As I write this column, a “polar vortex” is sweeping its way across the country, bringing record-low temperatures with it. I am seated at my computer in one of the coldest rooms in my house (a nippy 65 degrees) wondering if I need to get myself some coffee or another blanket. My flannel pajamas and thick socks seem to have failed to keep me warm.
My husband has layered himself to the point that I wonder how he can even move, with long johns, several long-sleeve shirts and a couple of sweatshirts. He doesn’t have the option of staying inside with the teapot like I do.
As a farmer, he is responsible for the welfare of all of the animals on our property. He must brave the elements to ensure they have adequate food and water for the day. He will use a shovel, as needed, to break open frozen water sources, count to make sure that everyone is safe and healthy and haul extra grain to make sure they have the energy reserves to stay warm. If anyone is missing or ill, he will spend additional time outside looking for, and treating, any problems.
We have two dogs that refuse to come indoors, so over the weekend, he built them igloos in the top of the barn from bales of hay and filled them with straw. He will take them hot broth to put on their food, and make sure they have access to water, as well. The chickens will be fed a little extra, and their heater turned up a little higher for a couple of days to make certain their water doesn’t freeze.
Also over the weekend, he started all of the machinery and checked their antifreeze levels. He put hay out in the fields for the cows to eat, and rolled out some hay for them to lie on. He hauled wood into the house for our stove, and brought the generator and the torpedo heater into the basement just in case.
All of this outdoor work comes despite the weathermen’s recommendations that people stay indoors to prevent hypothermia and frostbite.
Farmers aren’t the only ones. Police officers, firemen, doctors and nurses are some others who will brave the cold to put the safety of others before themselves. In fact, I have received two calls while writing this that accidents in our area had some of them out.
In addition to first responders, mail carriers, teachers and many people who can’t afford to miss a day’s pay also will head to work. It is my hope that nonessential activities, like sports practices and games, will be canceled – even if performed indoors – to allow people to stay home and warm.
I am grateful to those who will be available to me today regardless of temperature should I need their help. I am grateful that my husband takes great care of our animals, thereby taking great care of our family. I am grateful that I get to stay inside with my blanket and coffee. And I hope that everyone is safe, smart and warm this coming week.
Laura Zoeller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.