The “S” Word

Four little letters. So many headaches. Pretty for about 3 seconds. And oh so very important.


A late January afternoon in north Idaho.

It was a beautiful January afternoon that didn't look or feel anything like January.

We had an early shot of snow, but warm temperatures have made all that disappear. It’s been snowless ever since, and that’s good. Except that it’s not good.


When I was little.

I loved snow as a kid. Sort of. I grew up on a cattle ranch in Iowa, and we got a lot of snow when I was growing up. I remember drifts so big we couldn’t get gates open and cows were walking over the fences.

Never made a snowman (I still haven’t), but I did build meat freezers in snowbanks and carried giant chunks of snice (snow/ice) to store for winter food. Hey. I was an odd duck.

Snow made everything harder. It made roads impassable, chores took thrice as long, calves died. And you have you ever had feed mascara? When the feed dust combines with snow particles and freezes on your eyelashes…oy, it’s a classy look.


Now that I’m a bigger little.

The first snow of the season is kind of pretty. For a bit. It makes Christmas feel like Christmas and reminds me of childhood shenanigans.

Snow still makes everything harder here in the Pacific Northwest. I’ve become an old lady in my head, and I don’t like driving on slick roads with all the knuckleheads who go too fast.

I love the way it looks on the pine trees. The way it blankets everything in a soft silence, and I can pretend everything in the entire world is perfect.

But I don’t love snow as a big kid, not even sort of.


Why snow is so important.

Even though I’d like to have no snow the rest of the winter, I really want snow.

Work Commuter Me wants good roads. Ranch Girl Me wants a load of snow dumped on these mountain pastures for a good snowpack heading into the spring.

Ranch Girl wins when it comes to what I’m really rooting for. Not that my rooting is going to change the weather.

Snowpack and the resulting snowmelt are essential in providing moisture for mountain pastures. Without it, the grass isn’t as good, and it can’t sustain cow-calf pairs as long. The longer cow

Sun setting in January in the north Idaho mountains.

Beautiful sunset, but there's no snow.

-calf pairs can do well by staying on the mountain pastures, the longer the fall pastures have to grow.

The longer fall pastures can grow, the longer winter feeding can be put off. The longer winter feeding can be put off, the smaller the hay bill will be.

The snow is also important down on the farmland. The winter wheat needs snow cover to protect it from cold temperatures. Right now it’s about as naked as can be. Can you imagine suffering through low-teen-degree nights without any clothes on?

The weather will be what it will be. There’s nothing to be done about it except that I’m going to stop calling it the “s” word and start doing my snow dance.

Be envious that you don’t get to see it.


  1. We have had NO snow to speak of. Just a 2 incher a month ago that melted.

    We feel blessed to be having a mild winter. The temps have been warm, frequently in the 40s. Calling for upper 50s maybe 60 this week. cows are still grazing and we have fed very very little hay. That is good!

    You are right, we do need moisture. Hubby says he is not going to worry about moisture until April and May. If we don’t get rain, then we can worry.

    Rumor has it most of January will be nice and winter will be here at the end of the month. If it gets ugly at least spring is just around the corner and we have plenty of hay.

    • On a short year for hay, a mild winter is good. We just don’t get near as much rain here in the spring/summer/fall like I grew up with in Iowa. The snowpack is really an essential player, and it’s difficult to make it up if we don’t get it.

      Who am I kidding, there is still PLENTY of time for us to have a wicked winter if it decides to get with it.

      Also, great to hear you have plenty of hay!

  2. Savvy Farmgirl says:

    We have yet to get a good dump of snow in Southern Ontario too. I’m not complaining about the clear roads & not having to blow my driveway, but it has been raining non-stop & we have plenty of moisture already. I also grew up In a family where we do all sorts of winter sports, so no snow = a long winter! But like you said, it’s only Jan. Plenty of time!

    • It rained a lot here too last week. Snow sports are hard to do without snow. I’m afraid snowball fights are about the extent of my experience with snow sports!

  3. I’d never been around snow until we moved to Colorado last March. I’ve seen more snow in less than a year than I have in my whole life.

    But, I sure like those green pastures!

    Keep up the great work Erica.

    • Thanks, Kevin! Colorado is beautiful though I haven’t driven through very much of it. I’ll have to change that one of these days. It’s a place that definitely has the snow thing figured out.

Leave a comment: