replacing water lines, and working frozen chunks of manure from the barn to the pit.

It caused me to open my Farmer’s Almanac and look at their predictions for the rest of the winter. I wanted to know if I should dig out more cold weather gear or invest in a herd of opossums.

The author and her husband, Duane, own and operate a 550-cow dairy in Cochranville, Pa.