Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What's the White Stuff and Where's the Grass?

After a winter of rain and darkness that seemed to go on forever, the snow was a quiet, bright change of pace. I had never thought about the quietness of snow nor the brightness of the landscape after it has fallen, but a western Oregon winter can make you appreciate all sorts of things you never thought about before.

The landscape was gorgeous until tree branches began to snap off and the roof started to leak along a beam and down a wall. Transient beauty...that lasted almost two weeks! You know it's kind of impressive when the people who have lived here all their lives start comparing the snow to that time in 1969. I don't know. It sounded as if the snow was deeper back then, but memory plays funny tricks when you are 30 years older and shoveling wet snow off the side walk .

Actually, I ended up shoveling a path from the front door to the driveway so I could get out to the chickens without falling down. Then I decided to clear a path along the side of the house to the barn because the angle of the walk was even more treacherous and I had no interest in sliding down it twice a day. I used a small square-headed shovel we had brought from Phoenix because even as it fell the snow was turning heavy.

I'm not sure what the chickens thought of the white stuff. Most of them stayed holed up in the chicken coop, napping on their roosts and pecking at the scratch I spread in their feeder. The snow caught up like a thick blanket across the chicken wire roof at the back of their run and made the enclosed yard seem eerily blue. The chickens were confused, which meant no eggs. The geese waddled around in the snow oblivious. The turkeys squawked and puffed themselves up as they gingerly tip-toed through the white stuff towards me. "Oooh, cold on the feet, cold on the feet, can't find the corn, can't find the corn. What's this God damn white stuff? Get it off of me!"

They weren't the only animals disgusted at the turn of events. Our Arizona horses had seen snow several times since their arrival five years ago, but nothing that ever really stuck to the ground. When I turned them out on the barnyard, they couldn't decide if they should run in it or try to eat it. Instead, all three plopped down for a good roll, returning to their loafing shed for the free-fed hay I had left in the mangers - much easier than playing the fool mustang and nosing around in the snow. Way too troublesome a method for finding winter grass! Even Tater, our Oregon born horse, stayed under cover for much of the week.

Our white sheep became one with the background of snow; the brown sheep just looked dirty. I kept them locked in the yard away from the Honey Grove creek as the snow melted and the waters rose to flood stage for about the gazillionth time this winter. Didn't feel like losing any of them down the creek and I knew several that might be just dumb enough to get caught up in the currents.

When it all began to melt, the snow turned ugly and became mud; deep, cold mud. The roads became slushy and more trees came down. We lost a hundred year old apple tree in the orchard that just fell over. We lost branches so heavy off some of our trees I couldn't even drag them off the bushes they were crushing below.

I began to wish for snow again. Quiet. Bright. Beautiful. Idyllic as long as the electricity stayed on, the fire in the wood stove trailing white smoke from the chimney like the picture on a Christmas card. Of course, it might look like sort of a silly Christmas card these days since the first spring flowers are sending shoots up everywhere. It's the best I can do as the rain starts to fall. Think of the white snow and wonder with the animals, "Where is the grass and why are the flowers coming up already?"

Photos are pretty self-explanatory. Barn with snow and sun coming out. Lambs standing in a huddle wondering when it is time to eat.

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2008 Scottie Jones

1 comment:

Heather said...

Looks like I'll have fun reading your blog. My dad (John from CA) filled me in on your farm. Looking forward to seeing it next summer.