Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Winter thaw - by Martha Younger

break in the blizzard: photo Chris Hoare There are no adjectives or expressions to describe this day! The house shakes, the flue tiles rattle, at times the roof hums like a boat on a tight tack and, all around us, it sounds like horror-movie banshees angrily screaming and swooping to get in the house.

I have just come inside from battling the elements. It is, in a word, exhilarating and a bit scary. I am proud of myself as I man handled – woman handled - a forty foot, 10cm diameter tree off a broken fence, only to watch another – even bigger one - slowly rip its roots out of the sodden ground and at first, hesitate, stop frame, then crash down on the fence not fifteen feet from me. As I looked around at the trees waving like grass above me, retreat seemed the better part of valour and I moved the horses to a safer paddock away from flying debris.

Two days of rain has all but melted the waist-deep snow cover and the pond has overreached its banks forming a moat around the higher parts of our lawn. Even the several inches thick ice has melted. I am glad that our house is built up the hill.

At 6:30 am, when I went down to the barn to feed the horses, it was 10C, fully thirty degrees warmer than it has been for the last three weeks. I opened the door to let fresh air into the dank, moist barn. The horses have been in since winter came to an abrupt halt two days ago causing treacherous footing for both equine and human. I went up to the house to get a cup of coffee and an hour later the wind came screaming in causing the temperatures to dive and when I returned to the barn for morning chores it was -2C.

Rising temperatures and high winds: this weather is enervating and the children’s voices are pitched higher. The ponies' tails are flagged and eyes are bright as they dash around – not chest deep in snow – for the first time since mid-November. I am afraid for their safety and have carefully chosen paddocks without trees and some snow cover for footing. Difficult when you live on a former pine plantation. They won’t be out for long today – but after two days in they needed to move about. Even a crow seemed to be flying backwards as its body was tossed up then abruptly down as it battled towards a solid tree.

My face is still tingling from leaning into the wind as I pushed heavy wheel barrows up the muck heap, dragged hay, safely stowed in hay nets, to the ponies and buckets of water to the paddocks. It is a relief to sit for a moment. I feel like I need a nap, but the continued rattling and Wizard of Oz scenes of debris flying by the window make me think that perhaps I better not.

-- Martha Younger raises horses on the Niagara Escarpment in Flesherton, Ontario

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