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Vicki Biggs-Anderson shares her views on life inspired by happenings on her rural Minnesota homestead where she keeps busy tending to her many animals. In this commentary, Vicki talks about dealing with ice in all its forms around the farm this January.
Welcome back to Magnetic North, where ice follies of all variety are played out on a daily - and nightly - basis.
Freezing rain hit Cook County the day before New Year's Eve. Of course it did. Weather that would tax the skills of an Indy 500 driver most always descends on or before a day when people who should be anywhere but behind the wheel of a vehicle are driving. In the dark. Often on roads they have never seen before. My friend Mary in Hovland calls these quirks of nature "cosmic ha-has." My name for them is not fit for family radio.
Actually, I took the first few days of living atop 1 to 2 inches of solid ice quite well. Paul and I were able to drive into town without skidding through too many stop signs. And we had enough gravel and salt stashed in the garage for several winters.
My serenity first began to erode on New Year's Day evening. The goats and llama were slip-sliding around the corral a few hours past dark and I decided to put them in a bit early - early for me is anytime before midnight.
The old wooden barn has four doorways - all of which have "issues." The double doors to the hay storage room are sprung open because 60 hay bales are pushed up against them. A manure fork holds them shut just enough to prevent a barn-break.
The north side door has three latches - two out and one inside - but still flies open for no apparent reason now and then. Summer, the llama, checks that door hourly.
The north stable door is off its hinges but stays firmly in place due to its immense weight: a good 150 pounds. Once a year I release the latch holding it upright just to fork out the year's waste hay and muck. How I get it back in place is lost in a memory fog, like childbirth. Then there is the corral door. This is the door through which passes hay and water and clean sheets - that is, clean straw bedding. And so, of course, the corral door is the worst of the bunch for causing trouble. It faces south, as does the barn's tin roof. Ergo, drip, drip drip, and before you know it, you have a skating rink! Right where I need to carry bundles and buckets twice daily.
It was this door that I found ajar just enough to allow the animals to squeeze in and out, its lower edge totally embedded in 2 inches of ice. Nothing I could do, short of blasting, moved the thing.
Ah, yes the corral door is a cruel teacher of all things ice. Here are some of the lessons this cursed door and our Minnesota winters have taught me:
One, the later one goes out to shut the door at night, the more likely that door is to be frozen into the ground.
Two, when chopping frozen ice in a barnyard, keep your mouth SHUT, even if you can't breathe through your nose. Suffocation is nothing compared to a frozen goat dropping hitting your soft palate.
Three, salt is highly overrated, but boiling water, a pick ax and maul are golden.
Four, make sure that everything you need to open a frozen shut door is never behind a door that can freeze shut. Case in point: this week I found the door to my garage frozen solid to the cement floor. The garage doors are electric, so wouldn't budge either. Since I keep my maul, calcium chloride pellets and thermos of boiling water on my person 24/7, no problem. I was inside the garage in 20 minutes flat. And the door is missing only a little speck of wood down near the bottom. Big deal.
I hope it is clear by now that any of the problems I have described can happen whether or not one has 22 chickens, four ducks, three geese, six angora bunnies, a turkey, a llama and six goats to feed and water twice daily. Well, maybe not the barn door thing, but admit it, if you DID have a barn you'd probably stuff it full of something you had to get at morning and night. Like…oh, I don't know…chocolate comes to mind.
My chocolate substitute has feathers and fleece, so getting past the ice dams surrounding my world right now is pretty much life and death. Really quite a lot like chocolate come to think of it.
Frankly, my New Year's wish for us and all of you is NO MORE ICE. Cold is OK. Ditto, snow. But if perchance we do get more of the stuff, remember, I still have plenty of sand and salt. And a pick ax and maul are easy to come by in town.
For WTIP, this is Vicki Biggs-Anderson with Magnetic North.