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Column: Surviving the storm

Column: Surviving the storm

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I guess we made it through last week’s storm and power outage unscathed. I knew the goats weren’t quite ready to kid, but even if they had we were ready.

It’s harder, though, when there is no running water and no electric lights if something isn’t just right.

Sometimes there are triplets. Often the weakest or puniest will have to come in the house for a while and be bottle fed and warmed by the stove.

Humans have been contending with this as long as animals have been domesticated, and probably longer. I would guess domestication started when abandoned baby goats, sheep, or cattle were discovered and nurtured by some human being.

For some reason, our does always seem to kid on the coldest days of the year. Every now and then things go wrong, mostly because of the cold.

Sometimes the mothers decide they can’t keep all of their kids alive under the conditions. They know we will do our best with the other.

How these little babies can be born and survive when temperatures outside are below zero is remarkable. Somehow they do.

As John Bennett says, “As the days grow longer, the cold gets stronger.”

The longer days are already awakening the desire for spring in the birds and other wild animals around.

The domesticated birds, the ducks and chickens, have started laying, even though we are in the heart of our winter.

The goats are frisking around in a way they don’t do when the days are the shortest. It’s fun to see how playful they are right now, running, jumping, cavorting and play fighting.

Not that spring is close. As we like to say here, “If the groundhog sees his shadow, there are six more long weeks of winter. If he doesn’t, spring will be here in just six short weeks.”

No matter which, they are all ready for the snow to melt, and for the grass to grow.

They will have to wait a bit.

During the power outage, which lasted for several days, we kept the fire going all night. Usually we don’t worry about it and let the oil heat take care of late-night heating.

The one thing I noticed about constantly burning wood is this odd new thing called cheap matches. You strike a match, and the top breaks off and flies across the room like a little meteor. Or, you pull out a match and it doesn’t have a coating on the top, making it a small stick instead of a match.

Of all things to make cheaply. What’s going on, are the match companies saving a penny per box?

What should I do, return the matches? “Uh, these matches are deficient. Could you replace them with some other deficient matches?”

Well the tons of line crews and tree crews really came through for us, making my worries about matches obsolete for the moment.

The white pine met their match with this last storm. Around here, anyway, most of them got a pretty good pruning. I guess in a few weeks I’ll be doing a lot of clean up out in the sugar bush.

By then we’ll have new goats gamboling about and fresh milk and syrup.

Sounds pretty good.

Forrest Hartley lives in Hadley, N.Y. Leave a message at


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