A weekly blog for all things conservation
By: Miranda Neville, Agricultural Resource Specialist
On the coldest, darkest, snowiest days – when most people are able to call in to work or take a snow day, farmers trudge through the feet of snow to their barns and carry on with their 24/7/365 jobs. Winter is setting in and the long months of harvest are now in the rear view. Farmers everywhere have spent the spring, summer and fall working tirelessly to ensure they had enough feed to make it through the cold winter months. Hearing “well your crops are all done, now you get to relax” couldn’t be further from the truth. The relief that crop harvest is over is a much-needed physical and mental break. (Now there may even be time to squeeze in a nap or two!) Winter is also time for planning, making decisions for the next crop year, tillage choices, selection of seeds to plant in the spring, cutting firewood, and ordering parts for the endless equipment maintenance. Winter is also a time for holiday celebrations and family. So begins the delicate balance of scheduling both worlds.
Holidays in a farm family aren’t always ideal but we are still always grateful for the time we do get to celebrate together. A common farm-family holiday struggle is being invited to a family meal. If it is at a time between barn chores, the race is on from the time you walk in the door, get cleaned up and semi presentable, and grab your dish to pass. The next challenge is actually making it in time to have a meal, a quick conversation and then rush back home to tend to your other family – your livestock. Many farmers have missed Thanksgiving celebrations with extended family, but the majority have never missed one with their four-footed family.
Of course, I can’t go without mentioning one of the biggest ‘holidays’ in Bradford County. Fall hunting season! Farmers and friends alike take great pride in who can fill their deer tags and stock their freezers to feed their families, and not to mention get in on a friendly competition to score the biggest buck for yearly bragging rights. In years past, neighboring farm families all came together, hunt all morning, meet back for another big meal celebration, and go back out until they can hear the cows calling them back home to the barn.
Seemingly, the most joyful holiday is always the toughest for a lot of farm families. Many sacrifices are made to give the younger members in the family all of the Christmas magic while still prioritizing paying off typical farm debts. This can be said for many types of animal operations but speaking from my experience - A typical dairy farm Christmas morning consists of arriving to the barn for morning milking only to have to thaw out waterers and frozen pipes and fight with tractors to start in the frigid temperatures. Then on to the routine of; feed the cattle, milk the cows, clean up the barn, and rush back to the house only to be greeted by impatient little eyes who have been staring intently at the gifts under the tree. Having been up for hours (probably since they heard Dad or Mom leave for morning chores) it is a true test of willpower for these farm kids who have to wait until chores were done so everyone could open gifts together. Another valuable life lesson for farm kids, ever-lasting patience. Seeing the sparkle and hearing the squeals from the kids as they open toys and farm moms and dads in the background exchange insulated socks, sweatshirts and lined jeans. Then mom makes breakfast and Dad’s job is to put toys together and rob some batteries out of flashlights to make everything work.
In the spirit of winter holidays, be sure to take time to have a snowball fight, enjoy an evening drive to look at the twinkling lights, and appreciate the clean white dusting of snow before tractor-mud tracks take over the driveway. Thank you to all of our farm families for working tirelessly in all seasons. May your boots stay dry, your Carhartt’s keep you warm, your farms be profitable, and may your holidays be magical!
The Bradford County Conservation District is committed to helping people manage resources wisely. You can visit the Bradford County Conservation District at 200 Lake Rd in Wysox across from the Wysox Fire Hall. Contact us at (570) 485-3144 or visit our web page at www.bccdpa.com.
Various staff at the Bradford County Conservation District