It is cold out there; I mean bone chilling, icicles in your beard, frost on the inside of the window, hug the wood stove cold. I laugh each time I watch the news during these extreme cold snaps. Don’t go outside and if you do, don’t stay out for more than 30 minutes at a time. Words that come from people who have never lived on a farm or ranch. All the chores have to be done, so dress the part, warm up when you have too and power on through it.
There really is no way to prepare yourself for feeding in the cold. Sure we dress in layers and preparing to feed is something akin to getting suited up for a space walk. Maybe I am different than everyone else (I have been told that) but I do have a certain order that I follow when putting on my “arctic chill” chore clothes. Any deviation from the protocol has serious implications.
First is the foot wear. I prefer a really good, thick pair of wool socks, but in the case of an extend cold snap I do start layering regular socks. Then it is absolutely critical to put on your boots. I have enough trouble putting my boots on without added layers (or more correctly added additional layers on top of the layers I have added over the years). At this point I pause to catch my breath.
Next comes the hooded sweatshirt. This is a very important layer. The most important thing is to remember to take your cell phone out of your shirt pocket. Failure to do so will result in a missed phone call, a choking hazard and possible dislocated shoulders. Then on top of the hoodie comes my bibs. I have a pair that zips up the middle, a nice feature until the zipper stops working. Next the legs must be zipped. This is another part of the procedure that requires groaning, grunting and a pause to catch my breath again (I really ought to consider getting in better shape).
Next comes the critical placement of the earlier mentioned cell phone in the front pocket of my bibs. This allows for easier (note easier and not easy) access and results in half as many missed calls. This is also when I check my pockets and take inventory of the medicine, syringes, pliers, clips, fence insulators, money, gum, candy, receipts…… well you get the idea. All of the stuff that I accumulated in my pockets from the days, weeks and months prior to today, I then make a decision about what I need and cull the rest to the cabinet next to the door. The very same cabinet that is remarkably cluttered and gets me in trouble with Jennifer, but you never put anything away; you might need it later on that day.
Next I locate my winter hat. This year I graduated from a stocking cap to the wool hat with a bill but most importantly a hat with ear flaps. It is the kind of hat that I swore for years I would not wear and now wonder why I was so stupid. Before you put the hat on a decision must be made. Ear flaps up or down, it is a decision that is often made based on the wind and has other very real implications. Ear flaps down result in many more missed calls.
The final part of the “arctic chill” suiting up is gloves. Often that includes the hunt for gloves. Sure I have quite a few gloves on the afore mentioned cabinet, but finding the right pair requires a great deal of skill and even more luck. First, they must be dry, that usually knocks out about half of the herd. Then you must have one for each hand. There go a great number of left handed gloves. Finally, it must not have large holes. Often these three criteria will get me down to one set of two gloves. Notice I did not say a pair of gloves. Most likely I will not have a matched pair, but if I have one for each hand, free of holes and dry, it is going to be a good day.
Then and only then, I am ready to open the hatch, I mean door, and take one giant step for mankind. OK so I am being just a little over dramatic but it does seem like a rather large accomplishment. Braced against the cold I head out to perform my daily chores and care for the animals entrusted to my care. The very same animals that seem to be disappointingly unimpressed with my sacrifices. So goes the life of a rancher in January.