View from Our Place

Lake-ef­fect snow turns Geauga County, Ohio, into a won­der­land.

Country - - CONTENTS - BY TAMI GIN­GRICH Mid­dle­field, Ohio

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.

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