Updated: Feb 28
When it’s 10 degrees outside, 24 hours pass too quickly. Everyday, like the postal service, I must deliver the goods, whether rain, snow or sleet, to two horses who depend upon my punctuality. Midnight and Charlie-horse are predictable, too, waiting patiently near the trough.
Sad but true, the colder it is outside, the more I find excuses to put off doing my outside chores. When cold weather hits, the task turns into a big production.
First, I have to change into thermal underwear, sweat pants, heavy socks, fleece-lined boots, stocking cap, and lined gloves. Without fail, the gloves are not in the same place as I surely left them 24 hours prior. Regardless of the gloves chosen, I often take them off for the flexibility of cutting baling wire.
There is really no reason for my complaining as this is the price those of who live in Linn County pay for loving nature. As I write, my herd of about five doe as in deer wander through my yard looking for something to eat. It’s much harder when there are several inches of snow on the ground. So much so that my euonymus vines growing up into the cedars along my driveway have already been consumed. The leaves must be tasty or at a minimum, help fuel an empty stomach. A couple of liriope startings from last fall’s plantings have already been pulled out of the ground. Liriope plants stay green throughout the cold and may seem like grass to them.
But no, it is not woe to me, as I have a warm bed and plenty of food and fresh water. I don’t know about deer and the cold, but I have heard that many dogs suffer as much as we do when the thermometer drops below freezing. The liriope were greatly discounted and can cheaply be replaced. The euonymous will bud again about the end of March.
I do what I can. It makes crawling under a blanket a little easier when I leave out shelled corn for the deer. When I feed the horses, the deer get their reward, too. In turn they remind me we both have our independence, one of the many benefits of living in the country. I’m also thinking of those babies growing in the doe’s belly. Another reward of country living is to see the white spotted fawns following closely behind their mothers.
Last spring I learned something new about mother deer behavior. The dogs and I were riding in my all-terrain vehicle in tall prairie grass. Lo and behold, a fawn jumped up and ran unsteadily away. I was quite concerned about the dogs wanting to trail behind. A second worry was whether the doe had abandoned the fawn or perhaps been killed. When checking with deer experts, almost everyone other than me, I learned that this is usual behavior. By hiding her baby, she could safely munch nearby. Her instincts were working correctly. I was the one invading her space.
Yes, winter will pass and I can skip or at least walk to feed the horses. Trying to be patient, I will wait until March to look for sprouting grasses. I can almost hear the prairie whisper, “We made it, so can you.”
Rogene “Jeanne” McPherson is a writer who lives outside of Centerville. She recently published a book about her experiences entitled Posts from the Country, Adventures in Rural Living. It is available online in both virtual and printed editions. Copies will soon be delivered to the Linn County libraries.