smoke, bracers, and great horns
I went home and went about the pre-farm chores the farmhouse and its inhabitants demand before I head outside to the livestock. The dogs are walked and fed, George and Lilly get their fresh water and kibble too. Then I try to suss out what will feed me and what (if any) tasks can be done that night to help me unwind from the day. I had already started preparing to bottle some stout beer when I realized the pigs had just enough for a single meal and the rabbits and chickens of Cold Antler would wake up famished. I forgot the feed. This wouldn't do.
If it was just the pigs, or just the dogs, or just the chickens I would simply cook for them at home. On more than one occasion the dogs had rice and scrambled eggs or the chickens a pot of cooked pasta to fill them up till proper rations could be acquired. But I wasn't about to cook for 60. I told Gibson we'd be heading out, and he ran to the front door, tail wagging.
Back now from the errand, and all the animals at Cold Antler are either chewing, slurping, pecking, or ruminating as I type. There's a pony keg of beer I'm going to bottle soon, and after that I'll send out some emails to folks asking on workshops and ads. The mortgage payment will go out this month, and like every month, it is at the last minute, but making it. For that I am proud, and will stay up late as it takes to cover the truck payment too.
I'm taking the break now because writing to you folks has become a meditation and a chance to unwind for me. I so look forward to it. I can't haul wood or water or bottle beer while typing, I can just stand and think and breath.
So what does that extra trip on a work night mean, really? It means it will be another hour before bed, and things will slip. It means another day that an interview request goes unanswered, or a chapter isn't written for a contracted book. It means that the list of addresses to mail wool off too might sit another day. It means a lot, it took a lot.
I felt the tiredness scoop me up as I lifted the third bag of feed into the back of the truck at Wayside, and I stepped aside from it. The way you might step out of the wafts of smoke from a campfire if the wind sends it your way. You don't argue with the smoke, you know it is real and present, but you can't deal with it so you keep moving. I have learned to move tired, and move smart. The farm is covered with ice now, and slipping on a patch with 80 pounds of water in tow, or moving the full garden cart of haybales could mean serious injury. So you slow down. You hold onto things with all your weight before you take the next step. I'm a natural klutz, and my body proves it, covered with burns and scars and bruises. However, I have learned that some areas can not be cut deep or you are in grave danger. I farm with bracers on my wrists if they are ever exposed. Honest to God bracers, little leather cuffs around my wrists because I have nearly sliced them open on wires, tools, or fencing. When you farm like I do you need armor.
The winter here is always a little trying. The cold takes morale, and sometimes, lives. I lost one Freedom Ranger this week when the temperature dropped to -10. A runt without much fat on him. I removed him without ceremony and dropped a fresh load of straw down for bedding for the other 29. Tonight as I was listening to an audiobook on my iPhone during extra-late night chores I walked past the hay bale coop and was shocked by the heavy WffftWFFFTWttff of flapping wings taking off. A Great Horned Owl had been feet away from me on a fence post. I watched it take off terrified from the shock and in awe that such animals share my property (or more accurately, I share theirs). Then I remembered the catamount sightings earlier this month and took the story out of my ears. If a bird could sneak up on me out in the open, a catamount could chomp me up easier than I could order Chinese take out.
Which is what I ate for dinner. I would have cooked something but I forgot the feed. Not very authentic, not even that good, but it was the first meal of the day and I savored the spicy veggies and rice. I chewed the way Sal chews up under the apple trees in summer. I chewed like a girl who needed calories. I chewed like someone who knew their take-out days were numbered. When you change your whole plan for backyard chickens and perform their humble funeral rites, you chew different.
Thank you for reading this another day.