Saturday, February 26, 2011

Weather the Storm

There is a foot of new snow on the ground. The wind is blowing and the chill factor must be close to zero. Most of the animals are hiding in their shelters. Dolly let me put her prom dress back on her, as it is going to be 3 degrees below zero tonight. To my pleasant surprise, she has gained so much weight I had to let the straps out several inches just to get it on. Emma Lou will have to make do; she fares better in the cold than Dolly does. She is heavier and younger, even though she is pregnant, and she eats better. Dolly’s little wry face seems to slow her down.

Tooney is in the barn, in a stall next to Woolly, just in case she lambs. I have NO idea when she is due as I never saw her get bred, but she has a little bag on her already, and I guess for sheep, that is not often far from their time.

The goats are all crammed in their tent shelter keeping warm, Prissy is crying pitifully, but she does that in the summer too. What a drama queen. If she didn’t give such good milk, and over a gallon a day of it, I am not sure I could stand living with her. ‘Stormy’, the one of the two doe triplets, will be going to her new home on Monday, barring any unforeseen events. She is cute, but I have my hands full here and bottle-feeding 2 babies is exponentially easier than bottle-feeding 3. They knocked the coke bottles with nipples out of my freezing cold hands this morning, shattering two of them on the ice. ‘Sonny-wether’ is getting really fat, but I attribute that to the fact that he IS a wether and is already eating hay and grain so well. Neither of the two does is nearly as heavy he is.

The Maremma pups love the storms. They lay out in the snow, their heavy white coats covered in ice chunks and are puzzled as to why I don’t want to pet them barehanded. None of the other animals fare as well as they do, in this terribly cold weather. There must be tremendous insulation, as Bruno will come in the house to literally thaw out, then happily bounce back outside to sleep in the subzero, dark night.

I step outside, clad in longjohns, T-shirt, sweatshirt, jacket, long, warm and heavy goretex gloves, wool socks and waterproof hiking boots. I tie a long silk scarf around my neck and face and pull up the hoodie on my sweatshirt. It’s time to feed the animals.

Outside in the bitter cold wind, ice crystals burn as they pelt the still exposed skin around my eyes. I notice my mare, Breezy, is trapped again, in the lane between pastures.  Four of the five leppie calves are also in the alley. I trek out there, through heavy fresh snow to assess the situation and best determine how to release them. Cletus comes with me and plays with the big leppie who is still on the outside. Randyman shows up, limping on his sore leg, and helps by untying the barbed wire that is acting as a barrier between the calves and freedom. Breezy must be jumping the wire fence to get in, but for what reason, escapes me. It is the second time I have found her trapped in the alley and it is clear she is not going through the wire, like the calves have. She is a very capable jumper, as she cleared a 5’ fence on the ice, the first year I had her here. I would have loved owning her years ago, when I was in better health and strong enough to train and show her. Unfortunately, I didn’t buy her until I was already experiencing balance challenges, and other symptoms of my unfortunate condition. Hence, the reason I was dislodged while riding her, the day she began playing and bucking, landing on the rocks and frozen ground, breaking my ribs and puncturing a lung. I love the way she moves, long strided and smooth, effortlessly covering the ground, but my condition causes me trepidation, as I had 3 hospitalizations in 3 years, as a result of damage done from simple accidents. Funny how I could break and train horses for 30 years with only a couple of injuries, and now, I get clobbered riding gentle horses. My body in rebellion, I place an ad for her on the internet, still yearning to ride her. I leave it to the Lord to make that decision for me. She will sell, or someone will work her for me and assure me she will be as safe for me as Wimpy. I am not convinced yet, even though she spent a year being used on a ranch in Nevada by a good cowboy friend. The specter of another surgery haunts me and until she has had several hours under saddle on the very ranch I will ride her on, I continue to admire her from afoot.

Finally, everyone is freed, and hay-fed. I warm up for a few minutes while heating bottles and go out to feed bottle babies and milk the goat. For the first time ever, Priss lets me milk her without tying her legs down. It’s a relief, after 5 weeks of constant fighting. I hope this is going to be a habit.

After straining and cooling the milk, Cider and I get in the pickup truck to drive to the boss’ and let their dogs out of the house. One of the boys made it to the State Wrestling Championship, and the family is gone for the weekend to attend it. After a few minutes, the ice on the windshield is clear and I back thru the driving snow towards the big barn, until I can turn and head up the drive.

The little Jack Rusells practically disappear in the snow while I shiver in the cold, waiting for them to complete their mission. After several minutes of doodling around, I convince them to go back in the house.
Returning home, I inform Randy that I never got dinner made. He nods, understanding, and I head to bed, without eating, seeking a warm soft place to spend the night. Nothing feels better than to sleep because you are really tired. With all its challenges, this life is still a little piece of heaven.

I will wake up tomorrow, storm ended, to blazing sun-on-snow and unwrap the gift of another day.

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