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This baler's work is done for the year.

Now is the season of our discontent made gloomy by the icy grip of winter.

Chris Hardie

Chris Hardie

Forgive my Shakespearean mashup, but it’s difficult at times to be optimistic when we have months of misery ahead. The cold hard truth: Winter is here.

I’m a hardy Wisconsinite through and through. We know what we sign up for when we live in the land of four seasons. While the calendar says the seasons should be of equal length, we all know the lines are not clearly defined and that seasons often run together. Especially the fifth season of smud — snow and mud — that comes between winter and spring.

Sometimes we are teased. We had a taste of winter Nov. 1 with a couple of inches of heavy snow, but it quickly melted because the rest of the month was warmer than normal. Black Friday was Balmy Friday with temperatures in the mid-60s.

But often the transition is harsh. The temperature in La Crosse on Dec. 4 hit 62 degrees, just 2 degrees off the record high for that date.

But Dec. 5 the high temperature was 35 degrees — shortly after midnight. The thermometer fell the rest of the day as the winds increased to 20 miles per hour with gusts topping 40. That put the wind chill into the single digits.

In less than 24 hours we went from T-shirts to long johns. That morning I was helping our carpenters set trusses on our wedding-venue facility. The relentless wind drove me back into the house twice for another layer of clothes and thicker gloves. Limber would be the last word I would use to describe how I was feeling climbing up and down ladders and scaffolding.

The weather was pretty much the same the rest of the week until it warmed slightly. Overnight we had a couple inches of snow. Suddenly I’m looking for the snow shovel, chipping ice from unheated waterers and measuring the my anemic-looking wood pile.


Scottish Highland cattle take winter in stride.

I know I don’t have enough hay for the animals through the winter. I also know the battery on my 20-year-old farm truck won’t survive. Somewhere in the garden there are hoses that should have been rolled up and put away. The sheep/goat/donkey barn needs bedding. The snow blower needs a tune-up.

All of this is just a precursor. The real fun begins when the temperature hits 30 below zero. And I’m days away from turning another year older.

Yet my heart lifted when I stepped outside to feed the animals. Our 9-year-old Labrador Nessie greeted the snow with the pleasure of a young child whose wish for a new sled and a white Christmas had come true. She ran and rolled like a puppy.

I smiled as I watched Nessie play in the snow. Earlier in the week she was protesting about climbing the steps when her hips were aching. I felt the same way the morning after moving trusses.

That was then.

This is now.

I fed the animals and started humming a few Christmas songs while I cleared the snow from the driveway. A few minutes later I had a hot cup of coffee in my hand while I warmed by the fire.

Carpe diem.

Former Tribune editor Chris Hardie and his wife, Sherry, raise sheep and cattle on his great-grandparents’ Jackson County farm.


Local news editor

(1) comment


Winter - a time to relax, restore, make new lists for tasks doable in cold weather. Feed the animals, again and again, bed the animals, again and again and then maybe thaw water tanks and pipes. I hear your need for coffee and cookies by the wood cook stove in the kitchen. Do any more of your readers relate? I hope so. And don't forget some Bing Crosby and Dean Martin Christmas music....

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