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Wild side

Agriculture.com Staff 01/06/2010 @ 9:21am

I tried.

I really did.

Just last week, I wrote a column about my New Year's Resolution to spend a little more time on the wild side.

Three days later, I woke up and it was twenty-six degrees below zero. I'm not spending much time on the wild side at -26. I don't even have a wild side at -26.

Do you know how cold -26 is? Let me tell you how cold it is. If you're standing outside talking to someone and they say something you agree with, don't nod your head, because if you do, your neck will freeze and shatter and your head will fall off.

Nobody wants that.

When I get up, the first thing I do is check the weather. It's just a habit, but when it's -26, it seems like a bad habit. What kind of dummy goes outside when it’s 26 degrees below zero? Well, someone with livestock chores. I've spent large chunks of my life wet, cold, miserable, or any combination of the three, all in the name of keeping livestock comfortable. Perhaps my favorite cold weather chore experience was when I spent the morning going in and out of a moist, warm hog building to work on a broken feed system. The last time I went out, I had to kneel in the snow for 15 minutes to do some final re-assembly. When the time came to stand up, I couldn't. My wet coveralls had frozen stiff and I had to waddle around in a rabid frog sort of crouch until I was able to crack the ice.

Of course, now that my livestock responsibilities are seven chickens and a cat instead of a couple thousand hogs, life isn't quite so demanding. But the problem with chores is that even if they aren't very demanding, they still have to be done.

I put on about 12 layers of clothes and then my tall barn boots. I'd cleverly left the boots in an unheated porch, so they were about as flexible as concrete culverts, but a little less comfortable.

I went outside to do my chicken chores. I could hear them grumbling from 50 yards away and when I opened the door to the coop, I noticed right away that their feed was untouched. Instead, they were all huddled in the corner, frying up scrambled eggs on top of a little fire they'd made of straw and wood shavings.

I have no idea where they got the matches.

I crunched back through the snow in my frozen rubber boots, headed for the wood boiler that heats our house. I was breathing through my mouth, because my nose had frosted over, and when I took a deep breath one of my tonsils cracked and broke off. Usually, I throw a few logs in the boiler every twelve hours. When the temperature is minus 26, I pretty much just stand next to it and chuck wood full time.

About 15 minutes later, I was back in the house and then spent another 20 minutes or so taking off eleven layers of clothes.

The rest of the day I just looked out the windows. It may have been the frost, but I didn't see my wild side out there anywhere.

Copyright 2010 Brent Olson

I tried.

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