Wednesday, January 2, 2013
The Winter Farm
Life on the farm is
kinda never laid back.
My morning starts with the alarm going off at 5:00 a.m.
It is still hours from daylight and I am in a deep sleep
under a pile of warm blankets.
I listen for wind.
I know what the temperature will be
because I monitor it better than my bank account.
But it's the windchill that determines just
how much this is going to hurt.
Waking up at this ungodly hour has ruined my sleep cycle.
Since we moved to the farm full-time, I have been
forced into getting out of bed in what feels like the
middle of the night, and somehow become
awake and functioning within minutes of the alarm.
If I am awaken by the dogs or the need to pee
and have to get out of bed during the night,
my mind and body react to this assult as
their que to "get up and stay up".
No more sleep for me.
Wind or no wind
I bundle just the same.
All the while, Tess's paws are tapping the floor
in anticipation of morning chores.
Sweat pants, socks, sweatshirt, hoodie,
snowpants, oversized Carhart coat,
pullover hat that covers everything but my eyes,
one more pair of socks, boots and lastly, gloves.
If this were evening chores the only change would be
Hot-Hands (handwarmers) inside the gloves.
I hate the hat that goes over my nose
it immediately makes me feel like I am suffocating
even though is is the thin Under Armour material.
I venture out under the dark sky
but thankfully the farms security lights illuminate wonderfully
and I have never needed to carry a flashlight.
Tess bolts ahead.
I waddle my way through boot tracks in the snow
from previous, unending trips to the barn.
Every morning it is the same
nothing changes but the weather in the winter.
The animals are docile and bored.
The goats have taken to not even getting up when we come in.
Who is hungry at this hour?
There is one exception.
Once in a while I will catch him off guard
laying under his heat lamp
but usually he had heard me coming
and is standing eagerly at the gate.
This is the only conversation,
other than calling for Tess,
that is uttered on these winter mornings.
Me - " Hey there piggle".
Wilson - "Grunt".
I fill Wilson's food dish
and then toss Cheerios around his pen for him to
search out and eat later.
You can belive he finds every single one.
I dump out the ice in his water dish
and refill it from the goat's heated water bucket.
This saves hauling water to the barn in the morning.
I pat the goats on their lazy sleepy heads
and step out of the barn
where the cold immediately snatches my breath.
The goats are fed in the evenings
and, not being of the porcine persuasion,
don't feel the need to eat everything in site
every time. They always save some for breakfast.
I head to the property gates to open them.
This saves one child a few minutes of standing in the cold.
The girls take turns morning and evening
opening and shutting the gates after the car.
The morning jaunt is shorter.
Now back to the chicken coop.
Up until December, I could forgo the chicken chores in the morning as well,
but now need to insure they have thawed water at least twice a day.
I feel sympathy for my chickens.
All three of them.
First off - they have each gone through molt but have not yet stopped laying.
I have never seen such a thing.
Unlike many chicken owners - I want them to stop
They need a break and I have no use for frozen eggs.
They are also bullied.
The two gunines and one rooster we have left
moved themselves from the barn
to the chicken coop after the first snowstorm
and have refused to leave.
Not one of the birds will step a foot out of the coop
despite my shoveling paths.
They prefer squabbling and bossing
to any thought of stepping in that white stuff.
So I cater to them.
And don't mind it.
I am not thankful that the raccoons and foxes
wiped me out this year
but I am thankful not to have a full chicken coop right now.
The geese will have to wait until evening chores as well.
If I feed them in the morning the birds and squirrels steal most of their food.
In the evening, the geese get first dibs and eat their fill.
They get a fresh bucket of water once a day
and have many bucket-shaped mound of ice in their pen
that - if we are all lucky - melt a little during the day
and make for tiny puddles for swishing beaks around in.
I feel for the car keys in my pocket and unglove my hand to start the car.
I say a little thank-you prayer every frigid morning that it starts and head to the house
calling for Tess.
As I turn to look for her,
for the first time that morning
raise my head to look around.
The security lights are illuminating the undisturbed snow
and it is twinkling like a million tiny stars that have fallen from the sky.
The winter silence is quieter than any other
and I listen for any sound at all.
There is none.
The farm is not awake.
But I am
and I have seen to it
and all is well.
I know in a few months
it will change again.
The sun will be up earlier.
The roosters will be crowing.
I will be carrying a milking bucket to the barn with me.
And hopefully I will be walking instead of waddling.
But for now - I do cherish these mornings.
Yes, it is hard,
but then again it isn't.
It is just life on the winter farm.
The real challenge in my life?
The two teenagers who I will arouse when I get back into the house.