The Dairy Farm Adventures: "On the Edge"

Posted Tuesday, October 1, 2013 in Features

The Dairy Farm Adventures: "On the Edge"

by Lee-Rae Jordan-Oliver

When the sun was melting the snowbanks in early March, my six-year-old daughter, Anna, exclaimed, “Mama, winter's almost over!  We're on the edge of spring!”  Every year March tests a Mainer's mettle by teasing us with sunshiny days and then walloping us with a winter storm just when we're ready to stow away our winter gear.  Anna and her younger brother, Wyatt, insisted upon going for a bike ride the day before our most recent storm.    Bundled in snowsuits and scarves, they pedaled their bikes over frozen mud puddles to the end of our driveway.  A gusty east wind blew in our faces, and I suggested we turn around and go home.  Anna replied, “No, Mama.  I want to go further. I like being in the fresh air.  It tastes yummy.”   After five months of winter, my children were determined to pull spring out of Mother Nature's bag of tricks.  

Hibernating inside a cozy house throughout Maine's winter months is not an option when you live on a dairy farm and have three young, energetic children.  As a mother I have three choices:

A.  Allow the children to watch reruns of Scooby-Doo and Mickey Mouse all day.  B. Turn off the television, let them be creative, and litter the house with their toys.  C.  Go outside and play.

To maintain my sanity, the best option for me is to send the children outside at every opportunity and let Scooby-Doo and Mickey Mouse come to the rescue on the sub-zero days. 

To ensure their safety and to squelch sibling tiffs among our three, six, and eight year old, I accompany them on their outdoor excursions.   I'm content to be outside and having children gives me an excuse to play in the snow.  Our family has skated, snowshoed, sledded, snowmobiled, and skied our way through the winter months. 

The children and I enjoyed skating at the Millar Arena on the free skate days sponsored by local businesses.  We also skated on frozen ponds formed after rainstorms in nearby fields.  Earlier in the winter, we skated on Nickerson Lake before it was covered with snow.  It was like gliding on a giant glass bottle.  I would have skated all day, but after an hour, the children's feet and legs were spent.  Growing up at Nickerson Lake  provided me with endless outdoor adventures throughout the seasons.  It was a pleasure to see our children experience the lake's natural playground . 

I am grateful to have two dear friends, Stacy and Abby, who live within two miles of our home and have children the same age as ours.  They also believe in the health benefits of outdoor play, and together we have shared many snowy expeditions with eight youngsters in tow.  Stacy organized two snowshoe scavenger hunts on her farm this year.  She wrote clever clues and posted numbers on trees for the children to follow through the woods and fields.  The trail led the young snowshoers to a fir tree decorated with bags of sweet treats for everyone.  Proof of winter's magic could be seen on the flushed, smiling faces of everyone. 

Westford Hill provides the ultimate sliding spot for adventure seekers.  We have a sliding path  behind our house that has provided us with hours of thrills and spills throughout the winter months.  For a change of scenery, Stacy, Abby, and I haul sleds filled with our children to the back side of Westford Hill where there is a quarter-mile-long slope free of obstacles.  Screeching all the way, the children zip down the trail.  We use the snowmobiles to tow them back to the top to make another run down the hill.  They love being pulled uphill just as much as they like speeding downhill. 

This winter, our two older children, Walker and Anna, learned to downhill ski at Big Rock Mountain.  They took to skiing “like ducks to water.”  It had been twenty years since I'd skied, but I rented equipment and joined them on the slopes after they had a lesson.   Though I lacked technique and grace coming down the bunny slope, I remembered how to snowplow and stay in control to avoid injurious tumbles.  After the first day, it was apparent Walker and Anna were hooked.  For the latter portion of the winter, we made an effort to go to Big Rock on Wednesday's free-ski night.  After the late March snowstorm, we experienced the exhilarating rush of floating over twelve inches of fresh snow.  Cascading down the slopes in knee-deep powder, we were all grins.  After successfully skiing down the big side of the mountain for the first time, Anna said, “Mama, I want to do that a hundred times!”

Outings with our children can be as simple as taking a short hike on a hard-packed, seldom used snowmobile trail and stopping to have hot cocoa and cookies in the sunshine.   Learning how to play outside throughout Maine's seasons will help our children be healthy, strong, active individuals for the rest of their lives.  Knowing we took full advantage of winter's playground, we (and our dairy cows) are looking forward to the delicious signs of spring.    

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