Friday, January 24, 2014

The Wild, Windy Day

Yesterday, it was windy with clumps of snow blowing from an ashy, gray sky. The horses could feel the change and were tossing their manes and snorting like mustangs on the endless plains. My son and I were tired and our addled brains thought foolishly that we would have a calm and easy ride, then call it quits for the day, not realizing our herd had other ideas. We wanted to pony our two race horses, Flash and Sky. Sky was willing to come to us, figuring she was going to get a little grain. Flash, on the other hand, peeled his ears back, weaved then disappeared amongst the other horses, clearly saying no to any work today.

We got on Copper, a chestnut gelding, and our grey stallion, Rocko, figuring we would catch Flash on horse back. Copper was sharp, raring to go. He loves a good chase, far more than the tediousness of doing equitation in the ring. Rocko was as tightly coiled as a spring. He didn't allow a saddle to be put on his back, slipping from his halter and giving us a merry run. My son mounted him and he attempted to buck. When we finally got down to business, Rocko thundered across the field after Flash like a war mount.

After forty minutes, we caught Flash, who by then had swept the rest of the herd up into his antics and caused them to explode with excitement. They bucked, reared and kicked, having a merry time. While I was opening the gates to the other pastures, my son and I realized the main gate to the horses' pasture had been blown open by the wind. My son yelled, "The gate is open!" I heard him. Unfortunately, the whole herd did also. They heard "open" and "gate", looked up and bolted toward it. When they reached the entrance, they spilled out and galloped across the snowy lawn.

Luckily, our whole property is fenced in or we would have a mass of horses flying down the road. After another forty minutes of wild chasing, we got all of them back in the pastures. While I attempted to shut the pasture gate, which was jammed in an icy snow drift, Hidalgo, a clever, little, Spanish mustang, saw his opportunity. My son yelled and sprinted toward the gate, still on Rocko, hoping to drive Hidalgo back. The race was on. The mustang beat the stallion by a hair. Another thirty minutes of chasing ensued.

After everyone was safely back, my son and I rubbed our freezing arms. When we were thawing in the warm house, we eventually started to laugh. Never say you are going to have a quick and easy ride with horses.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Winter on the Farm

The rain spat from the slate gray sky and splattered on the window glass, signaling the start of an ominous ice storm crawling across the brown, withered countryside. When winter comes to the farm, it is never easy, taking the form of bitter temperatures with powdery snow or chilling mud with ice and sleet. But once it settles in, and December begins to fade, the farm can look magical.

Snow will layer the ground in a pure white embedded with fragments of glittering crystal. The fields will be blanketed with humping drifts. Swirling winds will lift the powder, sending snow tornadoes dancing. The only sign of animals are hungry birds flocking to the feeders or small foot impressions in the white that are quickly buried. Skeletal trees reach for the sullen sky, still holding the brown withered fruits of fall, while their branches clatter together.

Frost spiders the house windows and their sills are empty of the farm cats who normally peek inside. The heavily furred feline now curl in the hay in the barn, drowsily waiting for the occasional mouse that peeks its head in. The dogs lay on the kitchen floor, forming a breathing, hairy rug. The chickens keep to their warm coop, declining to hop around in the deep snow. The furry horses get frisky, getting bored standing around in their blankets. They begin to tease each other, nipping one another, then tearing across the pasture in a white whirl wind while snorting clouds of steam. The animals unfazed by the cold are the sheep, wrapped in their blankets and a heavy layer of wool.

When winter comes, time slows on the farm. Chores take double the time with the deep drifts. A quiet falls and when standing outside, there is an eerily beautiful silence. When the weather is too harsh for man or beast, the house's wood stove burns on high, warming reddened, numb flesh. As things slow, spring creeps forward and everyone waits for its arrival in a semi hibernation.