On days like today, I am reminded how much I love living here in the Great North. There’s something empowering about conquering these mountains of snow. Or maybe not conquering so much as coexisting…
Every morning, whether it’s 30 degrees or -30 degrees, our chickens need us. Zahra and Noah have been alternating for this task, when Saïd doesn’t do it first. It goes like this: put on your boots, coat and hat; wade through the snow on the deck and hope that no one closed the gate (or else it’s probably iced); fight with the latches on the coop door; get the frozen water bowl and make your way back to the house; wait for Mom to thaw the frozen water and refill the bowl; take the water to the gratefully clucking chickens; go back to the house, where Dad is waiting for you with a plate of rice and raisins or oatmeal and blueberries; take this hot breakfast back to the chickens; check their toes and combs; watch them for a bit to make sure they’re all in good spirits; stuff your pockets or hat with eggs (they’re laying machines!) and make your way back to the house.
Then, you eat.
There are such great lessons in taking care of animals, in all seasons. We really love doing this at the farm, too—even in winter. This morning, we asked Mr. Quinn what we could do, as he was headed out on the road again. The rabbits needed to be fed. And the sheep in the back of the farm, behind the play area. “There’s a bale of hay by the gate—just throw it in the blue feeder.” Simple enough, right?
I took Noah, Riley and Logan with me. I needed some agile and adventurous boys because I knew for a fact that the gate to the rabbit pen is iced shut. I grabbed a scoop of food from the barn while the boys scaled the fence that’s higher than I am. I passed it over to Noah, who dumped it in the bowl, patted the rabbits and asked them if they were hungry—and then the three boys were up and out and rolling around in the snow while I put the scoop back.
This playground is all kinds of fun in all seasons. And today, it was a blindingly beautiful winter wonderland, the snow like glitter. We waded through massive drifts up to our knees. I walked up the hill and over the bridge. The boys rock climbed up to the bridge.
As we made our way over and back down the other side, the snow became thigh deep. We stopped often to just collapse on our backs and look up at the stunningly blue sky. I had to catch my breath. Logan reminded me that, since we’d have to go back again, we weren’t even halfway there yet. So we got up and kept plowing through. We were arctic explorers. We couldn’t give up. When we reached the sheep, they were waiting eagerly for us—in that playful, mischievous way only sheep can. The boys once again scaled a fence, and I passed flakes of hay to them. Some of the sheep know Noah and crowded around him. Some of them are really skittish. Sheep running through the snow is a beautiful sight.
“Come on, boys! Noah! Logan! Riley!” I want farm chores to be done swiftly and efficiently. They wanted to hand feed the sheep little tufts of hay. We compromised. As I was gazing over the snow-covered fields around me, lost in a bit of a daydream, my eyes fell on the plowed path to my left. Oh. Right. We could have walked around on the cleared farm road. But what fun would that have been?
Still, we opted for the easy path back. The boys didn’t want to go in (and who could blame them?), but it was lunch time, and I needed to check in on the girls.
This morning at the Nook, it was arts and crafts galore. Noah and Leila made wands, sewing and stuffing and tracing and gluing. Noah and Zahra started weaving on their handmade looms. Mr. Quinn brought up a box of books and magazines on weaving, as well as a beautiful old book on calligraphy that Pam left for us before she left again. Zahra and I are trying our hand at calligraphy, and Pam is a talented calligrapher—so we can’t wait until she can give us a lesson!
After lunch, we headed back outside for my class, Nature Play. The kids used spray bottles with water and food colouring to paint snow, and we blew bubbles. The bubble experiment didn’t work quite as I was hoping, but it was still fun to do this typical summer activity in the winter.
We never went back inside. At least, not for long. Noah and Zahra participated in a STEM class at the end of the day, but Leila and I stayed outside with a gaggle of children around her age. They continued painting and blowing bubbles. They buried Leila in the snow. They became a wolf pack, running through the snow and howling. They carved into the snow mountains.
When we finally got home, I was happy to find the kids’ magazines had arrived in the mail. Thursday is our “Subscriptions Day”, when we usually look at one of our monthly magazines or subscription boxes. We’ll be reading these in bed tonight—if I can stay awake that long.