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Morning in Wyoming, 20 Below



First light, spreading from the hills over snow-covered pastures and trees Fawn-colored Jersey milk cow, peeking at me from her house, frost coating her long eyelashes with white mascara Horses, also with frosty eyelashes, turned dapple-grey with frost, rather than sorrels and bays Racing 1500-pound draft horses to spread their hay before they grab the bale from my hands One lone goat, whose breed traces to Africa, calling to me from deep inside her shed, asking for breakfast in bed. Eventually she ventures forth, as her mates are eating up all the hay (maybe we should have gotten Swiss Alpines after all) White-tailed deer, drifting silently into the pasture - they know chore time as well as my animals and come to dine with Heidi on her alfalfa hay, preferring it to the tree bark they are served at their Nature Preserve next door. Let's ask the deer if they would prefer a farm or a Preserve Wild turkeys, cleaning up spilled grain, apparently having forgiven, or at least forgotten, that one of their number provided our Thanksgiving dinner

One adventurous chicken, willing to brave the cold, taking mincing steps on the icy snow, pausing to warm each foot high under her downy body Fourteen shiny black coated piglets, shivering in the straw and warmth of the heat lamps, waiting not-so-patiently for their Mom to finish her breakfast, so they can have Second Breakfast, and Elevensies, and Lunch and... Silently grinning alpacas, wearing the fleece that was proudly worn by ancient kings, wondering what the fuss over the cold is The sun, finally breaking over the hills, causing the world to glisten with diamonds The black waistcoat of the mountains showing through their white mantle The satin, black ribbon of the creek rippling and sparking through banks of snow Being greeted by an orange tabby cat, already impressive in his size, made twice as big by his long-haired fuzzy winter coat. His brother, crouched in the middle of the horse tank, balancing on a four-inch sheet of ice, dipping his tongue into the hole melted by the steaming tank heater Stomping on the turned over, frozen bucket of water from last night; the relief when the ice finally cracks, but the bucket doesn't Hauling bucket after bucket after bucket of water Puddles of melting snow on the bathroom floor, hay in the bottom of the tub, since this is our "frost-free hydrant" The relief when the water from the frozen kitchen faucet finally gushes forth (still waiting for that one) Praise to God that at least the bathroom water still works Farm dog doing flips and cartwheels as she accompanies you on your rounds, knowing that you couldn't accomplish anything without her Being greeted by the aged dog from her throne at the base of the stairs, where she lies guarding the children asleep above The cozy sense of security from checking on the kids, still snuggled under quilts and blankets in my darkened room, with the cat snuggled in between them (after all, when Dad is away, EVERYONE sleeps in Mom's bed) Two woodfires taking the bite from fingers, toes and cheeks, fed by wood chopped by my husband and stacked in the house to ensure I was well cared for while he was gone Frost gardens painted on my single-paned windows - not much for keeping the cold out, but they sure are pretty Ignoring the dirty floor, stained with mud from the 50 degree thaw. That was only three days ago - this is Wyoming, after all. Not ignoring the frozen horse apple the farm dog dragged into the house to chew on when not herding the cat The cheering whistle from my tea kettle, promising warmth Finally sitting down to breakfast made from eggs laid yesterday, creamy Jersey milk, homemade bread topped with Heidi's good butter and chokecherry jam harvested by my kids, milled by Chris, processed by me, and provided by the Grace of God

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