When I’m gray and grizzled I will remember the winter of 2018-2019 for its brutality during a relatively short period of time.

Of course I forget that I’m already gray and grizzled, but it has certainly been a tale of two winters. The first six weeks of winter were deceptively easy, with temperatures in December that were 7 degrees above average. Our precipitation was mainly rain.

Then the switch was flipped. The polar vortex at the end of January carried through into February – and then snow, snow and more snow.

The weather folks at the La Crosse National Weather Service say that meteorological winter – Dec. 1 through Feb. 28 – finished with temperatures at slightly less than normal. It was the fourth-wettest winter on record, with 6.34 inches of precipitation and 50.1 inches of snow.

It was worse just to the west of us for the hardy folks in Rochester, Minnesota. Temperatures were 2.8 degrees less than normal and it was the wettest winter on record – 6.3 inches of precipitation and 68.2 inches of snow.

Of course Mother Nature doesn’t follow the meteorological calendar. True to form she has been more of a lion, as cold temperatures and snow have continued into March. After another round of snow it finally looks like we’re going to have some melting. That would be normal for a month where the average temperature is 43.9 degrees. We could use some normalcy to slowly melt this snow and ice to lessen the threat of flooding.

What we don’t need is a March like 2012 when spring was skipped. That month we had 19 days with high temperatures of more than 60 degrees. The average high temperature for the entire month was 60 degrees. The average overall temperature was 50.4 degrees – 15.9 degrees more than normal.

It was so warm we had two days that hit 80 degrees – a balmy St. Patrick’s Day high of 83 followed by 80 degrees the next day. The bit o’green was the grass already starting to grow. The maple syrup season was nearly nonexistent as the sap stopped flowing. Our apple trees flowered early and we had asparagus nearly ready for picking April 1 – no foolin’!

We paid the price that year for the summer-like March. We had no apples after the buds were killed in an April frost. The year turned hot and dry with a severe drought.

This year anything green is still buried under deep snow, but there are signs of spring. One of them was the arrival this past week of a newborn calf. The older our two Scottish Highland cows must have decided the end of meteorological winter was a good time to give birth.

My wife, Sherry, and I were heading to the barn to vaccinate our sheep when we saw the newborn shivering in the single-digit temperatures. Not wanting to disturb the cow, we delayed our vaccinations for a couple of days, hoping the calf would dry, remain out of the wind in the barn and start nursing.

The little heifer clearly got her share of colostrum because the next morning she was running around. I kept a close eye on her for a few days just to be sure, especially with nights of 20 degrees below zero. As of this writing she seems fine.

The other cow looks like she’s nowhere close to calving, so I expect we won’t have any more spring births until the sheep start to deliver. That should be toward the end of the month.

We’ll take gentle as a lamb.

Visit siKC3BCTaKA" target="_blank">youtube.com and search for siKC3BCTaKA to see a video of the calf.

Chris Hardie and his wife, Sherry, raise sheep, cattle, pigs – and chickens! – on his great-grandparents’ Jackson County farm. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 2001, he is a former member of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council and past president of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association. Email chardie1963@gmail.com with comments.