Digging out

Susan Manzke
Bob Manzke shovels his way to feed the cats in the midst of the spring storm that hit the state last weekend.

Everyone knows we had a blizzard last weekend across a good portion of Wisconsin. This storm included us.

Being snowed-in on a dairy farm is especially bad. Cows still need to be fed and milked and when milked that fluid has to go somewhere. Milk trucks take it away to processors, but what if the trucks can’t get through and there’s not enough storage to hold the milk?

I’m making this point for non-farmers. Life can be more than challenging out in the country.

Bob and I are far beyond our dairy cow days. Still Bob remembers a blizzard in his early farming years when he had to dump milk. After everything was filled up, and neighbors took what they could use (one smart person took the cream and made butter), there was nothing else to be done, but dump the rest.

Back then Bob and his dad were only milking 35 cows. The animals continued to need milking even when there was nowhere to take or store their product.  

No cows on this farm today. Here we only have a few chickens and barn cats to worry about. On Saturday, when the drifts were only three-feet tall, Bob and I worked our way across the yard to the barn. It took some shoveling to get to the chickens, but we managed. Extra food and water were left with our little flock. 

A friend came with his pickup and plowed open our driveway — getting stuck twice — helping us out. Later, Paul told Bob that after he left our farm, he almost got stuck on our road.

Trekking to the shed where the cats congregate was harder. Of course, Bob and I were crazy. There we were, two old fogeys, trying to feed some ungrateful feral cats. It took some doing, but we got into the shed, left food and water, and then ventured back to the house.

One of the barn cats on the Manzke farm is thankful for Bob's shoveling efforts during the weekend storm.

The blizzard continued through Sunday. Snow grew to a six foot drift in front of the chicken shed door. Other places we had 10-foot drifts. It will take a payloader, not a truck with a plow, to move the high drifts. 

Bob does have a tractor and loader, though not a big one. Even small as it is he couldn’t get to it. It will take a lot of hand-shoveling just to get that barn open. 

Still my 75-year-old husband was determined to get to our chickens. Right now Bob has a snow shovel and is cutting through the four-foot drift outside our back door. I told Bob that I would kill him if he had a heart attack.

Bob came in and warmed up before tackling more drifts in front of the chickens. After resting and warming, he was right back out with his shovel. Luckily, the depth of the snow wasn’t four feet deep across the whole yard. Some was walkable, but Bob had to put a lot of effort to lift the heavy, wet snow.

The chickens are now fed and have fresh water again. It is fortunate for them that Bob is one determined man.

Bob now says his next trip is to the machine shed to get his tractor. He won’t be going alone on this venture. I’m getting ready to join him. A narrow path won’t get the shed door open. It’s iced in by a long snow drift.

Of course, I don’t want Bob out there on the tractor either, but again he’s determined to move these drifts himself. Men like him, who have worked hard all their lives, don’t like it when they have to rely on others for help. Then again he looked at one of the mountains of snow and said, “Still, spring will eventually take care of that.” So he can be reasonable.

Right now homemade bread and soup are on our menu in-between attacks on the snow. I hope I’ll be able to convince Bob to wait for nicer weather. At least we can get to the chickens. The barn cats will come up to the house for food when they are hungry. 

Wait! Here comes our neighbor Paul again with his plow! He is charging through the driveway drifts — getting stuck, shoveling, and then back at it again! This storm sure made life interesting for everyone.

Happy spring!

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