Ahh, Winter

We have a nice layer of ice over everything, and more ice is coming this weekend.

A coating of ice on the snow and trees is lovely. It sparkles in the sun. A coating of ice on the ground where one walks is not so lovely. I did chores this afternoon, so over my boots I pulled on the clever footwear that helps you stand upright on ice. (Can’t remember the name…YakTrak? BakTrak? YakBak?) They are made of rubber strips covered with coils of metal, and work okay.

Somewhere in this house I have something better, but I’m not sure where they are: a pair of serious spikes. They’re awkward to attach beause you have to sit down and strap them on, but those things have 1/2″ spikes. When you step onto the ice, you know you aren’t going anywhere. (I’d gotten them for a winter photography class on the North Shore of Lake Superior years ago, where we were walking on icy rocks paying more attention to the camera than to the ice. One fall and you were a quick five foot slide into the icy water.)

These yakky things, though, provide less confidence. So I walked from building to building with my arms out for balance, gaze locked on the ground in search of less shiny spots in which to step. shuffling along like a 95-year-old (no disrespect intended to those who are 95—you should walk carefully.)

It took me twice as long to walk the 700 feet to the mailbox, and I lost all sense of time as I entered this Zen Zone of step, look, shuffle, step. I didn’t have my cell phone with me, and Melissa was inside recovering from a neck procedure she had this morning. (More on that later when we know how it worked—we’re aiming for headache relief.) So if I landed on my keister and broke something, it was either crawl back to the house, or crawl to the road and flag down a passing motorist, of which there are about 3 per day. Luckily the Yak things worked well enough, or perhaps it was walking like I was 95.

The dogs are always surprised by ice. Open the back door and all three go blasting out to do their thing. Two seconds later they’ve spread their feet wide in alarm, and the look on their faces says, “Whoa!” They, too, begin walking as if they’re 95 (which is 13 in dog years, and 2 of them are 13! What synchronicity…) When I let the dogs back outside two hours later, they do the same thing. “Whoa!” And the third time? “Whoa!”

Gotta love dogs—they are the best optimists in the world. “This time the world won’t be slippery.”

The sheep do fine in the ice because they walk the same path. It gets worn down, and the droppings of round sheep poop add lots of traction. The only animal I’m worried about is Chachi, our aging llama. He doesn’t like going up and down the hill to the hay anyway, and when it’s icy, he won’t do it. When he does venture out, he walks like he’s, well, 95.

So he’s locked in a pen in the barn with his own water and own hay. That way I don’t have to worry about any broken llama legs.

I’m all ready to do chores all weekend, and make sure the animals don’t have to negotiate a skating rink to get to their hay. But I think I’m going to brave the front hall closet and search for those spike attachments.

I may need them.

11 thoughts on “

  1. Ha! My mother-in-law just bought some Yaks. She says they are “okay,” too. I got the yarn from, Laura. Looks great. I’ll e-mail pics after I make something.
    P.S. My sister-in-law, Sally Lightner, worked with Melissa at horse camp. She doesn’t call her Melissa, though. Anyway, we’d love to come down this spring and visit your farm. My kids (and I) would love to see the animals and your life down there.
    Take care.

  2. I’m so glad Melissa reminded me to read your blog. I haven’t gone outside today, but I think I would have been walking like I’m 95. I don’t like walking on ice, and I want some of those spike things you mentioned. I hope you find them, Catherine. Hi to Melissa.

  3. Feel better, Melissa!

    We have the yaktrax and have used them a fair amount, but you’re right– ain’t nothin beats a good set of spikes. After the spring on one of our yax went sproing, we went over to the fishing department at L.L.Legume and bought us two sets of ice-fishing cleats. They have black rubber panels that slip over boot/shoe soles, same as the yax, but instead of metal coils they have rows of little metal zigzaggy teeth. We like ’em– and at 4.99 a pair they were way cheaper than the yax.

  4. Sarah Jane—I’ll bet Sally calls Melissa “Pete.” As a counselor, Melissa was given a camp name—-a shortened version of her last name. Love to have you visit!

    Sheribaby….Another camper!

    MaineCelt…I gotta get me some of those. They sound great!

  5. This ice coated ground is really treacherous! I also have some kind of rubber strappy things, but they have little tiny spikes on them, but they are effective. My only problem is that when I am inside the barn pens, them can get clogged with mucky hay, and come off. Then I have to try and put them back on my boot when they are not very clean. Of course I can’t seem to do it with my gloves on, so it’s rather yucky! But I have soap in the house, and not falling on the ice is a huge plus.
    Also, don’t forget your cell phone! I went out to close up the barn for the night, and found a goat stuck in the big hay feeder. Tried climbing in to get leverage to shift bale off of goat’s head, got myself stuck. No phone, and hysterical screaming could not be heard by family watching movie all nice, warm & cozy inside house. I did manage to get out, and drug everyone out to help goat in distress.
    Hope all your animals manage to make it through our present cold spell, the only one not minding it is my year old Great Pyrenees. He loves the snow and cold!

  6. Carol B—stuck in the hay feeder in the winter without a cell phone! Not good! Glad you made it out eventually. Reminds me of years ago when Melissa was out tightening a fence. Her hand slipped and her finger got caught in the torqued wire. Too much pressure for her to release her finger. She wasn’t more than 200 yards from the house and yelled and screamed and kept expecting me to come and help.

    I was inside with the windows open, trying to write by tuning out all the noise the ducks were making. I accidentally tuned her out as well! She eventually got herself loose and didn’t lose the finger. Ahh, the joys of farming.

  7. I’ve never tried that footgear although we do have some laying around…somewhere. I always hated the thought of sheep poo all stuck up and in the wire coils which is inevitable. Probably would improve traction though!

    I can relate to your dogs. I stepped off the porch this morning (in the dark) to put a bag of trash in the trash bin and WHOA! Guess I should have noticed the thermometer said 29 instead of the 33 that it said when it was raining/snowing last night. Amazing what a few degrees can do. Thankfully I’ve not clipped the dogs claws (for a while) so they had their own built in spikes.

    Love your blog and can’t wait to read your book. A friend told me about it, said she can’t put it down. Now if you could put it on audio so I could listen to it on my commute to the paying job? 🙂

  8. JE—Sheep poo in the tracks isn’t bad, ’cause it’s frozen. It’s fresh chicken poo that’s disgusting!

    I actually am working on making an audio book of HBAF a reality. I’ve connected with a small company and they’re producing an audio of my novel, A Pirate’s Heart, which will be out in a few months. I was the narrator, so that was quite an experience. If I can get my publisher to relinquish the audio rights, then I’ll record HBAF, which would be fun…

  9. Oh thats totally cool (the audio thang)! As much as I love to read, I have a very hard time finding time to do it anymore so audio books are my reality. I did order your book yesterday though, gotta support the local farmer :).

    I’ll look for A Pirates Heart too. I’ve always thought it would be a blast to narrate a book on audio but I’m sure its a lot harder than it sounds. Good luck with HBAF, I’ll be waiting! -WoolGrower
    (Formerly JE)

  10. Wool Grower…On my other blog, which I’m terrible about posting to, The Inkslinger, I have a 3 part series on what it’s like to record an audio book. It’s basically sitting in a very small sound booth for 6 hours a day, 6 days in a row. Lots of fun for a claustrophobic!

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