While snow levels fluctuate or mostly rise, our winter stores subside. The woodshed looks like a mouth of broken teeth, and the chest freezer has new cavities, too. The same goes for our livestock supplies. Our cows wait out the days gazing at snow that they can’t eat covering fields that they used to graze—thank heavens for hay. Last summer we stuffed the mow with a winter’s worth (one bale per cow, per day, plus extra, just in case). As I deliver flakes to the Jersey and her yearling calf, I second-guess what’s left, wondering if it’ll last until they’re back on pasture; so much depends on winter’s strength and length. Years ago, when I worked on a bigger farm, each morning I climbed into the loft, where the bales were stacked to the rafters. Summiting the steep pile, I’d pry down a dozen, clenching them by their twine. As winter days ticked by and the mountain of dried grass dwindled, the barn’s walls re-emerged. One day in mid-February, by luck or barn maker’s design, I saw a sign I took to mean that we’d reached the season’s halfway mark: Sunlight streamed through a hole bored near the roof’s peak, a vent in the shape of a valentine.
About this Podcast
Welcome to the monthly Farmer’s Calendar podcast. These essays come from The Old Farmer’s Almanac annual publication. They are recorded by Julia Shipley, the author and poet. She draws from her life raising animals and vegetables on a small farm in Northern Vermont.