By Maddy Butcher Gray
Next winter, I’ll be more prepared.
That’s what we always say, right?
Last winter was a little like a bad wedding reception. It started with festivities and fun-loving flavor, then followed a steady, downward decline.
The festive, fun-loving part would be that first snow. My horses thought it was a real hoot for a few days. My young mare would buck and roll and make snow angels (ok, maybe not snow angels exactly). You could still ride because there wasn’t a two-foot ice pack underneath. Yet.
Then, it continued to snow and get colder and colder. (That would be the cold hors d’oeuvres followed by undercooked chicken cordon bleu and the rude in-laws at the wedding party).
You know it’s been cold for a while when it warms up to 20 degrees and you’re celebrating the beginning of a certain warming trend. No such luck.
The daily march to the manure pile started getting treacherous and time-consuming. I started going through those instant handwarmers like they were candy. I went from flannel PJs at night to coveralls all day. They flatter as much as bridemaids’ outfits, you know? I forgot what my body looked like.
I started having longer and longer conversations with myself.
You know it’s been cold for a while when it warms up to 20 degrees and you’re celebrating the beginning of a certain warming trend.Last year, winter pretty much started at the end of deer season, near the end of November. And we all know deer season: that lovely time of year when you fear for your buckskin pony and anything else moving more than 10 yards from a building.
So here are some Nicker News snapshots of Maine’s lovely winters past (best enjoyed with “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow” played softly in the background).
- February brought several days of above-freezing weather. Yeehah! Actually, there was no celebration. Over the past months, the ice/shavings/hay/snow pack had grown to two feet in front of the stalls. As it melted, water drained into and flooded the stalls. No amount of shoveling was going to help. It took four of us most of a Saturday to jackhammer (yes, that’s right. I rented a commercial jackhammer) down the ice pack and cart it away from the barn.
- Snow banked up to the top of the electric fencing. My horses stayed in the paddock because there was no better alternative. One day, though, conditions allowed me to take one horse out. One left behind easily hopped over the fence to join us.
- Another time, we were having a winter bonfire down by the creek (several hundred yards from the pasture). Towards midnight, we were circled around the fire, telling jokes and laughing when we heard rustling and caught shadows in the dark. “It’s a deer.” “No. A moose.” “No. My horses!” Yup, they must have wanted some smores. They’d popped over the fence, like kids stepping over a limp jump rope, I imagine.
-Restless and bored.
-Frozen water buckets.
- Blanket on. Blanket off. Blanket on. Blanket off.
- Topping off the wet forage with boiling water so that it doesn’t freeze in the time it takes the toothless pony to eat it.
- Running out of hay. Shoveling out the trailer to go get more.
- Shoveling. Shoveling to the stalls. Shoveling to the water faucet. Shoveling out the gates. Shoveling to the manure pile.
- Too cold to hang out.
- Frozen whiskers.
- Dark at breakfast. Dark at dinner.
Oh, there were some fine moments. Don Carrigan is a local news anchor for Channel Six. When they did their “Storm Center” bits, Don would report from home, from his kitchen table. He reported the hourly snow accumulation, measured from the gas grill on his deck, and always had his big orange cat in the foreground. Don would drink his coffee, pat his cat, and remind us that it is winter in Maine, after all. What were we expecting in April – flowers and showers?