Saturday, January 26, 2013

Cold Mornings

The indoor cats' days start early.  Their mental alarm starts going off about 4:30 if not earlier.  Mabel bounces around at our feet for a while before moving up to tromp solidly across our heads.  No snooze alarm on her, but if she doesn't get any response she might settle for 5 minutes or so on a shoulder before resuming her march.  

Nu-Nu's approach is more subtle.  She parks herself on the door side of the bed next to T and stares fixedly at him.  The slightest twitch of a hand or a brow spurs a plaintive meow.  "I'm starving to death here."

Snowball doesn't bother with harassment.  She lurks on top of the living room chair closest to the food dishes, soundless, a nearly invisible darker spot in the dark room.  She's going to get there first, you see. 

Once feet finally hit the floor around five, the path to the kitchen is littered with swiftly moving anxious bodies.  Far more than two, or even three, but that's probably just morning vision. And heaven help the human that hits the bathroom first - pit stops and extraneous stuff like teeth brushing are NOT approved activities and should take second seat to cat necessities.

Thankfully, peace descends once the rattle and crunch has started.  Who ever is first out of the bathroom has coffee chuckling to itself and cups out for a much needed hit of caffeine.  It's still dark and not much later when T leaves.  By this point the cats have retired to decorate chair backs, the bed or sprawl in front of the stove like furry rugs.  I settle to enjoy the last of my coffee, pay bills, catch up email, on FB and blog posts, or Google whatever random oddities came up on morning conversation.  Non-spinning dryers, mower cables, vintage Western Flyer scooter frames, and window clings this morning. 

I have about an hour before I need to start layering on socks and woolie underthings.  We don't have a light on the barn yet, so I wait until the sun's started to come up before outside chores commence.  Then it's knee socks and jeans and stamping feet into boots cool from a night in the entryway.  Neck gaiter, earband, etc., and a lot of thankfulness that I'm not wriggling my way into coveralls to head out into -'s Fahrenheit.

The front screen door squeaks and bangs, and Sunny hollers at me as soon as he hears it.  He's as impatient as the indoor cats.  And I'm sure he'd happily tromp across the bed too, if it meant he'd get faster service.  The outdoor cats get fed first, though.  I pry the cold bungee strap securing the bin off and dip out a bowl full of food for Cat 2 and 3.  They've commandeered the garage, and most mornings are waiting a whatever their idea of a safe distance has fluctuated to.  They won't come close enough to eat until I've walked off, but they're getting bolder.

Today I fumble with refilling the coffee can of kibble to carry down for Cat 1 in the granary before I close the bin back up.  Then I head on down the hill to Sunny's impatient encouragement.  Getting the granary door to slide back on its track is a job for both hands.  I cram the can under one arm and drag it back ignoring protesting shrieks.  Cat 1 pops out of his box and hops down to strop himself madly around my ankles.  He's stopped yelling excitedly at me every morning, but he bumps his head and sides against my gloved hands as I bend over to shake cat food into his dish.  Regular feedings mean he's not as desperately hungry as he was, but he'll still linger at his dish for a few minutes, making walking to the corral a safer proposition for both of us.

The Rubbermaid garbage can that serves as my rodent-proof (and cat-protected) feed bin has another tarp strap for me to deal with, reluctant to give up its cold-tightened grip, but eventually I manage to get enough slack to unhook it.  I scoop out 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 full 2-cup measures of grain.  T picked up an oat/ground corn mix at the Co-op.  It's chaffier than I'd like, but the horses scarf it down enthusiastically.

Amyra waits in the corral, and the boys are lined up along the section of fence in the much-abbreviated orchard pasture.  They're all whickering at me now and I scan for any nighttime damage as I head in their direction.  Experience proves it's best if Sunny gets his grain first, and once I'm moving toward the corral he leads the other three around the barn to meet me at his spot.  Nose almost but not quite bumping my shoulder, he waits while I dip his portion out.  Amyra and Thunder know better than to push up to try to share.  He knows better than to threaten them with more than laid back ears and cranky face while I'm standing there, but that's enough to keep them waiting at a respectful distance.

Amyra gets her share next, near the hay feeder.  She'll share, usually, with Thunder for the first few bites, so leaving the two of them taking turns at her spot, I head for the backside of the barn and what has become Rufus's.  He backs and fills in front of me - his pan tends to get moved around more than the others and needs to be flipped upright more often than not.  I dip his grain out, making sure he gets a well-rounded scoop and a bit more.  I rub his neck for a few seconds, then head back to dump Thunder's allotment out.  By this point he's generally heading for his place, content with having snagged a few mouthfuls of Amyra's portion.

I still have some grain though, so I divide what's left hitting Sunny's spot first, then Amyra, and finally tipping the last out for Thunder, scanning the barn interior on my way past to see if they've used it overnight.  They munch while I slip out the gate.  Once Sunny's done, he'll circle around, moving Amyra and Thunder to make sure he's not missing anything, before heading around the barn to move Rufus and clean up any crumbs there.

By this point, I've started the morning wrestle with the round bale.  Parked on end, the hay just peels off in great sheefs; this one got dropped on its side and it's not nearly as cooperative.  But it is good exercise.  I alternately pry and pitch forkfuls of hay until the big feed bunk is full and drop a couple across the fence behind the barn, too - Sunny, Amyra and Thunder will share at the bunk, but Rufus is persona non grata when the three of them are eating together, so I tip a couple forkfuls off for him either inside, behind, or next to the barn as well, depending on wind direction.

Cat 1 has polished off enough crunchy bits to come out to join me.  It makes walking a challenge, but burdened with the hay-loaded fork, he just has to watch out for me.  He's learning.  I haven't squashed him thus far.

Once hay distribution is complete, I collect the grain lid and scoop and head back into the granary to snap the lid on and re-secure the strap.  Cat 1 hunkers down over his dish again, polishing off the remainder of his breakfast.  It's too cold yet to top off the water tank - the hydrant prefers afternoons - and my fingers are numb from the chill of the pitchfork handle seeping through my gloves.  The barn cleaning, assuming it's necessary, will wait until later as well.  For now, it's time to head back inside for more coffee and some much needed Kleenex.   


Kellie said...

Great morning tour! You've sure got it all going on :)

I usually wait for the sun to rise before doing the morning chores too - I've got a funky headlight to wear on top of my hat for those times that I cant wait for daylight.

SunnySD said...

Headlamps are great! I have one for after dark, too. Very "handy" :)