No Hunt Today: Weather Life
I had plans to hunt over at Patty's farm, which is in a beautiful open area. I already called and made plans with her and I think she was excited to come along for the hunt. But as I made my way along route 22 the wind picked up and a hard snow started to fall. I checked the weather when I got home and it looked like a system was passing through all day. It was calm here on my protected mountain but it is a lot windier in Patty's area and it simply wasn't safe to take the bird out. A high wind or sudden storm could mean losing the bird. So I sadly declined the invitation and headed home, trying to explain why I was baling on the plan. Patty was gracious as ever, but I think I disappointed her. There wasn't anything for it, though. So I brought the bird inside and set him on a perch in my office while I attended some emails. Then I fed him and made sure he had plenty of water and set him back in his comfortable mews. Later in the evening he'd get a second meal and some indoor flying time for exercise.
Weather is part of the game in hawking, but it's also part of the game in life here as a homesteader. Weather dictates everything I do. My life here at Cold Antler would be considered primitive to some, and not because I don't have an auto-drip coffee maker, washing machine, or microwave. What's so primal about my life is how much it depends on weather and how close to home I spend my time. These things are related. The only heat in the house comes from my wood stove, and if I want to be comfortable indoors it means keeping a fire going starting at the pre-dawn hour of 4:45 AM. At that time the house is around fifty degrees and a fire is welcome. I use the stove to heat not only me, but also a kettle for tea and humidifying. While the stove starts out I say my morning prayers and stretch a bit. I put a percolator on the stove and head up my morning coffee, too. It doesn't take long to have a warm blaze and a whistling kettle. That is a sound Merlin knows, and he can hear it just fine from his paddock gate. When he does he whinnies for his hay alongside Jasper. That means it is time for me to take one last sip of coffee before I head outside.
i feed the horses first of all the livestock, mostly because they are loudest and not all my neighbors on the echoing mountain need to listen to Merlin's roar. He and Jasper get hay and around 10-20 gallons of water to refill their heated trough. Then the sheep eat, followed by a trip to the barn for goat grain and mineral, chicken feeding, rabbit feeding and water bottle wrangling. I bring the frozen bottles inside and set them by the hot stove to sputter and whistle in their way and enjoy a second cup of coffee. And I know that all sounds ideal and such, but remember that this is a MOnday morning. I am not at an office or able to leave for vacation. My life is right here. The animals depend on me to keep this wintertide flow of water and green grass. At least two ewes and Bonita the Alpine goat are pregnant with youngins on the way. I am needed here, for care and heat and to serve the animals that serve me. That means feeding and weighing a hawk, polishing and treating leather horse harness and tack, keeping the dogs' and cats' bellies full and the general care and winter maintenance of barns and roofs.
There are nights I can't drive 6 miles away to spend a few hours with friends, because it is too cold. Heat means being here to tend a fire and keep pipe water moving. Earlier this week when we had rain and thunder and a day of melting snow it meant digging out and defrosting the sump pump hose to keep the basement from flooding! Cold Antler is my number one priority, my job, my family, and my whole life. And that's just not normal these days.
Sometimes it feels weird. To cancel dinner plans because the temperature was too low or to see friends leaving for vacations all over the world while I am here tending 6 acres of cold earth. In our modern luxurious lifestyle of cheap energy and transportation, staying close to home seems either crazy or selfish. Even the most understanding of friends get tired of it when they depend on thermostats instead of locust and Ash. But this is the life I chose. I created a life I adore right outside my front stoop. There is hunting, horses, hawks, riding, gardens, animals, campfires, cookouts, hives, dairy, and more just a few paces from the bed I woke in. How dare I ask for more? There is nothing I want on a plane or across the glove, nothing at all. Everything that is me is alive here, and thrives here, and on hot summer days when the nights are full of fireflies and distant thunder I am humming with the energy of satisfaction.
This life is anything but simple. It's a complicated hot mess most of the time and staying here in this home to pursue a creative life has been the most stressful fight of my life. But if you go into battle with gratitude and determination as your weapons, and acceptance of limitation as your shield…. you become unstoppable.
So I didn't hunt today. And I might have let down a dear friend. No adventures took place except the ordinary kind of lighting fires and writing stories and taking care of my dear animals. But it's Monday, and that used to mean a very different thing not that long ago. I am happy even when I am struggling, and for that reason alone I see a reason for morning prayers and high hopes.