For the last twenty years or so, the farmers at Hunters’ Greens have been laboring under the misconception that farmers get to rest in the winter time. Each year we imagine that we will set aside so many weeks in December and January to relax, visit antique stores, watch videos, etc. Somehow it never seems to work out.
The truth is… winter is really in charge. Every week or so, winter throws us a new challenge that sends us into crisis mode. This year it started with rain and falling leaves. Diane is usually the harbinger of impending doom, “Jim, the water is running down the barge boards on the barn!” “Jim, the rental gutters are overflowing!” Ever since Diane knocked herself out trying to saw a limb that didn’t clear the ladder and ended up having an MRI in the emergency room, Jim has stopped asking why she doesn’t take care of it herself.
The first frost came very late this year, but when frost arrives, it’s time to drain the outdoor faucets and harvest any tender crops that can be saved. As the frost periods get colder and longer we progressively harvest, clean and store the hardier crops. Then, the artichokes need to be mulched. We can combine this with raking up leaves in our more manicured areas and in the orchard, using the leaves for mulch; “feeding two birds with one seed,” as Neva Hassanein used to say.
When a rare cold snap with snow comes along, we start applying triage. Each of us carries a long list that needs addressing. Near the top, is turning the faucets that can’t be drained on to drip, telling the renter to keep the cupboard doors under his sink open, checking the strength of anti-freeze in all the water cooled engines, winterizing out buildings for their pet residents, and so on. Each day these tasks are prioritized based on the severity and immanency of the disaster that will result if they are ignored. Jim adds another criterion to evaluate the level of anxiety Diane is expressing.
Snow adds another element. Any tarp or plastic sheeting roofs must be cleared of snow. Early in our farming careers many farmers lost their hoop house when heavy snow followed by ice collapsed them and mangled the roof supports (that’s why we don’t own one).
And then there is the historic Fifield House in which we live. The main roof is a steep pitch and snow starts sliding off it as it accumulates. Over the years more gently sloped roofs were added to cover a porch and add a wing. These roofs meet our bedroom on the second floor at about ear level. When a pile of snow slides off the upper roof and crashes onto a lower one, Diane’s anxiety level goes through the roof.
Now, Jim isn’t sure this is a top priority crisis, but calming Diane’s nerves is worth the resulting peace. Besides, he’s not really interested in finding out what it would be like to fix a roof collapse. And so, Jim heads outside, gets a ladder and rake, and clears the snow off the lower roofs.
About this time, Diane stops wringing her arthritic hands, starts praising Jim’s intelligence, skills and bravery, and bakes Jim a carrot cake. Jim heads upstairs and settles in for a long winter’s nap. Ah… rest at last, until winter throws us its next curve. “Say what, the state B and O tax return is due in two weeks?!”