As I metamorphosed into a local, the weather became a key factor in my daily life. When I first arrived here, I was struck by the way everybody was obsessed with what the weather was doing but, by the time that first milking season was over, I too had become a fanatic weather checker. The weather here is brutal and it is a force that dominates every task. No decision is made without first using the cellphone to see an hour-by-hour prediction for rain, snow, heat, wind direction and wind velocity and, during that first season, it was always the opening topic of conversation with the neighbours and visitors alike as I picked their brains, and searched their experience folders, for hints and tips on how to survive the next approaching weather bomb. There is a provincial saying here that goes … “if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes or drive five k’s” … and that is what it is like.
I changed my clothing habits and learned to layer upwards. I realised why most people wore hoodies and I bought a couple. The tractor, the smoke, and the wagon became mobile wardrobes and I found convenient spots around the farm to hang a variety of garments so I could cope with the sudden changes the weather made throughout each day. Walk into the wind and you grab a sweatshirt … walk out of the wind and you peel off to a singlet (or your bra if no one is about). I discovered that the weather is always a “too”. Too hot, too cold, too windy, too wet, too dry, etc., etc. The saying ‘four seasons in one day’ is just normal in these parts but I love a challenge and each morning I wake to see what Mother Nature is going to chuck at me and I deal with it.
Shelter for the animals is a priority and the little farm can provide a refuge for them no matter which way the wind blows or how searing the heat is. The farm is made up of five broad meadows … the East and the West Meadows, the Road Meadow, the Middle Meadow, and the Long Meadow … and I have worked out which meadow is the best for whichever weather pattern is on the horizon. This means I am farming for the weather rather than for the pasture growth. If a howling southerly is about to barrel through it is far nicer to trundle a big bale of hay or balage out to the cows as they tuck up snug and warm in the same paddock they were in yesterday than it is to have them shivering miserably in the corner of an exposed paddock of fresh, plush grass. The wind will soon change and they can have the grass another day.
At least the weather ensures that the days are not boring. In the past year there has been pipe-splitting minus 12 degree frosts, three weeks where it was knee-deep in snow, days of polarized contrasts (38 degrees one day, 11 degrees the next), winds where I have had to wear a head scarf to keep my woolly hat on, rain so torrential I can hardly hear the tele and – I kid you not – a dumping of more snow in the middle of a scorchingly crisp February drought.
However, just as my spirits dive below the deepest part of the latest depression passing overhead, Mother Nature will send in a few wonderful days of the ‘stunning stuff’ and the mud or the dust or the bone-breaking-slippery-ice is forgotten as the girls and I lounge about in the best weather you could find anywhere on the planet. This is when I thank Her for reminding me of how lucky I really am and for making me realise why I am here … especially when this is the view from ‘my office’.