Like a dutiful Mother duck, I was sitting on 30 little ducklings in my incubator….and in preparation for our vegetable garden, I had started transplanting the teeny seedlings into their very own little worlds; I have a 6′ long, folding, plastic picnic table set up in our living room in front of the sunniest window in the house—all for the benefit of the forest of seed starter trays. Outside, we have at least two pregnant ewes–one looks like she will be lambing any day….the other ewe is probably 2-3 weeks behind her in time. Our Maremmas have HUGE clumps of matted fur that are starting to work their way loose in seemingly edible tufts. Trees in the magnificently pruned orchard are all starting to bud up. The runner duck drakes are starting to fight—-kind of like the old grammar school belly fights, duck style–running at each other and bouncing off of each others tiny little belly. Spring is here….or at least on the horizon!
We went to bed that night to the patter of rain, slowly turning to the puffing sound of wet snow landing on the window sill (about 1/2″ of it)…and the voices of the Maremma pups barking furiously (they think the sky is falling whenever it snows). We were both distracted from reality for a variety of reasons. Still, though, you would think that someone that had lived almost 30 years in New Mexico at 6500′ elevation, as I had, would KNOW snow. Guess not! If I had, I wouldn’t have gone to sleep.
About 2am, I woke up to the sound of the dogs still barking…but now there was an added whimper to their voices. I got up, grabbed our portable car headlight (for lack of a better description) and opened the front door. White. Everywhere. Tree branches were cracking and crashing to the ground on the hillsides surrounding us and the Maremmas, of course, were positive that the sounds were from huge monsters coming down from the hillsides. I flashed the light over to the barn….or what used to be our barn. The plastic pipes that had created the “u-shaped” roof now had a reverse curve in them that was resting on the ground. The tarp that had covered those pipes was now serving as a pond liner for a snow pool….and the sheep? I woke Bob and we ran out to check the damage up close. The sheep were all standing inside the barn, right up next to the walls—in about a 4′ wide floor space. Cozy. A lot better living space than anywhere else at the moment though! The snow, the very WET snow had stopped falling by now. There was only about 2 inches of it covering everything, but then once you combined that with the high winds and lack of electricity—and therefore lack of water (electric pump in the well house) you have a pretty dismal picture. Deciding that there wasn’t a hell of a lot to be done in the dark (our headlight had burnt out) and that the sheep and dogs were”ok” for now, we went back inside and waited for the dawn.
When it was light enough to work outside, we suited up again to go survey the situation and decide what to do with the chaos. After lengthy debate and time sliding by at a rapid pace, I grabbed a ladder and launched myself over the side walls of the barn and slid down the tarp like it was a water slide into the mushy snow and ice water at the bottom. Fun actually! But now the bucketing began…..one huge tarp had to be uncovered from the weight of the wet snow before we could even let the sheep out of the barn! When that tarp was freed up, the sheep exploded out the door into the barnyard—and then just stood there, surveying us with their huge eyes.
After MUCH effort, and freezing feet and hands, we managed to bucket out all of the rest of the snow holding the roof down—me filling buckets from the pool, and Bob hauling them up and dumping them. I swear it was about 6-12 cubic yards of the beautiful, sparkly stuff, but Bob said it was probably only about 3. Then, holding our breaths and covering our eyes, we grabbed hold of the exposed roof framework and lifted upwards with all of our strength on the plastic pipes. POP. I had visions of both of us being launched like by a slingshot when/if the roof went back to its original shape. Phew….saved on that one! The end result, once we pulled the tarp back into place, tied it down and added a couple of 4″x4″ center poles, was our barn back on center stage…..
That night, the dogs crowded into the barn along with the sheep….one huge cozy family.
Inside the house, we were still without electricity (or water) for 2 more days….the wet snow and wind had brought down TONS of trees all over this entire region. The power people had even imported other electric companies to help bring everyone on line again….
And can I mention the poor little duckling eggs? I set the incubator up in front of the woodstove with blankets and down pillows trying to keep the eggs warm….but the required 99 degrees is pretty unattainable in this type of siutation. I managed to pull out an 85 once….but generally they were in the mid 70s. I’m now waiting to see if any of the 30 eggs hatch. I hear peeping, but I think that only about 6 ducklings have survived up to this point; they were supposed to hatch out yesterday. I’m considering it a peace offering from Mother Nature, if any of these duckings make it….I have to admit, I was busy cursing her for a while there!!!