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Finding the frosty, silver lining in bitter cold temps
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Dust on the Dashboard

Finding the frosty, silver lining in bitter cold temps

Glenn Brunkow is a fifth-generation farmer in the Northern Flint Hills of Pottawatomie County in Kansas. He was a county Extension agent for 19 years before returning to farm and ranch full time. Reach him at editorial@midwestmessenger.com.

It’s cold. No, it’s really cold. I know it is winter, but this just seems a bit excessive.

We are facing something like two weeks without going about 20 degrees. I know my northern friends are shrugging and asking what the big deal is, while my southern friends just shuddered and went back inside for six more weeks.

It is all relative, but I can speak only for myself and say that I am really, really cold. Call me soft but I do not like it. (I also realize that the weather really does not care if I like it.)

Right now, I am in the middle of a two-week period of artic air and the end seems a long way away. We prepared the best we could before it hit, but there is only so much you can do when the bad weather hangs on this long.

All I know is when you are in a bad situation, the best thing you can do is to put one foot ahead of the other and keep plodding ahead until it is behind you. In the meantime, I also like to find the good in all situations, even this one. So, here it goes.

Before the big freeze came in, I was having trouble navigating the various lots, fields and pastures where I feed. The ground was slimy and slippery in places, and mud was really deep in some of the lots. Now I can go anywhere I want to without any fear of getting stuck.

Another benefit of mud before the freeze is all the ruts I created make it feel like I have auto steer. Note to self: I need to be more intentional about where and how I make those ruts so I can facilitate hands-free driving.

All the frozen cow pies, ruts and other bumps have also helped in cleaning my dash off and keeping it clean. Of course, all of that is now on the floor of the cab – but you know what they say about “out of sight, out of mind.”

Now that I must wear bibs every day, my jeans and shirts stay much cleaner. Now I can sit on the furniture at night and not worry about the mud on the back side of my pant legs. That is a very real problem for a fat guy with a bad back who’s not able to jump clear of the pickup.

I seem to be going through a whole lot less water these days, too. We are doing a better job of retaining it as ice in the water tanks. The correlated good point is that it takes a lot less time to fill the water tanks. That is a good thing since frostbite happens in just a few minutes at this temperature.

The bitter cold temperatures are also doing a good job of weeding out the weak batteries. It is the survival of the fittest battery, and weaklings are quickly exposed. Who does not like the challenge of changing a battery when you cannot feel your fingers?

One of the things I am most proud of is that this bitter cold snap really justifies my decision not to go on that diet. I watch all those skinny people get cold so much faster than I do. We insulate everything else, why not ourselves? It also helps with the decision not to cut my hair or trim my beard until spring thaw. If you need me, I am the one that looks like a castaway. The unruly, unkempt, slightly unhinged look I am rocking also goes a long way into scaring away salesmen and other unwanted visitors.

Finally, this cold snap is bringing me closer to my livestock. It seems like I am always out there checking them. We are on a first-name basis, or really a grunt-and-nod basis. I wonder if they think I look as haggard and pitiful as I think they look. On second thought, I probably do not want to know what they are thinking or saying right now.

Yes, it is cold and it is miserable and every muscle and joint in my body hurts. But do you know what the biggest bright spot is? I am out with my livestock instead of in an office somewhere. I have been both places, folks, and I can tell you without a doubt that I would much prefer the bitter cold than a desk and an office chair.

So put on an extra pair of socks, dig out that fuzzy hat, find your thickest gloves and face it head-on because each day brings us closer to spring.

Glenn Brunkow is a fifth-generation farmer in the Northern Flint Hills of Pottawatomie County in Kansas. He was a county Extension educator for 19 years before returning to farm and ranch full time. He can be reached at editorial@midwestmessenger.com.

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Glenn Brunkow is a fifth-generation farmer in the Northern Flint Hills of Pottawatomie County in Kansas. He was a county Extension agent for 19 years before returning to farm and ranch full time. Reach him at editorial@midwestmessenger.com.

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