Tag Archives: Winter

10 Things I Learned in March

31 Mar

Hello, March. I think you might have misunderstood your role in this 12-month saga known as a year. We’re supposed to be on the road to spring.

March_snow

This was the scene from my office window last week. Ugh. I’m trying so hard to stay positive, but the truth is that I’m tired. So very tired of winter. Normal Michigan winters are nothing to sneeze at, but this winter has been extreme. Extremely cold temperatures, extremely constant snow accumulation (with no melting), extremely hyper border collie suffering from cabin fever.

Thank heavens that today is predicted to be an unfathomable 60 degrees. I was ready to break out my shorts and flip flops when temps tipped over 40 yesterday, so I might just sunbathe today. Maybe spring is more than a figment of my deepest memory.

As we go out like a lamb, here are the things I learned this month.

10 Things I Learned in March

1. Dairy Man and I have different ideas about Baby F’s wardrobe.
#Carharttsversusbowties

Carhartt_v_bowtie

2. The World Wide Web is 25 years old.
Our little Webby is turned 25 in March. Though it’s hard to fathom a world without LOLCats, snarky tweets about Vogue covers, and the bottomless pit of information on Google, the Internet as we know it did not exist before 1989. Congratulations, WWW. Go rent a car.

3. It takes 4-5 adults to put together one IKEA dresser.
The nursery is finally coming along (and not a minute too soon for my mega-nesting impulses). A few weeks ago we invited my parents and sister over to help set up the nursery and organize baby crap. Yes, that is the technical term. Somehow we all got involved in the construction of one very complicated IKEA Hemnes dresser. Talk about family bonding.

IKEA_day

4. Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Segel pulled off an epic duet of “Confrontation” from Les Misérables.
Never before has there been a more perfect union of one of my favorite sitcoms and one of my favorite musicals.

5. I’m the best wife ever.
Even though I couldn’t participate in one of my favorite national holidays—Oberon Day—I made sure that Dairy Man was able to ring in spring with our favorite summer brew. Major points for the nine-month pregnant lady.

Oberon

6. Babies need pets.
These photos are proof. Baby F and Jersey simply must be best friends.

7. A lot can change in three short weeks.
Somehow I grew a torpedo between weeks 33 and 36. Now that I’m in week 38, I can’t even begin to fathom how this torpedo can get any bigger.

Torpedo

8. A medium shamrock shake from McDonalds has 660 calories.
SIX-HUNDRED AND SIXTY calories, people. Insanity. This did not stop me from partaking, mind you, but it did add a minty layer of guilt to my annual green treat. I wish I could unlearn this particular fact.

Shamrock_shake

9. Snow frisbee > regular frisbee
Just ask the one puppy in our family who is not ready for the snow to melt. He’s all about anything that allows him to dramatically hurl his body through the air like a furry David Beckham into a cold, white foam pit.

snowdog

10. This balancing dog is smarter and more awesome than I’ll ever be. 
Just take a look at these mad skills. Jersey, we have a new spring project.

balancing_dog

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10 Things I Learned in February

27 Feb

Not to sound like a broken record, but I can honestly say that I’m not sorry to see the backside of February. I’m sick of winter. DM is sick of winter. The cows are sick of winter. Jersey is … not, but he’s a furry anomaly who is blinded by his love of snow frisbee.

Practically speaking, I need things to warm up because my winter coat will no longer button over my pregnant girth. The whole “I can stuff myself into it until spring” plan isn’t really working and a milder season is nowhere in sight.

Stuffed-sausage-coats notwithstanding, February cannot not squeak by without teaching me a few things. Thus, I give you:

10 Things I Learned In February

1. You can supply an entire home with water through a garden hose.
How, pray tell, do I know this fun fact? Well, thanks to the delightful little winter we’re having, the pipe running from the farm’s main water source to our house froze SOLID. So did the ground all around it. Short of digging up 70 feet of pipe in frozen ground, we’re stuck. The solution? Run several garden hoses from the water supply to our house. The hose connects directly to our system in the house (even running through the water heater), so I can’t complain too much, but we live in constant fear of the hose freezing too. Seriously. Is it spring yet?

hose


2. While Dairy Man is away, MFW will play.

Or binge watch the entire season 2 of House of Cards. DM spent a week in California this month to attend the World Ag Expo and tour around dairy country. He soaked up the sun, ogled at rotary parlors, and ate from taco trucks. I didn’t clean anything, ate cinnamon rolls for dinner, and watched an embarrassing number of HOC episodes. The show is so addicting. And to those who have seen the last episode, can I just say: WHAAAAAAT!?!?!? Season 3 is going to be a thrill ride.

houseofcards


3. I have a secret to avoid speeding tickets.

Well, sort of. True confession: I force out a big yawn whenever I pass a police car because I think it makes me look nonchalant. Obviously no laws can be broken while yawning. I like to believe it’s impossible to perceive a yawner as a speeder.

4. I have not overcome my donut cravings.
I’ve never wanted sugar more than I have during this pregnancy. Proof? This is what my body required to get through my weekly grocery shopping trip this Monday. I couldn’t even talk myself out of it with the “you’ll spoil your dinner” argument because farmers don’t eat until 8 p.m. anyway! Curses.

donut


5. Just as DM suspected, whole milk may keep you lean.

I admit to you that I came into my marriage as a fervent lover of skim milk, margarine, and low-fat yogurt. Oh the horror. Dairy Man was so ashamed. But I gradually began to see that my perceptions about “healthy” dairy were far from the truth. Studies are starting to suggest that natural fats are actually better for us than the empty low-fat/no-fat options on the market. DM is quite smug.

6. Ice cover on the Great Lakes stood at 77% as of Tuesday.
This winter has been unlike any we’ve seen in the last 20-30 years. As a result, the Great Lakes were 77 percent frozen this week! And they were a mind-boggling 88 percent frozen on February 13. I’m not quite ready to ice skate to Wisconsin (especially since Lake Michigan is only about 50 percent frozen), but these stats boggle my mind.

7. It’s possible for Dairy Man to love Paul Rudd even more than he already does.
DM has two primary man-crushes in his life: James Franco (which I do not understand) and Paul Rudd (which I do). This unfettered man-love often dictates his movie choices and even trickles into his YouTube browsing. Paul’s recent lip sync battle with Jimmy Fallon propelled DM’s warm fuzzy feelings to new heights.

8. Somewhere in the world, tropical pigs are swimming.
This is the stuff that gets me through the day.

pigs-of-bahamas


9. There is one sure-fire way to ruin your husband’s day.
Just swap the melted Snickers bar he was saving for a “special occasion” with raisins. Oops.

snickersbar


10. I have less than 50 days until my due date.

Y-to the-IKES. I can’t believe how quickly the third trimester is flying by. And how big I feel. I like to surprise people with the size of my belly by turning sideways quickly, bouncing on my toes, and shouting, “WA-BUM!” It’s dramatic. This baby boy/dairy spawn will be here soon. Now if we could just finish the nursery or agree on a name…

32weeks

Updates From the Polar Vortex

24 Feb

Pssssssssht. Breaker, breaker. This is MFW coming to you live from a snowdrift.

I’m going to start with this photo. Because it soothes me.

tulum

I want to go to there. This lovely shot is from our honeymoon in Mexico a million years ago. It’s good to remember that there are places in the world free of this year’s #polarvortex.

Sigh.

Unfortunately Michigan is still firmly planted in winter. Despite wildly odd weather last week—thunder snow, 40 degrees, and pouring rain—temps are back in the low teens this week.

My psyche just can’t take it. I’m tired of wearing three layers at all times, getting my car stuck in the driveway, whiteouts on the roads, and worrying about our roof collapsing under three months of snow accumulation. I just want to be warm again. I’m still waiting for those awesome pregnancy hot flashes people keep talking about.

I’m getting close to my winter breaking point.

Dairy Man might be even more sick of winter than I am. His life the past few months has involved frozen pipes, broken machinery, stuck milk trucks, countless pairs of long underwear, and so, so much plowing.

plowtruck

Dairying gets a lot harder when we’re dealing with six-foot piles of snow, icy roads, and sub-arctic temperatures.

Thankfully the ladies take it all in stride. They get fluffy winter coats, group together in the sand beds, and eat, eat, eat.

cows

We do our best to help them stay warm and toasty during the cold months. Cow-sized sweaters are out of the question—I was never much of a knitter—and the girls don’t love hot cocoa, but we close the barn curtains, change our feed ration to include higher fat, and turn on the heaters in the water troughs.

We’re all getting by. The only family member wholly unfazed by winter is Jersey the snow dog.

snowdog

He loves snow—for playing, walking or eating. The last one is most annoying. There are few things more demoralizing than being an adult human being standing outside in negative temps and 40 mph winds yelling, “GO POTTY!!!!” to a stubborn and impervious border collie chowing down on snow.

jersey

It’s been a long, hard winter. Perhaps one I’ll creakily tell my children about someday.

But I must remember that this season won’t last forever. The days are getting longer, spring is getting nearer, and there are occasional moments of pure beauty. It’s all about the sunshine.

wintersunset

From the safety of a warm car or house, the winter wonderland really is spectacular.

photo_2

photo(6)

And I’m sure we’ll get the tractors unburied … someday.

buriedtractors

10 Things I Learned in January

30 Jan

I don’t know about you, dear readers, but I’m happy to put January 2014 in the rearview mirror. The past 30 days have been a mess of snow, ice, freezing temps, treacherous drives, and the tantalizing desire to hibernate. Dairy Man has been getting a lot of use out of his HappyLight. I’ve been fighting off the urge to eat baked goods. We’re ready to move forward.

That said, the polar vortex didn’t prevent me from learning a few things this month.

1. Jimmy Fallon reunited Danny, Uncle Jesse, and Uncle Joey for a skit about his Tonight Show fears. And the 90s child inside of me nearly exploded with delight.

2. My “be ready in five minutes” is identical to Dairy Man’s “be home in five minutes.”
In short, they’re both lies. DM and I are a match made in heaven. This is why we’re always late to church and often find ourselves eating dinner at 8:45 p.m. But I can say with certainty that my “five minutes” has never turned into “gone for the rest of the day.” Not even I could primp that long.

3. Naming a child is next to impossible.
DM and I are in big trouble. It doesn’t bode well that it took nearly a week for Jersey the dog to be christened. I’ve had a spreadsheet of possible names for years now (because I’m crazy …er… I mean organized like that) and I spend far too much time reading articles like this. We’ve crossed off a lot of names we DON’T like, but we can’t agree on names we DO like. DM is drawn to Nordic/Viking names like Leif and Thor. I’m drawn to names that won’t be tragically ironic if this kid is scrawny. Only 71 days left to get this nailed down. boy names

4. Jessica is a bona fide fad name.
Thanks a lot, Mom and Dad. There’s nothing unique about a Jessica. It was literally THE most popular girls’ name the year I was born. I always had about five of them in my class. On the upside, I was always able to find personalized pencils. #4 on this list explains “name fads” and this graph proves that Jessica will be an Old Lady Name (like Bessie or Gertrude) by the time I hit my 60s. I’m trying so desperately to avoid name fads for Baby F.

Jessica graph

5. I don’t play with Legos, but if I had this Downton Abbey set, I might have to.DowntonAbbeyLegos

6. When temps dip below freezing, everything on the dairy will break.
Michigan hasn’t escaped the polar vortex that’s plagued the country since around Thanksgiving. I can’t believe this winter. So much snow. So ridiculously cold. Things get tricky on the dairy when the temps drop like this. In addition to all of the normal winter tasks—lowering curtains, putting coats on the calves, plowing, plowing, and more plowing—DM seems to spend half his life fixing broken things. Water pumps, tractors, generators, drinking fountains, the list goes on. And we haven’t even started to talk about stuck milk trucks or frozen manure. Oof. We’re hoping for an early spring.Snowdrift

7. I still love Chicago.
Even after 3.5 of solid country living, I can still fully assimilate into the hustle and bustle of Chicago, my favorite urban metropolis. DM and I spent the weekend in the Windy City this month and it was just what my pre-baby soul needed. Despite the subarctic temperatures, it was a thrilling weekend of new restaurants, the Shedd, Phantom of the Opera, amazing views, and way too many cab rides (thanks to our desire not to die of frostbite). It’s not easy for DM to get off the dairy, but I love it when he does. Even farmers need some culture. And I always need some Chitown.Chitown

8. Painting isn’t easy with a big belly.
But nesting instinct trumps pregnancy awkwardness. We’ve spent the last few weekends painting the nursery and upstairs landing (with no-VOC paint, don’t worry) in preparation for the babe. Even though I’ve been forced to wear some super-stylish painting clothes (DM’s old stuff) and have gotten myself into some embarrassing predicaments as I try to bend, twist, and squat, it’s been worth it. We’re so close. Almost time for furniture and stuffed penguins.Painting day

9. Jelly Belly now makes a beer-flavored jelly bean.
In a word, ew. Not even this teetotaler prego is interested. But someone must be buying, because the beans are already sold out.

index

10. As soon as the third trimester begins, slight panic kicks in.
I’m not sure what changed from week 27 to 28, but I started to hyperventilate as soon as I entered the “home stretch” of my pregnancy. There’s so much to do. Decorate the nursery, figure out a name, make a baby registry, prepare Jersey (we’re using this book), write a birth plan, learn infant CPR, buy more leggings. I’m so excited. And so terrified. Thank goodness DM is calm, laid back, and levelheaded. Between the two of us, I think we’ll be ok. I just hope the new little guy enjoys tractor rides.3rdTri

Power in the Pause: Merry Christmas

23 Dec

Whew.

Between Christmas preparations, home renovations, and growing a human, this season has been overwhelming and hectic for me. Rather than feeling joyous and grateful, I found myself withdrawing into a candy-cane-crusted ball of stress.

It all came to a crux last week. After four weeks of frantic shopping, cooking, cleaning, and strain, I desperately needed a breath.

So when I stepped out of the car at my office, I took a moment. I stopped in my tracks and was still, quiet, open. The bitter cold burned my nose and ears. The silence of the snow was deafening. Everything was foggy, frozen, muffled. Then, the softest hint of sunrise began to spill over the horizon and I felt peace wash over me.

Ice and snow

A soul needs these moments.

There’s power in the pause.

Change is inevitable. I know that the next year will bring the biggest changes of Dairy Man and my 3.5 years of marriage (as if moving to the country or starting a dairy aren’t big enough changes). But I’m in no rush. I’m trying to savor each step, each present moment, because I know they will never be here again.

Jersey soccer ball

So, if you’re like me and feel overworked, under-appreciated, and want to scream if you see one more unfrosted sugar cookie:

Take a deep breath.

Pause.

Allow yourself to be silent.

It’s going to be ok.

Remember that even if the green bean casserole is burned, you forgot to get a gift for your cousin’s brother’s girlfriend, or you ate yourself into a sugar coma, a tiny little baby was born in Bethlehem.

Because this season isn’t about perfect homes, perfect gifts, perfect meals, perfect milk production (sorry, DM), or perfect people. We are flawed. We are human. We need the redemption that Christmas brings.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  –Isaiah 9:6

I hope you take the opportunity to pause and soak in your own quiet moments this week.

Love and Merry Christmas, from our barn to yours.

2013xmascard

XO,
MFW

Conference Season in Dairyland

20 Nov

Alas and alack. Our little hamlet of Smalltown, Michigan received a light dusting of the white stuff last week.

I can no longer ignore the fact that it is late November and the cold season is upon us.

I despise winter; I really do. Don’t get me wrong—I love a little snow between Thanksgiving and Christmas to get me in the mood for tree-trimming, egg-nogging, and fa-la-la-ing. But I would be perfectly happy if it all melted on January 1 and we jumped into spring. For me, winter means freezing temperatures, gray skies, pasty white skin, treacherous driving, and a puppy that suffers from cabin fever whenever he’s not playing in the snow.

But there is one good thing about this time of year (besides peppermint stick ice cream): I have a lot more QT with the dairy man. That’s “Quality Time,” Mom. Don’t get all weird on me.

After the frantic pace of fall harvest settles down, we enter the dairy’s “slow” season. Sure, DM may occasionally have to run up to the barn at 4 a.m. to fix a milk tank, but he tends to work shorter days at a slower speed. The world is our oyster and we have nothing but time to spend together.

Except for the conferences.

That’s right. Just when I’m getting used to eating dinner before 8 p.m. and having a housecleaning partner on Saturdays, the dairy farm conference season begins.

Back in the days of three-legged stools and buggies, farming was a relatively isolated profession. Until I met the dairy man, I thought this was still the case. I would have laughed at the prospect of a bunch of farmers gathering at a two-day summit in a hotel multipurpose room to discuss “the latest on carbohydrates, starch digestibility, shredlageTM, and snaplage for dairy cows.”

But these conferences exist. Farmers like mine are puttering all over the country in the winter to learn, network, brainstorm, and tour each others’ dairies. Being married to a dairy farmer has made me realize how large and collaborative this industry really is.

My DM reads dozens of dairy magazines and checks stock and commodities prices on a daily basis.

He also closely follows immigration legislation and yes, spends his winter going to dairy conferences in locales from Cleveland to Las Vegas.

Last year the DM spent three days at the Bellagio in Vegas. He saw David Copperfield. He ate expensive steak. He socialized with other “elite dairy producers” and talked cows 24/7. Rough life, eh?

I think the dairy man enjoys going conferences because he believes that if our dairy isn’t moving forward, it is moving backward. He comes back home from each meeting bursting with new ideas, innovative solutions, and a whole lot of swag from …ahem… semen distributors.

I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that the dairy man won’t sit still, even in the dreary days of winter.

This is the guy who couldn’t even kick back on a beach in Mexico during our honeymoon. While I was sipping fruity drinks and taking long naps in the sun, my dear farmer spent most of the week poring through dairy magazines, drawing barn plans, and solving complicated math problems.

That man doesn’t know how to relax. I’ve seen him jump out of a nap with a start, scribble something on a sheet of paper, and immediately fall back asleep.

There’s no such thing as winter hibernation for my farmer. Conference season is upon us. But he loves it.

As for me, I think it would be great if our dairy cooperative would hold a conference in Hawaii … or the Bahamas. I’ve heard that you can learn a lot about dairy cows with a coconut beverage in your hand. Especially if you bring your wife. Trust me.

Batten Down the Hatches: Winter on the Farm

11 Jan

Something about that title makes me want to wear an eye patch, get a pet parrot named Polly, and end every sentence with “Yaaaaaaarrrrrr.”But this is not a post about pirates, yaaaaaaaaarrrr. This is a post about cows (but not cow pirates). Someday we’ll contemplate a world in which burly cow pirates roam the seas like those mischievous stars of the Chick-fila-A commercials, but not today.

Though Michigan has been experiencing some delightfully mild temperatures lately, I know the winter won’t pass us by. As we enter this second week of January, the suspense is building. The temps are slowly dropping and there’s snow in the forecast. These days it’s not unusual for the nightly lows to be in the 20s. And we’re not even in the throes of winter yet, people! This is the time of year when we have to bundle up from head to toe when entering the great outdoors. But what about our bovine ladies? How do they keep warm in the 4-6 months of blustery cold?

Is there a church group somewhere knitting cow-sized sweaters? Does the Dairy Man fill the water troughs with hot cocoa and marshmallows? Do the ladies huddle around hundreds of space heaters? Not exactly.

We have a few ways to help the cows stave off the chill in winter. First, the Dairy Man closes the curtains. Much like our parlor isn’t frilly and Victorian, the curtains here aren’t lacy and delicate. Rather than silk or cotton, these curtains are made of thick plastic. Each barn has top and bottom curtains that come down on each side. The bottom curtains are almost always down, but the top curtains come down in the colder months. These curtains help protect our cows from blustery winds and keep snow from blowing in and getting the sand beds wet.

Next, the ladies get fluffy. Seriously. Around November each year, I start noticing that the bovine members of our family are sporting some seriously rocking ‘dos.

The Dairy Man also has a few other tricks to keep our dry and milking cows happy. In the winter the feed ration changes slightly to include a higher fat content because the cows burn more energy to stay warm. We also turn on heating units in each drinking trough to keep the water from freezing. And what about the moneymakers on the underside of each cow? When temperatures drop below 15 degrees, DM and his milkers switch to a teat dip (more on that in a future post) that has more conditioners in it to keep the udders from drying out.

When you stop to think, it’s not entirely different from my raging chapstick addiction in the winter. I blame Bonnie Bell, circa 1999.

So that’s how the older and more mature members of our herd weather a Michigan winter. But what about the little guys and gals? The big cows may not get sweaters, but the calves get jackets!

What’s that? Your heart just melted? That’ll happen.

In addition to their stylish jackets, calves are also given more straw for their beds to build forts …er… nests. And visions of sugar drops danced in their heads…

Though this January has been unseasonably warm (I’m entirely in favor of global warming if it means 45 degree heatwaves in the middle of winter), a storm is a’brewing. I’ve lived in Michigan too long not to expect that we will PAY for this nice weather. So when the flakes inevitably fly, the cows and I will bundle up, eat more fat than usual, and dream of green pastures.

Jersey, on the other hand, has found a favorite season and loves to be outside. Curses.