Winter defines who we were as people

Jerry Apps
But the better we farmers planned for winter, the more we could enjoy what I have called the "quiet season.”

As we move ever closer to winter, my memories return to my early life on the farm. As I think back, nearly everything we did during the other three seasons of the year was to prepare for winter. The crops we planted in spring—oats, corn, potatoes—we harvested in summer and fall, and stored them for the farm animals to eat in winter.

The hayloft in the barn was piled to the roof with hay that we had cut in late June and July, waiting for winter when it would help feed our small herd of hungry milk cows.

The huge garden that my mother managed, with vegetables of every kind, along with such fruits as strawberries and raspberries by late fall were lined up in jars on shelves in the cellar — waiting for winter.

The enormous woodpile just west of the house stood waiting for winter, when it would help warm our farmhouse. In November, we piled straw around the outside of the house, as a way to keep out the winter drafts.

As I think back, I realize that winter, in large measure, defined who we were as people.  We learned the importance of planning for the future—winter, which always arrived, ready or not. We didn’t despise winter as it did provide some time for winter activities such as skiing, sledding, and ice skating.  But the better we planned for it, the more we could enjoy what I have called “The quiet season.”

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: We who live in the north are largely defined by winter.

Jerry Apps

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work, go to