Friday brought very balmy, warm weather, the likes of which Oklahoma had not seen in a few weeks. While folks up north were experiencing the “Siberian Express” hurtling down the plains and bringing bitter, below freezing temperatures along with it, I was enjoying the last hours of our unseasonably warm conditions. I intended to make the most of the warmth by preparing for the bitter cold that was forecast for this weekend. I set out twice yesterday in search of some of the last of the cat brier vine for Emma and Ronnie deer, knowing that, after the arctic front arrived, cat brier and any greens would be scarce.
Of course, I had clipped down most of the brier I had found on our place throughout the summer and fall. Anything I discovered now was more invasive, too high in the trees to reach, or in thickets too difficult to cut through. So yesterday, I called my neighbor to the north, asking if I could cut a few vines I had located across the fence from our property. Fortunately, he was just fine with me eradicating the thorny mess from along the fence we share. As I began clipping though, I realized what looked easy to get to from my side of the fence, was a snarled mess of thorny vines tangled within itself on his side. Sharp needle-like points pierced my hands through my gloves, and a time or two I became ensnared in the vine, with thorns grazing my legs through my jeans. By the time I finished, my hands were aching from being stabbed again and again with what I suppose is a bit of toxin from the thorns. But none of that mattered at the moment. I knew Emma and Ronnie would flourish having this last bit of nature’s nourishment, and I was glad to harvest it for them. A few thorns were not going to get the best of me!
Yesterday morning, as I headed out to do chores in the 34F temperature, with wind gusts to 30 mph, I knew I was experiencing the warmest part of the day, and from here temperatures would plummet steadily with increasing wind and a bit of snow arriving by late afternoon. When I reached the deer pen, I noticed Emma and Ronnie had eaten all of the leaves from Friday’s cat brier vine, so I supposed I would get a bit more if I could find some. But by the time my other chores were completed only thirty minutes later, my hands and feet were frozen. I knew I would have to go inside and warm up a bit before setting out on a brier run. When I got in the house and checked the temperature online, I saw it had already dropped to 30F outdoors with a 17F wind chill.
As I entered our home, where warmth greeted me as soon as I stepped foot in the door, I remembered the winters of my youth. My Dad was one tough fellow in the winter months. He was the one to carry the load of doing most of the morning and evening livestock chores – though I do remember Mom saying she took care of the lambs that were born in the middle of the night so that Dad could get some much-needed rest. Dad was the person who ventured out to start cars, and scrape ice and snow off of the windshields. He moved snow with the tractor if much had fallen during the night. And if a car, truck, or tractor would not start in the bitter Nebraska temperatures, he was the mechanic who worked in the cold until the problem was solved. He had no heated garage to work in. Our out-buildings were for animals, not vehicles. So when the cold got too much for his limbs, he came in the house and stood on a rug by the door so he wouldn’t mess up Mom’s floors with melting snow or muddy tread marks, and he thawed out only long enough to be able to work with his hands again. In later years, the folk’s had a wood burning stove near the front door, and Dad really loved the warmth of the radiant heat it put off. It allowed him to warm up quicker and seemed to be more satisfying. Many times his nose dripped in the cold, and the mucus froze on the tip or just underneath. His eyes were red in the corners and his ears were a brilliant red underneath his bright orange, ear-flap cap. I smiled as I pulled off my own ear-flap cap this morning, thinking I was not so different from my Dad. I was coming in to warm up and then heading back outside to finish what still needed to be done.
I did not last long out in the elements when I returned to cut brier again early yesterday afternoon. The temperature had dropped to 27F, feeling like 12F with the wind chill. I first sawed a limb from an elm tree that had just a few green leaves hanging on in the bitter wind. Next, I quickly ventured to the pecan orchard where I found only a scant amount of cat brier. Just as soon as I had dropped it over the fence into the deer pen, Emma and Ronnie took to nipping off leaves as if it was some grand treat. I placed the elm branch on top of a row of elm limbs I had piled up in their pen to give Emma and Ronnie the experience of woodland cover. Seeing them enjoy the greens made me feel warm inside.
All the way back to the house, my fingers throbbed and my feet felt like frozen clubs as I walked. Still, I had it easy here in the south. This not-often-experienced cold weather would ease off in a few days and we would be back to normal 40 and 50F temperatures. The snow would melt quickly and I would enjoy more pleasant conditions to work in. I could not help but feel a sense of pride as I walked back to the house. I came from a tough people of the north. They were generations of plainsmen, farmers, and early settlers who survived on little. My folks raised us kids to work hard without complaining. One did not question what had to be done – if there was a task to complete or a job to do, there was no argument or whining. Responsibilities took priority. We learned to rely on wit and common sense to get us through tough times. We are people with tough skin.
And that is my wish for Emma and Ronnie – to be resilient in hard times, and to utilize the tough skin that Nature provided them with. Daisy deer showed me she was tough and resilient, and could rely on her instinct to survive – and I know that Emma and Ronnie will too. And as they venture out to find their own way, I will have to rely on my own tough skin, and trust that God/Universe will provide what they need…
© 2016 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…