Today in my newsfeed there was a story from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources about the 20th anniversary of the epic winter of 1996. If you're interested in the details check out the article! That year I was 13 years old and willing to do whatever it took to have a snow day. Snow days were a special treat in my younger years, not that it meant that I got a day off but that I got to spend the day with my dad and family. The special treat of a snow day was helping care for our livestock (dairy cows and pigs) with my family in the inclimate weather.
The winter of 1996 was especially wicked. I remember the days when the temperature, not the wind chill, but the actual air temperature was lower than -25! Not just for a date but several days. The governor called off school for us. Thanks Governor Arnie Carlson! We had mountains of snow in the yard in front of our house and in the yards where the cows went out of exercise. I remember shoveling out the drive way to house. We worked hard to shovel out the snow around the calf huts and to the pig barns. My dad used a snow blower on the tractor to clean out the rest of the farm. My brother and I worked with dad all day feeding the animals, bedding them all in to stay warm, thawing out water lines, and of course milking cows twice that day. Winter is difficult for livestock farmers because the animals still need to be fed and cared for. Epic storms of winter are where stories are made and told. This is my story. The air hurt my face. I remember walking into the house that night. It was almost 10pm and the world was silent. Snow stacked piles high, the moon shown onto the drifts and stars had a special luster. I will always remember that night. So beautiful and amazing. Even in the epic winters there is so much beauty. Cold, calm, still. God does amazing work, even in the dead of winter.
Minnesota has a long history of this winter beauty. Minnesota is known for its epic blizzards. My mother tells the stories of the January blizzard of 1975. During that blizzard, my mother's family worked tirelessly to feed and care for their cows but they had an exceptionally hard time because they had no power for several days. During this time there was no water for the cows because it takes power to pull water from the well. My grandfather and his children had to go through extraordinary means to care for their livestock and during that storm over 15,000 head of livestock perished. My mom's family did not lose any animals even without power. My mom tells stories of using candles to light and heat their house as well as cooking with fire. We have been raising livestock in the Midwest for centuries even through our epic storms. I used to joke only the tough survive, but truthfully we innovate, we stay and we keep on working to make life better for ourselves and our livestock. Here's to Minnesota and the rugged farmers that have lived here, currently live here and will live here.