So, You Want to be a Farmer or Rancher
You envision beautiful green fields, blossoming with colorful wildflowers.
Rows of crops growing with nary a weed.
Placid livestock grazing contentedly on new grass.
Steller sunrises and sunsets as you go about doing your daily chores.
Baby cows, horses, and sheep bouncing around, playing with each other while mom watches from a distance.
Gentle rain showers kissing the dry earth, bring forth acres of sweet-smelling alfalfa hay.
Riding your horse out to check your land for anything amiss.
Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?
It sure does!! I mean, who would not want to live like that all the time???? After all I do! And I love it!
There will be days when reality hits you like a stream of pus from a sheep’s lip right smack in your face.
I speak of winter. Those freezing cold days, snow falling so heavily you can barely make a path to the barn. Days when no matter how many tank heaters you have running your livestock water will freeze. Days when you need to move hay and your tractor won’t start. Days when you wonder why you were so damn crazy, or stupid, to get into this agrarian lifestyle.
One way to deal with those days are your clothes.
I present to you……Anatomy of Farmer Winter Clothes!!!
We will go top to bottom, inside to outside. There will be options for you to utilize at the end of this essay.
Hat. A big necessity. I prefer a hand knit wool watch cap style hat. I can get that puppy over my ears, and I can twist my hair up into it and not be out blowing in the wind like a horse’s mane. Plus it’s a pretty blue color!
Silk Scarf. Wrap that baby around your neck, cross the ends and tie it in the front. Super warm, comes in a variety of colors and patterns so you can up your style and dazzle your animals with your pizzaz. Don’t get nylon, only silk. Plus it is great camo when you go to the local diner for a late breakfast. You will blend in with every other farmer or rancher at the counter sipping your coffee. They won’t know you're a newbie who lacks common sense with your silk scarf camo on!
Long sleeve, waffle weave Henly style shirt. Ok, I stole my husband’s shirt today. Big advantage to his shirts? Longer body and sleeves!!! Creates more air pockets to keep you warm. Plus, it’s his shirt and makes me feel snuggly. Thanks Rob, I love you baby! Glad you're not mad I wear your clothes.
Sweatpants. Did I just blow your farmer/rancher blue jeans picture? Sorry bout that. I find they are warmer under the farmer pants which will be coming up shortly. Also on the plus side, they allow me more mobility than jeans do. So when I trip over a frozen pile of horse turd, I can actually get my butt back up off the ground without much help. Frozen cow pies are worse though for tripping. They lay mostly flat and give you the illusion you're walking over flat ground until you hook your toe on it and do a face plant. Think mobility!!!
Wool socks. Preferably Merino (yeah, that is a shameless plug). Super warm, toasty, and an absolute must for winter. Nothing is worse than cold feet when your outside working. It makes me completely miserable if my feet are cold. And if you have to work with me when I’m miserable, then I can guarantee I will make you miserable in the process.
Insulated Bib Overalls. AKA farmer pants. There are many brands available, some better than others. I like the zip up the leg ones, makes getting your boots on and off easier, plus the zippers keep snow out better than button or snap types. My current pair also have a zipper from the top front to mid waist. Helpful if I get too hot to ventilate some. Plus, they have pockets!!!! A word of warning to the ladies. Make sure you pee before you put these on. I can guarantee you will NOT be able to get these suckers off fast if you have go. And if you have to go, don’t wait until you are desperate! It will suck if you wet your pants! Ask me how I know.
Coat. My current one is an oversized Carhartt’s insulated with canvas outside coat. Oversized intentionally. I can add other layers underneath without losing the use of my arms. Think of Ralphie’s brother in “A Christmas Story” Plus, it does trap air for warmth. And it’s bright red! So, when I fall into a snowbank/pile/drift and can’t get up, someone will be able to find me when they realize I’m missing. That could take a while, so being warm will help you long term as you lay there floundering around like a fresh caught farmer.
Glove’s. Another one of those things that makes me less miserable. Trust me, you are not going to want to grab that steel pry bar to break stock tank ice with bare hands. You will stick just like your tongue on frozen metal. Considering I’ve had my fingers frost bit several times in the past, my hands get numb very fast. Running them under warm water to thaw the fingercicles hurts like a mutha. I don’t advise it. My current pair are a nice combination of leather, nylon, and thinsulate. I can also put Rob’s leather ones over them if I need to for an added layer. Dexterity does bite the dust though. Get good gloves, your hands will thank you.
Boots. Super important. Good boots are a must. We switched from the Muck brand to the Artic Storm brand and I really love them. My current pair is going on their third winter and still look good! No splits, holes, or worn out soles. Quite warm, and they let me stay outside longer than before. Good traction also thru the poop!
Knife and adjustable wrench. These live in my coat pocket for the winter. You would be surprised at how often you have to cut, loosen, or tighten something. I don’t have to hunt thru mounds of boxes and stuff to find these when I need them.
Optional fashion accessories for you to consider.
Balaclava. For those days when you just know your nostrils will freeze shut with your first inhalation of breath due to freezing snot. Can get a little swampy around your mouth and nose with long use.
A Hankie (aka snot rag). I have had two great examples of hankie users. My Papa Ed and my Rob. Both had a hankie within reach at all times. Would you think I would learn from their example? Naw! Me, I usually just use the back of my glove or coat sleeve.
Flannel. Great for an extra layer without adding much bulk. You also get to look like a lumberjack if you show it off in public.
Long johns. Many styles and fabrics, some with a handy butt opening.
Silk socks. Great under your wool socks. So sexy!
Fleece lined, rubber coated gloves. There will come a time you have to reach into a freezing stock tank for some reason. You lost your phone, knife, floating tank heater, etc. and have to fish it out. Granted, if it sunk below wrist level, your pretty much out of luck. But…So worth having!
Fleece lined leather vest. I don’t mean that fiber fleece but like the sheepskin type fleece. Good extra layer and no added arm bulk. Also can appeal to the lumberjack set.
Anti-fog eye glass stuff. Nothing more fun than not being able to see when your eyes start to water from the cold and your glasses fog up. Or walking indoors and getting instantly blind after being outside.
Really good hand lotion. Face it, cold and dry means cracked and split. My fingers take a beating in winter, and l slather that stuff on constantly. Split fingers are very painful. I also go thru about a billion bandaids and buckets of Bag Balm keeping them covered and hopefully healing. Working an off farm job where my hands are in water half the time does not help.
Chapstick. See above.
Handy advice for winter farming/ranching from things I’ve learned.
Keep your outer winter clothes clean. Getting your bibs and coat covered in mud, dirt, dust, poop, pee, snot, tractor grease, diesel fuel, gasoline, and any one of a million different substances found on a farm does not allow air space and breathability of your clothes. You also get fewer funny looks from non-farm folk if you don’t have mystery goobers hanging on you.
Falling down elicits laughter from your spouse and children. Sheep will also come over to investigate if you are edible while you lay there contemplating how to get up.
Kicking frozen cow flop is the equivalent of kicking a concrete wall. Don’t do it, you will break your toe.
If it can break in the cold, it will do so at the most inopportune time.
Snotcicles are real.
Frozen hoses suck!
If you can’t do the cold or wear the fashionable clothing required, don’t get into farming or ranching in the north!
On gloves, when you find a pair that works for you, buy as many as you can. You will get them torn, wet, or some other unpleasantness will occur and you will want another pair. Murphy’s law says they will not have them in the store again, and you will be shite out of luck.
I do hope you have enjoyed this humorous yet truthful look at winter farm wear.
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