Tuesday, January 22:

For us in Ohio this is real cold:  ten degrees at midday, all the stock water iced over, milk glazing in layers on the milking bucket and eggs freezing in the nest if they are not collected by evening.  Gloves and mittens are inadequate to keep fingers warm while chores are being done; people coming up from the barn stop by the furnace in the basement to thaw their hands and noses.  All the animals are getting extra food to help them keep warm, with the tenderest care going to Arthur the rat terrier, blind patriarch with rheumatism.  This morning he got two whole biscuits with gravy and a cup of hot cocoa, special delivery right to the door of his warm box, which did him some good we know because later he was seen stalking around in the snow east of the house looking for something to mark.  There’s life in the old boy yet.

In these temperatures it requires a little resolve to get us up and out the door for chores; but when the immediate need to water the stock or sweep snow off the plastic tunnels before they collapse has driven us down the hill, we find a satisfaction in facing the challenge of cold and snow, and a good thing too because there are always more chores than we planned on.  Yesterday when we stopped to give an extra quarter bale of green clover hay to the pigs in the white barn we found that Bridget, the sorrel pony, had broken into the hayloft.  She snapped the baling twine loop holding the door shut and was tucked up warm and tearing into a fresh bale of hay.  We drove her back out to pasture and fastened the door with a bungee cord fetched from the garage, then pulled her a few carrots from the low tunnel by way of apology.  Her stall in the lower barn is ample protection even in cold weather, but the dry, hay-filled loft must have seemed like the Waldorf by comparison.

Hay, we are told, is up to eight to ten dollars a square bale at the sale barns and still the feed store can’t keep it in stock.  None of the farmers is selling, even at that price, and we are grateful for the good harvest we had last summer, and for the standing forage in the pastures at the monastery where the steers have still two thirds of the pasture to rotate across.