It’s so cold out that I consciously zip up my jacket and put my gloves on before I open the door to go out. What that means for the Funny Farm is ICE MANAGEMENT. Some of you are already rolling your eyes or nodding your head or both. The rest of you have a big question mark hovering over your head.
I didn’t think I would ever appreciate the arctic engineering course I took, but this week’s weather is decidedly Alaska-ish. Parking lots in Alaska need to include “snow storage” areas, because, as you might imagine, constant snow plowing means huge mountains of snow building up from October through April. Similarly, cracking ice out of Funny Farm water dishes (delicately, so the dish doesn’t break) results in a pile of ice blocks that partially melt together before they re-freeze together overnight. If you have a week’s worth of freezing weather, you soon have a half dozen frozen ice mountains deposited throughout your pens. Do they block a gate? Are they in the main pathway? Are they placed where the sun can melt them or cause them to sublimate, or are they north of an object where they will take a week to go away? Similarly, I check all the gate swing areas and excavate so that the build up of hoar frost doesn’t eventually freeze me out of the aviary.
I think weather is fascinating, and I am proud to say that the Funny Farm now has it’s own weather station! It’s connected to the Weather Underground, so that everyone can check in and see how truly miserable little Dobby is. The mallards show up in huge flocks for the afternoon garden party. It’s eery to see a turtle looking up at you through thick ice. The hummingbirds pouf out down to cover their tiny feet as they hover at the feeders. Funny Farm ducks, geese, even the hens take it pretty well, though I do have heated kennel pads for the cats. I also set out one heat lamp in the barn, but only Dobby seems interested in it.
When I ask him if he wants to go to the front yard, he holds up a paw to let me know it is too cold for his feet today. For a while I was cutting him a bucket full of bamboo, but it is totally frozen now and he won’t eat it. Hay and lettuce will have to suffice.
This is his sixth winter, so he knows the drill. He hangs out in the kitchen during the day, and enrichment becomes important. Unless he is napping. Maybe I’ll finally get that video of him snoring: so far I have filmed several tedious hours of him sleeping. Guests feed him extra corn, he does tricks to get my attention, and he gets a little silly.
I have a special big quilt I spread out for him at night, and special indoor Disney Princess slumber party blankets. I hang an insulated curtain around the bird cages in case Dobby drags a blanket out that sticks the door open all night, weather hovering around 20°f (-6.5°c). If the temperatures fall that low, his heated outdoor pen can’t keep up and his blankets freeze stiff. That’s where I draw the line and bring him in to sleep.
Normally, The Bartender mops Dobby’s kitchen area every night, all the blankets and rugs get washed, the milk bowl gets scrubbed and ready for morning. None of that happens when he is inside 24 hrs a day. If he leaves for a moment, I grab a rug or blanket and wash it, but eventually I give up and everything gets dank and a little bit ripe. It’s always about then that the guests arrive.
The sun doesn’t seem to work any magic at low temperatures, but Prince Dobalob, the sun worshipper, never gives up. Plus, there is another kind of sunshine that always works. Dobby has lots of friends, and one of his visitors sent him this fabulous drawing!
Meanwhile, icy morning chores include shlepping gallon jugs of hot water out to the aviary. Putting the hummingbird feeders back out at dawn and going back to bed. Filling and re-filling the bird feeders and re-attaching squirrel guards to the suet feeders. Hot tub after hot tub for my super-sized semi-aquatic pet. Looking up at the sky and hoping it doesn’t snow on him.
We’re past the solstice, now, so summer sunshine is coming. Isn’t it?
Check out the Stacy’s Funny Farm Weather Station!