The ducks have had their first cold season this year and it’s been a very, very easy one for them.
Our snowfall has been practically non-existent.
Temperatures have only been in the low teens.
Blinding blizzards and deathly cold sub-zero temps haven’t appeared.
A few weeks ago we even hooked our garden hose up to fill up their swimming pool.
And that was in January!
We have had winters in the past few years that have given us knee-deep snow drifts.
With winds blowing so strongly that the slats in the barn walls can’t keep out the flakes who, with a vengeance, make their way into the horse’s stall.
Building mini drifts in the corners where they were not welcome.
We have had temperatures in the past that have gotten so low that I feared the goats would freeze in the night.
And I have wandered to the frozen barn in the wee hours of the morning, my lungs freezing up as I take my first breath once I open the back door of the house.
Walking the one hundred yards to the critter house in the backyard.
Only to turn on the barn light and see that the three stall residents are perfectly content and probably really annoyed that I just woke them up.
But not this year.
The cold and snow haven’t come a’knockin’.
At least not yet.
We live in Illinois.
And it’s not uncommon to get a big snowfall in March or April.
Only to have it all melt away two days later when the temps rise again.
And, indeed, this may happen in the next few months.
I’m hoping for snow.
And I’m not such a big fan of the cold weather anymore, as I get more gray hair and deeper aches in my knees.
Here’s why I’m crossing my fingers for some snowfall.
When you have large animals that live in your backyard and those large animals rely on pasture grass to eat in the summer, you wish for snow in the winter months.
The snow melts and adds moisture to the earth and allows for lusher pastures.
Now, I’m no weather expert, but I do remember hearing the famous Chicago meteorologist Tom Skilling of WGN News give a detailed description years ago about the direct effect of snowfall and summer temperatures. It involved the cooling of the earth’s surface as the ground is buried under the cold snow. And when the sun is out in the summer and the sun rays are bouncing off of the ground, the cooled ground means the temps aren’t as high. But, if the ground hasn’t been cooled by snowfall then the sun’s rays in the summer are hitting already warmed earth and the temperatures are higher.
Or something like that…
Remember, I told you I’m not a weather expert.
But it makes sense to me.
Deserts don’t get snowfall and they are darn hot!
Warmer summers mean warmer animals in my backyard.
And less grass growing in the pastures.
And then we need to buy more hay to feed them and that costs more money.
And we will have to water the pastures to get the grasses to grow.
And that water costs money.
And the horse sweats more.
And she will exert more energy cooling herself.
Which means she needs to eat more to cool herself.
Just as she does when it’s really cold outside.
She has to make energy to keep herself warm hence she needs to eat more.
It’s a cyclical life on the farm.
Each season brings its plusses and minuses.
Spring brings us beautiful, hardy, green grass.
Which ends up all of my floors in the house.
Summer brings the heat and the grass begins to brown by the end of July if we don’t get enough rain.
But, we get more vegetables from the garden to nourish us.
Fall finally brings cooler temps.
But, pasture time is dwindling down.
Winter is the hardest season for hobby farmers.
We have taken the garden hose away and lug buckets of water to the barn (since we don’t have a water hookup in the horse’s house) to quench the thirst of a pony, two goats, five chickens, and six ducks.
And we often have to do this lugging more than once a day.
We keep the pastures closed in the winter.
Which the horse hates!
But, the goats have figured out a solution.
Man Farmer cut a small doorway in the fence for the ducks to get into the back pasture if they want more room in the winter to wander around.
The red chickens can jump fences.
The white chickens hate winter and stay close to their coop during really cold days.
So, the doorway is for the ducks to use.
It’s the perfect size for an Indian Runner Duck to pass through.
One afternoon a few months ago I looked out my kitchen window, like I do about 2,489 times a day, and noticed that our goat Yogurt was in the back pasture.
I thought the back pasture was closed?
Then, when I looked out the kitchen window a bit later and she was in the barnyard again.
I asked Man Farmer about it when he got home and he went to check and there wasn’t a large hole in the fencing, the gate wasn’t broken.
The next afternoon…same thing.
The back pasture was locked up tight, yet Yogurt was in it.
Grazing on what she could find amidst the winter grass.
I grabbed my can of cherry lime La Croix, leaned on the kitchen sink, and watched.
And then I saw her wiggle her goat body, that has a very wide belly, through the hole in the fence that is only big enough for a duck squad to pass through in a single file line.
Well, I’ll be!
That fat-ass got herself through the tiny hole in the fence.
Then she told her sister Tulip how to do it.
And now they both wiggle through the duck hole in the fence.
Much to the chagrin of the horse.
Who I think now hates the goats.
Because her most favorite thing in the entire world…
…more than rolling in the dirt…
…more than naps in the sun…
…more than getting her face caressed with the big brush with the soft bristles…
is eating grass in the pasture.
So, you see, it’s imperative that we get some snow in the next few months.
Buttercup relies on the lush spring and summer grasses to feed her tummy.
And, in a way, it feeds her soul as well.