Sunday, March 9, 2014

When the weather shifts

When the weather makes big leaps, as in- below zero to a balmy 45 the entire farm, and farmers shift with it.

When the weather shifts warmer, the buckets feel lighter as we slosh through the mud to the hen house. The hens, tap dancing in temporary streams, resume their patrols across the farm. They march through remaining snow, no longer hopping on each foot to avoid the cold, but strutting and pausing to stretch each wing and prune weathered feathers.

The goats lay in discarded hay, faces turned upwards, chewing cud with expressions of sublime relief. Their front legs tucked in, like cats on a windowsill, they close their eyes and emit audible sighs. From the barn, we hear the recently relocated lambs, now big enough to handle the temperature in the barn (rather than the greenhouse). Despite the other barnyard resident's change in mood, they remain convinced that if a bottle is not in their mouths, life will not go on. Despite their pleas, the near by rabbit pen is full of growers, laying on top of fresh beddomg. They recently moved to the spacious grow-out pen and are learning the joys of running full speed, hopping and kicking their heels in the air. If we can't pasture them in the winter, we can get darn close.

When the weather shifts, we don't move as quickly. The rabbit's water bottles aren't ice blocks, and getting the new ones on before they freeze is not a concern. I watch a new litter of kits practice jumping, like kindergartners learning hopscotch. Their mother watches, non-pulsed, blinking slowly. A smile creeps on my lips, and the weeks of hackle raising cold fade with each palm-sized hop.

Out in the pasture, our companion sheep bleat and cut new paths through the remaining snow. Despite ample rations in the morning, they protest being the only livestock on farm with once a day feeding schedule. Feeling indulgent, we toss another leaf of green hay over top of the fence and they greedily dig in. The pigs have created a mud pit worthy of late-spring, or a smellier version of a more tawdry event. Each is smeared with movie style warrior-paint mud. Small eyes on big bodies stare at us through fencing, ankle deep in mud. A quick glance in their stall says they have carried their mud celebration right into their sleeping quarters. Nothing but that a pitch fork and a full bale of shavings can't fix. Each forkful of old bedding weighs about 50lbs and stinks just as you think it would. But as I lift each load, Kim tosses the beasts their food and distracts them with full bellies and water. Soon I'm down to the still frozen base, and we layer fresh bedding on top and give a good scratch in between muddy ears.

The walk back shows visions of rushing springs, and shrinking the layers of winter's cloak. The sun is mid-high. When the weather shifts, the air is warmer and my asthmatic lungs don't shudder with sharpness of biting air. The ground is slick, but not with ice. The sky seems brighter. Inside, the joy of our life wells up to my eyelids. I feel silly for the amount of happiness a clean pig pens brings me. And then, in my glorious reveling of the weather, my boots slide out from under neath me and I land, hard, directly on my ass.

As it turns out, all the relief of warmer weather does not change the laws of gravity. Ah...spring.

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