“The first snowfall marks a season not written on any calendar.”
The Dictionary for New Farmers, 1st edition
The first snowfall of the year is carefully marked on many farmers’ calendars. To the farmer, it is an epiphany that confirms the coming of winter. The snow, which now covers the farm in a blanket of white, signals a shift in the farmer’s duties. Care of the farm animals becomes more critical as the grass many have relied on is now hidden from view. Hay must be spread out on the ground and poultry feed scattered in sheltered areas in the chicken yard where no snow has fallen. Fresh water must be hauled to replace the frozen water left in the troughs.
The cold whips the farmer’s face as they trudge to the barn, each step taking more effort because of the deep snow. Boot tracks mark the only imperfection in the fresh covering of white.
The snow drifts against the outside of the barn in ridges and swirls not unlike white chiffon icing on a cake. The interior of the barn has now become a refuge, a relief from the cold wind and blowing snow that blankets the ground outside. The sheep cuddle tightly together in the haven of the barn, their moisture-laden breath warming the air and fogging the farmer’s glasses. The sheep bleat their welcome and the smell of wet wool and lanolin is strong in the closed space of the barn.
As the farmer places feed in the manger, he take much pleasure in the many bales of hay stacked carefully in the barn, ensuring that there will be an ample supply for a long winter. The time spent under the hot summer sun has been well worth the labor to gather in the hay. The farmer is also now grateful for those hours spent splitting wood and stacking it carefully near the farm house.
Evenings seem more precious somehow. The warmth of the farmhouse, accented by the cold and drifting snow outside, gives a drowsy sense of security that is not present nor needed in summer. There is more time now for contemplation and the fire in the wood stove only stokes the farmer’s imagination.
As the snow stops and the wind ceases, the silent winter night brings on a startling display of stars in constellations differing from the patterns of the softer stars of a summer evening. These winter stars are cold and the light from them is as intense as that reflected from a diamond.
There is a story of an epiphany that occurred on a cold night many, many years ago. It, too, had a manger where farm animals fed and a star among stars that illuminated the night. That story is a message of redemption, forgiveness, and hope that can change a world. It seems that now, more than ever, we need to remember that story and treat one another with kindness because of it.
This past year has been a long winter. Many of us have been separated from the ones we love the most and it seems our steps are often as heavy as if we are trudging through snow. But there is hope. Winter does end. And to the farmer, the snow that has fallen covers over the stubble of harvested fields, leaving a clean slate on which one can imagine spring. A spring just around the corner where, in the farmer’s eye, honeybees hum and the seeds sprout in the fields once again. The wise farmer knows this and waits patiently. And so must we do the same.
We will get there. It just will take a little more time.
Jeff and Kathy Crisler own a farm in Hocking County where they raise bees, berries and blisters. They are both retired and have two children and six grandchildren. Jeff wrote this column to be published in The Logan Daily News. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.