Moo again! It’s Flower Child from Molly Brook Farm! Want to know what winter is like on an organic farm in Cabot, Vermont? I asked my farmer, Rhonda Goodrich, to share our stories. Get ready to hear what life is like in a snow globe! Plus: selfies!
Moo? (What’s your favorite thing about winter?)
Despite the below freezing temperatures and wind gusts that take your breath away, winter at Molly Brook Farm is a wonderful time of year. Last night as I was walking to check on the hoop barn, I noticed how beautiful the light from inside the barn was against the dark sky and snow falling gently to the ground. I felt like I was inside a snow globe. The days are short which allows us to enjoy the night sky on our way to the house after chores. On cold days when every step outside squeaks, you know it is cold; however, it is also quiet and peaceful on those days.
Moo, moo. (Do the cows like winter?)
Our Jerseys have a normal temperature of 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit which means the cooler winter temperatures make them frisky and playful. They love to toss fresh snow over their face when they have time outside in their exercise yard.
Moo! (What’s your favorite winter activity?
We work on the farm everyday but have time in the middle of the day to enjoy the winter. We love to build a fire outside, drink hot chocolate and watch our grandchildren go sledding. We also enjoy snowmobiling as a family.
It is also a great time of year to make homemade soup and bake bread. I have been developing my sourdough bread making skills this winter.
Moo. Moo? (Do you have any winter traditions?)
Family is important to us, but with Covid, our family traditions for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and January birthdays have been on hold this year. Myles and I had a quiet holiday with the cows this year. Flash had a beautiful calf born on Christmas Day that we named Noel. That was a special treat.
A favorite tradition is hanging Christmas lights outside, which is a wonderful treat during the short hours of daylight. This year we made an outline of a cow in white Christmas lights for those who drive by our farm to enjoy. We also hang Christmas lights inside the calf barn and the tie stall part of the barn for those cows who are drying off before having their baby. It makes the barn cozy and warms my heart to see the animals laying on fresh sawdust and straw at night with the Christmas lights on.
Moo. (How do the cows stay warm in the winter? )
Just like us dressing for the winter weather, a cow’s coat gets thick and fluffy to help them stay warm. Nutritious feed helps them maintain their body condition which also helps keep them warm. We keep their beds in the free stall dry with plenty of sawdust on their cow mattress so they can snuggle in on those cold winter nights. They sleep with their head tucked into their body. Sometimes, just like us, they want just a few more minutes of cozy sleep before they go to work in the morning. However, once the other cows start heading to the milking parlor, they begin to stir and join the herd to be milked.
Moo! (What else happens on a dairy farm during the winter?)
Winter is another busy season with its own challenges. The barns and equipment must be winterized as we try to avoid frozen water bowls. However, on blustery windy days below zero we tend to have a couple of frozen water bowls that need to be thawed. We have ventilation tubes to bring outside fresh air into the barn for the animals but it can sometimes be a fine line when to shut them off at night to avoid frozen water bowls. There’s snow removal to do around the barns; feed must be kept clear at all times. Roofs need to be shoveled. Manure removal to the storage areas can be challenging during the bitter cold winter days. We still have to open up the barn to bring in supplies such as grain and small square bales for the young stock. On warmer days we try to make sure we have enough supplies inside the barn to avoid opening the barn when the temperature is below zero.
If we have extra time, we use it to cut firewood. We also have to think about and plan repairs to haying equipment and to the barn, as it is difficult to do in the summer when we are busy haying.
Moo? (Being in New England and all, do you ski and if so do you ever get to go?)
We have enjoyed skiing, however, the last time we went skiing several years ago Myles broke a ski and we haven’t been since. It is hard to find time in the middle of the day to leave the farm.
Moo! Moo! (Do the cows have a favorite winter treat?)
They love fresh feed in the morning after milking. They also love fresh fluffy snow to play in.