Being prepared for winter before the first hint of snow is a comforting feeling. In early October this year I made a long punch list of all the things we needed to accomplish before winter came upon us. We had sensed a change in the air and had been acutely aware of the shortening of the days which triggered feelings of urgency. Living in a place where winter can be a serious matter gives many country folks the inner knowing similar of that of a squirrel who innately senses how many nuts are required to sustain life until the spring thaw. Rather than nuts in a tree however, our issues are more about how much hay needs to be put up in the barn, how many cords of wood should be stacked under cover, how much preserved food is required in the cellar, or how much diesel is needed to keep the tractor clearing the drive through the winter. Knowing the proper quantities of stocked supplies for a long hard winter is a matter of education which is generally learned in the school of hard knocks.
Once in the mid seventies while living on the old family ranch I remember waking up one morning to three feet of fresh snow. The storm had been wide spread and every highway within fifty miles was closed. No one could move for days, and because our country road was low on the county’s priority list we were on our own for nearly two weeks. Things were good for about a week, but soon we had to resort to butchering our old pet rooster which tasted a lot like rubber even after hours of boiling. More concerning than food however was the fact that our kids were babies at the time and the greater crises came when Nancy announced that she had used the last disposable diaper. She started substituting dish towels for a while, but being without electrical power she was having a hard time keeping up with the laundry. After the storm broke I snowshoed five miles to the nearest community in search of Pampers. Surprisingly I actually located a couple of boxes and was about to head back up the mountain when the county fire department offered to take me home in their emergency helicopter. It was a memory Nancy will never forget seeing her rescuer climb out of a helicopter in the front pasture with a box of disposable diapers under each arm.
More than once we had to use horses to transport groceries and animal feed long distances through waist deep snows simply because we hadn’t had the foresight to prepare for winter storms. Maybe it’s my age that has caused me to better prepare. Not that I’m smarter than I used to be it is just that as I get older I have discovered that sitting by the fire in a warm house is better than fighting the weather.
This year we have a peace and contentment knowing that the irrigation water lines are drained, the bee hive is winterized, a surplus of both wood and hay are stored in the pole shed and barn, cozy shelters have been built for livestock and chickens and the tractor is fitted with chains and a snow blower to keep our quarter mile drive open to the county road. This week we woke up to our first snow of the season and knowing that things were ready was a comforting feeling.