Monday, January 21, 2019

Baby, It's Cold Outside

Baby, It's Cold Outside

I awoke this morning here in the deep south and my husband said, "It's 32 degrees outside." My mind went immediately to, "We've got to get up and check all the water lines to be sure nothing has frozen up." :)

I've been away from the farm since 1980 and living in the south just as long. So I have no idea why this came to mind today other than to write a memoir.
I don't recall much of cold weather when we lived in Ohio but then, I was fairly young. But Wisconsin, that is a different story.

Welcome to Wisconsin

The first time I arrived at the farm in Wisconsin was November 1974. I road with my dad to take some equipment up to the new farm we had recently purchased. You can read that story here. What I remember is that the ground was already to frozen to plant any flower bulbs that Mom had sent along in hopes to have some pretty flowers in the spring when we arrived. Those bulbs remained in a bag in a cabinet until the next April. But they had sprouted we found them.

One memory of those cold winter days was trying to keep the water lines from freezing up. The body warmth from the cows usually keep the water flowing but occasionally a pipe would bust and send water everywhere.

Another thing I remember about Wisconsin cold was there always seemed to be an ice storm in March. Even if the weather had warmed up you could guarantee one more bad storm before spring came in full bloom. Since we moved to Wisconsin in the spring of '75, we didn't really "get" to experience winter until the next year.

In 1976, Wisconsin had the worst storm in recorded history. 

Photo Credit: Wisconsin Sentinel
Ice was recorded to have collected on trees and poles as thick as 5 inches. Utility poles came down like dominoes for many miles( I think someone said 100 miles. Don't quote me on that). And several counties were declared to be in a state of emergency, including our own, Columbia County. Schools were closed for about two weeks since there was no electricity.

Now, the ice is quite pretty on the trees but that is about as far as it goes. Ice is heavy and it tends to beak tree limbs or whatever it has frozen onto. Somehow, (I think the Lord's care because we didn't even have a generator at the time) we were one of the few farms that still had electricity. Farms all around us had no electricity. You could hear the cows bawling. They were hungry and thirsty since the wells need electricity to pump water and silos of grain need electricity to unload the grain. It was quite an experience.

We invited the neighbors to bring milk cans and get water for the animals.

Can you guess how much water a cow needs in a day?  

According to Dairy Herd Management,
A milking dairy cow drinks about 30 to 50 gallons of water each day...Water weighs 8.35 lbs/gal, so a milking dairy cow may consume as much as 420 (or more) pounds of water daily.
Our farm had 100 milking cows, plus young and dry stock. So you do the math. Then multiply that by every farm in the county. Yikes!

Now, I haven't even mentioned that you need electricity to milk the cows. So most farmers were back to milking cows by hand. And allowing it to go straight down the drain in most cases. That's a lot of loss.

We were blessed.

We were very thankful that the Lord took care of us. And we used that blessing to open our doors not only to the cows on the neighboring farms but also to friends who came to our home for a shower or a hot meal.

We endured many blizzards over the next few years. Neighbors were always saying, "It isn't usually this bad." But year after year, we could depend on getting a "good" blizzard or two.

Schools in the Winter Cold

No, we didn't have to walk 6 miles uphill both ways to get to school. One thing I do know is that the schools seemed to usually find a way to stay open. Many times school opened two hours late. Other times the buses didn't run but the town kids still had to show up for school. ha, ha!

The most memorable time was when the storm came on the day of the conference basketball championship. Every school around was closed. But not ours. We weren't going to miss playing that conference championship. The local radio announced that they would air the game so that other schools wouldn't be tempted to try to drive out in the weather to see the game. What a day! I'm pretty sure we won the game because in those days we were rated number one and many times played in the state finals.

Well, that's some of my memories of growing up in the cold winters of Wisconsin.