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Magnetic North - March 7, 2018

Vicki Biggs-Anderson
Vicki Biggs-Anderson

Magnetic North 2/18/18
Snow Follies and Pratfalls

Welcome back to Magnetic North where we who refuse to fly away in winter have many a tale to tell of how we dealt with, or were laid low by, the recent snowfall. Some say as much as two feet. Others three. There may have been those who had more, but methinks they are still tunneling out and may not be heard from for a while. If ever.
I shovel by hand to the coop and back yard where I throw hay for the goats. Snowplowing is not for this girl, so my big bully boy blower sits in the woodshed and my lightweight girlie girl worthless rig adorns the front deck. I hate them both. The firs one t because it is as hard to push through snow as a dead buffalo, and the second one because it makes a path barely big enough for a garter snake to wiggle through. 
Thankfully, not all paths need to be made by me on the farm. After the big snow last week the little herd of five goats had quite a time pushing their way through the several feet of new snow covering the 300-foot path between their barn hay feeding area.. I used to take the hay to them. Then I got hurt doing that and got smart. Goats can make paths as well or better than I can. And they don’t snap tendons in their ankles doing it either.
After about 20 minutes of standing about like statues, goat by goat, they came. First, Brownie pushed a few feet, then stopped. Then Poppy edged around her and took up the lead, adding a few more feet to the effort. My big strong wether, Bosco, much to his shame, hung back and was the fourth one to do the heavy pushing and plodding, but eventually all five were snarfing down sweet hay, having left a serpentine path behind them that no snowblower could match.
As for the chickens and ducks and geese, most are either in a chicken coop or in a part of the garage where I store hay bales. Two banty hens are in the house with the angora rabbits - don’t judge! - I have good, solid reasons for this outwardly bat crazy move, beyond the obvious one which is I can feed and tend to them without hoisting a shovel.
But that last snow was more than I could manage when it came to shoveling a path from the driveway to the coop. The sheer depth of the drifted snow brought back memories of Paul’s and my first winter with chickens, I tried snowshoeing to the coop, assuring him that he needn’t both with making a path because I would do it “the old fashion” way. 
The first time I fell --the snow was over two feet deep - was the dogs; fault, Our twin Labs, Ollie and Jubilee, were excited to see mom wearing what looked to them like big dog toys on her feet and so naturally enough bounded up behinds me and jumped on the tails of my snowshoes. After spitting out at least a cup of snow, I began the near impossible task of righting myself and finally took off both gloves and one snowshoe to do it. My shrieks and screams alerted Paul to take the dogs inside and I stamped on to the coop, triumphant in my swift progress. This is when I realized the value of thinking a plan through. I got in the ante room door alright, but upon sticking one snowshoe into the coop, all hell broke loose.
Chickens do not like surprises, and the sight of the webbed wooden monster on my foot sent them into a panic of flying and squawking, which was only heightened by the appearance of my other snowshoe. After a few minutes of standing still and removing feathers from my face and mouth, I figured it was safe to move again. I could not. My snowshoes were simply too big to allow me to turn around. So much for the old fashion way. Bless Paul’s heart, he never said a word when I asked him to snowblow the path later that day

Nowadays, when I have a treacherous or physically taxing task staring at me, I apply a simple test, something akin to thinking it through. This test applies to getting on ladders, making extra trips up and down the stairs, etc.
In the case of the path to the coop, I simply asked myself, should I shovel and risk injury thus spending months in physical therapy? or should I call for help, even if I have to pay for it?
In winter, or anytime really, erring on the side of caution is of more use than the finest parka, mukluk or machine. If I hurt myself, my critters will be in worse shape than if they have to wait a while for grub. And I will be out more than a few bucks.
That said, I still manage to burn a few calories on chores, especially when things go wrong. Frozen shut doors require salt and a crowbar. Doors that open, but not all the way because frozen goose poop is blocking it, call for the half-moon hoe judiciously and furiously applied. And a few words to the thoughtless goose as I swing the tool. Wood needs splitting, feed bags need hauling and buckets of frozen water need schlepping inside to thaw. 
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. These are the things I choose to do in winter, rather than sit on a beach or in an RV park in a warm place. As for why I would make such a choice,, one might just as well ask why I have chicken s and rabbits in my old furnace room. So I’ll just trot out the favorite spousal reply that has driven, mostly husbands, mad since time began, “If you have to ask, you simply wouldn’t understand.”
For WTIP, this is Vicki Biggs-Anderson with Magnetic North