There is a delicate balance on the farm. The animals we have chosen to live with us on Green Acres are a menagerie of instinctual enemies that must be monitored and trained to keep a perfect balance. We have five dogs who want to chase cats, sheep, and pigs; we have five cats who want to chase chickens; we have thirteen cows who want to chase and play with sheep and dogs; and we have three donkeys who literally chase (and try to stomp on!) anything that isn’t a donkey. There are times I wonder what in the world we were thinking when we chose our animals. There are so many natural enemies among them. Because of that, we have worked hard to keep all of our animals coexisting peacefully. We have made sure we have strong fencing, good gates, and designated areas for each type of animal. Nevertheless, we have had a couple of tragic deaths on the farm due to a determined animal finding an unsuspecting foe.
As of three days ago, we added 24 standard baby chicks, 10 bantam baby chicks, and 6 baby ducklings who are currently hiding out in our tool room under a heat lamp to stay away from predators and unpredictable weather. Thank goodness, the tool room is nice and cozy because a surprise norther blew in this afternoon and the temperature is currently 37 degrees with a windchill of 29! The Outdoorsman and I were so thankful that we went outside earlier this afternoon and prepared all of our animals for the cold weather by loading them up with feed, hay, and water.
We were making our rounds feeding the pigs, sheep, chickens, and cows when, suddenly, we heard a sound approaching and the wind whipped up out of nowhere and startled us and all of our animals. The cats were running for cover when I realized what was happening. The winds were blowing briskly straight out of the North and The Outdoorsman quickly moved into the breezeway to grab his long-sleeved shirt he had taken off moments earlier. We had both come outside dressed in long sleeves, but soon began sweating while he worked on the electric fencing and I shoveled hay into each pigsty. When the winds hit, we were both surprised to feel the cold breeze on our hot faces. I lingered outside longer than planned in order to enjoy the sudden temperature drop that accompanied the brisk winds.
This winter has welcomed much colder, much longer time periods of low temperatures in Central Texas this year. It has caused some extra work on the parts of farmers and ranchers in our area. Even our small herd demands a lot of time and attention, so I can’t imagine trying to care for hundreds of head of cattle during this tumultuous winter. I can assure you that a lot of hay will be eaten by Texas cattle this winter. The grass is an unnatural color of dead in our pastures. Some types of grass have turned to a dark golden wheat color and some plants have actually turned black. The temperature has been below freezing so many times that I have lost count. My car has been coated with ice at least 10-15 different times this winter…..which is a lot for this area of Texas. It has been so common that I have actually kept a huge ice scraper in my car this winter for the first time ever.
What have I enjoyed the most about this winter on the farm? Simple things. Heaters in every room. The fireplace burning. Bundling up in blankets to stay warm. Purchasing my first ever electric blanket. Loving it. Not working outdoors due to the dampness and cold. Not working much at all, in fact. Fuzzy farm animals. Super fluffy cats. Cows and donkeys frolicking in the cold weather. The pond rimmed in thin sheets of ice. The best, deepest snow I’ve ever experienced in Texas. The cold winds whipping through the trees. The trees bowing and bending under the fierce winds. The perfectly built fires in the fire pit. The inevitable s’mores that follow. Hot chocolate with marshmallows. The sounds and smells of camping all around me. The views unobstructed by foliage. The glorious sunsets shining through naked trees. The crystal clear sky at night. The stars that seem closer somehow. The sunrise that rivals the spectacular sunset only the night before.
Winter on Green Acres has been perfect. A perfect blend of work and rest, cold days and slightly warmer days, windy days and perfectly still days, days of family gatherings and days of solitude. Because I have never needed to go outdoors daily to care for farm animals, I have never experienced the winter months so fully. It has been a little formidable on days when I wasn’t feeling quite up to par or feeling tired from a long day at work, but inevitably, the winter wind invigorated my mind and caused me to want to stay a while longer in its presence. It is possible that I am the only person in Texas who has loved this winter. That’s okay. Spring is coming for the rest of you. I’ll enjoy the sights and sounds of spring when it does.