No one knows the definition of love like a shepherdess in winter in Northeastern Pennsylvania. It's stinking cold. Love is crawling out of bed before light, slouching on three layers of clothing, a warm hat, mittens, boots and heading out to the barn before the sun comes up to water and feed the ewes and rabbit. Then it's down to tend to the rams and the chickens. That's a bit more tricky, trying to collect eggs with bitter frozen fingers while trying to keep one eye on the two rams as they can get a little frisky when they know I'm distracted and by frisky I mean, they are eyeing up my knees, calculating the distance they need to build up the appropriate amount of speed to knock my legs from out under me. So far I've caught them before they could do any real damage, but there's been a close call or two. I bet it's a funny sight for the kids on the bus as they witness a 100lb lady dodge a charging ram, grabbing him as he brushes past her legs, only to flip him on his butt and tell him to knock it off and let him know who's the boss. And this is all before I've had a coffee. It's also usually all while hubby is still all snug and warm in bed still snoring away.
This morning the outside thermometer read 7 degrees Fahrenheit. That's freeze your tush off in 5 minutes or less weather. That's wet fingers sticking to the metal gates cold. That's heading outside 4 times a day to break the ice on the water and refill it so your sheep can wet their whistles. That is heading out to collect the eggs 3 times a day so you get them before they freeze. That is just stinking cold.
Don't worry, before you go calling PETA on me for not bringing the flock in the house and letting them have a run of the place, all our animals have warm cozy buildings to retreat to in the cold weather. Really though, the temperatures bother them very little. It's wind and rain that they detest. Sheep have a thick layer of warm lanolin (grease) covered wool that keeps them toasty warm and basically water proof. In fact, the worst thing for them would be to lock them in a warm barn with no access to the outdoors. So our sheep are all very happy and actually most choose to hang out outside most of the winter rather than in the barn, even on the super snowy days. The chickens, rabbit, and barn cats all have warm cozy spots of their own that they bed down in, but even they like to play in the snow and get some time in the sun and are free to do so whenever they'd like.
I have never been a morning person and don't believe I ever will be. Nor do I enjoy the cold darkness of winter. I am not one to wish for snow or a white Christmas. I am not hoping on my sled the minute a flake hits the ground, nor am I excited for a snow day, when all the children are home because of the inclement weather. I do have to say though, after the first two weeks of the cold winter weather morning routine, it becomes something I almost look forward to. The quiet dark mornings alone in the barn with grateful girls filling their bellies on their breakfast hay and sipping their fresh water. There is a peace that fills one's soul in those quiet early morning moments alone in the barn with the sheep. It's a peace that can't be found in the kitchen that is bustling with children getting ready for the day or in the bedroom where there is always a pile of clean laundry that needs putting away, or even in the bathroom where one should expect a bit of peace, but even there someone is tap tap taping on the door looking for a drink to be gotten or a test to be signed and if that's not it, then the clothing from the showers the evening before is strewed all around the floor beside the laundry basket making your mind wonder why your the only one who is able to penetrate the invisible force field that seems to protect the large opening of the large basket that is so obviously sitting there waiting to be filled with dirty clothing. Anyway, those who know me well will think I'm lying, but after the first harsh week of having to do winter morning chores, I actually look forward to bundling up each morning for my daily dose of true peace and quiet with my farm animals even in the negative temperatures. It's love (or insanity) either way...