Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Let it snow

It’s snowing.

For Alabama, this is more than a natural phenomenon. It’s an event, something for adults to curse and children to celebrate. It’s a time for school closings and traffic gridlocks as the roads ice over.

This storm caught everyone, including the TV weather men, off guard. Local channels showed pictures of the interstates looking like a dominoes game of Mexican Train, with cars pointing in every which direction. Many folks had abandoned their cars, and businesses and community centers opened their doors to those who needed a warm place to crash. 

My youngest daughter, who stayed home from work because the baby was sick, couldn’t get to the school to pick up my other grandson. A friend of hers made it through and got him, but it took that mom three hours to travel the five miles home. My oldest daughter holed up in a coffee shop about a mile from the library where she works. A friend offered her a bed for the night. 

As for me, I stayed put. I'm as snug as the proverbial bug in a rug. No need for me to stick my tootsies outside. My tenant climbed the hill on foot this morning to tell me he had abandoned his car crossways at the bottom of our driveway. I couldn’t go anywhere even if I wanted to. As long as the propane lasts and the power stays on, I’ll be fine.

My critters have plenty of hay, and I moved my tractor yesterday evening to give them  more shelter. Their water tank is the type that doesn’t freeze up, except around the top between the ball and the inside rim. Donkey can easily paw that loose. I’ve seen him do it. Mallory, my TWH mare, is wearing her new horse blanket. The others don't need blankets because they’ve grown thick, furry coats for the winter. I even remembered to fill the bird feeders yesterday, and the feathered friends covering the perches are chirping their chilly thanks. At least, I think they are. I wasn’t about to open the window to find out.

So, after a lunch of toasted cheese sandwich and Campbell’s chicken noodle soup, I  did what any red-blooded American woman would do under the circumstances:

I made a batch of chocolate-chip cookies.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Making time for what matters

When I sold my business and retired in 2011, it was to write more, ride more, and spend more time with my animals. Life has a way of filling up the cracks and crevices in our daily schedules, like sand fills in a bucket of pebbles, leaving you wondering how you ever found time to work before retirement.

Over the past few days, I’ve made time for my animals. I rode Mallory, my Tennessee Walker, though my woods Saturday. Yesterday, I rode Jazzy, the paint pony I bought for my grandchildren. Both days were sunny reprieves from the cold spell we’ve had, making them perfect for horseback riding. I’m so glad I took advantage of the rise in temperature, because by 10 a.m. this morning, a blustery wind had kicked up, the sun was hiding behind some dark snow-clouds, and a few tiny pieces of frozen water tried their best to make it to the ground before disappearing.

This morning, before the cold had enveloped my senses once again, I sat down on a piece of leftover fence post and watched my critters munch. One of my barn cats, Barney, strolled up and asked me to pet him. I obliged. Betsy, my goat, wondered over for some head-scratching, too. Sometimes I think that goat is part dog, she’s so affectionate.

So there I sat for 10 minutes or so, petting two of my critters against the backdrop of llamas, donkey and horses chomping on dry hay. The crunching sound they made was  like a barnyard lullaby, so soothing that I could have fallen asleep had I been lying down.

“Ahhh,” I thought to myself. “This is the life. This is why I moved to the country.”

I am truly blessed.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

View from my front porch

It’s so easy to let my mind get caught up in the whirlwind of chores as soon as my feet hit the floor each morning. Today, however, I decided to take a few moments to enjoy the view from my wide front porch. The weather was a bit nippy, so I pulled the hood of my housecoat over my head, wrapped up in one of those wooly stadium blankets that zips and buckles around you, and took my mug of hot coffee to my Paw-Paw’s rocking chair. 

The only sound was the twittering of birds and the creaking of that old rocker as it moved back and forth against the wooden floor. There were no deer to watch, no mist hovering over the leaf-covered expanse I call my front yard. The bare trees enabled me to see clear to, well, clear to my first trail. I sometimes wish I could see to the road in front of my property, so I could watch the cars go by. But to do that would mean clearing more underbrush and cutting down some trees. It would also mean a loss of the privacy that I’ve come to enjoy so much.

During spring and fall, I often have my coffee and even my lunch on the porch. I might have a glass of wine in the swing in the early evening, too. In summers, I have to use the ceiling fan, which irritates the mother birds trying to build their nests in the crook of my beams.

But I didn’t ponder all that this morning. I didn’t make plans for the day, either. I just sat, rocked and sipped, enjoying the cozy feeling of snuggling inside a warm blanket and watching the steam rise from my mug.

 A friend once said, “Sometimes me sits and thinks, sometimes me just sits.” 

The latter has its benefits. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Making hay when the sun don't shine

Guess what I was doing when the BSC Championship kickoff was taking place? I was snipping twine from a new round hay bale.

When the weather dips below 30 degrees, I worry about my outside critters. I don't have a real barn, just two doorless stalls and a couple of run-in sheds to accommodate my three horses and two llamas, and my late neighbor's aged horse, donkey and nanny goat. It's enough to keep them out of the wind. Most of the horses grow furry coats in the winter, anyway, and my llamas think they’re back in the Peruvian Andes during this type of weather.

Eating hay helps keep the animals warm. If I had been smart, I would have planted some winter rye, but I wasn't and I didn't, so I'm having to buy hay again this winter. Square bales weren't lasting very long, and I could see that they really needed two or three bales per day. That's $10 to $15 per day. So I bought a round bale for $50, delivered. I knew I could get it cheaper, but I'm loyal to my hay supplier, who made sure I had hay during the drought a few years ago. 

We put the bale under one of my sheds to keep it out of the rain. Wet hay can get moldy, and horses can't eat moldy hay. I didn't have a round-bale feeder to contain the hay, and didn't want to buy one until I could see how long the round bale would last. I knew there would be some waste because the horses would scatter the hay. I didn't realize that when horses scatter it, they also pee and poop in it. They won't eat the spoiled hay, and I can’t say that I blame them, so about a fourth of the first round bale was wasted. I spent two hours cleaning up that mess so I could set up a feeder and get a second round bale.

When I trudged through the woods to feed yesterday morning, I discovered that the entire second bale was gone. They had eaten it all in seven days. That's when I called my neighbor's daughter and asked for help. Her husband offered to buy the next bale, but I needed it right then. So he called his next door neighbor, and after dropping his son off at ball practice (in this weather???) around 6 p.m., he picked up the hay and delivered it to my house.

It took me a few minutes to remove the strips of pink twine that encircled the hay bale. Horses have a nasty habit of accidentally swallowing baling twine and forming calcium rocks around the twine, necessitating expensive surgery to save their lives. And it took me several more minutes to figure out how to secure the gate because the “lock,” a double-end snap connected to a chain the size of Alaska, and just as cold, wouldn't budge. My fingertips were freezing inside my gloves, and I couldn't manage the chain and hold the flashlight at the same time.

By the time I walked back to my house, I had missed the BSC championship kickoff. That’s okay. I enjoyed the game more (despite the outcome)  knowing my critters were warm and well-fed. 

I slept better, too.