There are a lot of things that make a farmer tough and one of these things is winter weather. When a farmer has to take care of animals in sub-zero temperatures, priorities of said farmer are never clearer. To demonstrate, let me explain what it takes to even get ready to go outdoors, let alone be functional completing chores.
Layers. Your mama told you to dress in layers no matter the season, right? A northerner’s winter is the rule, not the exception for this tip. A running tank top, long-sleeve waffle T-shirt, a sweater and a hooded sweatshirt will get you started, underlined with a pair of long underwear and jeans or tight pair of jeans that hug to your body to keep in warmth. Top all that with a pair of lined coverall pants (or adult snowpants and regular coveralls), a wool button-up shirt, an insulated jacket and maybe a second, larger insulated jacket with a hood. Before you put on your farm boots, now is the time to decide if you have to shed some layers to use the bathroom or go back for a belt. You’ll thank yourself in the fourth hour of chores when you’re not dancing or needing to pull up your first layer of pants that are inconveniently located under your jackets and coveralls.
Finding the right gloves and other accessories. I’m still trying to get this right and this is the number one thing that makes me a winter weather wimp. My sheep are not impressed with the pearls that I wear to my office job and they don’t care if my belt (that you can’t even see under all those layers) matches my manure-covered boots. I don’t need to say that you should find a good pair of thick, wool socks – you already know that, right? A ski mask may not be pretty but it’s definitely the best option, otherwise you may settle for a neck gator and a tight hat that covers your ears.
The gloves are what get me. My hands are slightly bigger than a teenager’s and are absolutely drowned in men’s gloves, which are the most abundant in our household and in farm stores. Dainty garden gloves won’t do it this season and kid’s gloves aren’t likely to have the tough padding needed for barn and field work. My solution is to use a pair of kid’s gloves under a men’s pair of gloves that have a wrist strap to pull tight and lock in a more solid fit. It’s important for a person’s hands to be functional to open gates, use a knife to cut bale strings, handle the tractor gears, wrap around bucket handles and use a pen for hand-written records while sorting sheep. No matter how tempting it is to take those gloves off to use your cell phone to take a video or photo of your hard work in the cold, it’s just not worth it some days. There are warmer days for #felfies.
Optimism. Knowing chores will be over in a certain (estimated) timeframe keeps a person focused on what needs to be done for the farm animals. If you know you’ll stop for lunch, that helps. Lunch hasn’t always been a first priority for us so I usually ask for the day’s agenda before dressing in my layers. And, naturally, the list is usually an optimistic list so I like to ask for more clarification of the day’s priorities. It also helps to know that June is not too far off… and with summer comes grilling season of the meat we’re caring for today!