Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Grooming Chores

Looks like we won't be seeing a January thaw this winter.  The weather has taken a turn back to cold again but not as nasty as a few weeks ago.  We're down to six below zero tonight with wind chills of -15 to -20.  

It's late as I'm writing this and the dogs and I were startled by a loud cracking noise on the roof.  Whenever we have very cold weather, the house makes all sorts of cracking and popping noises.  The cold part of the house is contracting and something has to give, probably a joist pulling loose.  Either that, or Santa Claus is making a very late delivery. 

I spent the day grooming our little dogs, a chore I dread, especially now that they are both senior citizen canines at fourteen years of age.  I try to make the process as pleasant and stress-free as possible, but I'm sure they'd tell you another story.  Both of the dogs have congestive heart failure and I don't like to get their heart rates up too high.  

Teddy is yawning here, but this is his opinion of grooming, "Yuck!"
It's only been three weeks since the last grooming session and yet I had enough hair on the floor to make two more dogs by the time I was done.  Teddy is very stoic about the  procedure, in fact, he sits as still as a statue for almost the entire ordeal.  Pudding, on the other paw, is a squirmy little thing, constantly twisting and turning.  I'm always sweating when I get done.  The Shih Tzu breed doesn't shed, which is nice, but haircuts are a necessity at least twice a month.  

Pudding, completely worn out.
 After the haircuts, I tossed some chicken in the oven for supper and went out to ski just as darkness was falling.  It was -6 below, but there was no wind to speak of which was great.  I skied through the hosta beds and past Aaargh on my way out to the Back Eight.  

The snow this winter has been very dry and powdery, not great for cross-country, since with every step, I sink halfway to my knees in the deep spots.  Usually with the onset of the really cold weather, the snowbanks become hard and skiing is a lot of fun since you can go anywhere you want at a good pace.  

With the dry snow, I have to break trails constantly, plowing through the deep stuff one step at a time.  Earlier this winter we had rain which glazed our first snowfalls to a very slippery surface which is under the new snow, making the going treacherous.  Just as I'm mushing through the deep snow trying to make headway, I suddenly come to an area of glazing and whoosh, I'm flying forward and sometimes sideways, depending on the angle of the drift.  

Yes, it would be better to go out during the day, I suppose, but being outside after dark is an experience I have enjoyed my entire life.  Once your eyes become accustomed to the low light levels, you'd be amazed at what you can see. Everything is peaceful and calming, and the stars are like diamonds in the sky.  I scared an owl up out in the Eight, he was sitting in one of the pines and took flight as I rounded a bend.  With two perfectly silent flaps of his enormous wings, he was gone, gliding just above the snow. 

Tonight I made my usual lap around the Back Eight and then decided to follow the line fence to our western boundary about twenty acres away.  I wasn't working too hard because I didn't want to create a headwind, the cold air was already starting to make my head ache and my face freeze up a little.  

Just as I was thinking about turning back, I saw flashing lights on the horizon.  It took me some time to realize it was a farm tractor pulling the snowmobile trail 'groomer', a machine that smooths out the snow drifts and fixes the ruts in the trails.  

There is nothing like skiing on a snowmobile trail after the groomer goes through, it is pure, smooth joy.  I stepped up my efforts and arrived at the snowmobile trail just across our property line as the tractor went by.  I stayed in the shadows of the trees until the tractor was far enough away not to see me in his tail lights and headed the opposite direction toward the road.  

After breaking trails for the last mile and a half, this was like skiing on air, it was so easy.  I was thinking it was too bad I had to get back to the roast chicken in the oven; maybe I'd go another mile or two just to enjoy this experience, the cold air suddenly wasn't such a problem after all.  

I was swooshing along, having a good time, when all of a sudden I noticed lights behind me.   The tractor had turned around and was coming back on the trail he had just groomed.  Oh, boy...I really had to pick up the speed now; the tractor was still about a quarter mile away, but he was closing fast and I didn't want to get in his way.  I could have tracked over out into the field, but I prefer to blend into the woodwork whenever I can.  I don't like being a deer in the headlights if I can help it. 

Pouring on the poles, I made it to the intersection of our side road with about 100 feet to spare.  I don't know if the tractor driver saw me or not, but I then skied home in the ditch, following some snowmobile tracks.  I skied into my mother's yard, saw that she was seated comfortably in front of her TV and then headed for home back across the field.  By this time one of my shoelaces had come untied and my glasses were steamed up from the extra effort it took to do the speed-skiing, so it was time to come in for the night.  Even though it was below zero, I was sweating.  

So, this is what passes as entertainment for me on these long winter nights; running around the farm in the dark with two boards strapped to my feet.  It's supposed to snow tonight and Wednesday, so there goes my trails again, they'll be all drifted shut.  

But there's always tomorrow night.


  Time for bed.


Dragonfly Treasure said...

OH you are a brave woman!! Out there in the dark but what good exercise! My hats off to you!
I've missed checking in on you but that doesn't mean you're far from my mind. Life has just been crazy busy. Trying to catch up with what I've missed in blogland ;)
Take care and be careful out there

Dragonfly Treasure said...

OH you are a brave woman!! Out there in the dark but what good exercise! My hats off to you!
I've missed checking in on you but that doesn't mean you're far from my mind. Life has just been crazy busy. Trying to catch up with what I've missed in blogland ;)
Take care and be careful out there

Pamela Gordon said...

You wore me out Karen! I don't know how you do it. And I'd be scared to death to go out in the dark alone. Do you have coyotes there? Do you take a cell phone with you just in case you fall or get hurt? I'm such a cautious nutcase. lol I'm glad you enjoy your dusky ski runs. It's good for you. Your dogs are so cute and looks as exhausted as I feel.

Junebug said...

I'm so impressed that you are out there exercising like crazy. All I do in the evening is stay inside and sit! And it's only in the thirties, ha-ha! You go for it girl!!!!

sharon malueg said...

Way to go Karen. I give you tons of credit for braving the cold and it was cold last night. The nite is a pretty time, but I would probably have to carry a flashlight just in case!! Nice job on Teddy and Pudding, poor Levi only gets done every other month, and if I do him in between the groomer he stays home because he's to embarrassed to go any where!!

Alison said...

Wow! It sounds like it was so peaceful at first. I love being out in my back yard after dark too, but we have raccoons that like to play in the stream, and dig up grubs from the lawn. I really don't want to come face to face with them (I did once). So many of our winter nights are cloudy, I wouldn't see much up in the sky anyway.

Carol said...

Sounds like a delightful evening ♥ I really need to get outside more in the winter but I don't ...my tolerance for cold has dropped to below zero and I stay inside all bundled up. We've had more snow than normal around here...which is still much less than what you get. Skiing is something I have never tried at all but always thought sounded like fun.

Jennifer said...

Hi Karen, My dogs hate being groomed. I try to be gentle, but they think it is torture. I love the descriptive "running around the farm in the dark with two boards strapped to my feet" but that what cross-country skiing is. Glad you eluded the tractor.

Anonymous said...

I agree with others, you are brave to ski alone at night. I would be worried on the coyotes too. Nice the owl flew out. That is one thing I really like about skiing, all the wildlife. We were -7 last night, so I know how it must have felt out there. I was out taking photos at night (under street lights)and the wind was brutal. Your dogs look very happy sleeping inside on the warm couch.

El Gaucho said...

That's quite a cross country skiing adventure indeed. You're an impressive winter sporting enthusiast! And great pictures of the pups, they do look like energetic little beasts indeed from the comfy confines of the couch.

Karen said...

Hi Deb, good to hear from you! Glad things are going well; I know hos busy life can get.

Hi Pamela, yes, I carry a cell phone just in case. We hear coyotes once in awhile, but I've never run across one. Yet.

Junebug, I'm just warding off the dreaded Cabin Fever. Carl doesn't want to live with a case of "Here's Johnny!" from the Shining,

Sharon, I probably should carry a flashlight, come to think of it. Thanks about the dogs, but to tell you the truth, I'm sure part of the reason they dread grooming so much is due to my horrendous haircuts. Levi is such a beautiful dog!

Alison, I'm no fan of raccoons either, but around here they are more timid. Out in the country, high speed lead poisoning is a real threat to them and they know it. I did almost step on a skunk this fall, though. Luckily, he was more afraid than I was and forgot to raise his tail.

Carol, I'm glad my thyroid disease allows me to go outside, because if it didn't, I would be a total basket case come April when we finally thaw out. I do bundle up at night, though, it's been so windy and the house is drafty.

Jennifer, I'm glad someone else's dogs act the same way. Sometimes they can almost give me a complex when they look so pathetic and crawl under the table to escape the dreaded bath.

Donna, I was out again tonight and the wind was awful, it certainly does cool you down fast. I can't wait to see your photos.

El Gaucho, yes, they are really energetic, aren't they? That's the extent of their frenzied activity lately. As far as winter sports go, skiing is my A game. Ok, my only game.