The most challenging part of morning swimming practice was diving into the water. Being from Florida, most mornings were fairy warm; however, we did get some pretty cool temperatures during the winter months. Of course, everything is relative, but 40 degrees at 5:00am standing on the pool deck in a bathing suit seemed cold. It took an enormous amount of will power to force myself to dive into the water, and I still shudder a bit when I recall the feeling of hitting the cold water while my brain was still fuzzy from sleep. I have never become a coffee drinker, and I really think that it goes back to all of those mornings when a cold pool woke me up—A cup of coffee just doesn’t have the same potency as that chilly water!
Twenty years later I still greet the cold winter weather early (our day at the feed yard starts at 6:00am), but I wear coveralls, heavy gloves and boots, and a face mask instead of a swimming suit. My guys all have beards to keep their faces warm in the bitter cold, and I look like a bank robber with my black face mask on.
My definition of cold has altered a bit since I retired from swimming and moved to Nebraska. When I went out to the feed yard on Sunday morning to read bunks and exercise some newly arrived cattle, the temperature was below zero. When I left home before dawn the car thermometer read -3, and it had dropped to -8 by dawn. Thankfully, the notorious and merciless Nebraska wind was not blowing.
Winter time in Nebraska reminds me that Mother Nature is fierce. The descriptive word that comes to mind is raw. Sunday morning I was surrounded by raw temperatures, but I was also surrounded by raw beauty. I was both humbled and amazed.
I do not think that I ever fully appreciated the humbling effect of Mother Nature until I moved to Nebraska. Quite simply, Mother Nature rules my life. She dictates what I do every day, and I have had to learn to adapt to her because she most certainly is not going to adapt to me. I used to get very upset when the weather turned brutal. Today, I accept that I cannot change the weather. Instead of wasting my energy wishing that the weather wasn’t beastly, I channel that energy into setting myself and my animals up for success so that we can effectively deal with Mother Nature’s varied challenges.
We deliver a special feed ration (blend of feed ingredients) to our animals when the weather is nasty, and my guys and I put on layers and layers of warm clothes as we go out to offer the necessary daily care to our bovines. The most important things for my cattle are fresh feed and water, so that is our top priority. Quite honestly, my cattle are significantly more comfortable with winter weather than I am. Cattle are actually very cold tolerant animals and rarely get chilled unless a cold wet rain dampens their coats prior to the temperature dropping. Cattle in Nebraska are genetically wired to tolerate the cold and put on very heavy hair coats this time of year.
As we approach the celebration of Christmas, my children all start to wish for snow. I don’t. My kids will tell you that “Mama prays for a nice, pretty, brown Christmas.” It isn’t that I do not love Christmas, it is my favorite holiday. I simply do not want to share the holiday with a weather challenge so I wish for a brown Christmas instead of a white one. When you care for cattle, snow is synonymous with additional work. I will be traveling with family this year at Christmas so I am especially hopeful that Mother Nature will behave herself. I hope that my guys can celebrate a nice Christmas with their families with the only disruption of the holiday being the normal delivery of feed.
In the meantime, I will continue to both respect and appreciate the raw power and beauty of winter time in Nebraska. I am, after all, the humble inhabitant.