The Spring of My Content


Gratuitous butt fluff.

This past winter was, without a doubt, the most difficult winter I’ve ever experienced in my life. I’ve never lived in a place where it could snow this much, with all the accompanying ordeals. It has never snowed here so much in the four winters I’ve lived in West Virginia. A particularly harsh winter is made even harsher if you’re living on a farm in the boonies with difficult access to paved roads and other comfortable amenities. Like grocery stores. Nobody ever said farming was easy.

There have been colder winters than this one since I’ve lived here, but without so much snow. Winters it was repeatedly down to zero degrees. I lived in the old farmhouse with no insulation and arctic breezes blowing through the cracks in the walls. One winter, the only heat source in the house, the gas stove, DIED. Even when it worked, there were times I wore my coat indoors, it was that cold in the house.

Oh, how I appreciate a wood-burning stove. A wood stove is sustainable living at its best if you have unlimited access on your own property to fallen trees.

I started out the winter barely able to light a fire. I was brought to tears some days in the hours sucked up in repeated failed attempts to get the fire going. I could hear Tom Hanks telling me to toughen up.

“There’s no crying in farming! NO CRYING!”

I can’t play baseball right, either.

But! I can light a fire with the best of them. Or at least good enough that it doesn’t make me cry anymore and I didn’t have to wear my coat inside the house this winter.

We had a foot of snow three times. That is amazing to me. I’ve never seen a foot of snow, just once, before in my life. It was beautiful. And wreaked all manner of havoc, including but not limited to, breaking trees everywhere, creating a week-long power outage, and turning me into a hermit afraid to get behind the wheel of my car. But I can survive a week without power. EVEN OVER CHRISTMAS. Even if I did cry a little bit on the day the power came back on Christmas Eve then went BACK OFF.

Tom Hanks: “There’s no crying in farming! NO CRYING!”

And I can drive on a snowy road now. With my white-knuckled, shaking fingers clutched on my steering wheel. While crying.

Tom Hanks: “There’s no crying in farming! NO CRYING!”

Tom is so mean.

Yesterday, it was 70 degrees. Spring weather still feels a little surreal. This winter’s weather was so intense, so emotional (YES, TOM, WEATHER IS EMOTIONAL, I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU SAY!), that I think I have post-winter traumatic stress syndrome.

I just invented that. You can borrow it, if you like. I think it covers almost anything! Including hearing the voice of Tom Hanks in your head whenever you start crying because everything is too hard.

It might yet snow again. My cousin likes to tell me about the year it snowed two feet in April here. That’s okay. Spring snows don’t sit on the ground as long as dead-of-winter snows. I wouldn’t even mind another snowfall. It was beautiful. It just lasted so long, I can’t remember what life was like before the snow. I feel as if I am reacquainting myself with blue skies, sunshine, buds on trees, soft, warm breezes, dry earth, green grass.

Like I never saw any of it before and maybe I invented it.

I went outside yesterday morning to feed the animals, my boots not sinking into a foot of snow. Wearing short sleeves! I felt like skipping across the newly-green grass on my way to my chickens in the warm air, under the blue blue blue sky. And maybe I did. The chickens will never tell.

Tom Hanks: “There’s no skipping in farming! NO SKIPPING!”

SHUT UP, TOM! It’s my spring and I’ll skip if I want to, skip if I want to, skip if I want to!


  1. mommafox says:

    A long, snowy, cold winter reminds me of childbirth. There is always that “oath” of NEVER AGAIN, but just like the anticipation of a new life, the new snow is kind of magical and beautiful. That is, until you have to leave the warm, comfort of your cozy home to drive on those pesky roads. THINK SPRING, THINK SPRING!!!!! :happyflower: :happyflower:

  2. blossom says:

    what a winter you had, and lucky you getting 70 degrees now, you surely deserve it!
    Doesn’t snow look even better in the minds eye?
    here in the south east of england it is still cold, wet and oh so muddy,and everything is 1 month behind last year (things were advanced in 2009 so i guess it evens out)
    Enjoy the lovely sunshine

  3. CindyP says:

    Yes, it was a crazy, crazy winter……especially for those in the south. In the north, we had a much milder winter than last year. At this time last year, there was still lots of snow on the ground. Now it feels like I should have my garden planted, but I know to wait…the end of May will be the right time, Mother Nature will still have her way with freezes and frosts! :yes:

    P.S. Thanks for the fluffy butt!

  4. CATRAY44 says:

    I think you had your Laura Ingalls, “Long Winter”! This winter just felt longer and harder than many, to me, and I did not have all the power outage stuff you guys experienced. But, wow, you did it!

  5. mrnglry says:

    Oh, but that long, snowy cold winter makes spring so much the sweeter!

    btw……I love your Annabelle and Boomer “hide and bounce” video!

    Grace in CA

  6. Leah says:

    We finally had a pretty springy day here yesterday! What a relief.

  7. Tovah says:

    I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who hears Tom Hanks saying “there is no crying in _____” in my head for hard situations:) Although I think farming definitely has its cry worthy moments. I’m glad spring is making an appearance, enjoy it!

  8. Mary says:

    Okay, I loved this post…(skip if I want to). I can picture you skipping around to feed the animals. Remember the post where you had eggs for hair, etc. etc. I forget what that was about, but I’d love to picture you skipping that way. Do you remember the name of that post, so I can re-read?

  9. IowaCowgirl says:

    This post reminded me of a winter about 8 years ago here in Iowa that was TERRIBLE. I fought the cold and snow and getting stuck every day. With three kids and an indexing business sometimes it seemed daunting to say the least. One morning in a small blizzard I was pushing snow and the fuel truck pulled in and asked how I was doing. I said, “Well, today is kind of a struggle”. He thought a minute and said, “Ya know, but not everybody can do this”. It wasn’t just a pat on the back, but made me think, “Yeah, I am tough! and Yeah, not too many do this day in and day out”. It was sort of a Tom Hanks moment I think.

    appreciating spring today!

  10. Linda says:

    It got into the 80’s here in Kansas yesterday and is supposed to be the same today. A little too warm for the last day of March and first of April, but I’m not complaining. Going to plant my potatoes and onions today. We have relatives who have a place in Bergton W. Virginia. Do you live anywhere close to there?

  11. NorthCountryGirl says:

    I remember a winter it snowed a foot of snow every Thursday for several weeks in a row! Like clockwork! We’ve even had over two feet of snow at a time. BUT, like you, this has been the hardest winter for me yet. Not so much the snow or even the ice and sleet, but the all pervading cold that seemed to seep into the house even with the heat turned up. For some reason, I just could not get warm even with layers of clothes and heavy socks. I guess it’s just getting old, but it bothers me that I mind it so. I used to love winter. Now, I don’t know. I told my husband I can now see why older people move south. Tempting, but I would miss my mountains and, believe it or not, the snow.

  12. Pete M. says:

    From one wood stove owner to another – Once a year, for $4, I get a fresh propane bottle for my plumbers torch. Far more reliable than fooling around with matches & papers to light a stove.
    Makes lighting wet or frozen snowy wood easy too.
    Put it on the list with canning lids – modern conveniences that are totally worth every penny.

  13. Senta Sandberg says:

    I just read in Mother Earth New about this family 30 miles from a town who are homesteading. They built their home from scratch,use and outhouse and gather water from a spring. They talked of it being peaceful, and I thought of the bazillion times I have had to get up in the night to go the bathroom, and it is darn cold in winter where they live too. Your story is real.

  14. Barbee' says:

    Well, Suzanne, you surely must be tougher now than this time last year. I don’t know the Hanks reference, but sometimes the old saying comes to mind: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” That used to inspire me. I am a lot older than you, and, well… lately I found myself whimpering: “But, I’m not tough!” (That photo is one of the prettiest fluffy butts I’ve ever seen. Love the color.)

  15. Cate says:

    We had a lot more snow than usual this past winter in Illinois, also. I would rather have the snow over the subzero temperatures any day. I figured all that snow would help keep the moisture in the garden area. Can’t wait until this weekend to get out there and start turning the soil. Nothing better than the smell of the earth in the spring.

  16. Brenda in AZ says:

    I’m so jealous of 70 degrees I live in northern AZ and the warmest so far we’ve had is 65. I woke up to snow this morning and it has been snowing since. My son’s school just called he is throwing up so I have to drive 40 miles round trip to pick him up. I would like to know when spring is going to show up here, I’m itching to get out in my garden and do some planting.

  17. Klabmom says:

    We live in Southern Oregon and had no winter to speak of. I have to say I am just a little bit jealous….we didn’t even have much rain! That never happens! I fear we out here may be in for a looooong hot dry summer. But spring is being wonderfull right now at least!

  18. Shannon says:

    “Like I never saw any of it before and maybe I invented it.”

    ahhhh. Suzanne you feed my soul sometimes. You are a kindred spirit.

  19. catslady says:

    Suzanne, you should go on the show Survivor lol.

  20. cgReno says:

    Joining you on the worst winter I have experienced since living in Reno NV for 6 years. More snow and lower temps than ever. My furnace died in October and I got through with my wood stove. I will NEVER be without a wood stove again in my life, country or city. And yes, as catslady stated, you are my bet for Survivor! Go Farm Girl!

  21. Cousin Sheryl says:

    Suzanne, maybe you shouldn’t be “channeling” Tom Hanks. You need to focus on Jim Cantore (Weather Channel). 😆

  22. JeannieB says:

    The next time you chanel Tom Hanks, make it Forrest Gump, it would make winter easier with Forrest around.

  23. JeannieB says:

    BTW, I read a book titled “The Winter of my Discount Tent”, your title reminded me. The book was so funny, stories of camping with his children.

  24. Mariah says:

    Love this post! Your “stick-to-it-ivness” is SUCH an inspiration! I like to think I have that quality somewhere down deep inside, but I’m not sure because it’s never been tested. Thank you for being so inspiring…you could make an extra living as a motivational speaker/writer! Love that you are skipping in spring after hunkering down in winter!

  25. lavenderblue says:

    The Tom Hanks quote is a favorite around here, too. Suzanne, give yourself a big pat on the back for all you have accomplished. And maybe a hug for your kids, they’ve gone along for the ride, too. And without too much complaining.

  26. lward says:

    :snoopy: today was also my first day out for the entire day! It was amazing, even thought the last snow in Missouri was in January. I planted a fairy garden and my first seeds for my vegetable garden. Thank you for this wonderful site, I am a fan.

  27. Julie B says:

    Yes! You deserve to skip! Enjoy spring and enjoy skipping! :sheepjump:

  28. trish robichaud says:

    this has been the coldest winter we have had here in florida. it not only was very cold but it stuck around for weeks at a time. we have had record rainfall in what is our dry season. all of the underbrush and bushes are dead. we are in for a very bad fire season, at a time when fire fighters are being laid off. it even snowed in florida. we had ice balls the size of peas drop from the sky in south central florida where i live.the sugar crop was killed off, hint stock up on sugar!and orange juice… hope for spring soon ps i dont know how you do it suzanne, you are amazing!

  29. Joycee says:

    I’m in complete agreement! I just did a post giving Miss Spring directions to our house in the Ozark Mountains, she had lost her way! Have a wonderful Easter Suzanne…

  30. Chic says:

    You’ve come a long way Suzanne!!! Look at you…you’re a real farm girl now and mountain woman…something to be proud of!!!

    Maura @ Lilac Lane Cottage

  31. Susan at Charm of the Carolines says:

    You are hilarious! There is no crying in farming. Tom Hanks is mean.

    I laughed out loud!


  32. Runningtrails says:

    I skipped this morning! It was so wonderfully warm here today. I was out in short sleeves too, for the first time this year!

    This winter was a very easy one for us. Last winter was the extremely long and hard one. I am still waiting for winter’s last kick. When we get into the middle of April, I will hopefully assume that spring is here to stay, plant out my brassica seedlings and put everything else into the coldframe/greenhouse.

    I dug and planted today, moving the herbs into their permanent bed and planting out the chive seedlings. Everything else has to wait a few weeks, until after that last kick from winter. The coldframe/greenhouse will protect them from frost but not from freezing solid, unfortunately.

    I have learned how to light a fire with the best of them now. Last winter I cried several times before I got the hang of it. It can be so frustrating!! This was a much better winter! Only once did a car get stuck in the driveway this year! We had a lot of vehicles to dig out last year. It was a horrid winter!

    Spring is here!! Yippee!! (Well, almost.)

  33. Sandy says:

    No crying in farming? PSSSHAW! Tom Hanks has obviously never labored over a cold lamb only to find it stiff and dead in the morning. And never has spent four hrs in the dark on the tractor while the children are in bed, attempting to plow out to the county road. He has never watched his children eat their pancakes wearing mittens, because the kitchen was so cold, or seen a beloved chicken torn to shreds by a neighbors’ dog. My guess is that Tom Hanks has never farmed. He has also never known the wonder of eating a meal that was raised an prepared by his own hands, on his own land, or slipping cold feet into a cuddly pair of wool socks from sheep that are visible from the front window. No crying in farming? I cry almost every day….

  34. LaVonna Gates says:

    Suzanne, I really think you should consider getting a snowmobile or one of those things that is a farm style crossover. Not an SUV crossover but one of those things that is between a ATV and a pickup. Like the RED thing from Honda or the MULE from Kowasaki. Don’t know if Toyota has one but if it does you might not want one of them. If it gets stuck going down your hills it would not be pretty.

    I think you could get across the riverbed and maybe even to get groceries but at least to where you park your truck at the bottom.

    Just my thinking.

  35. Shirley Corwin says:

    I think you did really well surviving this winter!! We had more snow than usual here too and even if I’m supposed to be used to that, this winter seemed worse. More snow that stayed and colder! I think being without power is the most scary! I lose everything then too, light, heat and water! I have a fireplace but no wood stove. Your post about one this winter made me think seriously about getting one for next winter! The last week it has all of a sudden gotten warm. In the 60-70’s and the past 2 days it has been 85!!!!!!!!!! 85!!!!!!!!!!! I almost complained because it was too hot too soon but I stifled myself!!!!!

  36. Kieran says:

    I know this post is getting old and you’ll probably never read this, but Suzanne, I SO admire you! I SO love your writing, and your humor, and your amazing ability to make us all feel like part of your world. You are a gutsy lady.

    Thanks for all the smiles you give me each day.

  37. kerri says:

    That’s it exactly, Suzanne. We’re reaquainting ourselves with all those wonderful spring things and it’s wonderful!
    The winter was a test of indurance, but we made it through!
    Of course you can skip if you want to. In fact, I think you have to!(to express the exuberance) :sheepjump: :happyflower: (Crying is OK too…no matter what Tom says) :snuggle:

  38. Ulrike says:

    I think winter was tough and long everywhere this year. I’m just glad to see green and color! Although we have had some days in the high 80’s, and of course the pollen has been wrecking havoc here. I mean I like green just not on the cars, house, flowers, and me if I’m in it long enough! Maybe next winter you should get some pine knot, love pine knot for starting fires!!

  39. Michele says:

    Georgia loves you, be nice to her! It’s great to have close friends close by. I would hug my animals everyday too if I had any. I do hug my chihuahua many times throughout the day. Seems like you are really appreciative of what you have. :happyflower: :happyflower: :happyflower:

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