Skinned Knuckles and the Cold

As everybody world-wide undoubtedly knows, North America has been in a deep freeze this past week as far as the weather is concerned. Temperatures have been unseasonably low, and lovely pictures of ice sculptures that were once cars, Tim Hortons cups, and Lake Michigan have been circulating on the internet.

Other than the huge change in temperature, not much has changed here on the farm. The pigs and goats go about their business of eating, sleeping, pooping and playing. The German Shepherds and the Pug have not done much about their routines, except that now when they get to go outside with me in order to do the daily chores, they make sure to jump into the giant snowdrift that has grown up around our front porch. They leap, come down hard, making sure snow flies everywhere, and then take giant bites of the white stuff before galloping off at high speed down the laneway towards the barn.

However, us humans, along with the equipment and tools we use day to day, are suffering a lot more during this cold snap. In the wise words of Tom, my hubby, “nothing works right in the cold.”

I agree with him. Yesterday morning I went to go into the shop, which is where we keep the grain and extra buckets for the livestock. Due to the high winds and cold of the night before, snow had been blown up against our stack of wood pallets beside the shop door. This created a giant snow drift that was actually taller than me in places. It had completely covered the shop door. With the dogs looking on curiously, I started shoveling and digging. 

I opened the shop door and was immediately bowled out of the way by 3 dogs, 8 cats, and a Pug. The cats know they’re not supposed to be in the shop because every time they perform their balancing acts along the work benches, the honey tank, motorcycles, or up on the top of the beer fridge, tool boxes and other objects fall to the floor. The cats have a beautiful insulated and straw-filled house by the garden, but the forbidden appeal of the work shop is simply too much for them. They make it their day’s mission to try to get inside.

So, with buckets full of grain, a harsh wind howling across the field and right into my watering eyes, and followed by 3 dogs, 8 cats and a shivering Pug, I make my way to the end of the laneway to the pig barn.

Dumping the grain inside for the pigs is easy. The pigs run joyfully over to where I’ve thrown their grain and start eating. While they’re occupied with breakfast, I pull on the latch holding the barn door closed. I need to get inside the barn to dig the giant rubber water bucket out of the straw nest and put it right beside the door so I can fill it with water. The latch doesn’t move. I pull harder, muttering a word under my breath that my grandmother always told me was unladylike. Still nothing. I pull the door towards me hard, figuring it’s not lined up with the frame which is causing the latch to stick. The latch creaks and two giant icicles fall off the barn roof overhang. One hits me in the shoulder and the other one hits the Pug. I swear louder and pull on the latch as hard as I can while pushing at the door using my knees. The door moves, the latch jumps and the cold metal corner of it scrapes my knuckles on my left hand right through my mitten, removing some cold hide from the top of my knuckle. The door then flies open, and I fall into the barn, swearing loudly now and followed closely by 4 of the cats, 2 more giant icicles, and a confused Pug.

The pigs leave their breakfast and wheel around excitedly towards me and my menagerie, thinking it must be playtime. Their tails wag happily, and they are making their excited “let’s wrestle in the straw” sounds. The cats decide it’s best to leave this scene and gallop off, tails curled in the air. The Pug isn’t sure. Should he stick around in case there’s a meal? Could he maybe smell the pigs’ bottoms? Does Mommy need help?

I locate the rubber water pan and toss it where it’s supposed to be. The pigs have figured out that it’s not playtime after all and instead focus all of their energies at trying to squeeze between my legs in order to get out. For those of you who have ever had several 200 pound playful pigs try to squeeze between your legs in order to get out, you will know exactly how much fun that is. Not.

Pigs are pushed back into the barn to finish breakfast and German Shepherds are rounded up. Time for us all to head back to the house in order to fill the first 2 of 6 water buckets that have to be carried back over to the barn.

The first 4 buckets are taken over without issues. With the wind actually getting worse and my eyelashes pretty much frozen, I leave the dogs inside for this final trip to the barn and start walking with the last 2 buckets. My right leg starts to get colder and colder. Then it starts to sting. The bucket in my right hand has now become much lighter than the other one. I finally look down and notice the last of the water spewing out of the giant crack that has now appeared in the bottom of the bucket. The cold has killed my bucket, and my right leg is covered with water that is quickly turning to ice.

Over to the barn I run with my one remaining bucket of water while the 8 cats look on in amusement. They are all sitting comfortably on their briskets beside their house, out of the wind. I can no longer feel my right leg. The knuckles on my left hand are stinging.

So the animals finally have their water and the worst part of the day is over. I trudge back to the house while the wind and snow howl all around me. I ignore my leg and my knuckles, which are now both alternating between stinging and thumping. At the house I can hear the dogs yapping excitedly as they see me coming. My rubber boot slips on an icy spot on the porch and my right knee smacks hard into the metal railing. The railing makes a really cool boinging sound which is actually hard for anyone to hear over my very loud and angry cursing. I am now using words I haven’t spoken since my truck driving days. I can no longer feel my right leg and I don’t care. I get into the bootroom with its windows completely covered in ice on the inside from the extreme cold, wet boots sliding around on the floor, dogs leaping and yarking and always happy to see me. I push dogs out of my way and reach for the front door so we can all get into the nice warm kitchen, and the old and by now frozen doorknob comes off in my hand.





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