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  • Writer's pictureTina

Don't Be A Dolt

Welcome to a cold and bitter Monday, dear reader. I believe the entire country is feeling this cold snap. Here, in Southwestern Pennsylvania, we are bracing for single-digit temperatures and a single-digit windchill factor. This kind of chill goes straight to the bone. When one has bones that are aging and arthritic, it makes for some unpleasant days.


Humans are not the only beings to suffer from the cold. These bitter cold snaps are hard on animals as well. Here on the farm, we ensure our animals are warm, comfortable, safe, and protected. Whoever created the falsehood that animals are not capable of feeling discomfort, pain, or experiencing emotions is an absolute dolt. This is a story that humans tell themselves to justify their inhumanity and callousness. If one is to spend time with animals, one understands they feel everything humans feel. They experience happiness, joy, anger, depression, grief, and sadness. They also feel the discomfort and pain of the cold.


Yesterday morning, the wind was gusting at 50 miles per hour, snow was whipping about, and it was cold enough to numb exposed skin in just a few minutes. The Bibbed Wonder, The Bean, and I were out in the cold, making everyone comfortable and cozy. The girls and boys in the barn are well bedded down, have a heated water trough, and are safe from drafts. The boys in the field across the driveway have a canvas hut to protect them from the wind and snow. The Bibbed Wonder, The Bean, and I spent the morning moving haybales, breaking up haybales, and bedding down the huts. My husband is an innovative genius. He created the canvas huts as temporary shelter for the goats when they moved into pastures away from the barn.


The best way I can explain the huts he created is to compare them to a yurt. The huts are rounded, and thick, heavy, waterproof canvas is stretched taut over heavy-duty curved metal. The metal is attached to a treated lumber wooden frame and the front and back are outfitted with more heavy-duty waterproof canvas. There is an opening large enough for a fat goat to fit through, and the huts are placed directionally so the wind does not blow through them. Eric places the goat's feeders on wooden stands at the back of the hut so the goats don't have to go out to eat in the wind, rain, or snow. It's a very comfortable, snug, and cozy set-up.


I worried that the goats would be cold and uncomfortable with the below-freezing temperatures. However, once we added an extra thick layer of bedding, and the goats came in to lie down and snuggle up, one could feel the warmth they created. There were no drafts, and The Bibbed Wonder's glasses were fogged up from the heat they were emitting. My worries were assuaged. 


Next, we moved to the small pasture by the pond where my girls, Red and Lily, along with the girls who were born later in the year and are too small to become mothers, are currently residing to keep them safe from amorous billy goats. We added an extra thick layer of bedding, moved hay bales close to the hut's opening so the girls could eat and not have to be in the wind, and gave everyone an extra ration of grain for good measure. Everyone has access to fresh running water from the spring that runs through the pastures. I feel confident everyone is warm, cozy, comfortable, well-fed, and hydrated.


My old girl, Red, was shivering in the cold winds yesterday. I have a very soft spot for this sweet, gentle girl. When the sun is shining, and the temperatures are above freezing, I sit on the ground or in the hay and spend time with my favorite girl after my walk with The Heavy-B. Often, she lays down beside me and puts her head on my lap. Some days, we sit like this for close to an hour. I may sit and talk with her, or we sit in amicable silence and watch the herd. Sitting with Red is one of my favorite things to do. I believe we take great comfort in each other. When I saw Red shivering, I panicked just a bit.


Eric assured me once the hut was bedded down and the girls snuggled in, the hut would be warm and safe, and so would the girls. Again, by the time we were finished, Red had cozied into a large nest of hay, and her shivering had ceased. We have goat blankets on hand should we need them, but The Bibbed Wonder assured me that all was well, and Red was comfortable when he went out to do the evening feeding. I know my husband cares for the goats and their comfort as much as I do, so I trust him.


The goats are not the only ones to receive extra TLC in these bitter temperatures. I made my laying hens and two roosters warm oatmeal with raisins, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds. Their coop is draft-free and well-bedded, and I line the perimeter with straw bales at the beginning of the winter months. This offers them a bit of insulation, and it keeps the coop warm enough that their water dish does not freeze. When they are cooped up inside, I give them things to peck at and break the boredom of being inside. They enjoy pecking away at apples, heads of cabbage, or a bowl filled with warm treats. Boredom for animals is a genuine thing. If the boredom becomes too bad, they will be reduced to destructive behaviors like picking at themselves or each other, destroying their shelter, or larger animals can even go mad.


Here on the farm, we ensure all our animals are well cared for, comfortable, and mentally stimulated to combat boredom. We place the comfort of our animals and their needs above our own comfort. By the time we had finished caring for the animals, we were all cold, numb, and aching. We went back inside and enjoyed a cup of The Bean's favorite hot cocoa, sat by the fireplace, and rested, knowing every one of our animals was comfortable and well cared for. It's a good feeling to know we have done the absolute best we can do for the creatures we love.


I am unsure why we are farming in Southwestern Pennsylvania instead of Aruba, but alas, it is our lot in life. I find our lifestyle much more enjoyable when the sun is shining, the winds are quiet, and the temperatures are at least 40 degrees. However, we will continue to do what needs to be done to ensure the animals we love are safe, warm, healthy, and well cared for. If you own a pet, don't be a dolt. Please do what you must to ensure they are warm, safe, and comfortable. If you see an animal in need, take the necessary measures to help that animal, even if it means calling the authorities. Our animal friends do not have the voices to ask for help or demand justice for mistreatment. We must be their voice.


On this bitterly cold Monday, can and stay safe, be smart, don't be a dolt, help those you can where you can, and keep washing your hands.

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