For those of us who have reached “a certain age”, I think it becomes harder and harder to learn simple lessons. How many times have you vowed to keep your car keys in the same place, or said, “I KNEW if I ate that cake I wouldn’t be able to zip my jeans the next day”. We ask so much of our young people in school – to learn new facts and skills every day, and yet we can’t find the bloody car keys to drive them there.
Winter is like that on the farm. Every spring, the animals and I are so relieved to be able to shed our winter coats, sit in the sunshine, even sweat a little, that we prefer to forget that winter really happened. I knew I was in trouble the other night when I had a dream that it was spring, and I said to myself in this dream “thank GOD, I survived the winter.” No such luck. I mean, I’ll state the obvious here: it’s cold. There are some very, very smart city dwellers who have learned that living in an apartment means no yard, no outdoor work, and probably no snow shoveling. These people actually sometimes actually manage to look fashionable in wintertime.
Back on the farm, however, when there are dozens of mouths flapping at you every day demanding food, fresh water, and some extra grain, please, you have really no choice but to go out and brave the frozen ground and frigid air. One lesson I did learn today was that if one takes a shower and then goes outside right away, one’s hair turns into stiff icicles. Attractive, in a punk kind of way.
A lesson I assiduously seem to not want to learn is that if I do not drain the water hose the night before, the next morning that hose will be frozen (and quite possibly part of the hydrant will be frozen too, which takes a lot longer to thaw out). So the idea is that you unscrew the hose every night (cold, wet metal – I never have gotten the hang of those popoff hose attachment thingies) and stand there in the dark and the cold and the wind, holding long pieces of a nasty hose upside down so it can drain out. I’m here to tell you that this is NOT my idea of fun. I suppose that’s why the lesson hasn’t been learned: there is this stubborn part of me that is convinced that if I just ignore it hard enough, the damned hose won’t freeze and I won’t have to face this anymore. But I’m sure none of you ever do this….
The problem with a frozen hose, among other things, is that you can’t refill water troughs. The problem with an empty (or nearly empty) water trough is that a certain steer named Rocky has discovered it’s really fun to dump it over and play horn-soccer with it. I spent 10 minutes this morning searching all over the farm for this thing and then another 10 minutes hauling it back up the hill (these suckers are heavy, folks).. Since I had to bring the hose inside to the bathtub to thaw it out, however, I left that trough unattended for, oh, say 10 minutes and when I looked out the window I saw this massive animal head-butting the enormous object right back down the hill.
Refer to the lesson about learning to do chores in the right order.
Another lesson that I beat into volunteers who come here is “Keep the gates closed, especially to the garden”. Now, I can’t even count the number of times I’ve not checked properly, and this morning, while I was conferring in the bathroom with the plumber about my non-functional, just out of warranty, expensive washing machine, I happened to look up and see an entire flock of sheep roaming through the garden and up onto the back porch.
Living in such close proximity to these animals has its upsides, however. Right about now the general population is settling into the winter doldrums and pre-holiday funk. I was considering doing this myself, but the combination of cheeriness and neediness of these guys (“feed me, mama”) rousts one out of a funk, out of bed (sometimes at 2 am), and out of one’s comfort zone inside a heated house. They get so excited over a new bale of hay, a cup full of oats, some apples, you have to smile. And hugging a wooly sheep this time of year makes the cold totally worth it. Well, almost.
Till next time,
Star Gazing Farm 501(c)3
A haven for retired farm animals and wayward goats