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When I started writing today, the sun was shining. The temperature was almost 40 degrees. Snow and ice were melting. It felt like spring.

It was so nice I stopped working and took the dog for a walk. Sunny really enjoyed himself. When he found deer tracks crossing the ditch, he put his whole face into each hoof hole and took a deep whiff of deer scent. Sunny didn't understand how deep the snow was though and floundered in the drifted snow when he attempted to follow the tracks.

Bob was outside, too. He was loading a few bales of hay on a trailer. These were headed to another farm to feed steers.

Everyone was enjoying the mild weather but anticipating the change to come. We were in the center of a winter storm warning, with inches of snow predicted and wind to blow it around. At that moment, we were in the calm before the storm.

The weather forecasters were telling us to batten down the hatches for this one. Have plenty of food on hand — this always makes us smile because our larder is usually full, especially our freezer. We are always prepared for a weather change, or unexpected company.

Today, Bob took time to make sure his Massey Fergus tractor was fueled up. He even took it for a trial run, moving the snow that was close to the mailbox back so there was room for more.

Now it's beginning to snow lightly — kind of pretty. The trouble is that this dusting now covers patches of ice in our driveway. Walking out for the mail or going to the barn is now more treacherous. I'll have to walk carefully when I go outside.

Good thing the dog had his walk. Sunny never understands why I refuse to take him outside during a storm. The weather is never too bad for him, except maybe when it's below zero, and then his feet get cold fast. Even the dog doesn't want to stay out then.

While anticipating the additional white stuff, I found that I was nervously pacing around the house. No use wasting all that pent-up energy. I had to do something.

Usually when in this kind of mood in the winter I cook. Since we're trying to eat healthy, I wasn't about to bake a cake or cookies. That's when I remembered we were out of apple butter. With dried fruit, cranberry juice and spices, I set about making another batch.

Soon our kitchen smelled like Christmas with the addition of cinnamon, allspice and cloves. The hours of slow-cooking and stirring distracted me enough to forget about the approaching storm.

Later, I'll be making chicken soup, the kind where I raid the cupboard for ingredients. No recipes involved.

Once the only veggies I found for my soup was a bag of frozen oriental vegetables. I was trying to add some zing to that pot of soup and discovered I had ground ginger in the fridge. A spoonful of that changed my pot of chicken soup into something out of the ordinary and very tasty.

I stopped typing for a moment to check the weather radar on the Internet. The blustery weather is almost here.

Bob and I are inside, which is where we'll stay until the storm has passed. Pushing the mounds of the white stuff with the tractor and loader will wait until the snow stops moving. 'There's no hurry,' said Bob. 'Spring is coming, and it will all melt then.'

We don't have livestock anymore. My husband will be digging us out as he has always done. There just isn't so much of a hurry as it used to be when the cows needed tending.

Hope you were able to spend some quality time indoors where you are safe and warm during the bad weather. I'll be reading a book, while Bob will be doing bookwork. Each of us will be contemplating spring. Now that thought puts a smile pn my face.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; Sunnybook@aol.com; www.SusanManzke.net

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