Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Beautiful Winter's Day

It's a beautiful Winter's day here at Ravenseyrie...and it just happens to be Christmas, too!

The extra time and effort to go on about our daily chores on the farm have left me feeling too fatigued this month to put together even a brief entry for this blog journal. But since we seem to be in for a long, hard winter, I am trying on a new attitude that recognizes the difficulties, but is strengthened by the hardships instead of worn down by them.

Wish me luck!

Today was a combination we haven't had in a long while...moderate temperatures, just a light wind, no snowfall and a sunny sky. As so often has been the routine these days, Kevin and I were out in the pre-dawn darkness to shovel away the most recent snowfall, and dig key areas out of the drifts the nighttime winds created.

Because it was a still and mellow morning, the herd was up to the house for breakfast and we were pleased to not have to haul our toboggan-loads of hay out to the forest. After consuming their light portions of whole oats, each horse and mule enjoyed copious piles of hay as bit by bit pink tinged the sky and gentle light began illuminating the day.

After about an hour, I had completed my shoveling chores and before strapping snows shoes on, I fetched my camera and walking stick from the house with the intention of putting in a bit of a walk before it was necessary for me to busy myself in the kitchen making a few tasty dishes to bring to a Christmas dinner among friends in the village.

The dogs thought this was a very fine idea, and to make it easier for them, I followed alongside a nice trail the horses had cut through the snow. Shelagh and Maeb especially have a difficult time walking through deep snow, so it was very handy the horses had already made a nice path:
The pups were very patient with me as I was stopping frequently to take photos:

I wanted to take some photos of the horses and mules as they were finishing off their breakfast. What I also captured in this next series of photos, is my wonderful Kevin, busy at work on the Kubota, clearing the drive and yard with his front-end loader and the large snowblower which runs off the back of the tractor.
As I got farther away from the house, Dee and Doll decided to make their way out to where we were walking. Dee stopped by a small, lone Cedar tree and plucked off a few mouthfuls of Cedar leaf:

The rest of the herd began to lose attention in those last bits of hay and were soon making their way out to where we were as well. What is curious in the first photo, is how close the south woods looks to our house, when really we have a bit of length to our driveway and the woods are across the road! This photo makes it look as we have large fir trees in our yard--what a strange illusion.Altamiro



Zorita and some of the others stopped by the same tree Dee had been nibbling on, and decided to remain there, rather than come the rest of the way to the woods.

I went out to the manege, which was under deep snow, but not as deep as what was just outside of the woods. With the horses coming out, and the day so mellow, I would have really liked to spend the morning playing with the horses, one at a time, in our woodland manege--but I had to go back to the house and get ready for our later engagement. Phooey!

I took these photos as I began to head back to the house. The herd had split into several groups and were settling in for enjoying a good nap time.

I took this photo so you could see the difference between a snowshoe trail and a horse & dog trail:

When I got back, Kevin was just about finished with his task. It's difficult for me to imagine what it must have been like for folks who lived up here on the bluff before power equipment allowed for snow removal.

To those who left comments in my first entry this December, I promise within a day or two to put together a journey entry answering your questions, which deserve more than a quick response.

I wish for each of you, those near and those far, very happy holidays!


eva said...

Dear Lynne, I am so glad you are finally getting a little reprieve from the arctic chill, but even now, with the sun peaking out, your pictures breathe the cold air.

It is interesting that the horses seem unperturbed in the face of this red, snow-spitting dragon; and yes, it seems hard to imagine how people managed before tractors came along. But I am thinking that in the old days, it was mostly nomadic people roaming those icy plains, and the trick was to stay on top of the mass (in snow huts and sliding above the surface with dog sleds and snow shoes) rather than trying to dig down to solid ground.

Or perhaps they were hibernating and sleeping a lot to preserve energy.

Two years ago we visited a friend of ours who lives in a self-made house off he grid up in Northern Idaho, 50 miles from the Canadian border, and I was struck how much work it was to deal with the massive amounts of snow, to haul firewood and food and take care of the daily necessities. We have on and off played with the idea to move up there, and who knows, maybe we will eventually...

OK here is an idea: have you considered feeding the horses closer to your house, so you won't have to haul the hay all the way out? Wouldn't the horses figure out where the food is and make the trip?

A happy belated Christmas to you and Kevin, and stay warm and take god care of yourself!

Kris McCormack said...

We live in southern NY state, which has a somewhat milder climate than you experience at Ravenseyrie, Lynne. Your comments, and Eva's, about how people managed before tractors, got me to thinking. The original part of our house was built in the early 1800's -- well before rural areas received electricity. In those days, everyone here was living "off the grid." Houses were built extremely close to the road... People often got around by horse drawn sleigh and snowshoe in the winter time. Barns housing horses and other livestock were immediately adjacent to the houses, sometimes even part of the house -- connected to the human living quarters by a passageway. Water was hand pumped from shallow wells or cisterns and heated on the stove. If the pumps froze, well, you could always melt snow. Lighting was from candles or gas lamps/lanterns. It was a very different way of life -- and as Eva noticed about her friends lifestyle -- a lot of every day is spent just securing the basic necessities of living.

I *love* indoor plumbing, heat, hot running water on demand. I love electricity and am extremely grateful for it. I admire the resourcefulness, strength, and tenacity of our ancestors who lived well without all these things. I think, though, if I were told that I would have to go back to the pre-electricity, pre-tractor way of life, I would do what many tribes of east coast Native Americans did -- I would migrate up and down the coast, spending summers at the northern woods and beaches, winters in the warm south. I would NOT stay up here to battle the elements for 5 months of the year. Call me soft -- call me any names you want. I love my creature comforts. And, I'll happily concede that you're a tougher woman than I am, Lynne. Your winters are much harsher than ours, and I start complaining loudly to anyone who will listen after just a day or so of foul weather. :-)

The horses looking in fine form....It's nice to see that even the babies are doing so well.

Annemiek said...

Hi Lynne,

Thank you so much for your update on your snow adventures. It is really hard for me to imagine so much snow, and the way you have to adjust your life to it. I totally agree with Kris:

“I *love* indoor plumbing, heat, hot running water on demand. I love electricity and am extremely grateful for it."

On top of this I have this very bad habit: I enjoy reading about how people conquer these hardships of nature. I have a lot of books on this subject you know. I curl up in my chair next the fire and read about them enjoying every minute sitting in my chair all warm and cozy :-)

I was wondering Lynne, do the horses have access to water somehow? Do you provide it for them? I suppose everything is frozen solid by now.

There is one other thing I wanted to ask. You know a while ago when we had snow in the Netherlands Rudolf had problems walking in it because of his irons? Eva sent me some internet sites about Natural Hoofcare and I ended up on a forum the other day. There was a discussion going on about Natural trim and snow. I was very surprised to learn that several horses with a natural trim had the same problem Rudolf had. Snow and ice forming under the hoof so it seems the horse walks on high heels. Have you ever seen such a thing on one of your horses? There were offered all kinds of theories on this subject, from the temperature of the hoof to the concavity of the hoof. I was just wondering about your horses, and mules. You have different breeds over there, are there any differences in the horses hoofs and their ability to adapt to the snow that you know of?