However, as with everything, perpetual, never-ending, relentless and infinitely tiresome, cruddy weather has its upside. For example, when is the last time you saw a fly? I know they are bothersome in town, too, but on a farm flies abound. They like barns and all the content thereof and their sheer pestiferousness is profound. The other day, one of the three warm days in the past three months, a tired, shriveled, dusty, old thing began buzzing around on the table next to my Sunday chair. For a moment I wasn't even sure just what it was.
It's been that long.
And then I remembered -- summertime has its woes much as does winter, and flies are a big one. Still it had been months since I'd seen one. Dare we hope that most of this guy's friends and relatives froze or dried up and blew away this year? Probably not, and it doesn't matter anyhow. If just one pair of house flies survives the winter, the female could lay 9,000 eggs in her 15- to 30-day lifespan. If the little darlings all hatch and half of them are female, and each of those lay 9.000 eggs ... You do the math, because I can't count that high. Guess I should have swatted that one, whirling around on its back on the table.
Loose cow hair, or the lack thereof, is another bonus of the frigid weather. Normally some time in January the cows begin to shed. By March they are going at it like it's their job.
However, this year, not so much. I have only taken the curry comb down once or twice so far this year and haven't used the broom on cows with itchy fannies yet at all.
This does not make me sad.
Picture a whole barn full of three-quarter-ton dogs, all shedding at once, each and every one of them thoroughly covered with shaggy, red, black or white hair. Chilling concept, ain't it? Not for nothing do I go down my row sweeping on them once they get shedding in earnest.
Although they will surely start to do so eventually, for now there is no hair in the barn coffee. Only a little hair on the barn clothes, now and then. Spring will bring clouds and I don't mean cumulus. I'm in no hurry for that.
And then there are the leaves. I won't lie. I do miss leaves. I can't wait for them to return from their winter feeding grounds in the far south, to perch on the tips of all the branches up and down the valley, twittering and chattering.
Who doesn't love leaves? From the first blurry haze of lime and lipstick that tinges the hillsides in spring, to the dessert-plate sized crisps that tumble off the cottonwood by the driveway in fall, they add beauty to every day. I even love raking them, mulching the garden with them, the way they smell, and their shapes and their colors. And how about the way they rustle so sweetly in the soft spring breeze?
However I do not love the way they prevent a cell phone from working in the barn. When the leaves are out and the trucker calls or some family member rings in with an important question or even a telemarketer with a yen to annoy, I have to run out of the barn and up into the middle of the barnyard to take the call. Then the vacuum pump noise makes it hard to hear, and if the heifers are around they stick their noses into the conversation as well. In the winter the darned thing works fine, even in the manger in the center of the barn.
And the mosquitoes buzz in, too. Don't miss them much either.
So you see, winter is OK. You just have to know where to look.
Oh, heck, who am I trying to kid? I hate it. Worst season ever created and a misery no matter how bright and crisp and pretty.
So just let me say:
Hey Winter, you windy old fool. Get out that silver icicle wand and wave it all around. Time for some reverse magic here in the Northeast.
Past time, in fact.
So roll up your snow banks. Scrub up all that ice. Pull your frost up out of the ground. Go on. I don't care if your fingers get cold, get it gone, get it done.
Because, Winter, it's time to go home; yer drunk.
And don't let the door hit your big white fanny on the way out.
Leave it open wide for Spring to come, a-dance on small pink feet. And jingling her keys, as she swings her golden willow wand and brings us all we wait for. Let her unlock shining robin throats, and conduct the bright dawn chorus. Bang her booming thunder drums and flash those lightning eyes. Pull crocuses up above the ground and weave up big blue skies.
Whistle up a woodcock. Call killdeers from down south. Wave a flag of warbler flocks and toss out leafy blankets.
To sprawl like magic on the woods, all blinding on the hill tops, and secret in the thickets.
Muscle up a mess of mud and watch us grin and thank her.
Prod the farmer with that willow stick, from where he's mourning sadly. He's had enough of winter, its breakdowns, frost, and hunger. Get out there man and grease those bearings, check the bushings, fix the wiring. Polish up the tractor paint and open up the barn door.
Roll out wire and build your fence, pound posts in, straight and strong.
Watch the back of southbound cattle as they scamper across the ground. Feed new calves and baby chicks and see the lambs go bounding. Time for color. Time for planting. Time for Winter to light a shuck on out of here and let his quirky little niece take over.
Got spring? I sure hope so.
Fultonville dairy farmer MARIANNE FRIERS
is a regular columnist. She blogs