Snow Storm!

Poor DH had a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new school building yesterday. The forecast was 100% chance of rain and wind gusts up to 50 mph. His staff gamely set up a tent. After the speeches, and just as the ribbon was sliced, the downpour changed unexpectedly to snow.

The prediction had been for a dusting of snow overnight. Instead we got six to eight inches of heavy wet white stuff in four hours.

All the school children were ecstatic, including Lucy, who adores snow and cross-country skiing. “Let’s put on Christmas carols!” she cried. DH went for a ski before supper.

I was less excited. I too look forward to snow — up to a point. Snow signals the end of long months of outdoor chores. It means turning inside, being cozy, cleaning out the linen closet, fragrant pies baking in the oven, stews bubbling on the stove. But I’m not ready yet.

I have been pushing on a dozen projects. There are wood scraps, paint cans, ladders, shovels, odd fence posts, buckets, and feeders scattered everywhere around the barn. I always remember Allen, his face pained (he was very neat and methodical) saying with kindly restraint, “You ain’t gonna find that if it snows.”

I have been counting on two more weeks to get everything buttoned up and tidied away before winter.

Even more importantly, my animal systems aren’t set up for snow. My heavy-duty electric pig netting did not collapse but was shorted out and useless. Luckily the pigs were hungry. They also do not enjoy snow.  They followed me cheerfully into the warm barn, where I locked them in the sheep stall.

This was possible because my sheep are still at Betty’s. It turned out I was not able to borrow the trailer this week and have to wait until next week. (Someday I must own a stock trailer. I hate having the welfare of my animals out of my control.)

I drove down to check the sheep at dusk. It had taken me an extra half an hour at evening chores to catch my five chickens, who under Nelson’s fool leadership had taken shelter from the storm in the run-in and then found themselves marooned a hundred yards from safety. By the time I caught the last one and had carried it squawking indignantly to the barn, I was wet and numb with cold.

A tractor trailer had jack-knifed across the big hill down the highway and police were everywhere with flashers circling on their vehicles and flares burning in the snow. “Just going to my sheep,” I explained to a red-faced officer bundled in snow gear.

I had moved the sheep to fresh grass yesterday morning. Luckily I’ve been moving them down the side of the field, so they were easily reached by wading from the driveway.

Hearing the familiar sound of my truck, the sheep bounded toward me in relief. Their summer shelters had collapsed. The fence netting was entirely down, swamped in snow. You could tell where it was because the 42″ posts, bent over, looked like knees poking up under a blanket. The sheep had been so demoralized by the storm they’d simply huddled around the collapsed shelters.

I swept the snow off the shelters and stood them up again. Now I had to keep the sheep inside the netting while I dug it out and reset it. I’d brought a bale of hay and tossed flakes out into the snow. The ewes immediately began to eat but Ioan the ram was not so easily distracted. Perhaps he ought to knock me down, just on principle.

“Get out of here or I’ll kick you in the head!” I roared. By this time I was running out of steam. My bare hands were half-frozen. (I vaguely recalled taking off my gloves to catch chickens.)

I reset the fence but of course in the deep snow it had no more electric charge than a piece of wet string. My sheep would be defenseless for as long as the snow lasted. For a wild moment I thought about shaking a can of grain and trying to lead the whole flock the mile down the deserted highway, back to my barn. But night was falling and I thought better of it.

This morning it is raining. I hope my sheep are safe. I hope the snow melts. And I hope I can get everything cleaned up, squared away, pigs to the butcher, and sheep home before our next storm!

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