Winter has settled in a final frozen hush. Snow is now accumulating in layers belying the history of the weather: dry powder to crumble mud slush freeze ice sheet now big graceful crystal. It feels certain this time. The birds that come to the feeder are feathered up plump and the cows stay inside.
With the weather I am let loose with an endless list of inside jobs none of which have any urgency or compelling schedule. It is the chores with my cows that is the anchor of my day and is the time that I (and I'm sure they) look forward to most. Twice a day, a trudge out in the cold blowing snow to the big old Gamble roofed barn. I greet the cows who breath steam and pull the hose out of the pump room that I insulated this fall and clean and fill up their watering tubs. The ice settles up to a few inches if they haven't touched it; I have a trough on the side of the barn that is handy so I can whack and clean the tubs. Next step is to climb up into the loft of the barn and throw down some hay into their manger. I have a few types of hay, some with a good mix of clover and vetch and other things they seem to like and another of mostly grasses, so I mix it up for them. There isn't much alfalfa grown in these parts which I do miss. While they're happy with fresh hay, I get to the business of chopping turnips. They watch me do this, anticipating this new pleasure. They know when I'm almost done and pull back from the manger and come to the gate hurrying me along. I put a scoop of grain in each of their feed buckets with the turnips. While they are busy with their supper I clean out their manure. Yesterday when I lifted the freezer that I use as a chest to keep the grain away from vermin, a cat flew down from the rafter onto the lid, slid off and landed with a thud behind the freezer. It, dazed a moment, scrambled up and fled..somewhere. She must have been watching me in my rituals with the cows. She must have wanted to say hello! I called and called for it, tried to find its tracks out the trough that slips out of the barn but the ice sheet bore no traces of a trail. This cat was around several weeks ago and I thought it dead because I've been leaving food that hasn't been consumed. I felt terrible to have had our first eye to eye contact so traumatic. So feeling shockingly bad I went to the house and got a bit of haddock left over from my dinner and left it on the freezer. The old food (catfood) was still there. This morning when I went out to do the chores, the sun a sparking on the snow. Cold but brilliant. The fish was gone, the cat food gone. No sign of my little wild cat. I called again for her ...a gentle "I'm a friend" meow;the cows are mighty curious with this human meow but Cheeky Butt knew and pointed her nose over in the direction of possible flight with a most complicit look. Perhaps the rats moved in upon newly liberated digs ( which I doubt because a spill of grain was all intact) or she is here and here to stay! Yes, this is what I'm hoping.