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Magnetic North - December 7 with Vicki Biggs Anderson

Magnetic North 12/07/17
Early Winter on Ice
 
Welcome back to Magnetic North where high winds and sun combine to polish the ice crust covering most roads and driveways. Until last night, folks in the Banana Belt, about half a mile uphill from Superior’s waters, still had bare earth and even grass showing. A good friend and fellow chicken keeper’s flock was even enjoying free-ranging, while my poor hens were cooped up. Now they are all in it together for the duration of winter.
 
My hens do have advantages when it comes to getting out for a few hours of winter sun. Paul and a friend built a huge chicken run 27 years ago and it still stands, affording the girls 200 square feet of outdoor access. Not that they always want out. Chickens are a titch wussy about stalking about in snow, so I always toss in a few of my female ducks come winter to stamp down the snow in the run. Why just girl ducks? Well, suffice it to say that male ducks- drakes - are not gentlemen. One might even put their photos up there with the likes of Harvey Weinstein. So in winter I have to segregate my three Swedish drakes in the dog kennel where they coexist with my two big Labs, Zoey and Jethro, neither of whom look the least bit enticing to a duck.
 
Tomorrow marks one of my favorite winter preparations. Not the hanging of ornaments on the tree. Not the baking of cookies. And for sure not shopping madness. For me it is the annual hay delivery from Dan’s Feed Bin. Fifty bales of sweet green hay will be off-loaded from the huge semi by two bully boys who swing those bales around like feather pillows. As they do this, a chore that takes only about ten minutes, my five goats hover on the deck between the house and garage where the hay is stored. Now, I’m not sure that goals actually drool, but they do something just as, well, weird. When new food, like fresh hay appears. Their upper lips curl up so as to fully absorb the delicious aromas released by the bales. 
 
This crazy looking behavior is actually performed by many creatures, from cats and dogs, to zebras. It’s call Flehman behavior and has more to do with finding members of the opposite sex than in locating dinner. By rolling back their gums, pulling a face so as to let scents enter their mouths, critters allow pheromones-the animal equivalent of Old Spice or Chanel #5-to flip a switch behind their front teeth.  The message? “Get ready for something good!” In this case, that’s fresh hay. And while hardly better than sex, when it’s below zero and the meadow is three feet under snow, hay and the occasional dish of cracked corn, spells survival.
 
Survival in the coming months for us hairless, featherless creatures depends primarily on warmth. Thus, my weekend delivery of beautiful split maple has me feeling all cozy and safe. Now all I have to do is fetch my daily stack without cracking a hip or twisting an ankle. These hazards are the reasons I always take my phone with me whenever I do chores. Plus, I popped for a special bracelet with a “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” button from my home security provider.
 
Oh, yes, I’m in that stage of life. If I ever doubt it, I’ve only to listen to my peers’ endless “organ recitals” or joint replacement sagas. Plus, my middle age daughter recently suggested that I install a granny cam, of all things, in my home. “Just so I won’t worry about you, Mom.” she cooed over the phone. “After all, you are all alone out there.”
 
Bristling at the “out there” remark, I put a stop to the whole thing by telling her that a “granny cam” would not be a good idea as I had taken to walking about the house naked. Just between us, this is a bald faced lie. But tough times call for tough measures. So now she is content with a gadget that will alert her if I don’t open the fridge within ten hours. Still irritating, but a small price to keep her off my case.
 
Sitting here now, listening to the wild wind, watching the ducks and geese goats sheltering from it in the woodshed, now stuffed with a winter’s worth of maple, I am sinfully content to be “out here” and feel anything but “alone.” I am blessed to have been born an introvert and an only child who learned how to enjoy my own company and find endless opportunities for entertainment. I have some very close friends, fresh eggs, money to indulge my knitting addiction and can, thanks to brilliant physical therapy help, can now walk without a limp, albeit with Yak Tracks strapped to my mukluks.
 
In short, I have enough. Best of all, so too do my darling and completely frustrating naughty goats, drakes and all creatures great and small who inhabit my wintry world.
Life is good, even on ice. 

Thanks for listening. This is Vicki Biggs-Anderson for WTIP with Magnetic North

 
 

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