Sunday, December 29, 2013

Searching for the Christmas Miracle

We arrived home at midnight Christmas Eve. After slipping into my barn coat and boots, I rushed to the barn. Would our sheep, horses, llama and cat be kneeling in the barn like the animals of the Thomas Hardy poem?

Instead of kneeling, I found the sheep and horses standing and restless as the coyotes' yips rolled from the riverbanks up to the barn. The yipping continued, even as I yelled, "Enough."

On this Christmas Eve, there would be no kneeling in my barn.

And yet, I wasn't disappointed. Miracles don't just happen on Christmas Eve. If we look, we can see them everyday -- in the birth of a lamb, in the flight of a bird, in the silent communication between a ewe and me.

On this Christmas Eve, I was looking for the animals kneeling into the night. But as I listened to the haunting yips and calls of the coyotes, I realized that hearing them doesn't happen everyday. Even rarer was the long chorus they performed that night.

For a few seconds, as the animals stirred, I just listened to the calls and was thankful to live where I can listen to cud-chewing and whinnies and yips on Christmas Eve.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Survey Says....

The snow has melted. It's now 55 degrees and raining, with more rain -- up to 4 inches -- predicted in the next 24 hours.

At feeding time this morning, I conducted a survey about the unusual December weather. The responses were:

Horses: Hooves Down -- We're stuck in the paddock... and our meager rations of hay are even more meager.

My little mountain ponies prefer standing outside in the rain and snow... unless it's feeding time.

Sheep: Hooves Up -- Alfalfa! Because the farmer can't stand to waste hay, she's not feeding us that boring first-cutting hay that we'll eat when it's freezing outside. Yeah, we can't go wander the pastures, but we get alfalfa!

These lambs can really pack it into their mouths.

I'm not sure if the brown lamb was in the feeder because it smelled of alfalfa... or if she was hoping to be first in line at feeding time.

Chickens -- Feet Up -- Who wants to scratch in the snow? Besides we might find some bugs in the mud.

Dogs -- Paws Down, Sort of -- We are Border collies -- and love to run and play in any kind of weather. But we definitely prefer the snow walks when we can go anywhere. A waterway filled with water means no walks near it. Hunting mice is also so much more fun in the snow!

Dewey Kitty -- Paws Sideways -- I can go outside for a longer time without getting cold... but there is no fire to snuggle up to when I come inside.

Louie (the indoor kitty) -- Paws Sideways -- It's raining?

Humans -- Thumbs Down. Yeah, the critters eat more when it's cold, and we use more fuel to heat the house... but all the critters are cleaner and the house is cleaner when the outside is snow-covered and freezing... and I love skiing.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Looking for the Ideal Snow for Skiing

It turns out that the perfect snow for snowman-making is not the perfect snow for skiing.

On Saturday morning, the snow was falling in big, heavy flakes. So, I called Tag and Caeli, and we set off for the farm and pond across the road. But, when I skied up a slight incline, I ground to a halt.

The wet snow clumped under the scales of my skis. So, I stopped frequently to remove the clumps.Skied. Removed clumps. Skied.

Eventually, I returned home with two tired dogs.

But, it was a pretty morning, and the snow was falling in big, heavy flakes. So, I called Mickey and Ben, and we skied the harvested corn and bean fields. It was flatter ground, so I stopped less frequently.

We returned home, wet and covered in snow.

It rained Saturday afternoon. Then the temperatures dropped and the wind picked up speed overnight.

On Sunday morning, the snow was crunchy on top and granular beneath the surface. But it was snow -- and a chance to ski.

The wind and rain had coaxed the remaining leaves from the trees, making for a pretty pattern.

Except for a few birds in the fence rows, I saw no wildlife. I'm sure the crunchy sound I made scared them away.

And the wind rushing across the fields made the last quarter-mile feel like a mile.

But I'm grateful that when it snows, I can step outside, clip on skis and go. That always makes up for the less-than-perfect snow.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Walking in Snowlight

As a child, I learned that sunset doesn't always mean darkness -- especially when snow covers the ground. The reflection from the snow and stars and a touch of moon provided enough light for ice skating on a creek near the house. I remember grabbing my skates and stealing away from the house in that semi-darkness.

As an adult, I still treasure winter excursions after sunset.

Christmas came early for me this year. For more than a week now, I've been able to take night walks on snow-covered ground. After dinner, I put on my hat, gloves, boots and coat and call the Border collies, who are oh-so-happy to join me as I trek across hay fields in the dark.

But, it's not quite dark. I can see the white carpet of snow stretching for miles, and the barn lights from the farms in the distance. And, I see the silhouettes of dogs as they hunt mice, run, and make snow angels.

It's this silent world of silhouettes and blacks and greys and whites that I treasure.

For at this time of year, I see few cars. In the winter cold, people come home from work and stay home.

As I walk, it seems like it is just me and the dogs, and the occasional coyote call.