Friday, October 28, 2011

sweaters at the ready: first snow!

I left work early, fighting off a sick feeling in my gut. I needed to get out of the office, and quick. While my insides worked the lower trapeze, my head was thinking about one thing: snow. Halfway home to the farm I was dipping down into the village of Shushan, and with my windows slightly open I took in the smells of the wood smoke. They beat me to it. I smiled and ruffled Gibson's shoulders. Snow was starting to fall all over. The familiar orange roads of leaves and dust were now covered in snow. It wasn't even Hallows and I was thinking about a long weekend indoors with words and coffee. Sweaters are at the ready, son.

When i got to Jackson, walking into the farm house was downright cold. 55, said the thermometer in the kitchen. Not awful, but when you just came in from a heated cab of a toasty pickup truck in a wool sweater, and before that, a disturbingly warm office.... 55 is like walking into a meat freezer. I didn't fuss about it. I knew that within an hour I'd be experiencing "farmer heat" a term I coined around here to explain the phenomenon where static movement makes the house seem cold, but soon as you light the wood stoves and spend an hour doing chores, you are your own furnace. So I did just that. I lit the Bun Baker in the living room, and the ol' Vermont Castings in the mud room and set outside to prep the livestock for the coming snowfall, however light it may be.

I carried two bales of straw on my back up the hill to the sheep sheds. They sheep munch on the yellow, nutritionless bedding like we munch on potato chips as I spread it around the 15x8 foot shelter. (For those not sure what the difference between straw and hay is: straw is dead grass used for bedding, it is yellow. Hay is dried, green grass, used for animal food.) I then added bedding to the annex next door. Soon all the sheep were inside the shelters, the comfort-lovin' lambs Knox, Ashe and Pidge were already making nests. I noticed Ashe (my only success at raising a decent breeding ewe last year) had a striped of black going down her right horn. I never saw anything like it, it was stunning...

I then went and filled two buckets with sweet grain and brought them to the sheep, along with a bale of good hay I set up in the shelters. With the sheep ready for the apocalypse, I headed down to see Jasper. The snow was coming down harder now, wind was picking up. I shut Jasper in the barn stall, closing the bottom dutch door for wind protection for the babes in the pig pen. Jasper paced around the small run by the barn, looking like he was about to have a tantrum. He wanted to run but he'd have to wait. A slick, steep, hillside for a horse that needed a farrier to trim his feet would just mean slipping and sliding and a possible injury. When the snow melted off Friday evening, he could run in the mud. Tonight he was staying in the barn. I gave him a little grain to bribe him indoors, mucked the run, and by this point I was sweating bullets and my face was ruddy. I went inside the barn and made sure Jasper had clean water, two flakes of Nelson Greene's Second Cut, a mineral lick and such. I scratched the poll of his head, he munched happily. I had just watched the documentary BUCK on Netflix, and a stallion colt literally jumped on top of a man and bit through his skull to the bone, covering his cowboy hat with blood. I thought about how the most impatient version of Jasper involves a playful nip and a trot around me in circles with some whinnies. In comparison to some horses, Jasper is a saint. I kissed him and told him I was lucky to have him. I meant it.

The pigs snorted through all this horse love. They have learned Jenna=FOOD and this is their new religion. I walked over to them, scratched their bristly heads, and dumped some pig chow and a load of cracked corn (for body heat) into their feeder. They ate greedily and I threw in some extra bedding for them to bury themselves in.

Do you remember that fall chick I showed you a few weeks back? It has grown into a fine little chicken, and mama and little babe had decided Jasper's stall was a safer roost then the tree outside the coop they usually are in. IN fact, all the tree birds came down and had made peace with the dry, bedding filled, coop and were finding their social order inside. The geese walked around yelling the whole time. I shut the coop door to keep the wind and snow out and turned towards the house. Two little chimneys sent white smoke into the air. I stopped to take a deep breathe of the crisp air tinted with woodsmoke, hay, horse and grain. My hands still felt like lanolin coated them from petting sal up in the sheds.

I went inside and the wave of warmth hit me. Between the stoves and my own body heat I was taken back by the windless, snowless, heat of the place. It was only 56.9 degrees inside now but it felt like 85. I stripped out of my heavy layers and got a glass of water. Farmer Heat in Full Force! The house was amazingly changed through the suggestion of fire, candles, and my time outside in the wet 30-degree world of the animals. I put the morning's coffee pot on the Bun Baker and threw more wood on the fire. Tonight I was staying close to my fire, books, and coffee. And I could do so knowing outside every animal on this farm was safe, dry, and out of the wind and rain. It's the kind of thing fiddle tunes are written about.

This morning the farm is covered in 2 inches of wet snow. By the time the sun is high I have a feeling it will all have melted away. But it was a fine preview of what's to come, and a good practice run for this North Country Shepherd.

Winter, I welcome you.

27 Comments:

Blogger Kelpie and Collie said...

One clarification- straw is from grain products such as oats or wheat, and hay is dried grass- and depending on conditions when cut can be brown/green and a mix of the two.

October 28, 2011 at 8:30 AM  
Blogger Megan, Rudy's mom said...

I just saw on the morning news, a few inches of SNOW for Sunday morning! It's weird that it's so early but fun!! I'd better start getting into shape to shovel all the snow that will be here in Jan!

October 28, 2011 at 8:30 AM  
Blogger daisy said...

Sounds like a wonderful start to colder weather. What a difference a year of experience makes, no?

October 28, 2011 at 9:00 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

isn't wheat a grass?!

October 28, 2011 at 9:02 AM  
Blogger Janet said...

No snow for your northern neighbour here this morning - yesterday I could smell it coming and after dark there was a fine, stinging something coming down, but this morning is breezy with brilliant sunshine. A reprieve for us to enjoy the last few leaves that still hang on the autumn trees.
I'm looking forward to my next shipment of wool from you - and have been browsing thru patterns and ordering up cable needles and stitch holders!

October 28, 2011 at 9:10 AM  
Blogger Meredith A said...

its hard to believe 8 hours south in VA i'm still cutting zinnias while you're enjoying snow!

do you mean Jasper's poll?

October 28, 2011 at 9:10 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

yikes, yes! spell check just made this a dirty site!

October 28, 2011 at 9:16 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Janet, it should be in soon. I'm waiting too!

October 28, 2011 at 9:21 AM  
Blogger steak and eggs said...

Hay is cut from grass,clover,alfalfa. Straw is cut from wheat.and oats.Hay is used for food for animals.Straw is use for bedding for livestock.

October 28, 2011 at 9:21 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

Yes, wheat is a grass. Straw is the stalk leftover after the grains have been harvested. I've never seen straw that wasn't the byproduct of a grain crop. Hay is any grass or legume cut and dried for animal feed. :)

October 28, 2011 at 9:42 AM  
Blogger wanda barrett said...

Lurv the video...the place is stunningly beautiful and your obvious joy in it is contagious!

October 28, 2011 at 10:47 AM  
Blogger Sonja said...

Thank you for the video. I LOVE it!!!! I'm sure I'll be watching on breaks from getting my website up and running today. Thankfully, it is to be wet and blustery here to keep me focused on such non-farm activity. Enjoy your snow! :)

October 28, 2011 at 10:57 AM  
Blogger little homestead in the mountains said...

The snow is Gorgeous! I am soo jealous! And I have to say my fave part of that video was when you opened the barn door to the very anxious geese!! It made me laugh! Enjoy your snow!

October 28, 2011 at 11:02 AM  
Blogger Kat said...

Gorgeous!

October 28, 2011 at 11:14 AM  
Blogger doglady said...

Thanks for the preview. Apparently, Sat into Sun a noreaster is going to blow in off the Atlantic and give us 4-6. Garlic planting post haste tomorrow. Even though I know it won't last and will be beautiful, I am so not ready mentally for it.
Loved the sun shining through the trees and all the animals at CAF.

October 28, 2011 at 11:29 AM  
Blogger doglady said...

Thanks for the preview. Apparently, Sat into Sun a noreaster is going to blow in off the Atlantic and give us 4-6. Garlic planting post haste tomorrow. Even though I know it won't last and will be beautiful, I am so not ready mentally for it.
Loved the sun shining through the trees and all the animals at CAF.

October 28, 2011 at 11:30 AM  
Blogger Meredith A said...

after you saw your previous pig kill/eat a chicken, why do you still let them interact? don't you have chickens valued over $100 each?

October 28, 2011 at 11:37 AM  
Blogger E said...

Wheat is a grass.
The difference is hay is grown for leaf and harvested green.
Straw is a "left over" product of grain farming. In some places, some times it has so little value its burned. You can get wheat, oat or other grain straw.
Hay is grass, alfalfa or sedge grown for feed.

October 28, 2011 at 11:54 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Because I am a horrible, horrible, person Meredith.

October 28, 2011 at 12:34 PM  
Blogger Cait said...

Yikes! We're 5 hours north of you in Ontario and we haven't had any snow yet. Just a hard frost out there this morning when the sheep went out. A good day to muck out the barn up here!

October 28, 2011 at 12:46 PM  
Blogger Sprite said...

Jenna, you're the best!

October 28, 2011 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger Kelpie and Collie said...

Yes, wheat is a grass, but straw comes from by products after it is processed (separate the wheat from the chaff) :) Animals should not eat straw, it's got a LOT of fiber and not much nutritional value.

October 28, 2011 at 3:29 PM  
Blogger Flartus said...

Jenna, your reply to Meredith made me laugh!

Is that Paco in the new photo? Pretty, pretty picture. Glad you're enjoying the snow; it's still in the 50s and 60s down here and I'm still harvesting green beans and cherry 'maters!

October 28, 2011 at 3:52 PM  
Blogger Jacqueline said...

love it! Wish I could open up our door to a pretty snowy farm : )

October 28, 2011 at 9:23 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Best video ever!

October 28, 2011 at 9:57 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

This video made me grin the whole time! The first snow is always exciting.

October 29, 2011 at 2:47 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Not Paco, that is a homebrewed rooster. Half Ameraucana and half Pumpkin Husley! I've been calling him Diego.

October 29, 2011 at 6:37 AM  

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