I know. I know. That phrase usually belongs to Christmas, and I love Christmas, but whoever first coined that phrase and applied it to Christmastime obviously didn’t know the joys of springtime on a ranch.
Out here in the Midwest, March is when the Earth starts to wake from her long, restless, winter sleep, but, like me before my first cup of coffee, she moves slowly, and yawning, meanders through the month in a bit of a cloud covered haze. March comes with sprinklings of hope and signs of warmth. But it also comes with snows and drops from 70 degrees one day to 25 degrees the next. March is the messenger that Spring is coming, but March is not Spring.
But April? In April, things come alive again. For about two weeks, I have been soaking in blue skies and green grass. Reveling in the new flowers, chirping birds, buzzing bees. I find that there is something deeply intoxicating about the color green, and I’ve spent hours and hours aimlessly wandering our fields to soak in the spirits of the season.
Spring is when the ranch wakes up again.
My first trip to the ranch was in the Spring, over 15 years ago now. I recently stumbled across that story, one originally written for a Master’s level class in creative nonfiction. If you’ve ever wondered how on earth I ended up on this ranch, this is it. That day was when my love affair with the ranch started; thus far, with ten years on my marriage to Jeremiah, it’s been the most enduring love of my life.
My bipedal servants seem to think that I owe you an apology.
I think they’re wrong…but they do refill the hay nets on demand, and I believe that they have access to grain, even though they don’t give me any of it, so I do what I can to stay in their good graces when it isn’t too inconvenient.
I, of course, am Slash. High King of the Hill, Guardian of Camelot, and First Pony of the Alpacalypse.
I assume you’ve heard of me? (Of course you have. It was silly of me to even ask, but I do try to stay humble.)
And you, I believe, are referred to by the bipeds a “Neigh Bores.” (They worry about us making noise, but you have “Neigh” right there in your name.) I gather that you are other bipeds who are not indentured to any equines, camelids, or chooks. That’s sad for you, but I won’t rub it in, as I imagine it is a source of despair and humiliation in your little hooman lives. (Seriously, what do you even do with your time? If a hooman wakes up in the morning without a horse to feed, does it even exist?)
I was reading a post from LittleSunDog (one of my favorite wordpress bloggers) about small, sometimes unseen, acts of compassion. She wrote about saving a butterfly from flying into a bonfire, deciding not to cut down an old tree because there was a family of squirrels living in it…that sort of thing.
And it got me thinking about life out here on the ranch. We live out here at the intersection of wild and domestic. The bulk of the property is woodland-with approximately 80 of Eagle Ridge’s 100 acres in forest-and, were we to let it be completely, it would reclaim this dwelling on the top of the hill in just a few years I think.
Living at the intersection of wild and domestic creates a certain tension: we struggle to care for the wildness while at the same time guarding against it. And it can be very difficult to know where to draw the line. Continue reading “Compassion in Tension”→
“I don’t wanna go outside!” I whined. We whine together a lot. If we lived closer, we’d wine together a lot…and that would be better. “I checked, Lauren. It’s been consistently colder here than at your place. Which seems completely unfair given that you’re basically Canadian!”
Lauren laughed, but acknowledged that it’s true. They live far enough north that she could damn near apply for dual citizenship. I, however, live in the middle ground of the country. Illinois. Home of Chicago at one end and cornfields at the other. Despite the expectations that it’s more temperate here, we get nearly arctic colds and southern warms. (Temperate my ass…110 heat index in Summers and -20+ windchill in the winter.) Last week, my little corner of creation went through a cold snap. It was colder here than in Bangor, ME. Actually, as a matter of fact, it was colder here than in Nome, AK.
For many of us in the Midwest, El Nino has been a kind and benevolent overlord this winter. Sure, he brought with him some scary-ass storms and some flooding (more towards St. Louis really, but the Illinois River is pretty freaking high for this time of year), but he has also kept the frigid temperatures away…For the bulk of this season, I’ve been reveling in 40-50 degree days. With the memory of the Polar Vortex and it’s negative thirty degree windchills of a few years ago still fresh in my mind, that’s basically t-shirt weather.
middle of the day…
(Images from the Polar Vortex)
Until this week.
This week kicked off our first round of single digits and negative numbers, and while no one I know likes those sort of numbers, it’s especially vexing for those of us who take care of livestock. For me, extreme cold means that I spend about twice as much time outside every day. My aging herd of llamas is locked in to the barn with their heat lamps. When they’re locked in, they eat more. They poop more. They some how dirty their waterers faster. Plus, I’m pretty sure they get super bored and annoyed with me. (How dare I shut them in to prevent frostbite and exposure??? I am SO rude!)
All of the creatures, from the 4 lb chickens to the 1200 lb horses, require more care and more clean up when the weather is this wretched. I feed more. I clean more. I go outside more often, and I stay there longer.
Most of the time, I don’t really mind. It’s part of this gig, and I usually see it as an unfortunate but fair trade for my wonderful spring, summer, and fall days out here. But there is one event that can turn it from generally unpleasant to downright nasty: Freezing Water Lines.
January 1st of 2016 surprised me with a nearly perfect blue sky. Having spent weeks overwhelmed by my Season of Gray, the blue sky was the perfect antidote to my melancholy, and, in my own humble opinion, barn chores under the blue sky were the perfect was to start the new year.
First thing, I wandered out to one of the back pasture to check on a tree fall that one of my neighbors reported to me. Their tree; our fence.
It pretty much destroyed that section of fence, but it’s so big that no one is going anywhere over, around, or through it. I don’t have to worry for a while. (I told Jeremiah that we should chainsaw it in interesting ways and leave it as fence…easier than hauling it out.)