The winter has rolled into the Canadian Maritimes, changing the face of everything – and everyone. Our winters are more brown than white here. The idyllic snow blanket doesn’t happen until late January, and even then it often turns into mud or ice within 48 hours due to intermittent rains, compliments of the coastal climate. Right now, though, there is still a faint green hue of hardy grasses and the red of frost-ripened rosehips (which nobody ever picks, which I don’t understand for the life of me – if I weren’t already up to my nose in strawberry jam, I certainly would).
The remaining chickens, Bertha & Bertha with their collective husband Bart, have become fickle, suspicious creatures, preferring the compost pile buffet to my hearty cries of “chicka chicka chicka CHICKENS!!” announcing their evening grain, much to the amusement of my neighbors (most of which are long convinced that I’m nuts). Insane Jane, the barn cat, has grown a winter coat that would put a polar bear to shame, hiding 8 lbs of cat in a ball of fluff the size of a small lion. The dogs have taken up their favorite sport of burrowing under covers and blankets as “room temperature” in the house has steadied around 17C (dropping as low as 9C by morning when the wood stove burns out), forcing me to reinstate my habit of patting on every blanket and cushion prior to sitting on it in case there’s someone nesting underneath. And me? I’ve started going outside again.
I’ve spent the last couple of winters under the spell of two day jobs, depression, chronic pain, modern misconceptions about the weather and general lack of motivation. Outdoor work, aside from the daily chores of animal care, was put off until warm, sunny, or at the very least dry days – none of which happen very often around here from October until May. Following a random string of inspirational crap, I set out to change this pattern. (In the process, I found out how the modern day humans, even Canadians, have forgotten the true meaning of “dressing for the weather”, myself included. Buttocks were frozen. Lessons were learned.) Donning my water- and wind-proof pants, jacket, mitts, knit hat and sometimes a nose-saving scarf, I threw myself out the door every day for the past couple of weeks, rain or shine (or snow or windstorm, for that matter). The cherry saplings, mauled by the then-present goats two season ago, were pruned properly, cultivated and fertilized. The ancient apple trees that have withstood three generations of neglect have started their resurrection journey as I hacked away the dead and tangled branches. The only non-native rose bush in the garden got its feed-sack dress in an attempt to protect it from the frost and winds – something I never got around to do since I planted it two summers ago, likely the reason why the “climbing variety” has never climbed further up than my boot. I replaced the tattered tarp on the chicken coop (with old shower curtains, including one sporting the world map – I’ll have some cultured chickens by the spring). Sure, I invented some quality cuss words as I pulled my wind-whipped hair out of my nostrils repeatedly. I sharpened, re-dulled and re-sharpened my el cheapo pruning gear. I ran through my entire backlog of lip balm, cramped every muscle that exists between my fingertips and shoulders at some point, and sang every obnoxious camp song I could think of. What I did not do was get cold.
Add to this picture the fact that all of the above was accomplished while being trailed by an overly-personable Muscovy drake named Wilson, and you might have a better idea why my neighbors think I’m insane.
Wilson was given to me recently by a woman with a big heart who took him in from a relative’s farm where he was unable to thrive and raised him as a pet in her apartment. A full-grown Muscovy drake, however, a house animal doth not make. (Equipped with the ability to projectile-poop, ducks are the messiest creatures this side of Mississippi.) So I ended up with Wilson, who has not the faintest idea how to be a duck. He follows me around when I’m outside (his legs are still not quite right, so I’m hoping all this running after the human will also function as “duck physio”), lets me scratch his head occasionally, tries to eat my boot laces and harasses Insane Jane in his spare time. I’m currently trying to find him a wife, even though I had practically sworn off ducks. Really though, how can you turn down a friendly douchebag like Wilson? I didn’t even know ducks came in “nice”.