By Christine Tailer
The mud had frozen quite solid and was covered with snow. I could feel the sharp edges of a warmer day's prior footsteps cutting up through the soles of my rubber boots as I walked out to the goat yard.
As I inhaled, the cold air crinkled the inside of my nose, and when I breathed out through my mouth, I saw a brief lingering of steamy warmth. The temperature gauge read three and a half degrees.
The goat buckets were frozen quite solid. I can usually thump them upside down on the ground and the shallow layer of ice will fall free, but not today. I lugged them over to the frost-free spigot to let the water wash over them and free the ice.
It took a bit of extra strength to pull up on the spigot's handle, and it seemed that I waited longer than usual for the water to spill from the faucet. I held my breath, and crossed my fingers inside my thick gloves, and then, yes, finally the water began to flow over the upside down bucket I had placed on the ground below.
I filled up the watering can and left the water to run over the goats' buckets. The pigeons' rubber bowl was also frozen quite solid, but the ice was not so thick, and it broke free after several stomps from my rubber boot. I returned it, filled with clear water from my can, to the pigeon house and watched for a moment as the birds flew down from their high perches to drink.
I headed over to the rabbits and walked down the row of hutches, gathering their frozen water bottles. The plastic bottles clinked together in my black bucket, sounding like frosted bells, as I walked back over to the spigot. I upended the goats' buckets and solid chunks of ice fell free. I left the biggest bucket to fill as I went inside the cabin to set the rabbit bottles around the stove to thaw.
The goats did not to seem to care when I delivered their water. Perhaps they eat the snow, but I really do not know. I gave them a bit of extra feed, imagining that its calories would help to keep them warm.
I noticed that their fur stood straight out from their bodies, no doubt adding extra insulation, but making them look even fatter than usual.
The goats may have ignored the fresh water, but the chickens hurried over and flocked around the filled buckets. They busily scooped the water up in their beaks, and then tilted their heads back to swallow.
I returned to the rabbits, and as I refilled their food trays, I also packed small bowls with snow.
They immediately began to eat the snow. I poured water into other bowls that I had left sitting on the tops of the hutches. Some of the bowls were already filled with solid ice. These I set inside the cages for the rabbits to lick, but they definitely seemed to prefer the snow. Rabbit ice cream, I imagined.
I then let the water from the spigot run over the chicken's watering can so I could empty out the solid ice. It did not take long. It seems that at night the chicken coop actually stays quite a bit warmer than the outside air, simply from the chicken's body heat.
Whenever I pick up one of my birds, even on the coldest of days, I am amazed at how hot her feet feel.
And lastly I walked down to the pasture. The little horses came trotting right up to me. Frost covered their backs. I leaned over and we touched noses. They contentedly began to eat their feed as I lugged their solidly frozen bucket over to the spigot by the barn.
After I had latched their freshly filled water bucket to the fence, I sat down in the straw inside their shelter. My toes were cold, but it felt good to smell their horse smells and listen to their contented munching.
But I must say that it felt really good to take off my frozen rubber boots and prop my toes up beside the rabbit bottles that I had left thawing by the wood stove.
Curiously, I was not in any real rush to get back outside, even though the temperature had risen, by then, to a toasty seven degrees.
Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in south-central Ohio. Visit them on the web at straightcreekvalleyfarm.com.[[In-content Ad]]