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A Mid Winter Rambling; Carolyn Stearns Storyteller

Ice, it was the main event here on Storybook Farm through much of January and into February and then it finally melted. So now it is not underfoot but only in the buckets and water barrels the animals drink from. I carry a splitting maul on my morning rounds using its heavy sharp edge to crack through and break the ice. Often and usually on the coldest days the water splashes back at me taking a direct hit on my face! I hate that, more than anything I do hate that. My face turns ice and in seconds shatters. I dry it some with the back of my glove and move on to the next water tank. Oh the joys of ownership they never mention in the glossy horse magazines that find their way to our mailbox monthly.
Three venerable senior horses have residence in our barn this winter. Each has issues with keeping weight on so they get to wear blankets regularly so the calories they consume go to fat not heat. PJ’s for horses, all decorative and fashionable they have plaids and solids, thin, waterproof, thermal and fleece and wear from one to three depending on the temperature and wind chill. So you see it is up to we human servants to decide and add and remove the blankets as the thermometer changes. Then, if and only when the temp is going for some sort of record do all our equines get blankets. Oh, plan an extra hour just for that in an evening when the temp will drop below zero.
Is this sounding like the quaint farm life, the green storybook setting of our childhood reading? Not very near at all, I am sure I never read of such days. There can be no complaint here though as just around the corner my husband is working at the family dairy. It is worse up there. No blankets but milking cows and dealing with cold and keeping them all fed by the hundreds and just getting out of bed to do it all again tomorrow when the temp sinks low is an agonizing thought.
These are the things that make for stories that tell a tale of life so many only dream or read of these days. Once a farm wife was the most common person in the country, now we are a minority for certain. As a member of that minority I am only too happy to share the story of farm life with others. If anyone wants to take a turn at smashing ice I would be happy to offer the once in a life time golden opportunity for you too to have your face freeze, crackle, shatter and turn beat red. If that frosty thought compels you to abandon all dreams of farming I could offer the chance to be called from bed by the alarming ring of a phone at 1 or 2 a.m. to hear a local police man report “The cows are out”. Oh yes there are joys in farming. By mid winter they are getting a little hard to remember….. lets see if I make a concerted effort hmmm. Oh here they come, green grass fresh cut and the sun beating on it sending wafts of summery odor into the air. The chug of tractors plowing soil and turning the rich brown folds to lay in the sun awaiting corn seed. The very same fields our ancestors plowed 200 years ago. I love to see the new calf stumbling on unsteady feet, the sunrises and sunsets over meadows. Oh yes when I am in the warm house those memories come rushing back. Spring will be around the corner. Maple taps are starting to drip like drums beating in the woods and soon the Robin will land in the tree she calls home and nest again. Call me when winters over I will have thawed out by then. ©

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Tags: Maple, cows, dairy, farming, horses, ice, minorities, snow, story, taps, More…winter


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Comment by Tom Taylor on February 19, 2009 at 12:26am
Carolyn -

You made me feel bad.

I'm in the middle of Texas. As a rule, the only way most of us down here see ice is to watch the news of Storybook Farm, or Idaho farms, or stare into our glass of iced-tea.

But, you're right - you have a most excellent source of wonderful stories that many do not; I'm particularly partial to "PJs for Horses."

Stay warm and dry!

Tom T
Comment by Reisa Stone on February 17, 2009 at 11:14pm
Yes, PJs for horses. I remember the time I bought a huge young Appaloosa who was growing. Suddenly, the blanket I'd so proudly gotten for him October no longer closed around his chest in January. I'd not considered that he would get considerably wider; up till then I'd mostly worked with Thoroughbreds and my eye was cast to that mold. I sewed Red one out of a king size gray wool military-style bedspread. It worked like a charm in the Manitoba winter.

Lovely story, Carolyn. And, brrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Comment by Layne Gneiting on February 17, 2009 at 10:57pm
I'm swept home by your words to the farms of Idaho, when Dad would shake us out of slumber with a firm "Get up. Time for chores." And we'd stumble into our crumpled work clothes and fumble into the dark. The cold woke us with a jolt, pinching our nostrils tight like glue.

I live in Arizona now, where cold skips merrily past us in search of higher ground, and the lowing of cattle is only an echo of the past. I've a love-hate marriage to this city life, and often wander through memory to those intense, childhood morns.

You've a gift for words and imagery, Carolyn. Deep thanks for flying me home to the past.




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