After the dinner is done and the dishes are done and the writing is done. I stand in front of the fire and put all my cold weather gear back on, my clown suit, the jacket, the hats, the scarf, the gloves, pick up the long torch and walk out with the dogs into the night to see how that animals are faring.
I could see far last night – the night was dark but the moon was bright – was it full?- and the wind blew hard slicing up the air as it knifed past. The dogs and I walked on ghost feet from ward to ward checking the animals.
The piglets were up rooting around in their bowls so I gave them extra food, the sound of which woke the bigger pigs up so I gave them some as well.
They ate quickly then scurried back into their beds. The last piglets to enter their blue igloo must have been told to shut the door because standing with his back to the door way he began to scrape at the loose straw with his front feet, moving backwards as he scooped the straw beneath him, then disappeared behind the little hill he had formed in the doorway.
On top of their blue igloo house is straw with chimney holes to keep the air clean and the day before yesterday I placed that black plastic water tank with the door way cut out of it on top of one half of the igloo. Like a second story or an attic. Do you remember it – the black one, the intermediate piglet house. Well I had nowhere to put it so I just popped it on top of the igloo roof as an attic. As I moved away from the piglets burrowing into their straw I caught a glimpse of a couple of roosters IN the attic, they peered sleepily out their second story window at me, adding their own heat to the mix. I smiled as they resettled their feathers.
The kunekunes argued a little into the night, sharing their hot water bottle cat then settled back to sleep.
As my flashlight pulled us out into the night again, the rustly silence settled behind us and I forced the last of the big barn doors closed against the bitter wind. My body was warm with all my clothes but I kept my head ducked away from the wind, it made my head ache that wind. To be in that wind last night – hurt.
Across the drive we put our heads around the turkey house door to watch the little chicks and their mother sit warm and fluffy on their broken wheelbarrow perch under the heat lamp. I am leaving them there for the meantime. They are doing ok.
I turn through the small garden gate into the corridor field and the dogs and I crunch across the frozen field and through the green gate that slides open in its icy groove and approach the rat house to have a peek at Sheila. She is fast asleep deep in her magnificent straw bed, only a sliver of her back showing. The pigs always push their heads right into the straw, so they do not breath cold air I suppose. She snores gently from under her pillow, oblivious to us, her calves ranged about her like attendants, dark pools in the straw, their legs folded under them, their bodies resting, their breath clouds, sleepy but eyes open, watchful, though their Queen .does not stir from her deep fairy tale slumber. I cover the exposed sliver of her back very, very quietly and we back out the door. It is always warmer in the Rat House shed, I don’t know why.
I can hear the chickens in the chook house shuffle and peep. So many of them lined up wing to wing on their perches.
If it was not for the ice-covered snow crunching under my feet, and the wind whipping up a head ache, I would feel wraith-like, un-moored as though I have drifted between the worlds, fallen out of time..
Do you ever feel the presence of other souls? I don’t mean ghosts of the long dead who come out at night when the world is a quieter place. I mean another world that runs adjoining ours, another woman walking her fields and checking her animals in the night, she is from this land but another world, maybe they never discovered electricity, or they never found oil under the ground, maybe they have created incredibly clever machines that run using this icy wind or maybe that world streaming beside ours is impoverished and desperate, enslaved. Just one missed or different step and things could have been completely different for us all. But have you ever thought that maybe that sideways step was taken in another dimension. There is an intersection on the roads out here where I am often hit with the knowledge of a wagon going through as the same time as I do. I don’t exactly see it, just know of it. The horses sturdy yet tired heading for home, the young driver almost asleep, his head nodding, thinking of his mum’s dinner maybe, he does not see me as my truck and his wagon collide and shoot right through each other. We do this again and again, though only in the summer, but he never looks sideways. Maybe because I am in the future and he is in this lands past and my imagination. Or maybe he is in my future. Or maybe his world is running across the same lands, parallel to this world but not of it. Another dimension. There is no way of knowing.
Sometimes I get this feeling when I am out in the night, of another milk cow and the horses just out of earshot. Of that other woman, or girl sent out to check that all the barn doors are shut – the animals bedded down safe and dry – the tack from the horses hung properly, the grain bins closed.
I never feel alone or afraid as I walk the night. I have plenty of company.
On another subject Jake said he saw a pack of coyotes in his yard the night before last. He was pleased he had closed the door to his chicken shed. The moon was so bright, reflecting off the snow and he saw them clearly – four of them – as they slid around his buildings. Coyotes are relatively new to this area (they came with the deer who followed the corn the old timers tell me) and there seem to be more of them this winter.
Out here I have not heard from my pack for a while – maybe they are on the other side of their territory. Keeping us safe from the bad packs I hope.
And I hope you have a lovely day.