Friday, February 24, 2012

Late winter in Plainfield

I know, it’s been a while since I wrote. Can’t think where the time has gone, actually. This time of year, dealing with the every day tasks seems to take all my available energy. For example, there was a stretch of terrible, terrible ice. The parking lots, roads, and turnouts were bad enough that a human (me) had trouble staying upright on two feet, and the horses with four had equal difficulty. All we could do for them is spread the paths and approaches with manure and used bedding, plus make a little fan-delta in the entrance to the turnouts so that at least they could get into the pasture from the barn with relative safety. Once in, the hay was strewn about in the lower part of the pastures on what was left of the snow pack, but to arrive there, the poor things had to traverse the ice sheets. Luckily, all the horses had enormous common sense, and took their time. Even so, I had to avert my eyes from their hesitancy….what a horrible turn of weather. I would so much prefer snow to this constant rain/melt and then freezing.

The manure trails snake around all the place and are a sight to see. I am not proud, believe me, to have the property characterized by these trails. They are lumpy and preserve the ice underneath and now that melt has occurred, they actually stick up in their manure-ey nature above their surroundings – little manure dykes leading from one place to the next. On the other hand, they are still safe havens when the new melt freezes overnight and then gets snowed on (like last night), concealing newly treacherous footing. I suppose you could compare them to ostomy belts or surgical trusses – un-lovely but really useful in managing daily life. It is also hard to remember from one year to the next that the mess really does clean up. The rain washes away the manure, the mud does still grow grass, and the bleakness of winter does – every year – give way to spring’s gentle greens. At least I prod myself to remember this when I exit the house, since there is no place at all to which to avert my eyes – it is a 360 degree mess.

Fortunately the burn pile got done. This is an annual event, sort of like taxes, which is long avoided because of the onerous nature of the duty. It takes a number of people to organize themselves to do it, as well as a permit which may or may not be still good on the day intended, since burning is very weather dependent. The weather cooperated, at least, and I was fortunate to have guests here for a few days who were Captive To My Will in this matter. Out they went after a seductively good breakfast, to drag branches from the stone walls and the pastures (courtesy of the last wind and ice storms), tractor them down to the pile, and then to stuff feed and shavings bags into one another for kindling. Managing the burn pile is a high art – you need to get it consolidated from its year long strewn and spread out state, and then lift enough of it up to ram the kindling bits as far into a central cave as possible, all the time consulting the wind direction to make sure the light point is facing into the wind. Once well lit, frequent visits are necessary to make sure the flames are not being naughty and sneaking into anything they shouldn’t, and then once the center is burned out, return visits are necessary to push the pile up so that outlying brush gets burnt. It takes a day, at least, to get the thing done and the best is rainfall soon after, since the pile will smolder for a long time. As you can see, a complicated task. But the feeling afterwards is very good. Everything looks cleaner and tidier – which it is, in fact.

Add to all of this the need for wood to be brought in several times a day, and you have the prescription for late winter ick. There is good news, however. All horses are healthy and getting on really well – and it is a pleasure at the end of the day after chores to be walking down the hill and looking at the New Barn and indoor arena, all lit up and cozy looking in the twilight. It makes me happy that it is so well used by people who otherwise would not be able to hang with their horses.

Life is good.