Last night was my night to feed ponies. H called me up as I was heading home to double check that I'd be out as she had a busy night of errands and wasn't able to sub-in for me. I told her not to worry and after having some supper, headed out to the barn.
...and when I stepped out of my apartment into the night's sky, snow was thickly falling, swirling and blowing across the lot.
Oh yes. A winter snow storm was blowing in. And it was COLD!
The drive to the barn was interesting...people driving crazy slow, cutting into my lane and huge drifts on the edges of the road which meant lots of busting through them.
I rolled into the "barn" 45 minutes later and almost blew right across the riding ring. Which I should add has 5' drifts! Yes, the drifts are higher than the tops of the arena rails! It's incredible! I grew up on a bald piece of prairie and winters were always like this. Huge drifts! Except for me, as I grew, so did the trees my parents had planted until eventually our home was well sheltered and the drifts ceased. I kinda miss them.
In the garage I went, to mix up some pony feed. Then back out into the cold, in blue jeans, winter riding boots, snowmobile jacket, toque and a pair of stolen fleece lined work gloves (thanks H!). Yes, no ski-pants. Just blue-jeans.
I walked the feed tubs all the way to the hay shed, since it was a nice windbreak for the buggers while they ate, and there was a 4' drift where we normally feed by the garage! Yikes.
While the snow covered ponies ate in the gusting wind and snow, I scraped out the run-in shelter of the frozen poo balls. The storm continued to pick up. The temperatures were in the -30's (celcius...approaching -40 F) and the snow and wind whipped like crazy.
Then it was time to find the hay nets...
Yes...white hockey hay nets in a field of snow, at 8 pm, with the wind whipping about, and drifts everywhere. And the buggers drag those nets to the furthest edges of those fields!
By headlamp light, I walked the large field, managing to track down on net at the furthest end. Then I wandered all the edges looking for the other. Of course, H calls and standing in a field, snow blowing, wind whipping through the fur edges of my hood, we chat about where that bloody net could be. And then I manage to track it down half buried in a snow bank. Awesome.
Back into the hay shed, shake the snow out of the hay nets, climb the stack to throw down 4 fresh bales and then stuff them. Tie them shut. Roll two new nets (4 bales) out to the ponies to eat.
And as I'm lacing up the last net, H pulls up in her car. We chat a bit, she gives me a hand moving the last net out of the way, lock up and gather the ponies' feed tubs. Of course, we stop to give everyone a couple of scratches and appreciate the beauty of the snow covering their fuzzy faces.
H snow busts through 4' drifts in her *car*, the snow flying completely over the vehicle and for half a second you feel 'buried' in the snow bank...only to emerge on the other side, cruising towards the garage.
Back inside, we dump the feed bins and head to our cars to go home. Another fun drive, as I bust through all the new drifts that grew on the sides of the highway since my journey out. By the time I reach the city, the snowstorm is no where in sight.
Ah yes. Winter storms.
Why the story?
Because standing there in that field, in the dead of winter, wind and snow swirling, I had an overwhelming feeling that THIS is what it's about for me.
And I realized that I'm at my core, a farm girl. There's riders out there, there's horse owners, there's people who care for their horses at home and do a great job of it.
But then there's us farm girls. We're not out there feeding in the blowing snow just because we have to. We're not stacking 100s of bales because we must. We don't restack those same bales for the 3rd time in the dead of winter because we had to. We don't drive out in the snow storms, we don't brave the blizzards to check on the ponies, we don't give scratches to all the fuzzy faces merely because we love ponies and this is the way we keep them.
For us, there's a passion about being out there knowing these animals depend on you. Suddenly the cold isn't so cold, the wind isn't so strong, the snow isn't quite so deep. Because we're actually, in some perverse depth of our country-girl soul, loving it.
We're the gals who are out there riding our horses when the wind-chill tells you your face will be frozen off before you make it to the end of the driveway, but hell, we're still gonna go to the end of the mile...faces mean nothing if not snuggled into pony fuzz.
Country girls, we bust snow drifts and careen down the sides of gravel covered streets, giggling just a little, not white knuckling the steering wheel and facebooking that we may not make it home tonight.
We're the girls that even though we don't *have to* scrape the poo balls out of the run-in, we do it anyway. Why? Because we'd rather freeze our fingers just a little bit more, then drive home knowing our ponies are still standing in the dirt.
It's not just about doing these things. The winters, the stuffing hay nets, the driving half the city to buy a certain feed product. Cold days and colder nights, storms and soaking wet and working so hard in the dead of winter that the sweat becomes frozen solid in your hair. It's about ENJOYING doing these things! Country girls, farm girls, we have a sense of pride about being out there caring for our animals in these awful conditions, and a huge chunk of us, actually enjoys it.
I can tell you, last night was *the* most satisfying way I could have spent my evening. When H showed up (see, country girls head out even when they don't have to!), I knew we felt the same thing standing there in the field with the ponies in a snow storm. We love doing this. We love it.
It's twisted. It's warped. But we love being caretakers for our creatures. And the more they need us, the happier we are. We're always going to put them ahead of our luxuries. We'll forego being warm, we'll tolerate broken and smashed nails, cracked fingers, sprains and frostbite, if it means they're looked after.
Not everyone can say that, and it's okay. Some of us are meant to be horse owners. Horse lovers. Horse riders. But some of us, would fill our properties with animals of all kinds, and beam with pride as we pull on our scrubbiest winter coat to go look after them all in the harshest of weather. And you won't hear us complain...at least not until we're all done our chores and are back inside by the fire thawing ; ) ...and that's just so you appreciate what we do. ; )
Bless the winter storms, for showing us what we're made of.