January 23, 2020

Of Storms and Farming

Snow across a windswept hayfield after Sunday's major snowstorm

Janine Pineo Photo | Snow across a windswept hayfield after Sunday’s major snowstorm

• By John F. Chisholm •

It can be stormy here.  We were hammered yesterday.  A low-pressure system blew up the eastern seaboard.  Another barged across the Great Lakes.  They combined into a nor’easter over the Gulf of Maine.  The Atlantic provided additional moisture without reserve, a project financier with unlimited credit.  We certainly received an enormous deposit.

Wendy and I listened to the forecasts with apprehension.  We looked out the windows at snow blowing horizontally across our yard, straight out of the northeast.

“It looks as though we’re in for it.”  That was me, too ready to state the obvious.

“The National Weather Service predicts 12 to 18 inches.”  That was Wendy.  She always wants the hard data.

“I imagine that I’ll have to plow at least twice.”

Wendy gave me a questioning glance.

“With that much snow, our little snowplow will be overwhelmed if I wait.”

“You’ve got the bulldozer,” my wife noted.

“Well, yes.  But I freeze to death every time I use it.  It doesn’t matter how many layers of clothing I pull on.  If I want to be warm, I’d better plow this storm in increments.”

That was one way of looking at it.  In fact I moved snow all day.

I’m glad that I did.

That’s because this morning clear, cold sunshine illuminated endless drifts marching across our fields.  A piercing northwest wind blew ice crystals from crest to crest.  The snow danced along the backs, losing lift in the troughs before eddying along to the next.  It was tough estimating the total snowfall.  Here, the yard was swept clean.  Over there lay a series of three foot drifts.  Trying to shift any one of those drifts around with a Polaris Ranger would be an exercise in futility.  The snow depth was twice the height of the blade.

I paused, surveying the aftermath and thought back on my choices.

Yes, I plowed that storm continuously for an entire day.  There was still a lot to clean up, around and about, but none of it was overwhelming.  But that was actually more immediate than where my thoughts lay.  There was another decision made, this one long ago.

I chose to live here, a bit inland in central, coastal Maine.  Yes, there are storms, but the area is incredibly beautiful.  It was that decision that meant moving snow somehow, someway or another was inevitable.  The sun sparkled on the snow as the wind hunted for weak spots in my clothing as I thought about it all.

It strikes me that everything that surrounds me truly lives only through work.  Investing myself in the land has returned dividends of, not just life, but beauty.  I couldn’t have one without the other.  Or vice versa.  I mulled that over for a moment before giving thanks.

I’m very grateful for both.