Wednesday, December 31, 2014

morning chores on a frigid day

I'm usually awake by 4 AM.  I drink some coffee, perhaps play Suduku on the IPad or check Facebook, and in general, get myself awake.  I don't really choose to wake up so early, but that's what my body insists on doing, and I decided long ago not to fight it.  My routine for the past month or so has been to go out and do chores around 6 AM, but last night I noticed it was still daylight at 5 PM, so I tweaked the schedule a bit.  For now, 5 AM and 5 PM will let me chore without a flashlight once a day, at least on clear evenings.

I wear my warm pajamas and housecoat outside in the early mornings, simply putting on a sock hat, donning a knee-length winter coat, and putting on gloves... unless it's a day when I'll be milking the cow, in which case I dress for the day.  

It will be some time before it's daylight for morning chores, so I grabbed the flashlight today and went out back of the house to turn the horses in to their hay bale; they are always standing at the gate waiting.  I keep the flashlight beam aimed at the ground so I can locate the frozen cow-piles.  I don't like tripping and falling in the dark.    

Often, Gracie is near the barn waiting for me to reunite her with the three calves.  On this coldest morning of the year, though, she was behind the house laying down near the cows' hay bale, chewing her cud.  So after taking care of the horses, I headed her way  She had a spot warmed up and really did not want to leave it.  I didn't have my cattle prod (a long, fiberglass stick I tap cows with to get them to move), so I had to use the toe of my boot to convince her to get up.  Don't pity her, my Muck boots are rubber.  I didn't hurt her.  

Assuming that once Gracie was up she would go to the barn lot with no encouragement, I went to the barn, which is in front of the house, and turned on the light.  Once I'm in the barn, my two fat barn cats are insistent that I feed them before I do anything else, yowling at my feet as though they hadn't eaten in days.  With them taken care of, I picked up my flashlight again, stepped outside, and peeked into the stall where the three calves spend their nights.  As usual, they've consumed all the feed in their little troughs, and I fill those up.  I've switched them from calf starter to sweet feed now, so they get the same thing I give Gracie.  They get rid of three large coffee-cans-full a day, in addition to the milk they get from the cow.  

I shooed the calves out of the stall and slid the door to the stall shut because if I don't, Gracie will come out the barn door and head straight into the stall to eat the calves' feed.  She has her own little bit of sweet feed in her own trough, but she seems to want the calves' share instead.  Maybe she has figured out they get a lot more than I give her?  

Normally, by the time I do all this, Gracie is waiting at the side door of the barn, but not so this morning.  I grabbed the flashlight, walked through the yard and back around the house, and discovered that the silly cow had decided she was more interested in eating hay this morning than she was in letting babies suck the life-blood out of her.  Once I got behind her (once again watching for frozen cow-piles) and headed her in the right direction, she cooperated, and was waiting at the barn door by the time I got there.  I let her in one door, she walks through the barn, and I let her out the other door, outside which the calves are waiting to have their breakfast.

At this point I leave them and spend fifteen minutes inside the warm house.  I set the timer, and when goes off, I go out and open the barn door for Gracie, who willingly turns and leaves the calves.  I keep my prod in hand to discourage the calves from following her into the barn, and shut the door in their faces.  I let Gracie out the other door and my early-morning chores are done.  Normally the first part that I do before I come inside and set the timer, only takes about ten minutes, tops.  This morning, thanks to a reluctant cow, it took twenty minutes.

Around 7 o'clock this morning I'll go run the horses out of the pen where their hay is, lock them out, and then see to the chickens.  I'll take warm water to them, and take any kitchen scraps I've accumulated for them to eat.  As cold as it is today, I'll need to go out three or four times today with warm water.  I'll check for eggs on each visit, too, because it doesn't take long for eggs to freeze and burst when it's seven degrees.  

I don't have to do any of this:  I could buy my milk, eggs, and beef; but honestly, I love the routine of tending to livestock, even in winter.  I've done it for so many years it just feels right.  My knees may not allow me to go for long walks, but I do just fine puttering around with the animals, and this keeps me active.  


I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

You've got more gumption than I for sure. I'm happy buying what I need and keep inside unless absolutely necessary. Today I'll be going to the store so that means a trip out but it's the first time I've done so since church on Sunday.


You have more get up and go, than I have. Sounds like Gracie had a mind of her own today and playing momma wasn't on her list of things to do.

Margaret said...

It is a great reason to stay active, although I am not a fan of frigid mornings. It's cold here right now too, but we're talking 20s and 30s.

Downeaster said...

I know just what you mean, Donna. I keep my sheep and chickens as much to keep me connected to my farm roots as for any real financial benefit.

Chores morning and evening seem like bookends to my day.