Brrrrr. Icy wind makes the walk to the farm a chore. Frosty pavements scrunch beneath wellies and I am forever grateful to the person who invented thermal wellie boot socks! My toes are toasty warm compared to the only parts of my body that are exposed, my nose and eyes, that run and sting against freezing air.
As I stride purposefully along the road, lamenting my need to leave the warmth of the fire and centrally heated house to spend an hour or so in dark, dimly lit, cold stables, my thoughts drift back to summer when endless evening made farm visits so pleasurable. Still, I tell myself, there are tasks to be done and little equines that need to come in from their cold exposed field to warm up in their straw filled beds. They both love to go out in the mornings and love to come in again at night.
Tonight a beautiful white full moon sits high in the cloudless starry sky, casting a brilliant light in the usually pitch black field and I take advantage of this magical evening. Approaching the field, both bramble and little rosie give a little whinny, a snicker that seems to say, “C’mon! we’re ready to come in!” Opening the link on the freezing chain around the gate, I see their shapes clearly outlined in the silvery moonlight and shout out a greeting. Bramble, the dominant mare, responds by nudging closer to the electric fence, as though claiming her spot to come in first. Little rosie, feisty and determined, ignores bramble’s laid back ears that give a warning to stay back and stands beside her equine companion who promptly turns and administers a sharp bite to little rosie’s neck!
Rosie retaliates by birling (Scottish terminology) around on the frozen grass to offer her rump to bramble. “oh oh,” I think, as I increase my speed to reach these two warring mares. Too late I call out a warning, and can only watch as little rosie double barrels bramble with her back hooves. Luckily bramble nips out of the way just in time, to avoid a sharp kick from tiny hooves. Before rosie can repeat her attack, I bound over the wire, heedless of the shock I may receive having left the power on, and bending down, give them both a cuddle. The mood changes and they nuzzle into each others’ necks in mutual grooming. (photo taken in the summer!)
Deftly, I apply their head collars and take them for a stroll around their field in the moonlight. This has the desired effect and they contentedly trot alongside each other before we all head off towards their stables. It’s a nightly routine that is as comforting and special as tucking beloved children off to bed (in a sense!) As they enter their stable, each one nudges their hay net, has a sniff of their straw bed, checks out the water basin, before nosing into their molliechop and carrots. If it were possible for horses to sigh with deep contentment, they would. I give their soft noses a tickle and head out towards the feed barn where Tilly waits for her supper.
Almost a year has passed since Tilly settled to live in the barn and despite being fed twice daily, talked to, encouraged to play and stay, she remains feral. Spitting and hissing a greeting, she runs ahead of me into the barn, then nips out of sight to sit behind a feline play tunnel that serves as a barrier to the human world. From her vantage point on the floor, Tilly watches while I fill her bowl with cat food and when I offer a hand in greeting, sometimes acknowledges it with the faintest of nose touching but more often than not, shies away from me, as though terrified, which is what happens tonight. Hgmph! There’s gratitude!
She’s a very happy cat though and definitely part of the animal family here on the farm. A last check round all doors that keep precious livestock in and safe, cattle, calves, horses, cat, before I switch off the light and head home for another night. Walking towards the gate, I turn and cast a look at the farm yard, bathed in white silvery light from the full moon that sits aloft, like an overhead magical light, deliberately placed above the stable roof.
On my way home I pass the field at the corner, beside the cottage and remember the night I opted to help a Highland cow that had its horn caught in the wire. I knew that I could have been wounded if the animal panicked but decided to lift the wires away to free the cow. It all worked out well and the huge animal stood still before moving its head away from the fence.
A nice life.