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December 8, 2012: Morning Chores: You’ve Seen the Movie, Now Read the Book

In Dakota, Kathleen Norris writes about hanging up laundry and alludes to the fact that this is a meditational activity. This is hardly surprising, given that she has for some time been attracted to the monastic lifestyle.

I must say that tending to animals is also a mediational activity. Some, I think are mystified as to why I spend the better part of my day doing this. I have to say that quite often, I am equally mystified. Chores are extremely time consuming. And the addition of Signy and Hrimmi has made this even more so. I could have written a dozen best-selling novels in the time I’ve spent tending to feather and

fur. (This is the morning time alone. Remember – I used to write in the mornings.) My life can be compared to Norris’s if, say, she suddenly had more laundry to hang than clothesline.

Morning chore time has been, and remains the high point of my day. I get to organize my day, determine what I need to do, and in what order. Not everyone is so lucky. Some people’s days are organized for them, by the people they work for.

As for the work itself – I seldom get up before the sun. So the post-dawn routine goes like this: I let the goats out of their pen and say hello to the chickens. The goats then accompany me to the hayshed, where I toss them some hay before feeding the horses. I next bust up the ice in the buckets, scoop poop, and check on the animals.

All the while, I’m free to let my mind wander, and wander it does. This past week I’ve been taking note of which tasks I like doing, and which ones I do not. For example, I enjoy scraping the manure off the mats with the large grain shovel. I also enjoy scooping it into the five-gallon buckets, and hauling it across the yard in my fish cart. I don’t enjoy dumping the five gallon buckets into Andre’s trailer because lifting them over my head strains my back.

As always, I most enjoy communing with the livestock. The goats, always enthusiastic, are as always, a royal pain in the ass. I usually look closely at Peaches -- her butting heads with Ranger is of course, is a sign that she’s feeling okay.

My being able to observe the horses is the advantage of my having them here versus my boarding them. I dole out the food and the horses belly up to their respective eating areas. Chomp, chomp, chomp -- It’s at this point in time that they’re most content. And watching them, so am I.

Recent random observations now come to mind. For about a month, Tinni was (as the horse people say) off. He chose to eat apart from the others, in his shelter. And he pawed at his food bucket. His manure was also unusually loose. He also had two bouts of choke. (I was with him both times.) I took him off grain. And this week I resumed giving him glucosamine. As soon as I gave him the latter, he again began sparring with Siggi. Is this because he’s feeling so good? I don’t know.

As a part of my routine, I now examine Siggi for signs of coat wear and tear. If this keeps up, I’ll need to separate the pair. Today, Siggi’s mane was all matted. I untangled it. My theory is that a brushed mane keeps horses warmer.

Another observation: Raudi’s now being more accepting of Hrimmi. The two are now eating out of the same food bucket. And when Raudi gets edgy, Hrimmi moves to Siggi’s far side. She thinks that everyone’s her buddy, but especially him.

And yet another observation: Signy is now sequestered in the foal stall during the night, and a part of the day. (Hrimmi is being weaned.) Since foaling, Signy greets me with a long, low nicker. This is both her way of saying hello, and that she’s hungry. She’s been sweating quite a bit. So I’ve been blanketing her at night, and removing it before breakfast.

Rainbow and Jenna come racing down the driveway as I’m finishing up. Pete waits until the horses have been given their hay, or else the two will bark as I enter the gate. It works well this way, for I’m being given the signal that it’s time for me to switch gears. I too must eat; otherwise, no one else will get fed or tended to. My life revolves around the animals, and their lives revolve around mine. And I would not have it any other way.