Its official, I have to start wearing pants to the barn in the morning. I held out as long as I could. The time has come where my short summer night gown and long, fuzzy bathrobe is no match for the sub-zero temps and biting wind. Winter is once again here and my feelings for morning chores haven’t changed; they’re still my favorite. A bonus this winter is I’m not too pregnant for coveralls to fit!
The new hayloft gives some extra insulation over the cow pen despite the barn walls that are quite drafty. In fact after a good west wind everything has a heavy dusting of snow because the barn boards have weathered so much over the years. On the extra cold mornings the refuge of the barn is welcomed, as it’s always a few degrees warmer in there. When the mornings are warmed up to -15 in the barn pants are a good idea.
This morning I went out and quietly opened the barn door and gave the animals the usual greeting “Good morning guys. Here comes the light.” I always appreciate a warning before someone flips on a light in the early morning, I’m sure they do too. It was peaceful in there aside from the ruckus of quacks coming from the corner when the light turned on; the ducks are new to the routine. After a few shakes of their tail feathers they all settled back into the hay. The goats peered out of their winter house without any intention of getting up. At the other end of the barn the cows were laying quite contently, their backs and noses covered in frost. The cat’s dish is still half full of food and covered in snow. He quit showing up a few weeks ago, so I’ve quit feeding him. When he comes home from whatever journey he’s been on he shows up at the back door, gets a “welcome home” can of tuna outside and then I start filling his dish on the steps to the hayloft again. The mice haven’t been noticeable like they were earlier this fall so he can wander for a while. I don’t need his daily catch freezing to the back step.
It was a quiet morning of chores, the only challenge was cleaning the cow pen and working with Caroline. They still haven’t accepted Sweet Caroline yet, aside from G.W., those two are buddies. I am still working with her to keep her calm and tame so she’s ready for milking this spring/summer. Usually I can throw a bale of hay outside and everyone heads out to eat and she will sneak back to the barn for her own ration and to be haltered and walked for a bit. These extra chilly days, even hay outside isn’t enough to coax the herd out. That’s when I need to get a little creative and things can get a little harry. Because the girls don’t like to get too close to each other and Caroline usually gets the run-around, I had to get her semi cornered to halter her all the while keeping an eye on Wheezy. She’s never really cared for me but we haven’t had a problem since our last almost “come to Jesus” moment. Right now she’s pregnant and likes to be told just how big she is as much as I did. She’s also a little feisty when she’s hungry in the morning.
Caroline is usually really good about being haltered but is on edge when Wheezy and Lucy are in the barn with her. A little slow paced chase, some calming reassurance and quiet swearing and she was haltered. We carefully made our way through the crowd and out the gate. I tied her to a hayloft post next to a stack of bales. She was pretty content to eat at her leisure knowing she wouldn’t be getting the boot… or horn.
Then was the fun job of cleaning the pen. I actually don’t mind it especially when the pies are frozen. Assuming they aren’t froze down, they are pretty easy to toss in the wheel barrow. If they are froze down and you decide to try and pry them loose with the pitch fork, do so with your mouth closed. Just a little tip for ya’. This morning I missed Elvis in the barn. He was always by my side when I would clean. He was less than helpful as he would tip the full wheel barrow at least once a morning. But I liked having him there anyway. I forked what wasn’t frozen down or under hoof and got the stock tank filling for the day too.
Only once have I forgotten to unhook the hose from the pump this year. I wasn’t a huge deal but Mike had to use the blow torch to remove it and then bring the whole thing to the house to thaw. I now have to dip the end in the warm water of the stock tank to thaw the threads so I can attach the hose, fill everyone’s water and then unhook and hang the hose to hopefully drain before it freezes.
The hay was distributed to the cows and goats and the grain for the ducks was in their pan and it was time to put Caroline back in with the rest. Usually this is nothing to think twice about, if someone wandered in while she was out they are usually pretty easy to shoo out or at least out of the way. Not today… It was already established that no one intended on going outside this morning and G.W. was pretty sure he was going to make his way out the gate to the stack of bales that Caroline just finished enjoying. He may be little but he’s a sturdy bugger. I was pushing him back and trying to pull Caroline in at the same time. The three of us went back and forth a few times, then G.W. got a little snorty with me. I shot him a don’t-go-there glare and came out on top. He backed up and I ended up pushing Caroline in too.
After latching the gate, it was time to brave the wind outside and get to the house to start breakfast. The perfect start to the day.