Since it’s the the end of January, that time when winter stretches out without much to look forward to and February can be a cruel month–Lent comes late this year and Easter even later–I thought I’d share some scenes from around the farm that I’ve shared on Facebook as well as some I’ve shared here.
By the middle of autumn I was looking forward to days where the snow falling, draping everything with white, that cozy feeling we feel when the snow falls, the air is alive with snow and the kitchen smells like soup. It’s almost as though all those flakes energize the air, energize me.
All fall I looked forward to winter, to when I could stay inside and write without feeling guilty for not fooling with the horses. What was I thinking? Just a few months ago, the grass was green, the days were warm enough, that you only had to throw on a jacket.
But when it dropped below zero, I have to suit up with many layers to do chores. Those layers start with Cuddle Duds long underwear, and turtle neck and sweatshirt. Then Carhart overalls that have to be cuffed up to keep them out of the snow. Then turquoise Carhart vest. Then my winter barn coat. I just bought one of those goofy hats that flops down over your ears for walking the dogs because the wind can cut my cheeks and neck pretty bad.
But I’d forgotten how much energy it takes to fight the snow and the cold. Bruce worked for several hours to clear the driveway with his Kubota and my wagon is a slog to pull three buckets of water across the yard to the barn. When the faucet freezes we put a tarp over it and fill all the buckets we’d need for a day. We stock pile them in the bathroom. My heart races with the extra weight of my clothes and ongoing political conversations.
My normal winter boots aren’t cutting it against the cold, my feet so cold my ankles hurt and it hadn’t even dropped below zero. I had to sit inside to warm up and gave in and asked Bruce to buy me some Sorel boots at Farm and Fleet to cut the pain. They worked so well, my feet stayed warm during the hours I was outside.
And my friend Frankie Benson took pity on me when the temperatures dove below zero a second time by giving me her extra pair of heated gloves. (When the temps went below zero my fingers hurt walking the dogs, let alone the hours it takes to do chores.) They feel like warm water around my fingers that warms my fingers when I put the gloves back on after latching the hay bags shut.
I think about the movie Frozen and the book The Lion and the Witch and the Wardrobe, both modern stories where neither summer nor Christmas come. I think about the middle ages where Greenland turned cold and people starved. I think about how some scientists think melting Arctic ice dumping fresh water into the Atlantic will disrupt the Gulf Stream and bring on another ice age. And there other people who study the sun who think we are going into a cooling period because the sun’s activity will quiet. Our neighbor told us that his weather guy says that sometime between now and 2025 there will be a year where North America doesn’t have a growing season because the sun will have cooled that much. These stories make me think about how the Ice Age wasn’t that long ago, how we humans still remember, but way deep. When I step outside I wonder how humans survive the cold without modern heat and running water. I wonder if the Arctic peoples will teach us.
But the weather broke so much so that the pasture has become too soft to turn the horses out–their hooves pushing holes if they move faster than a trot. The days have turned mostly gray, the fields brown, the grass matted. And I think about the world heating up, how that might bring snakes and killer bugs. I miss the cleansing of those cold days, the hard ground that allows me to turn the mares out and maybe ask the neighbor to spread their manure because the fields can hold it.
I’m also grateful to Bruce for putting in a gate at the corner of Tessie’s paddock so I can take the horses’ manure straight out the barn door to the pile. The gate doesn’t come flush to the post, something bugged him because Bruce likes to do the job right, but he let himself craft something less than perfectly, that works, so chores can be easier.
The fire roars in the stove, the cat sitting next to me, with a good book or my laptop–finally working on my memoir or novel sequel or poetry collection. But in the winter, when you have animals, time comes when you have to walk outside. But there is beauty in the slap of cold. (Sometimes those damp days in the forties can be more chilling than the days that dip below zero because the chill seeps into your bones.)
The other day Bruce took the chickens’ water dish back to the house, so I had to walk over to the house and walk back again, and to be honest, I’m not happy about the added steps (lazy), though I can always use them for my Fitbit. But if it weren’t for that I would have missed the moon rising. When it’s so close to the horizon you can almost see the earth move. And this night a cloud sliced across it reminding me of a road cut, the rock layers uplifted and varied.
Bruce is the one who builds the fires. He pushes the damper back when they roar a little too much. He’ll sit on the couch and read The Divine Hours or watch You Tube videos on his laptop. Sometimes I’ll sit with him while the animals gather.