When I was a kid (in ever-sunny California) snow days were something about which I got excited. We’d get a quarter of an inch of snow and the entire state would shut down. We’d stay home from school, build the world’s smallest snowman, and by 10am it would have melted and all the neighborhood kids would be outside rollerblading in the sun. Snow days - how exhilarating!
Now that I’m an adult in never-sunny New York, snow days only mean one thing to me: hard work…in the cold…and people getting stuck on my driveway. Still, the one thing I can be thankful for in winter is a roughly two-month break from riding while the ground is frozen. And when one has four horses to feed, clean, groom, tack, ride, untack, groom, feed and clean, a two month break is a good thing. So maybe, as much as I complain about the weather here, it’s a bit of a blessing in a big, messy white disguise.
When the sun rose (technically) yesterday on a foot of new snow, I tried to tell myself it was a good day to read and relax. I did my morning chores and retired to the house for a bath and an apocalyptic book. My friend, Alia, regaled me with text messages about her horrible day of plowing and shoveling snow and ice, and getting her tractor stuck in a snowbank. I sat on the couch and felt sorry for her. By the end of the day, my truck and trailer were sitting under a foot of snow and an inch of ice, but what did I care? I’m taking February off.
I crunched through the ice-capped snow while performing my evening chores. I filled hay nets and water buckets, and then cleaned stalls. I dumped the wheelbarrow in my manure bin, and only then did it dawn on me that at some point in the next two days the manure bin would need to be hauled away, an empty one put in its place. This meant that I needed to move my truck and trailer, and plow a path to the dumpster so the delivery truck could access it.
Here’s the thing: I don’t own a plow. I own a small tractor. I also have a gravel drive around my barn. Attempting to use the front loader of a small tractor to plow gravel without making a massive mess is like a brain teaser for rednecks. I had dreams about it last night. I tossed and turned and fretted and worried. I strategized. My goal for today was to get up early, get the donkeys fed and turned out, stalls cleaned, and proceed with the task at hand.
The only unexpected holdup was Johnny deciding that he didn’t know how to walk in ice covered snow. I led The Twins to their turnout together per usual, but as much as they look alike, they do not behave in the same manner. So while Richie was panicking as if the ice was trying to swallow him legs first, Johnny was frozen in terror. I had Johnny at the other end of the rope that I was pulling on with all my might, and Richie piaffing around me while I spanked him and yelled at his brother.
By the way, yelling at horses is futile.
I finally had to leave Johnny in the middle of the driveway, fairly certain he wasn’t going anywhere, and take each of The Twins to the turnout individually. It took Johnny 20 minutes to walk from the barn to the paddock. Twenty long minutes of pulling on Johnny while Hauns banged on his stall door inside the barn, eagerly anticipating his turn to walk like an iguana through the snow.
It then took me three hours to plow the gravel path to the barn and liberate my truck from its igloo. Only twice did I have to stop to help people that were stuck on my driveway – the dry cleaning delivery guy followed by the plumber. By the end my toes were frozen, my ponytail smelled strongly of diesel fumes, and my horses had a somewhat less terrifying trek back to their stalls.
Is it March yet?