View from Our Place
Lake-effect snow turns Geauga County, Ohio, into a wonderland.
Anyone living in northeastern Ohio either has an appreciation for snow or at the very least an understanding of it. Our piece of paradise is at the mercy of the Lake Erie snow machine that cranks up every winter, dumping an annual average of more than 100 inches of lake-effect snow. Spring is by far my favorite time of the year, but winter is a close second. Having always been partial to frigid weather, I look forward to the cold and snow—and the more extreme, the better! My husband, Phil, and I grew up here in rural Geauga County and established our farm in 1995. We reside in the heart of America’s fourth-largest Amish settlement. With Amish neighbors on all sides, we have a front-row seat to their lifestyle. During the winter the sound of passing buggies is muted by snowy roads. The sharp clip-clop is replaced by laughter and delightful screams of Amish children as they find admirably innovative ways to enjoy the season playing outdoors. Phil is a retired natural resource manager and I have worked as a naturalist/biologist for nearly 30 years with our county park district. We happily rise to meet the challenge of maintaining our farm in an ecologically friendly way. This includes pasture rotation and managing our manure for runoff. Our beef is grass-fed and our chickens are free-range. We had a milk goat for 12 years, then a dairy cow, and will soon pick up an Alpine goat doe that I found at our county fair. It’s great to have fresh milk, butter and yogurt available on our farm. Each year we grow a big garden. Half is dedicated to vegetables, and the rest is planted full of flowers that are both pretty and preferred by pollinators, such as milkweed for monarch butterflies. We strive to make our farm welcoming to wildlife. We’ve installed boxes for the cavity dwellers, including bluebirds, screech-owls and bats. Hummingbird feeders are ubiquitous on our property, and we also keep bees. During the winter we regularly stock dozens of bird feeders with seed and are rewarded by a huge variety of species that come to rely on them. A special homemade recipe of peanut butter and rendered lard drives our feathered friends crazy, and it’s difficult to keep up with the demand. Around 10 eastern bluebirds remain here during the winter and thrive on this mixture. As a licensed bird bander, I take advantage of this opportunity to maintain a winter bird-banding
“I look forward to the cold and snow—and the more extreme, the better!”
station. Using nylon mist nets, we gently capture the birds so I can band, measure, weigh and release them. One winter a common redpoll banded on our farm was recovered by a bander in Ontario, Canada, the following spring! Our equines also seem to enjoy the winter here. Phil and I have been raising riding mules for nearly 15 years, and we would never think of riding anything else. Being hybrids, mules harbor the vigor that keeps them exceptionally healthy and incredibly smart. And, like us, they welcome the bugless landscape in winter. As inconvenient as it may seem, winter is an important season. Snow cover provides a blanket of warmth and protection for many plants and animals, and melting snow recharges the water table. As another blizzard moves in, there is nothing more satisfying than settling into our hickory rockers next to the crackling wood stove—cups of hot chocolate in our hands and our faithful dog Sadie Mae at our feet—while we watch the fluffy snow pile up.
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Amish laundry; an early morning sunrise across Phil and Tami’s pasture; bluebirds feast on a homemade treat.
An Amish family harvests field corn in rural Geauga County, Ohio.