It reliably rains once a month: the thought arising as I swing the sledge hammer overhead for another blow on the iced up cow water trough, which at 3 a.m. and -20 C seems resistant to breaking. Eventual success indicated by the splash of icy water on my face. Great.
I am up this early to pack the truck and head to market. I normally pack up the night before of course, but the canopy is not sufficiently insulated to protect the potatoes overnight. I pause for a moment to pick the ice off my cheeks and admire the stars, the crackling cold, and the homey light cast from the house.
Toby the nincompoop puppy has frozen (in fear) ahead of me on the trail; he has probably heard a branch crack and his knees are buckling in terror. On the other hand, there was a very large coyote sitting in the middle of the field staring at us yesterday afternoon, apparently sizing up dinner possibilities. There certainly are some sitting ducks available. All of a sudden I feel I might be one of them and I hasten to the light of the barn.
Now I am loading the truck. I wheel the stacks of bins out of the cooler and lift each one into the back of the truck. Ten bins high. If I donít do it right Iíll have to take it all out again to make sure everything fits. Tables go in the sides, tents slide into position, the hand truck fills the last remaining space and the doors just close. Good thing. I am freezing.
Toby continues to growl and pace and I am certain now that we are being watched from beyond the pool of light. Itís just me and the animals on the farm this weekend, and my imagination is thrilled to be given the task of freaking me out. This morning the watchful coyote of yesterday is effortlessly transformed into a pack of rabid wolves lurking in the shadows.
Back in the house for coffee, porridge and a thaw: making sure Iíve packed the tills, scales, restaurant invoices, plenty of work gloves, jackets and pants, and city boots. The fire is so warm, sleep would come so easily, I have to go.
I leave the house, wish Toby luck and toss him a nice bone, unplug the block heater, and head south where it is sunny and mild by comparison and the bike racks are full. The water bottle I placed in the back is not frozen upon arrival, so I am optimistic that the potatoes are not either.
I am back at the farm by 5 p.m. and itís as cold as ever, but nothing is dead so thatís good. Jennie has returned too, so there is some good company.
The next morning the barn water pipes are frozen. We run around doing everything we can think of, including calling dad for help, and try not to dwell on the fact that in 25 years of plumbing on the farm, he has never allowed the pipes to freeze, and weíve done it in our first solo cold snap. Relief with the return of the water.
Thereís a lot to learn about managing the annual cold snap, I reflect as I pull the lever on dadís recliner, take up the remote control, and trade contented looks with Toby, who is stretched out in front of the fire.
Anna Helmer also has a lot to learn about nap schedules.