One day is pretty much like another out here on the farm. Winter is a very quiet time of the year here for us. Chickens have to be fed and watered. Outside cats, who have found their way to our barn, have to be fed and watered. Even the wild birds, who come to our front porch, have to be fed and watered.
Friends who have livestock have to work outside in the cold a lot longer than we do. No matter the day of the year, cows, sheep, goats, and the rest have to be tended to and then there's always the added problems freezing weather adds to work — some days can be down right miserable.
Years ago, when we still milked cows, a friend called on Christmas Day to wish us good tidings. "Where's Bob?" she asked. Of course, I told her he was outside, doing chores. She was so surprised, "But it's Christmas!" — people who are far from farms forget that work doesn't stop so easily out here and many days snow is just no fun at all.
These days on Sunnybook farm things look very white. Our world is covered in snow. Because of winter, our chickens don't go outside to peck around the yard. They are stuck inside their home like the rest of us — we currently have one aged rooster, two old hens, and 14 pullets. We're lucky if we find an egg at all and if we do, it is probably frozen.
On Christmas Eve, we were given a surprise. That day one of the pullets gave us her first egg ever. I think it was her way of saying "Merry Christmas!"
Excitement on the farm in the winter usually means a problem. Like the other day Bob was carrying two five-gallon buckets of corn in to burn in our corn furnace in the basement. Bob says carrying the corn gives him something to do and he feels productive. Well, this particular day he felt sore. A hidden patch of ice took him down, spilled half his corn, and put a hitch in his get-along for a few days. Luckily, it wasn't worse. Nothing gets easier as a person ages.
I find myself walking very carefully and slowly when out on the snow. If I take the dog out for a walk, I have to remind Sunny to take it easy. Sometimes he runs to the end of his long leash and hits the end with enough force that he can take me down. Before he does that, I yell at him to take it easy and thank goodness, he usually does.
Our excitement for today happened after lunch. Bob and I were going to drive to town to run a few errands and when I pulled the car past the shed a rat ran out.
The crazy thing ran past (or under) the car and toward the house. We watched as it raced across the driveway, but it slowed down when it hit the deep, fluffy snow. His trail was evident, right for our house.
Tracking the rat was easy, if a bit slippery walking. I followed him to a spot against the foundation.
"Can you kill it?" Bob asked from his spot by the car — I had worn boots and he only had on shoes. That's why I was the one doing the rat hunting.
"What do you want me to do? Step on it?" All I could imagine was trying to stomp the critter and having it run up my pant leg. I walked away without disturbing the rat. "I'll leave the killing up to you," I said as I left.
Bob went inside and changed into better footwear for snow. When he returned, the rat had dug back into the snow, but was still visible. My husband quickly dispatched the pest — you'd think barn cats would take care of all rodents, but our current cats only take care of mice.
Of course, we know that if there's one rat, there's more. Bob is currently updating his traps and bait. He doesn't want any more close encounters with rats…. Me neither.
The holidays are over. Now it's time to take down the decorations and cards. I think I'll leave ours up a while yet — Christmas cards you sent to us will not only brighten our December, but our January, too.
Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; Sunnybook@aol.com; www.susanmanzke.net; http://www.facebook.com/susan.manzke.