Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Clean Barn in January

During the winter months, only the necessary barn chores get done. Daylight is in short supply, and cold weather is not.

Chore time is spent breaking ice from buckets, carrying hay, thawing latches, taking off and putting on my gloves.

Manure piles up.

Cobwebs grow and multiply.

Baling twine hangs like tinsel from stall doors, hay bales, hooks.

Loose hay covers the ground.

The barn counter becomes littered with my trusty hair dryer, pens and notes, gloves, dust, ear tags, chicken leg bands, dog leashes, broken latches, fences handles and other things the soil has heaved up during its freeze and thaw cycles.

But this weekend, temperatures climbed into the 60's, and I headed to the barn to clean.

I knocked down cobwebs, put away buckets, cleaned off the counter, raked up loose hay and hauled away wheelbarrows full of manure.

The barn looks orderly. It looks presentable.

Maybe, just maybe, it can stay this way for lambing season, I think.

And then I glance at the calendar.

Lambing season is six weeks away.

I study the weather forecast.

The cold weather returns this week.

So I settle for sitting on the mounting block, listening to the horses munch hay, and admiring a moment of barn orderliness.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

What they teach us...

While cleaning out a desk, I came across these photos of Rambles, our first Border collie pup.

She arrived on our farm in the spring of 1998, just weeks after we moved to the farm. The old farmhouse was in a state of renovation, with no doors or woodwork. She stayed in the mudroom during the days while we were at work, and tagged along with us everywhere in the evenings.

On this particular evening, she was helping my husband, Randy, plant pine seedlings. She had a grand time following behind him, pulling up the seedlings he'd planted and racing around the fields.

She was the dog that made me fall in love with Border collies, and she was the dog that began my dog-training journey. I taught her obedience, agility and so many tricks.

Rambles died nearly nine years ago--and many of the seedlings planted that spring are nearly as tall as the house. We now need two hands to count the number of Border collies that have called our farm home: Rambles, Jack, Tag, Caeli, Mickey, Raven and Niki.

Today I visited the young Border collie, Niki, who is at sheepdog boarding school. While she was working the sheep, and the trainer was correcting her, I realized that this dog-training journey will last a lifetime.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Ma Nature is Listening

Two mornings of
defrosting the horse waterers with my hair dryer,
coaxing the water pump to work,
walking the dogs in the cold, biting wind,
breaking ice out of the water buckets,
and carrying extra hay to sheep,
had me questioning my love of winter.

Then, the wind died down last night,
the stars came out,
the almost-full moon illuminated the ice crystals on the ground,
I was surrounded by thousands of twinkling lights,
and I loved winter once again.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

How the Barn Cat becomes a House Cat

Step 1:
Arrive in the summertime, origin unknown, when you are 6 weeks old and oh, so very cute. When picked up, make sure you purr, purr, purr.

Step 2:
Always be underfoot, begging for attention when the people try to clean the stalls, work in the garden and split wood. When picked up, purr, purr, purr.

Step 3:
As the weather gets colder, hang out with the other barn cats at the back door. When the door opens, dart inside. When picked up and carried outside, make sure to purr, purr, purr.

Step 4:
Become a nuisance. Follow the people to the garage and run under the cars. When they retrieve you, purr, purr, purr--and then dart under the cars again. Eventually, they will throw you in the house, so that they can leave.

Step 5: 
When the weather is freezing, adopt the frozen-paw walk and pitiful cry. Stand at the back door and dart inside whenever the humans go outside to get firewood, walk the dogs or feed the livestock. Once inside, make sure to purr, purr, purr whenever they are near.

Eventually, you will wear them down.