So here’s how it goes. I get up around 6am, check the thermometer. Ooops, -20. Make the energy-giving mug of cocoa – this is usually made with our goat’s milk, Equal Exchange baking cocoa and left over dribs and drabs of caramel, but, since our goats have been dried off during their final two months of pregnancy, we are using the lovely raw cow’s milk from Turkey Hill Farm.
Next, get the layers of clothes on – long underwear, lined jeans, turtleneck, sweatshirt and fleece vest, plus a really awesome neck warmer made by my sister-in-law. Add some socks and muck boots, the “really cold” version of hand covering, and headband and off I go. It’s almost always clear when it’s this cold, so the sky is beautiful, the sun is working on rising and possibly I saw the moon this morning but I’m not sure. The snow is definitely squeaky.
At the top of the hill, I say good morning to the bucks who are already up and out and eating. Calories– good things to have during this weather. Going into the big greenhouse, which is where all the “girls” live, I check the temp there. It’s 8 – not bad. Some of the does are up, some aren’t, but as soon as they see me, the little girls, who get grain, eagerly come out and go into the holding pen where they are fed. Meanwhile, the other goats and I get busy. My job is to fluff the hay in the mangers, add 3 new bales and spread bedding hay all over the floor. Their job is to reluctantly decide to get up, stretch and get at the business of eating.
There is evidence of how cold it is. Their little whiskers are frost covered. There are “frost spots” on the hay on the floor where they have been breathing during the night. Some have frost on their backs, probably where another goat has been curled up with them and breathing on them. They like to sleep in family groups and, maybe, on these cold nights, with friends.
The sun is now up. It makes it feel warmer. I fill the water tank with a hose that is hooked up to an inside faucet and that has been left inside all night. Otherwise, it would be frozen solid. I fill a bucket with water for the bucks and head up the hill to take care of them. Obi, the little one, gets to come out of the pen and eat grain from a bucket (with Poppy, our Icelandic sheepdog, “helping” him). Thunder gets some grain, from a hand held bucket, and Mr. Buckley also gets to work hard for a few grains from my hand (he’s a tad overweight, so he doesn’t really need these extra calories – it’s more for diversion so that he doesn’t harass Thunder and get unceremoniously butted away). I make sure they have a good hay bed to curl up on in their little houses and fill their hay mangers. Then it’s off to the chickens and back in the house. The day is fully underway, it’s 8 a.m. – and still -20.