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.

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