Draw OTB.

Approximately one eon ago, when I worked at the newspaper, we had a horticulturist with Extension who wrote for us every week without fail. Also without fail, her columns began with the words: “Now is the time for.”

Looking at the narratives I’ve written here, that appears to be basically how I roll. I remember the lesson of Peg and try not to start with the same five words every time, but man alive, once the idea is planted, it’s hard to rebuff it.

My grandma’s letters always started with a few words about the weather. I follow an almost-local-to-me pastor on Facebook whose daily posts start with a few words about the weather. Both these women are prolific writers. This is not me. Never will be.


Now is the time for. Weather.

I mean, why not.

Now is the time for hibernating.

Girls, hibernating. This second puzzle of the winter, a gift from my Heil aunt and uncle, was more their speed than their first choice puzzle, a really complicated 1000-piece one that mostly Jeremy and I assembled.

Perhaps you’re one who remembers The Farming Game. Some people loved it because they wanted to be farmers. Some farmers hated it because it was a little too real.

When my family played — which we did, almost without fail, on New Year’s Eve — everyone’s least favorite card to draw was “Go to the second week of January” where the instructions were “Hibernate. Draw OTB.” It always seemed like the game sent you to the second week of January just when you were about to harvest your bumper potato crop, or something else where jumping half a year was just terribly untimely. Might’ve been the realest part of the game, actually. Hailstorm! Hibernate. Draw OTB.

I get twitchy when it’s cold for weeks on end and the darkness gathers ‘round me. I prefer sun, and daylight, and warm weather. This is clearly not part of the northern hemisphere’s second week of January. I’d rather skip to June.

And yet, contradictorily, I feel like the second week of January is of very high value. It actually stretches several weeks. We work to gather up all the scraps of money the farm and the cows earned in the previous year, pay the people that got us to this point, and hope and pray that one of the dozens of OTBs that we’ve accumulated will come to fruition.

Because some people are wondering, OTB = option to buy. The game cards are blue. You accumulate them. Just like real life and the accumulation of ideas.

We’re pretty small scale. Even a little OTB can’t be executed, most of the time, barring something like a terminal tractor failure that makes the choice for us. But this year we were able to put roofs on three outbuildings that have been waiting for that act of lovingkindness for around 15 years.


Right now out the window I can see a tractor with a shredder on it, but the shredder is encased in cement-hard, 10-day-old snow. The snow fell right after the miracle workers masquerading as roofers finished the last building. It’s cold outside, baby, occasional days of full sunshine notwithstanding. Things are frozen. It was pretty crazy for those guys to be up on roofs, and there is absolutely no need for a shredder. There’s something that has taken up residence under the shredder and plays around it sometimes, maybe a rabbit or three, so it’s still doing some good in the dead of winter during its hibernation.

Tractor, shredder, snow, sunshine, future mud. Last year the flies were here forever, zombie-like. This year we are beset by box elder bugs. They’re everywhere. They’re everywhere!

Here’s the thing about this hibernation, though. It isn’t. I might wake up in the morning and put the kids on the bus and want to go back to sleep for a while, but no way. I cannot. And it’s not just that in February I have two books, two logos, two directories, three magazines and a study to work on, plus some incidentals as they come up, but that work is a pretty major factor, too. Like why am I not working right now?! I could be working.

On the farm side of the Nelson household and financial structure, this period of dreaming, gathering, planning, hoping for the year ahead emphatically isn’t a slow heart rate and lowered body temp and eyes closed for a month or two. It’s a lot of effort. Taxes and applications and balance sheets and cash flows and crop decisions and and and … and pep band and archery and FFA and fire board and community fund and all of a sudden the day is over. Begin again. No nap. At least there’s no grass waiting for a mower.

Howard, Raymond, Mark and Tanner at the water meeting. Since we really needed more to do in the winter, now we get the chance to fight for local control of our irrigation water. There are great people in charge of figuring it out.

I’m a to-do list kind of person, not a goal person, and the lists tend to get a little out of hand because they end up being a mix of “must be done yesterday at the latest” items and “I would love to get to this before the end of time” items. It gets a little daunting, frankly.

This hibernation, I decided (loosely) to only make to-do lists that I could actually do. Sometimes the lists include items that hinge on other people’s actions, so it’s a little tough to mark off everything without excess badgering, but I’m trying. I’ve also got a long-term list, a “geez don’t forget to write this somewhere” list, sometimes a short “this is today” list, a notebook that I carry around all the places for inspiration and lists as they hit, and a 23 for 2023 list, so never fear, the can-do to-do list is not flying solo.

That blue one? And the two white ones? They are just about that close to becoming obsolete. Also, all pens should have fine point black Bic Clic Stik ink, and these barrels have been reloaded with such. Do not steal my pens.

Hibernation for Jeremy begins in earnest on Friday afternoon. He met with the crop insurance adjuster on Monday to discuss the last claim from 2022. Today he and some guys will trailer the majority of the calf crop to the sale barn, and tomorrow they sell. And that’ll wrap up the income for the year, and the dreaming and decisions can set in before calving starts in just a few weeks.

The whole yard will be full of pickups and trailers later today. So long, calves. Hello, Jeremy’s brief hiatus from driving the feed wagon.

Aside, Dave Ramsey and health insurance providers don’t always know what to do with the erratic/impossible nature of farm income. So it goes.

Hibernation is a good time, although (and perhaps in spite of the fact that) it’s not especially restful in a physical sense. It’s the reset and the rest period that propels us into the new year.

Now is the cold time for hibernation. Have some coffee. Draw OTB.

There’s a Montana photographer who did a whole series on half-and-half. Such an intriguing idea. This isn’t quite it, but I loved this view.

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