Ranchers have a forced marriage of sorts with Mother Nature. She is unpredictable, almost always moody and she can be quite unforgiving as well. She lures you in with her beauty; nothing is better than working side-by-side with her when she is agreeable, but nothing is crueler than when she is not.
We have been dealing with drought for over a decade—which is like nature’s version of the love of your life giving you the cold shoulder and the silent treatment. It wears on you and takes the fun out of things, but it is bearable; kind of like a dentist visit that goes on for a couple of years.
Mother Nature also has a mercurial side where she can turn on you suddenly and with vengeance.
That’s what we got this week, with our first full-blown winter blizzard of the season. Thankfully, the weather forecasters had it right and gave us ample warning, but there is very little one can do to prepare for 14 inches of snow coming sideways at 40 mph. It was a blessing that our heifers really haven’t started calving yet.
As we began digging out and taking stock of our situation, I wondered how they handled things like this in generations past. We have the equipment to get everything fed and to move snow around in a way that they did not. Still, there is nothing that reminds you of the sometimes vindictive side of Mother Nature than cold weather, 40 to 50 mph winds and more than a foot of snow piled up in 5 foot drifts. She is fickle, and as my neighbor told me, when you get on her bad side, you can’t send flowers or candy to smooth things out.
When the storm hit, our to-do list got erased as our daily basics went from being a 6-hour job to a 24-hour job. I think ranch kids are the only ones who don’t celebrate a snow day, but as a parent, it is sure nice to have the extra help. I suspect I don’t tell them how much I appreciate it, and they may whine about it later, but they never say a word when we are in the heat of the battle. I guess they simply understand that it must be done and that we can eat and sleep after we know the cattle are safe and fed.
Mother Nature seems to have a mind of her own, and no amount of pleading or begging seems to change her mind, even if she is listening. Digging out with sunshine and blue skies makes it difficult to complain, and we managed to get through the storm without much damage. It could have been a whole lot worse, and besides that, winter isn’t over yet—we needed the trial run to see what our preparations had neglected.
The opinions of Troy Marshall are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com and the Penton Agriculture Group.