First Day of Real Winter – December 1904

It is not that the early arrival of winter with such bitterness and force was unusual, or that we have had no experience of churning in a blizzard but we had been dreaming of summer and almost preparing for spring. We should have remembered that memorable winter of nine or ten years ago — it began on Wednesday 6th February — when horse and man were driving our churn and found it impossible to go on

When one has to shovel snow to make a path to the churn house, balance oneself firmly in going round the corner with pails of boiling water, lest one gets blown into snow-drifts, when fires are bad to keep up — coals being wet, when geese and ducks call loudly for their dishes to be thawed, when cauldrife fowls have to be enticed from their baulks — then it is that we make a compromise with the exact laws of dairying and are thankful when we see the butter in decent rows on the sconces.

But the snow was not yet sufficiently deep to prevent the fierce Nor-West gale sending numerous particles of dust and grit through the churn house and through the wired windows of the apartment next which we were pounding and patting the butter. I always remember to be prepared with a good stout pin but this morning I had no pin and those too numerous specks of dust could not be permitted.

In reply to my question, “Have you a pin about you?” the weigher answered, “Pins? Aye! But I need them all.”

I made my way to the kitchen door but it was locked against that fierce Nor-Wester. Round about and to a maid. “Have you a pin?” Yes, she had a pin but she required it to keep her shawl about her neck. To another, “Have you a pin?” Earlier in the morning she had pins but now she had used them all to keep the baby warm. A despairing glance at the pin cushion revealed a pitiless waste. At last a work basket yielded a small pin. Not the sort of stab I like for this purpose.

The butter is fast becoming cobbly in the frosty air. As we vigorously smack it into shape we talk of the animals, the sheep and the colts in the covered fields, the hens which we had not yet had time to attend to properly and the latest calf dropped during that early morning blizzard.

Now the master was absent on business and had left us in charge of that unborn calf — in short to disinfect its navel string. To my shame and sorrow, I must confess, I was not present or I should have been happy to pass the Lysol, etc., and make sure that everything was done in order. I had been reading it up. The fact is I was shivering in bed.

But in the middle of our butter chat, “You did everything and put on the tar….?” Oh, I forgot all about the tar! Now, if that calf took sick and we had to own up we forgot the tar …. “Let us go at once for the tar before any of those venomous microbes get in.” We left our unfinished butter and tarred our calf. And the butter got finished in time, although it was a hastily prepared dinner and we thoroughly enjoyed our first day of real winter.

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