January is the month when most of us country folks finish up the year’s bookwork to see what was or was not accomplished in the past year. We also need to have things ready for the ‘tax man’ so our taxes can be figured out and paid before the end of February.

This year, a community to the north of us was devastated by a huge prairie fire fueled by 40 to 50 mile per hour winds, burning more than 40 thousand acres of grassland pasture, many acres of crops and thousands of bales of hay stacked up for this winter. Miles and miles of wooden fence posts and wire were burned and now need to be replaced.

Hundreds of cows in their prime of life had to be put down because they were so badly burned or injured that they would not recover enough to feed a calf this next spring.  Decades of careful breeding and good genetic lines may be gone forever. Those that were not injured or burned may likely be sold due to of lack of pasture and hay in some cases. It will take several good years of plenty of rain for the grasslands to return.

It was amazing to see the help  that came out of the woodwork to help these folks out. Donations of hay and piles of fence posts and wire were given, and several benefits were held to help with the financial expenses for those who are picking up the pieces. There will be folks working on weekends and whenever weather permits to help restore the fencing, windbreaks, and other destroyed fixtures.

Nobody ever said that ranching was an easy lifestyle, but as one old timer once told me, “I was too broke and too dumb to leave in the ‘dirty thirties’ and eventually, things will be good again.”

It will be a time of adhering to the ‘basics’ of living, with no extras ‘frills’ for several years, until the rains come and the prairie is once again lush and green and the hay grows high. But hope springs eternal in the country, and there is always the promise of “Things will be better next year if we just ‘tighten our belts’ and ‘make do’”.

January is a good time to clean out the corners and take an inventory of what we do have and try to challenge yourselves and our families to, as the old folks used to say, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without!”

Let’s face it – those great-grandparents and grandparents were masters of using all they had. Quilts were made from scraps of worn-out garments, making new covers for beds. Clothing was refurbished for the next child down by changing buttons on the shirts, taking in or letting out a dress and adding some new trimmings for a younger child.

I remember reading about one of the women starting her home-based business by ‘turning collars and cuffs’ on men shirts. I had to research that one. She literally took the collar and the cuffs off mens shirts, turned them inside out and stitched them back on again.  The worn places were on the inside of the collar and cuffs, and the outside was made ‘new’ again. (And we thought we knew everything about recycling.)

Try to figure out ways of using things you already have on hand instead of buying new, because those dollars are going to be pretty tight for several years to come following any kind of disaster. Whether it be fire, flood, hurricane, tornado – whatever may com down the road.

Until next month,

–Paula