Winter solstice

Winter solstice

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Winter on the farm...

          There is a line in one of the James Harriot novels (my favorite) that says... The Yorkshire Dales look their coldest not when they are covered with snow but when there is just a patch here and there... How true that is and I think of it often. When we are covered with snow, it's always so much warmer. However, when it is zero degrees and that light fluffy snow is blowing around just barely covering a rock hard earth, that's when you know the true meaning of cold. Yesterday morning the wind chill was well below zero, the thermometer was hovering between one degree and zero. The alarm was set for 4:30 but Megg had me awake before then. The sound of donkeys braying comes through the window beside the bed. It's all I can do to keep her calm until the alarm goes off. She knows we need to get to the barn, she has so much to do. When I swing my feet out from underneath the down comforter and set them on the bare wood floors of this old farmhouse, I might as well have been walking on the frozen pond. The room is warm but the floors....brr. I shiver into my clothes, gather up the milk bucket, bottles, rabbit water bottles and fill the slop bucket with steaming hot water for the pig. I step out on the back porch with the steam rising from the pig bucket and my hand instantly sticks to the metal bail on the bucket. Whew, it's way past cold!  Heading to the barn, the sky is filled with twinkling stars. The stars somehow are so much brighter when it's zero. I open the barn door and am greeted by the sheep and the donkeys. The pig stirs from underneath layers of straw and begins to grunt. I take one of the thawed rabbit bottles and put it in the pen with our lop bunny who has 4 babies she is trying to keep warm. The babies are snuggled down in inches of straw and fur from the mama. She starts to drink the warm water before I can even finish hanging it. Megg and I go in and feed the sheep and water the chickens. The whole time we are being serenaded by donkeys braying and a pig squealing. It makes for quite a chorus. I slop the pig and grain the donkeys and things quiet down. Then we head to the other side of the barn where the goats are. It's much warmer over there. The thermometer in the milk room read 22. It feels good compared to zero. I  hang two more rabbit bottles, one in the pen of another doe who has 7 babies with her and then one in our calico bucks pen. Alright, rabbits done now I grain the goats. I make sure that the Angora does have fresh water and hay and check to make sure their babies are ok. Next I get the does on the stanchion and begin to milk. The steam rises from the milk bucket. When the milking is done, one by one each baby is brought out and fed their bottle. Right now I am bottlefeeding seven but I have one more doe to freshen so that number will go up. After their bellies are full of milk, they run around the barn like crazy. Down the isle way and then up the stanchion ramp, then back down the ramp and back up the isle way. It keeps Megg and I well entertained. After everyone is fed and watered, I gather up empty buckets and empty bottles and head back to the warm house to thaw out. If I hurry, I can make it back in by 6am to wake Tim up for work.  And so our day begins and it all has to be repeated in 12 hours. Would I trade it for anything? Nope.

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