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February 6, 2014: The Ice Age

I have told a few people in passing that I will be glad to see this winter come to an end, to which they say, “Winter? I thought it was spring!” This has been in part because many of these people live closer to town, where the conditions that I’m to speak about have not been so bad. At the same time, the overall winter temperatures have been higher than in past years, giving many the sense that they’ve been spared what they consider to be a bad winter.

Now the temperature is dropping again. This morning, for the first time in a long time, there was a thick crust of water on the goat water bucket, and a thin crust of water on horses’ water bucket. And this morning I again donned my Refrigerware suit. The familiar chill was indeed back – my fingers, encased in my now well-worn mismatched gloves, again became cold. Every year I have a goal, this being to hang onto one pair of gloves. But this goal has never, ever

Shoeing on ice

been realized. (It’s sort of like those United Way thermometers you see in various places – I’ve yet to see one with the red filled to the top.) I am picky, making sure my gloves match early on, but at this time of year, I just grab what’s around. This is because both consciously and subconsciously, I know that we’re on the flip side of winter. So why bother making sure I’m wearing matching gloves, one left, one right.

I’m not tired of winter per say. I like sitting at the kitchen window and watching the flakes fall gently from the sky. I also like raging storms, particularly after checking on the animals and knowing they’re in their shelters, looking out at the onslaught. And I like watching Pete plow. Rather, I’m tired of certain aspects of winter. These aspects vary from year-to-year, too much wind, too much snow, too much cold, too much darkness. This year, it’s too much ice.

What’s happened this year is not to be believed. Okay. Call this fiction. But I know it to be true because I have been living the details. About a month ago we had a blast of warm weather, with rain following on its tail. Then the temperatures dropped and the rain froze. It then warmed up, but not so much so that the ice melted. The trails became pot-holey. (Pete joked that we now have multi-use pot holes.) And the road in front of our place took on the appearance of a hockey rink. The grader did come through, and so did the sand truck, one following right behind the other. This took care of the problem. It was then possible to walk on the road without fearing that one’s legs would go out from under them. I had been extra cautious when walking the dogs, but then gained greater confidence when a neighbor child went flying down the nearby hill on his bicycle.

Note here that I’m now working my way backwards in the direction of our place. Ice. It’s everywhere. Pete (in advance of what turned out to be a really bad situation) attempted to deal with a foreseeable problem by purchasing sand – 27 five gallon buckets of it – well in advance of the bad weather.

And we have both spread the sand in those areas where we and the horses trod. The problem is that the sand has not melted into the ice. Rather, it’s stayed on top. Walking on it (in places) is like walking on ball bearings. And additionally, there is so much ice that some well-trodden areas are still sand free. So, even with cleats, one must always remain hyper-conscious of their step. This is hard on someone who, like myself, usually moves fast, and without regard to the footing.

For example, the now icy path leading to the truck parking area widens at its base. If you walk to the left of it, you have to do a few crow hops to reach the first truck. From there, you can inch your way, with vehicular support, to the outhouse or the less icy trail to the horse shelter. If you walk to the left of it, you will end up near the base of the driveway. This can be problematic, for in order to get to the gate, you have to make your way around another vast expanse of ice.

Getting the horses, and in particular, Little Hrimmi, down to the road can be challenging. The big horses have ice shoes, so they can make their way down to the road without falling. However, there is sometimes some slipping and sliding. Hrimmi doesn’t have shoes, so she is more prone to slippage. She’s very careful, but she’s also still young, so sometimes she’ll forget what’s up and begin noodling, doing what young horses do, like grabbing onto her lead line. They don’t call these horses Icelandics for nothing.

And then there’s me. I am now wearing ice cleats, rubber things with spikes. They’re on my bog boots. These things seemingly shout LOOK OUT! LITTLE OLD LADY ON ICE! I’ve heard said that those physical attributes that I most value – balance, coordination, and muscle strength – deteriorate when one gets older. I can feel this happening, and I do not like it. It’s my age saying “you’re not as adept or as agile as you used to be.” I who cannot deny this have been attempting to stop time by doing something about this. This something has been to go to yoga class once a week. Another has been to take the dogs out hiking on a daily basis. The longer walks have been good for my outlook. Every day I get back to the house without having fallen is what I consider to be a good day. The longer walks have also been physically beneficial. The now slippery main trails have been totally trashed by the snowmobilers, so I walk on the sides of them, both up and down the hill. Coming down is challenging – the snow has a crust – I have to stomp hard, in order to stay upright, but not so hard that I bust through and post hole.

I rue the day when I have to hang up my cleats and forego walking/running/horseback riding altogether in the winter. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. The danger here is that I (like all humans) have the capacity to see into the future. And this isn’t always such a good thing, particularly when one has reached the ice age – an age when navigating ice has become an important consideration.

Next: 38. 2/7/14: Weather Sense and Horse Sense