Friday, January 14, 2011

World of White

I grew up on the outskirts of Chicago, so I know about snow. I still have a snapshot of my dad, who was 6’1”, standing on our patio in a snow tunnel that is a foot taller than his head. My parents hated snow and eventually moved to Florida, where they sat by the pool each winter and teased their friends and relatives who were still stuck in the Midwest. I didn’t get it. I loved the snow, especially building snowmen and igloos. sledding and skating on an ice rink that we made in our backyard. One of the things that I missed when I lived in California was “real winter”.

So, here I am now, dragging hay through snow tunnels above my waist, dealing with the biggest snowfall that our town has had in 20 years. I’m still vividly remembering how it felt on Wednesday morning as I crawled out to the barn to reach the horses in the heart of the storm. I was smart enough to bring their hay and breakfast into the house the night before so I wouldn’t have to get to the garage and tack room before I beat my way towards the barn. I was wearing knee high rubber boots, waterproof pants and a Gortex parka, but I was sinking into drifts that were almost to my shoulders. My method was to shovel two or three feet to make a path, turn back and move the bucket full of hay, wipe the fog and snow off my glasses and then shovel a little more. It was very slow going. There was a moment where I couldn’t see the barn or the house. I felt like Nanook of the North.

To make matters worse, I was still worrying about something that I saw the night before. As I was putting the horses to bed, I noticed that in the snow in the corral, one of them had peed and it was a kind of carrot orange color. It freaked me out, so I went back into the house and leaped on the Internet to see if anyone had anything to say about the this weird colored urine. I was thinking urinary tract infection. There were a few articles about it, mentioning dehydration as a possible explanation and claiming there was no cause for alarm. Both horses were eating and pooping and drinking normally. Just to be sure, I had checked on them around 10 pm as the storm was just starting the night before. They were both fine.

Now, as I approached the barn, Silk stuck her head out but I didn’t see Siete. My little horse always pokes her head over the stall door the minute that I come out of the house each morning. I’d been shoveling and inching my way to the barn for over an hour, and there was no sign of her. It made me panic. Frantically pushing in the blinding snow, my mind went to the worst. If she was down or had colicked, how would I get help? My fear enabled me to reach the corral gate with a surge of energy like a mother animal trying to protect her young. As I shoved against the gate to squeeze through it, the little stinker ambled across her stall to the door, giving me a look that said, “What took you so long?” Tossing the hay into the barn, I felt the rush of victory while the path that I had just carved was disappearing in the insane onslaught of white from the sky.

I barely made it back to the house. Once it stopped snowing, my husband, my daughter and I spent at least eight hours digging. We had to pull 30 inches of snow off the roof of the barn because we were worried it would collapse. Silk ran into the corral when I got the doors open,and the snow was covering her up over her back. She stood still, not knowing what to do. “Don’t expect me to come and rescue you!” I told her. Eventually, she got up the nerve to push her way out and hid herself back in the barn. After two days, we still haven’t been able to dig open the gates to the pasture, and the snow out there has drifted about four feet deep. I’m trying to figure out how to exercise the horses as they grow more antsy and pent-up.

All the local stores are sold out of snowblowers. Our tractor, which has a plow is still broken. My husband has contacted his buddy, an old retired mechanic known around here as “Tractor Man”, who collects and repairs lawn equipment. He has an old Craftsman with treads that he refers to as “the beast”. He’s almost got it running, so I hope that soon we’ll be able to blast a small runway from the corral into the pasture. I have to admit that I’m beginning to understand how my parents felt after they lived through 36 winters with snow like this.

All of you in parts of the country where the temperatures are above 60 degrees can go ahead and gloat now.


Kate said...

I think the carrot orange pee is normal - it certainly is for my horses in the snow - I think it may be a temperature/moisture reaction with the pigments in the urine that gives it that orange color. Hope you stay warm and well with all that snow!

the7msn said...

It's 50 here but I am not gloating at all - I've been where you are and appreciate how stressful it can be. Animals are so much better than we are about taking the weather in stride – Silk and Siete will be fine ... as long as you don't hurt yourself shoveling. Wishing you a warm weekend.

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

Oh, that sounds stressful. Glad the horses seem to be taking it in stride.

Stay warm and I hope the weather settles down for you asap :)

Wolfie said...

Holy crap! We haven't had much snow here, but the temperatures have been chilly (-14C). Take care not to injure yourself with the digging!!

Grey Horse Matters said...

We're still digging out too. What a mess this is. Don't overdo it!

Lori Skoog said...

Victoria...our snow is nothing compared to yours. In the past we have had drifts like those you have written about. Very labor intensive! I sure hope you get help removing some of the snow. Last year, a friend who had a horse here, went right into the paddock with his snowblower and cleared out some paths. We have a 60 foot overhang on the front of the horse barn, and it has really helped. It is only 12 feet wide, but gives them some space even when the weather is bad. The extremes in the weather are scary.

billie said...

We're not over 60 but even if we were, there is no way I would gloat! Even our much smaller amount of snow in Dec. and then snow/ice last weekend put a huge strain on all of us here as we tried to maintain the horses and donkeys.

We do have an overhang on one side of our barn - I constantly wish it was on both sides, because as Lori said it is a lifesaver when the weather is terrible.

Here's hoping you all get thawed out with some relief from such weather very soon. Our fields have not been even remotely dry for about 7 weeks now. I just want dry ground, even if it's *cold* dry ground!

Take care - as you said, spring will seem like a miracle after this!!

John and Regina Zdravich said...

Here in Northwest Indiana (about an hour or so from Chicago) we are dealing with a lot of snow, too, though not as much as you have in the East. So I can definitely relate -- it is AWFUL when the snow removing tractor isn't working. Though for drifts that big, if it is not a big tractor you still have problems. They say this weather builds character....
As far as the dark urine, that happens all the time here in the winter -- I believe it is normal.

juliette said...

My boys had the carrot orange pee last year in the snow. I had them on a vitamin supplement and as soon as I stopped that, their pee went back to normal.
We are cold here but not as much snow as you. I am so sorry. As I read your story I felt like I was there with you. I have done that very thing before...shoveling a few feet then moving the hay forward. Ugh! Good luck and stay warm. Think of the lovely muscles you will have in the spring...horses and winter make us all look so good!

Rising Rainbow said...

Raining here at the moment and I've never had to deal with that much snow but what we've had this winter has been enough to make me appreciate where you're coming from. Taking care of horses in snow and icy conditions just plain sucks. I've been thinking maybe I should be moving to parts further south and I lived so for a while and HATED it! So that says something. I'm definitely commiserating with you on this one.

I think that mares in particular can show extremes in color in their urine. They definitely do that during their heat cycles. The darker the urine, the farther from ovulation they are. That kind of cold I suspect could affect that. Just a thought, but it is the first thing that came to my mind.

I use the color to tell me when to breed. I've been very successful at chosing the "right" times to cover a mare without a vet or ultrasound and I only cover once and still have a 99% success rate. Urine color is an excellent indicator of the hormones in the mare.

Merri said...

Sigh, I'm jealous of your snow - I know, I am twisted - although I am sensible enough to appreciate the winter riding opportunities I have!
but then, if I ever really lived through a snowy winter like yours, I'd probably have my fill!
- The Equestrian Vagabond

juliette said...

I have an award for you over at my blog. Please don't feel obligated to do this if you already won or are just too busy!