Below Zero: All Is Well

Reader Contribution by Nancy Addie
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Winter fun on the Addie Acres farm often makes me feel older as the animals regress to varying degrees of childish behavior. For instance, this week I trudged through 4-foot snow drifts in 25 below zero gusting winds with arms filled with goodies just to make their feeding seem a little warmer. By the time I entered the barn, I was tired and yet the natives surrounded me with hungry eyes, growling tummies and grunts of “feed me … feed me … feed me”… NOW!

I forced my body to call up renewed energy and pushed my way to the blue wooden plank trunk concealing the tasty goat grain. I climbed up on top of the old wood box, put my hands into the air to calm the riot of fur. Instinctively, I made individual eye contact to make sure each critter was going to stay calm as I passed out rolls, stale bread, strawberries and cookies. I contemplated which of the little darlings with the big appetites would be on the short end of the nibble that morning.

After the treats had been gobbled down and I had checked to confirm I had all my fingers intact, I pushed my way through the now satisfied crowd of hooves to visit the chickens who have been loudly squawking, flapping and testing the flimsy chicken wire that barely keeps cranky birds cooped up inside their slice of Addie Acre paradise inside the barn. Once in the pen, I dug deep inside my pink Carhartt snowsuit pockets to pull out the crackers I had concealed from barn border patrol agent Dunkay. I then proceeded to throw handfuls of crumbs to keep the hens busy as I participated in the daily egg hunt. It was a mixed blessing as many of the hens are still producing despite the cold and, yet, some of the eggs have frozen into oval shaped baseballs bursting at the seams.

I then turned my attention to mama llama Sweetie and baby Promise who have been waiting patiently for their grain. I gave them extra as I appreciated that they always wait for me without all the drama the animals in the front part of the barn put on everyday when I walk in. About the only llama drama was when Sweetie was not so willing to share grain with pen companion Auntie Violet, requiring me to put some in a bucket and some across the pen on the feeder hay. Baby Promise also got in on the action and alternated between mama’s milk and grain that made its way to the pen floor.

After the morning feeding, watering, and treats, it was pill time for Laci the mini tank and Dunkay, who a few days ago gorged themselves dangerously full on the llama grain after knocking down the main barn gate.

By that time my fingers felt like frozen sausages and my feet like ice blocks, which made it hard to maneuver around the crowd parked in front of the grain storage bin. They somehow knew that a small bit of sweet feed was needed from the magic trunk to accompany the pills to be distributed. As soon as I lifted the creaky lid, they dove, pushed, spit, kicked, grunted and made noises that you only hear in horror movies!

With frozen fingers and awkwardly cold feet, I had to separate a horse and donkey from the llama, alpaca and two aggressive goats all vying for what they acted like was a government entitlement. With one hip on Lincoln the alpaca and an elbow on goat Dylan, I quickly gave the medicine, shoved my way through the barn gathering and, again, plodded my way back to the house through the newly formed snowdrifts.

Tomorrow will bring another winter fun day as my aging body renews itself. In the meantime, I will allow fresh hot coffee to work its way from lips to the extremities of my thawing fingers and toes.

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