Winters in Indiana can be bitter cold, harsh and downright scary if you run a farm. We have an interesting variety of animals occupying the Addie Acres landscape. A few llamas, an alpaca, one ultra-curious donkey, and a mini-horse nicknamed “The Tank” due to girth whose curiosity doesn’t extend beyond a feed bucket and mocks the title "mini." We also entertain a couple of goats, literally entertain, as Dillon cozies for repeated hugs and Sierra, our would-be mountain goat, is an apparent stalker. How can she can spend up to 90 percent of her day staring at the house as if to say “Come feed me, NOW!”?
In the summer, the herd has plenty of luscious, thick green pastures to graze on. They have plenty of room to stretch, run and chase each other away from preferred patches that they saw first. I so enjoy the unfolding unique renderings of spring, summer and fall. I pet, scratch, brush out and gaze upon the furry critters from my rope swing, and sip coffee as I yell at the dogs to “STOP” whatever mischief they are currently engaged in.
Winter time, in my mind, is not a season for any reason when it comes to farm critters. Winter was created for a warm house, roaring fireplace and roasting chestnuts. It is for snuggling in a warm blanket and finishing that book that has been waiting for you all year. Winters are for lovers’ mid-February embrace! Farms in the winter are anything but cozy, warm and relaxed. This is the time of year when everything standing on four legs becomes grumpy and smelly. They demand the only warm spot in the barn! They demand the extra cup of grain! They demand that I get ‘him’ away from ‘her.’ They demand that they be fed first!
When it comes to my attempts to lighten the mid-winter menagerie mood by sneaking in people food or tasty sweet grains, they become downright piggy and lose the gentility most often associated with our Addie Acres crew. Green llama phlegm spit indiscriminately at others jockeying for position only takes a second to reach the huddled horde around the feed bin the moment I lift the lid. It may actually be safer in Pamplona with the rushing of the bulls at times!
And then there is the delicate balance of maintaining my ice ballet and mud wrestling skills depending on the thin red line of the thermometer. When the line plunges, I have to become a ballerina skimming lightly along the ice. I’ve learned to twirl without falling while kicking a leg up behind me as I glide down the hill holding plates of rolls, potato skins and stale cereal. My not-so-perfected double axel over, around and above snow drifts, a loose hen and a staring goat would certainly go viral on YouTube. At times, I have ice skated with Dunkay while holding onto his mane like an awkward Olympic partner.
When the thin red line creeps upward, the mud muck grabs at my boots and seeks to permanently plant them in the pasture. Sierra, the stalking goat, even pauses from her willed demand for food to enjoy the occasional bootless plight. Those inevitable days of combined plunging temperatures with slick and mud and winter accumulated animal droppings heighten the suspense and dread for the winter disdain I feel.
Needless to say, I don’t like winter. I dislike hauling water to fill bins, the three-minute race to numb fingers and toes and the half-frozen poop I don’t find until I walk into the house and need to peel it from the bottom of my pink boot. Nope, I don’t like winter.
Ever since November 1, I have been praying for spring to come early. Until the ground thaws and the songbirds fly back to their empty nests, I ice skate my way to the barn dressed in my Pink Nightmare snowsuit, carrying plates of tasty treats for my sure-to-be-having-temper-tantrums animals, hoping that I make it there alive and back inside my cozy home in one piece. Why can’t Super Farmer simply take up residence in the barn like a hibernating bear, take care of the critters amid slumber and emerge with the sight of the first robin in the spring?!