Welcome back to Magnetic North, where we stagger toward Christmas week over frozen clods of mud and, alas, no measurable snow.
Believe it or not, chores in winter get easier, not harder, with snow. For one thing, carrying all those buckets of water to the barn and coop goes smoother with snow under foot. I can even use my Norwegian kick sled to transport the buckets instead of galumphing 93 steps from house to barn.
Yes, I count the steps. Call it mindfulness or mindlessness. Fact is, attention to such details keeps me in a cheerful mood, even when I slop the goat water all over my blue jeans in 20 below wind-chill weather.
Truth be told, my critters drink too much. Or at the very least, they don’t drink fast enough. Morning chores find me schlepping two buckets of warm water to the goats and my guard llama and two more to the chickens and ducks. The angora bunnies get five water bottles twice a day. By the time I’m about ready to come inside for lunch, the water in all locations is no more. That is, it is not water. Whatever doesn’t get slurped up fast-freezes solid.
Hence, evening chores find me filling four more buckets, making those sloppy, stumble bum trips again and returning to the house laden with the frozen remains.
That is why we have, at all times between December and April, four semi-thawed black rubber buckets lining the narrow back hallway. And why there is a growing pile of bucket-shaped ice next to our woodshed.
But it’s worth it. Seeing my six goats rush to those steaming buckets and draw long, delicious sips of water never fails to warm me up. Summer, the llama, is a sneak drinker, though. In the seven months since she came to live here, I think I’ve seen Summer take a swig of water exactly once.
Not so the big white Chinese geese, Holdme and Touchme. Holdme hogs the bucket first, dunking his entire head and half his long neck over and over again. For geese, drinking is secondary to bathing. After five or 10 minutes of serious groomin’ and guzzlin’ he and his paramour run and flap their way across the lawn to the woodshed where they’ll spend the day nibbling kibble in a mound of new straw. Tough life, eh?
The bunnies are always my last chore stop, morning and night, for one big reason. Aside from the Internet, I find angora bunnies the greatest time sinks on the planet earth. Doling out their water bottles takes only minutes, but watching the little dickens belly up to the bottles and drink out of the upside-down metal tubes takes waaaaay longer. And of course, there are raisins and bits of dried papaya to hand out. Fur to comb. Ears to tickle. I tell you, the work with those bunnies just NEVER ends!