I once had a Canadian neighbor who claimed that our weather in Tay Creek, New Brunswick, was eleven months of winter and one month of damn poor sledding. It was more like eight months of winter.
Even that is somewhat of an exaggeration since the worst that I can remember is snow being on the ground from mid-October until mid-May.
Shoveling snow was something like opening the garage door in the South. I did it almost every morning without thinking.
Tay Creek, home of Tay Ridge Angus, our old farm, is in the rolling hills north of Fredericton, New Brunswick. It is just enough colder than Fredericton to be labelled as a snow belt in a very snowy Canadian province. I think that I recorded twenty three feet of snow in 1974, our first winter in Tay Creek.
I could tell snow tales for hours, but snow is just part of life in much of Canada. I loved it when I was living there. There are few nicer things to do than go cross country skiing on six inches of fresh snow which just nicely covers your packed trail from the day before.
We also had the tools to handle snow from my tractor mounted snow blower which would eat through a three foot drift and blow the snow 150 feet away to well equipped provincial snow plows that never seemed to stop grooming our rural snow banks. The biggest problem that I can remember was when the city snow banks got so high that it was hard to see before making a turn from one street to another.
There are a lot of good things about snow. The first snowfall that stays makes for a much more pronounced changing of the seasons than leaves falling off the trees. When everything is covered with a foot of snow, you shift into a different gear with much of the focus being on next year.
Snow also brings a sense of peace and even cleanliness. When you are far enough north that the snow stays white, it brings a sense of timeless beauty to the land. Most farmers in the north want the snows to come. A good couple of feet of snow on the ground protects the land from the minus twenty to forty degree temperatures.
Beyond the cities along the country roads, snow also makes driving safer. When you get huge snowbanks along the roads, you can slide off a road and do no damage to your vehicle. Most Canadian snow bears no resemblance to the snow that we have in the South. Cold dry Canadian snow makes for decent traction and smoother roads. Southern snow quickly packs or melts to ice which also plagues Canada in warmer winters.
The picture at the top of the post is farmhouse where we lived in from 1974 to 1984. It has had some remodelling but that doesn't take away the memories. It was a good house to be in during a blizzard. There used to be a series of sheds attached to the house. One contained the wood that we used to provide most of the heating for the house. We had a high efficiency wood stove that would drive you out of the house with little effort. Our house also had gravity fed spring water and plenty of provisions from our summer garden. It is hard to even comprehend how my wife, Glenda, managed to can and freeze all those vegetables and raise three children while I was taking care of our two hundred head of cattle.
The only problem with enjoying snow from the inside was that I didn't get to stay in the house during a blizzard. I was often outside clearing a road to our cattle which wintered nearly a mile back on the farm. The cattle stayed in woods near what we called the back field. We had some amazing snow storms and brutally cold weather, but I always managed to take the cattle their daily big round bale.
My favorite part of winter coming was the end of gardening. The ground between the bush in the foreground and the house was where we gardened. Each fall, the garden had to be cleaned up and a few loads of composted manure were worked into the ground. We had a wonderful garden and grew almost all of our food except for chicken and turkey. Chickens were for making eggs, and no one would have considered eating one of our hearty hens who survived on chicken feed and a scoop of fresh snow instead of water each winter morning.
As much as I enjoy the vegetables from our much smaller garden patches in the South, it never seems to end. Already it is time to order my tomato seeds. I need to get the order in before the end of the year so I can get the seedlings going before the middle of January in order to be able to plant them around the third week of March. And of course I should mention that we are still getting lettuce out of our winter garden. I was also working on wild onions in our Southern Outer Banks yard early the third week of December. You won't be digging any wild onions out of your yard in Tay Creek in December especially while wearing shorts.
Almost like the always connected, never-really-away-from-their-desk business world of America, a Southern gardener gets little rest. Canadians have a long time to plan and contemplate their gardens which often don't get planted until the first week of June when we are already enjoying the first tomatoes of the season.
I have little interest in returning to the long, cold winters of Canada, but when you have the right clothing, and a positive attitude, snow isn't so bad. There aren't many farms that don't look better organized and more scenic with a couple of feed of snow to cover those things for which there are never enough time like weed eating around the buildings or moving the pasture harrow back to the implement yard.
However, it is hard to lust for snow when you know how much shorter the winter can be with a few spectacular December beach days in your pocket.
Thanks go out to my friends, Kerry and Brenda, for the picture of our old farmhouse.
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