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January 7, 2014: Weather Sense and Horse Sense

A winter storm warning was put into effect last night. We (no pun intended) got wind of this as we were listening to our weather radio. Ours is hooked to the wall, it’s right above the cookbook shelves. Turn it on, and we get NOAA Weather Radio – a continuous feed tape. We’ve been tuning in for so long that I have a mental image of the guys who voice their weatherly concerns. There is something reassuring bout having the fellow I call “the old guy” predict the weather future. Conversely, there is something unsettling about the fellow I call “the young guy” predict the weather future. The former is upbeat and chipper, and the latter is rather shrill.

I didn’t even need to listen to the weather radio this time around. It has actually become a habit borne of a lack of home entertainment. One can only play so many games of Parcheesi or Clue before responding to the urge to leap up, turn on the radio, and get yet another weather update.

This time, I didn’t even need to listen in. Yesterday I got a sense of what was to come, both when I took the dogs out, and when I went with Signy, Hrimmi, and Pete for a walk. I then foresaw that weather-related change was imminent.

The air was heavy, the sky was overcast, and it was windless. It was very, very still out.

I grew up experiencing this – I grew up in Rochester, New York where the lake effect was always a weather-related deciding factor. By the time I was eight, I just knew what was coming. Bob Mills, the Channel Eight weather forecaster would usually verify this.

For the longest time, I wondered why I was forced to spend my childhood in such inhospitable conditions. However, I did gravitate to a like climate – I have spent most of my adult years in places with four distinct seasons, fall, winter, winter, and spring. I guess like most people, I tended to go in the direction of what I know. For example, I know that you put on many layers before going outside in inclement weather. Or maybe I just knew that I could deal. In the process, I acquired weather sense. I suspect that people in the tropics have their own sort of weather sense. For example, they know that you batten down the hatches when a hurricane is forecasted. (My thinking has always been that you lay on the ground and wait out hurricanes. This way, you won’t get blown over.)

I knew what was coming this time: a wind storm. Sure enough, last night, at about 11 p.m., as I was hauling the manure sled up the hill, I felt the first gusts of what was to become an onslaught. I’d put the horse hay in the center of the pen, they’d all gathered around a single flake, facing inward, butts out. Yes, horses too have weather sense.

The winds picked up during the night – I woke to the familiar whoo, whoo, whoo of winter wind – and to the rrrrrrrrrrrrrppppppppp sound of the wind turbine. Then the house began to tremble. I put the pillow over my head and burrowed deeper into our old futon, then feigned sleep. I didn’t fret about the animals because I knew they all had access to the shelters.

This morning, I raised my head and opened one eye. I then looked at the birch trees swaying back and forth. This is a sign that the winds are blowing hard. I inhaled, smelled the fresh air that had permeated the room. The thought then again occurred to me (as it often does) that waking up in this place is like waking up in a forest service cabin. I then looked over at Jenna and Ryder, who were curled up on their beds. Downstairs, Rainbow was curled up on the couch.

I dressed, got my inner, middle, and outer layers on, grabbed mismatched mittens. The dogs didn’t, as they usually do, follow. I looked in on the goats and chickens, and then with water buckets in hand, I skidded down to the horse enclosure.

The horses were scattered like dice, in various parts of the pen. I really got the sense that the horses had begun to fret, and that my appearance assured them that everything was okay. Actually, this was an illusion. They reside in a relatively windless area. We who live up on the hill must deal.

I put hay in the three shelters, and topped off their two water buckets. I then scooped poop, and hauled it up behind the hoop house. As I sent the empty sled flying back downhill, I remembered what the younger weather forecaster said, which was “secure loose objects.” So I of course put the sled in the hay shed and shut the door which has a hasp.

Over breakfast, Pete and I talked about the day’s plans. Dog walking was out. Horseback riding was out. Doing inside stuff was in. Hard core subsequently became soft core.

As I write this, the wind continues to blow. This afternoon I have to again go to court. Animal Control Officer Darla Erskine will present the final arguments in the recent animal neglect case. I have testified, so has the defendant and the character witnesses.

My afternoon plans have again gotten me to thinking about what it is that horses need, particularly in inclement conditions. They need (and I repeat) access to shelter, water, and good nutritious forage. Here in Alaska, horses are not too keen about foraging for fodder while out in the wind. This is a survival mechanism. Being out in the wind raises their energy requirements, as does cold water. This is all just a matter of horse sense.

Weather and horse sense. The two go together, just like peanut butter and jelly. Something to consider on a blustery winter day.

Next: 39. 2/8/14: Horse and Dog-Related Insights