Winter On My Farm

 

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.–Robert Frost

A lovely little poem. Although most of the time, I must confess, I feel more like ‘Greasy Joan’ keeling the pot:

WHEN icicles hang by the wall,
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,
And Tom bears logs into the hall,
And milk comes frozen home in pail,
When blood is nipp’d and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
Tu-who;
Tu-whit, a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

WHEN all aloud the wind doth blow,
And coughing drowns the parson’s saw,
And birds sit brooding in the snow,
And Marian’s nose looks red and raw,
When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
Tu-who;
Tu-whit, a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.–William Shakespeare, Love’s Labour’s Lost

And then there are the four opening lines of Keats’ Eve of St. Agnes which evoke the English winters of my childhood with more immediacy than any other:

ST. AGNES’ Eve—Ah, bitter chill it was!
The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
The hare limp’d trembling through the frozen grass,
And silent was the flock in woolly fold.

That’s winter, to me.

Sunset on the farm, February 2, 2021. As the farmers used to say in England when I was a child, “red sky at night, shepherd’s delight.” (That’s one of many old-wives tales that have a solid backing in “the science,” particularly when its wisdom is applied to the northern hemisphere, in which the weather generally travels from West to East):

This shepherd is quite delighted at the moment, as there are two new occupants of the barn and (so far at least) neither of them seems headed for the Pack ‘n Play in the house. You go, Sheep Moms!

(The problem that arises when, out of necessity, you bottle-feed the lambs and raise them in your living room** is that they never quite lose the sense of entitlement and privilege bestowed upon them, and they’re always trying to get back in):

Getting to the barn when I heard the lambs in there this morning was a bit of a challenge–there are steps somewhere under all this snow . . .

(Note well that this percipient shepherd, when the snow started three days ago, penned all the sheep up in the barn, ‘just in case.’ Sooner or later, a person realizes that 1) ewes (female sheep) are genetically programmed to have their lambs on the absolute worst day of the year, and that 2) they cannot conceive (see what I did there) of a better place to deliver said lambs than in the middle of the icy creek at the bottom of the field. Even better if the lamb gets stuck and Mom needs help completing the task. Delightful. It only takes a time or two of the back-breaking business of dragging a 150lb ewe in some distress several hundred feet up a steep hill on a tarpaulin in sub-freezing temperatures with snow or ice on the ground and falling from the sky, before one wises up.)

The road’s still a bit “iffy” in places. I’d probably make it up in the new car; never in my beloved Cube. Good thing I’m provisioned for the duration and there’s no need to go anywhere:

And here’s an odd little snow and ice formation which developed when the snow slid off the roof. I’ve never seen anything quite like it:

The dogs like nothing more than a traipse round the field. This is the sort of weather they were made for:

And “Chinggis,” the rooster has found his voice (I love that I have a chicken named Chinggis. Something of a family joke. I expect you had to be there to appreciate it. Or maybe not.) The story of how Chinggis came to live with me can be found here:

 

Thank God I’m a country girl.

I love this time of year.

Mostly.

**To those of you who think that I raise the orphaned or rejected lambs in a Pack ‘n Play in my living room out of a misplaced sense of anthropomorphic sentiment, I’ll just say that if you’d ever had to get up every two or three hours, night after night, get the bottles ready, put on all your winter gear, and traipse down into the barn in sub-freezing (and sometimes sub-zero Fahrenheit) temperatures, you’d seriously think about putting the little wretches darling creatures in your living room too. 

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  1. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    How beautiful–the snow, the trees and plants, the barns, and the lambs. :-) 

    • #1
  2. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    Your best post ever, Mrs. She, and that’s saying something.   I absolutely loved it.  I’m a city lad myself, so your description of farm life seems very exotic to me.  I fully expected James Herriot to show up to pull out a baby sheep that you had forgotten in its mother’s womb.

    More about farm life, She!  I eat it up.

    • #2
  3. Captain French Moderator
    Captain French
    @AlFrench

    Very nice. Thank you.

    • #3
  4. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    She, I’m not done complimenting you yet.

    I love the photos.  That’s one shaggy dog, one beautiful rooster, one spectacular sunset.  I feel sorry for that sheep who wants into the house.  I just don’t see why all the sheep can’t live in the house with you.  I have a friend who lives with three dogs, a couple of cats, and a pig. They all seem to get along as they roam freely inside her house.

    At the least, can’t you put an attractive picture, perhaps of Mary (of little lamb fame), on the concrete block wall of the sheep fold?   Those little lambs need something beautiful to grow up with.

    Keats really does a good job of describing a chilly landscape in that four-line excerpt from Eve of St. Agnes.  It’s that hare who goes limping through the grass that gives me the shivers.

    • #4
  5. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    Beautiful, thanks!

    While I was waiting for Ray at the walk-in clinic this afternoon, their TV was tuned to a home-remodeling show about a couple who do fixers.  They live on a farm, where they keep sheep and goats.  One of the families whose house was being updated had a very pregnant wife, and the remodel included making a nursery for the new baby.  The wife in the remodeler couple went out back in their farm, and took some pictures of the lambs and goats.  She had the pictures enlarged and framed, so the new nursery had photos of the little animals, which was totally unexpected.  The pregnant homeowner was thrilled.

    • #5
  6. Midwest Southerner Coolidge
    Midwest Southerner
    @MidwestSoutherner

    It’s all just so lovely!

    Robert Frost is a favorite, so you had me right away with that first poem.

    Beautiful snowfall, albeit a bit of a baaa-ther (hehe) considering your two newest residents.

    Your photos capture all the beauty around you. Taking a guess that those are Great Pyrenees? Such a wonderful breed. We had one in our family for 10 years — named her Asti because she was the color of champagne.

    Hearing Chinggis crow was such a treat!

    Thank you for sharing it all with us.

    • #6
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Gorgeous! Words, photos and you can’t lose with those adorable little lambs. And Robert Frost! Thank you for a wonderful way to start the day!

    • #7
  8. She Member
    She
    @She

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    I love the photos. That’s one shaggy dog, one beautiful rooster, one spectacular sunset. I feel sorry for that sheep who wants into the house. 

    Thanks.  There are actually two dogs, Levi and Xena, both rescues.  They’re Great Pyrenees (Pyreneeses?) and built for the snow, I think.  The rooster is coming along.  And we do, on the rare occasion, get a very beautiful sunset.  I suspect this one presages much colder temperatures over the next few days.

    I just don’t see why all the sheep can’t live in the house with you. I have a friend who lives with three dogs, a couple of cats, and a pig. They all seem to get along as they roam freely inside her house.

    Is it a full-size pig, or a pig-my? (LOL)  I think my record to this point is eight dogs, six rabbits and four cats with a couple of part-timers going in and out, and the occasional needy, recuperating, or infant sheep, goat, bird, and sometimes human, thrown in. Of course, the medievals often did keep their livestock in the house, on the ground floor while their people lived “over the shop” as it were.

    At the least, can’t you put an attractive picture, perhaps of Mary (of little lamb fame), on the concrete block wall of the sheep fold? Those little lambs need something beautiful to grow up with.

    Oh, they’ll only be in there for a few days.  The other long side of the (in this case temporary) stall is open to the barn so they can see their friends and relations.  They’re isolated mainly for the lambs’ safety (trampling) and just to make sure the mothers have bonded with them to the extent that the ewes’ rather limited powers of ratiocination have firmly imprinted the idea that “I need to remember that this is my lamb and take care of it and not leave it napping under a bush and wander off, never to return” onto their little brains. 

    Keats really does a good job of describing a chilly landscape in that four-line excerpt from Eve of St. Agnes. It’s that hare who goes limping through the grass that gives me the shivers.

    Yes.  It’s beautiful.  And that’s exactly what happens–I expect a little clump of ice formed between two of his toes, rubbed it sore, and he started to limp.  It also conveys the absolute silence of the snowy winter scene which (to my mind at least) is quantitatively different from any other kind of silence.

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):
    The wife in the remodeler couple went out back in their farm, and took some pictures of the lambs and goats. She had the pictures enlarged and framed, so the new nursery had photos of the little animals, which was totally unexpected. The pregnant homeowner was thrilled.

    Oh, I bet.  It’s the inverse of W.C. Field’s dictum to “never work with children or animals.”  Photos of animal babies rarely fail to charm.  While the lambs are adorable, I think goat babies (with llamas and alpacas a close second) are the loveliest.  Unlike cows, horses, and sheep, all of whose infants have legs far out of proportion to the rest of them, and are very wobbly at first, goat babies are born perfectly proportioned, and seemingly self-possessed and well put together right out of the gate.  They look just like the adults, but of a size that your toddler would pick up, cradle, and take to bed (and don’t think, in exigent circumstances, that I haven’t done just that).

    Midwest Southerner (View Comment):
    Hearing Chinggis crow was such a treat!

    Thanks.  I’m glad the link worked.  I posted it somewhere else, because I can’t upload sound or video to Ricochet (not a complaint, just an observation), and I’m never sure whether others can see or hear such things.  I just hope I’m as enchanted by his ‘talkiness’ when he’s waking me up at 5AM, strutting around as if he owns the place (he’s such a guy).

    Thanks for the great comments, all! 

     

    • #8
  9. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Midwest Southerner (View Comment):

    It’s all just so lovely!

    Robert Frost is a favorite, so you had me right away with that first poem.

    Beautiful snowfall, albeit a bit of a baaa-ther (hehe) considering your two newest residents.

    Your photos capture all the beauty around you. Taking a guess that those are Great Pyrenees? Such a wonderful breed. We had one in our family for 10 years — named her Asti because she was the color of champagne.

    Hearing Chinggis crow was such a treat!

    Thank you for sharing it all with us.

    A friend had a Great Pyrenees, otherwise known as The Great Mound of Hound.

    • #9
  10. EB Thatcher
    EB
    @EB

    Your pictures are beautiful and I love looking at them.  But I have to say I’m glad that the temp here is only 41 F – our version of cold weather!

    • #10
  11. She Member
    She
    @She

    KentForrester (View Comment):
    I feel sorry for that sheep who wants into the house. I just don’t see why all the sheep can’t live in the house with you.

    Sometimes they do come in for a visit:

    • #11
  12. EHerring Coolidge
    EHerring
    @EHerring

    Lovely post…pictures, baby animals, farm life, snow, poetry, and rooster…all very heartwarming. 

    Frost is one of my favorites, beautifully written, descriptive, and can be about distance to travel or a life to live. I wish I could produce such a poem.

    • #12
  13. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    She (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):
    I feel sorry for that sheep who wants into the house. I just don’t see why all the sheep can’t live in the house with you.

    Sometimes they do come in for a visit:

    Looks like a portable footrest to me.

    • #13
  14. Ida Claire Member
    Ida Claire
    @IdaClaire

    I love this post. Thank you

    Also, I’ve been marveling at the same sort of snow formations. They’re mesmerizing. 

    • #14
  15. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Lovely – thank you!

    • #15
  16. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    Burr!

    • #16
  17. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    She (View Comment):
    Oh, I bet. It’s the inverse of W.C. Field’s dictum to “never work with children or animals.” Photos of animal babies rarely fail to charm. While the lambs are adorable, I think goat babies (with llamas and alpacas a close second) are the loveliest. Unlike cows, horses, and sheep, all of whose infants have legs far out of proportion to the rest of them, and are very wobbly at first, goat babies are born perfectly proportioned, and seemingly self-possessed and well put together right out of the gate. They look just like the adults, but of a size that your toddler would pick up, cradle, and take to bed (and don’t think, in exigent circumstances, that I haven’t done just that).

    • #17
  18. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    Wow!  Do these pictures bring back some memories from my boyhood on the farm!  I can still remember rolling out of the sack on 10 degree (or colder) mornings before dawn (since our old farmhouse was very cold, I dressed while I was still under the covers) and after a quick breakfast, heading out for the morning chores.  When I was six years old, one of my chores was to take a hatchet and break the ice in the watering trough for our cattle.  

    Now, when I tell the younger members of our family what it was like growing up on a farm (that is when they can get their faces out of their iphones) all I get is a “Huh?”.  Geez, these kids are soooo soft…

    • #18
  19. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    We’re in for dirty weather here tomorrow through Friday – a warming with wintery mix, followed by a rapid windy plunge into single digits.

    We had that happen before in January of 2014, and had these:

    Giant snow rollers.  The one in the bottom picture was about 20″ in diameter.  

    • #19
  20. She Member
    She
    @She

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    Giant snow rollers. The one in the bottom picture was about 20″ in diameter.

    Those are fantastic!  (And not in an entirely good way.) I’ve never seen those before.

    Yes, I think we’re in for some nasty weather too, and some very cold nights.  Chatting about weird winter phenomena and formations has reminded me of a night, many years ago now (maybe 10-12?) when I went outside and saw something like this (not my photo, I wasn’t awake or alert enough to get the camera, or so switched on to the idea of just pulling out my phone (whose camera at the time wasn’t very good, anyway)  Click photo for attribution:

    File:Light Pillar Raubichi Belarus.jpg

    (They’re called “light pillars,” and are fairly rare, an effect of light-source refraction through ice crystals.) I have to confess I was a bit nonplussed, and that there was a brief moment when I wondered if I should contact SETI and tell them we were about to be invaded.

    • #20
  21. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    She (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    Giant snow rollers. The one in the bottom picture was about 20″ in diameter.

    Those are fantastic! (And not in an entirely good way.) I’ve never seen those before.

    Yes, I think we’re in for some nasty weather too, and some very cold nights. Chatting about weird winter phenomena and formations has reminded me of a night, many years ago now (maybe 10-12?) when I went outside and saw something like this (not my photo, I wasn’t awake or alert enough to get the camera, or so switched on to the idea of just pulling out my phone (whose camera at the time wasn’t very good, anyway) Click photo for attribution:

    File:Light Pillar Raubichi Belarus.jpg

    (They’re called “light pillars,” and are fairly rare, an effect of light-source refraction through ice crystals.) I have to confess I was a bit nonplussed, and that there was a brief moment when I wondered if I should contact SETI and tell them we were about to be invaded.

    Those are rare.  The first I heard of them was several years ago in a novel called Lights on the Mountain, by Cheryl Tuggle (which is set not far from where you live).  In the book she describes one as appearing to shine forth from a mountain up into the sky, just as the first rays of sun (still below the horizon) touched that mountain top.

    • #21
  22. She Member
    She
    @She

    CACrabtree (View Comment):
    Wow! Do these pictures bring back some memories from my boyhood on the farm!

    I feel lucky to live where I do, how I do, among the people that I do, and grateful that I can share such experiences with my family and friends, especially right now, when it seems that almost every conversation starts at DEFCON 1 and escalates therefrom.  There are still times, and places, and parts, of life that exist independently of who’s in the White House, which are immutable, and which can settle us when we reflect on them.  IMHO, paying attention to, savoring, and sharing, those things could be the making and the saving of us all.

    On that note,  there were four (at least) deer in the woods this morning (sorry it’s a bit grainy, I had to use the phone’s rather suboptimal zoom.)  Can you spot them?

    • #22
  23. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    She (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):
    Wow! Do these pictures bring back some memories from my boyhood on the farm!

    I feel lucky to live where I do, how I do, among the people that I do, and grateful that I can share such experiences with my family and friends, especially right now, when it seems that almost every conversation starts at DEFCON 1 and escalates therefrom. There are still times, and places, and parts, of life that exist independently of who’s in the White House, which are immutable, and which can settle us when we reflect on them. IMHO, paying attention to, savoring, and sharing, those things could be the making and the saving of us all.

    On that note, there were four (at least) deer in the woods this morning (sorry it’s a bit grainy, I had to use the phone’s rather suboptimal zoom.) Can you spot them?

    I don’t appreciate the gesture the one is making – it’s rather rude and insensitive.

    • #23
  24. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    She (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):
    Wow! Do these pictures bring back some memories from my boyhood on the farm!

    I feel lucky to live where I do, how I do, among the people that I do, and grateful that I can share such experiences with my family and friends, especially right now, when it seems that almost every conversation starts at DEFCON 1 and escalates therefrom. There are still times, and places, and parts, of life that exist independently of who’s in the White House, which are immutable, and which can settle us when we reflect on them. IMHO, paying attention to, savoring, and sharing, those things could be the making and the saving of us all.

    On that note, there were four (at least) deer in the woods this morning (sorry it’s a bit grainy, I had to use the phone’s rather suboptimal zoom.) Can you spot them?

    Oh yeah.  Better to see them in the forest than munching on my tomato plants during the summer!

    • #24
  25. She Member
    She
    @She

    Percival (View Comment):
    A friend had a Great Pyrenees, otherwise known as The Great Mound of Hound.

    They are indeed.  I’m a sucker for dogs with coats like that, with big floppy ears, and tails that knock everything off the coffee table when they wave.  Although a purebred (and a dog his original owners purchased at great expense from a reputable breeder of guard dogs, and who they employed to keep an eye on their rather superior sheep breeds), Levi was temperamentally unsuited to the job, and was ignominiously fired, which is how he ended up with us. (She’s Place–the place where, when you have to go there, She has to take you in.  See “Rooster–Chinggis,” above. And many others of both the four and two-legged persuasions.)

    One of my stepdaughter’s (thankfully former) gentleman callers made the mistake of mocking my faithful friend (who loves me more than any creature on earth except perhaps my granddaughter), and making sport of his deficiencies as a representative of his breed.  “Oh, perhaps he’s a breed of one.  Perhaps he’s a ‘Lesser Pyrenees,'” he chortled.

    “Well, you’re half right,” I responded, giving this clown my best “Holly” smile.**  “He is a breed of one.”

    “But he’s the Greatest Pyrenees.”

    **Holly was my first boss, at my first “real” career-level job.  She was a very pert and attractive blonde, of the sort that was called “preppy” in the days I worked with her, and she was engaged to be married to a guy from a large, boisterous blue-collar family.  Oil and water on the surface, but it worked then, and is still working, now.  I remember Holly coming into work one day (this would have been in about 1981), chuckling because she and Michael had had a fight the previous evening which ended with him shouting, “And stop that!  Stop smiling at me!  You’re smiling that big, beautiful smile at me while you’re talking, and smiling, and  I can see the word [‘expletive’] written all over your teeth!!”

    Ah.  The “Holly Smile.”  Still comes in handy every now and then.

    • #25
  26. She Member
    She
    @She

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    Oh yeah. Better to see them in the forest than munching on my tomato plants during the summer!

    Oh, they’re terrible pests.  One almost destroyed my young weeping willow a couple of years ago.  But very pretty to see them on a morning like this.  

    • #26
  27. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    She (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    Oh yeah. Better to see them in the forest than munching on my tomato plants during the summer!

    Oh, they’re terrible pests. One almost destroyed my young weeping willow a couple of years ago. But very pretty to see them on a morning like this.

    Mmm…  venison.

    • #27
  28. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    Oh yeah. Better to see them in the forest than munching on my tomato plants during the summer!

    Oh, they’re terrible pests. One almost destroyed my young weeping willow a couple of years ago. But very pretty to see them on a morning like this.

    Mmm… venison.

    My dad’s cousin was having trouble with deer in his cornfields. This in an area where when my dad was a boy, the sighting of a deer would have made the local newspaper. When I was a boy, they were still rare enough that looking at the ground and finding deer tracks was less common than finding Indian arrowheads. So Cousin Jakey called the County Extension office to see about getting a license to shoot a few.

    “Would thirty be enough?” asked the Ag agent. 

    He was joking (mostly) but they are everywhere now. They are becoming a hazard to navigation.

    • #28
  29. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Percival (View Comment):

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    Oh yeah. Better to see them in the forest than munching on my tomato plants during the summer!

    Oh, they’re terrible pests. One almost destroyed my young weeping willow a couple of years ago. But very pretty to see them on a morning like this.

    Mmm… venison.

    My dad’s cousin was having trouble with deer in his cornfields. This in an area where when my dad was a boy, the sighting of a deer would have made the local newspaper. When I was a boy, they were still rare enough that looking at the ground and finding deer tracks was less common than finding Indian arrowheads. So Cousin Jakey called the County Extension office to see about getting a license to shoot a few.

    “Would thirty be enough?” asked the Ag agent.

    He was joking (mostly) but they are everywhere now. They are becoming a hazard to navigation.

    The bag limit in Ohio goes up and up with each passing year.  It used to be that you could get one tag, and that would be it statewide.  Then it was 1 tag per county.  Now the bag limits in some counties is 5.  So if you’re industrious, you could bag 5 in one county, then go a county over and bag 5 more.

    But there are fewer hunters today, and one has to be very careful with where one hunts – many lands that were open at least to bow hunting a decade ago are now closed to any hunting at all due to population encroachment.

    • #29
  30. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    It’s my third day of struggling thru the effects of a nasty tick bite, and my still being on the planet pays off – a lyrical account of life on a wintry farm. Thank you.

    Loved the photos and the lambs – it doesn’t get sweeter than that.

    My mom grew up in Northern Minnesota, in the 1920’s.  Her constant companion as a child was a lamb she bottle fed as a five year old. She told many a tale about winter snows being so heavy that the first neighbor to climb out of their second floor window and shovel tons of snow to make their front door accessible would then struggle on over to the neighbors’ places, to help them out too. (Horse and buggy days, those were as well.)

    Her grammar school was so small that anyone who wanted to could play on the school’s hockey team. Being the sister to many brothers, she excelled at the sport. (Or so my uncles told me.)

     

    • #30
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