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I finally went to the office this week — the woods.

The woods are my winter office. The gardens are my summer office.

I haven’t been out there too much this year, between the cold snap, the snow, the rain and the ice.

I think in years past, working in the teens Fahrenheit, or even below that, was something I didn’t mind doing.

Perhaps I’m getting soft, or I’m getting smart.

As the days lengthen and the sun gets higher, my office becomes a nicer place to be.

When the temperature is in the 20s and above, it’s easier to start chain saws and other motors, it’s easier to handle wood. Everything is easier.

I’m not sure how much tapping I’ll do this year. But, after the deep freeze, the maple trees waiting back in the woods don’t seem so daunting. Putting on snowshoes doesn’t seem like such a pain.

When you put on your snowshoes when it is really cold, eventually you have to take off your gloves to handle the buckles and straps. It always seems like they slip off way down in the woods.

When it’s really cold and I have to fiddle around to put my snowshoes back on, my fingers need to warm up.

I end up walking back to my warm truck’s cab or a campfire. If it takes 15 minutes for the blood to come back into my fingers and toes, I’ll wait that long or however long it takes.

Every winter, including this one, no matter how careful I am, I get chilblains on some of my toes.

I don’t worry too much about them. They always get better after a few days out of the cold.

Up here in the winter, with animals to care for and chores to do, chilblains at some point in the season are hard to avoid, even with modern insulated boots and layers of good clothing.

I’m always arguing that it would really be better if the house and barn were attached so I wouldn’t have to go outside. I don’t thing that’s ever going to happen.

I envy my Yankee cousins with their long attached train of buildings and sheds that lead to the barn.

I’m sure it’s still a cold walk for them, but probably better than my multiple tramps through the snow and chill to the barn.

Of course, I look at those attached buildings and worry about fire. I hate thinking about it, but you have to go there if you’re thinking.

The Dutch, before they became arguably the most technologically advanced dairy farmers on the planet, used to have big, thick stone walls between the barn and the house, and could look into the barn through a big window. The wall acted as a safety barrier.

I guess they have been advanced farmers for a long time.

Anyway, I have none of that. I go outside for just about everything. And I am relieved that it is getting a little easier to do.

Now I’m looking forward to sugar season and the high sun melting snow during afternoons, and birds returning.

At last I can get back to my office.

Forrest Hartley lives and wanders around in Hadley. You can leave him a message at


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