The year 2021 was no better than 2020. Even as we impatiently wait for it to end, 2021 has decided to bludgeon us with an arctic weather system. My computer crashed – big time- this year (thank you 2021), so I can’t always find my photos and had to search my old blogs to be certain, but didn’t we already have a snowstorm this year?
Sure enough, back in February. It was the “last” snowstorm of the year. Our new president was going to win the hearts and minds of a desperate nation. The pandemic was coming to an end because the vaccines were coming out. Summer was coming! Well, Texas froze, The Former Guy convinced his followers not to get vaccinated, and when July showed up, the heat broke all historic records and we had to move everyone down to the basement- guinea pigs and rabbit, too- where we lived for half a week. And it’s still 2021 and this December snow looks just like February snow, except it’s going to get colder this time. Plus it’s going to finish off 2021 and keep on trucking into 2022.
My weather station reports a brisk 23°F temperature tonight. Overnight low was 12°F. This morning the aviary wasn’t too bad. Two wailing cats, ten clucking hens, two fretting geese, five muttering ducks, and all of them milling around in the barn. Okay, where’s duck number six? My ducks are all old or blind or both and this time the lost soul was Boondock, out in the snow, looking a bit pathetic. He perked right up after his duck food.
On the way out there I passed Charlie & Hamish, my two Shetland sheep. They were eating snow. Up to their underpants in the white fluff, a dusting atop their fleece, and they are happy boys. They paw at the snow, take a couple steps back, and crash into each other, slamming foreheads together with a satisfying thunk. They paw the ground again, back up, and kathunk! They are deliriously happy with the snow.
Before C&H came here, I had a pet capybara. Winter had been a mildly annoying season before Dobby moved in. Maybe it’s no worse now, but when you have a gigantic, frostbite susceptible, South American rodent on site, every snowflake is a poison bullet. I have written a bunch of blogs about Dobby in the snow, but the reality of the situation illustrates the absurdity of trying to accommodate a tropical animal in a not-so-tropical climate.
Dobby’s first winter was a shock. His world froze and he was angry that I didn’t let him out to explore it. So he sulked indoors, angry and resentful, demonstrating a capybara styled poop-storm. He’d had the run of the house, but in response I had to draw the line. He went straight back outdoors when the temperatures returned to normal. Oh, he still had the kitchen, and that became his sole indoor area, but the living room, bedroom, and bathroom were no longer his domain.
We made adjustments to the kitchen area, made it more secure. We put an automatic door closer on the door out. We added a heater to his outdoor pen. I gave him a stern lecture: Stay in the kitchen on cold nights. Still he snuck out in the wee hours. I learned to check on him every couple hours all night long. He would stay in for a while and then I would check on him to find he was outdoors again. I was never able to get him back in, discovering the donkey part of the capybara persona.
As he aged, he learned to stay put on cold nights. That is a very hard lesson for a wild animal. It took him years to get beyond the “I’m trapped!” feeling and sleep in the kitchen. I learned to cover the birds by the door so that if the door didn’t close behind him, they wouldn’t freeze. And Dobby ate the bottom off of that cover in thanks.
Animals love routine. Eventually, when Dobby saw a certain (huge) quilt cover his kitchen area he knew it was Slumber Party Time. It was so big it covered his bed, his potato bowl, his corn area, and his all-important milk bowl area. That blanket made morning clean-up easier, because, of course, staying indoors meant it was okay to poop indoors, right? Unless we had two Slumber Parties in a row, and the Farm Manager was too lazy to wash the blanket for day number two. Or four. This year, we would be on night number five. That’s a lotta laundry.
I miss Dobby each and every day. Temperatures are below freezing again tonight, like they have been for almost a week. My geese, ducks, and hens are all snug in the barn with heat lamps. My sheep have been cavorting in the snow for days, preferring to eat snow to drinking ice water, stripping the bark from my lilacs and willows. They truly love this frozen snowy aberration to the usual Seattle winter sludge. Okay, fine, but haven’t we had enough?