It never fails that as the days get shorter, my mood gets grimmer. Every winter, there’s something that triggers a full-on case of the winter blues, and every winter it seems it’s something a little different, but it comes just the same. It’s as if the lack of sunshine makes it impossible for me to handle the bad stuff of life with the grace and faith that comes a little easier when the days are warmer and the breeze is gentler.
Whatever tips the dominoes of my descent, I’m usually in a pretty deep funk by January. This is the second year in a row that the aforementioned funk has halted book production. (Sorry guys - didn't meant to slow down Vance's stories so much.) Making books is enough to leave me wrung out - it feels an impossibility when I’m starting from a place that’s already dark.
Any other time of year, when things get rough, I can turn to my Bible, to prayer, to worshiping God, and the waves of life don’t beat me about so badly. In winter, I tend to turn to Regency and Victorian-era England. (My parents asked my eldest how I was a few weeks ago. His reply: “She’s pretty deep in Jane Austen’s world right now…”) At first it soothes me, but it can become a little manic if I let it.
It doesn’t help that January is a miserable, cold, nasty month in Missouri. Usually you can count on December and February to each give you at least a few days of decent weather each. But January is just biting cold, gray, windy, blustery, miserable and gross. Have I mentioned I really dislike January?
But this most hated of months does mean the arrival of seed catalogs, along with their pretty glossy promises of lush summer gardens. I can lose myself for hours sifting through the pages to put together my wish list. And when the total from that makes my eyes water, I narrow it down. And then I narrow it down again. And again. Aaaand again. Four or five passes in, I get my total to a number my husband can live with and place my order. Which means my seeds arrive mid-January, giving me two weeks to sift through the packets and dream and plan before it’s time to start getting serious about seedlings. By then, you can practically taste spring.
After last year’s terrible winter was so hard on our sweet baby goats born in January, I was determined to keep my girls from breeding for January babies. But one of our does wasn’t bred on the property (so I wasn't in control of when she bred) and the other, well, I’m still not sure how that little hussy managed to find her way out of the pasture to the buck pen, but she did. So I once again wound up with a doe bred for January 5 and one for January 10.
As the day approached, I eyed the weather forecast, not at all surprised to see that the one window of particularly nasty weather hovered over the due-date window for my girls. It’s been a flurry of activity around my house, preparing for the little ones’ arrival. We were determined to give them the best possible chance at life despite being born in the yuckiest of months.
As my girls started showing signs of delivery, my husband, our oldest son, and I started rotating shifts to keep an eye on the does so they wouldn’t deliver alone in the middle of the night.
To fully appreciate what’s going on, you have to know that Snickers, my son’s doe, is the farm favorite. She’s a sweet, friendly, laid-back little goat that charms everyone who meets her.
Cinnamon, my darling girl, is… contrary. She’s the doe that lets Dylan get the milk bucket full before she turns to him, smirks, and kicks it over. She was wild as a fox hair when I got her for basically free because I was told she would never even let me touch her. Now, she’s our herd queen and the apple of my eye. She’s kind of a punk to other people, but she gives me kisses and loves for me to scratch her neck. But I know my girl (the aforementioned Houdini-hussy): if there is a way to keep me on my toes, she’ll give it a whirl.
So as we approached the absolute worst day in the forecast this week, it was Snickers who had her twins in the last of the sunshine on the last reasonably warm day, giving me time to help her dry them and get them fed and into warming barrels before temperatures plummeted.
Cinnamon? She gave birth in the 1-hour window between checks during the absolute coldest moment of the coldest night this week. My husband checked her at 11 and there was no sign of labor. By midnight, I was frantically calling for help to towel off her twins before we lost them to chill.
I haven’t slept in days and I’ve pleaded with God to please let all of our babies live through this cold snap, but we’re the happy goat parents to four more babies after a whirlwind two days. Of course, three boys and one girl. Oy, the boys.
And suddenly, all the junk that sent me into a tailspin in December doesn’t seem to matter. It’s hard to be sad in the face of such pure and sweet new life.
So I think my goal for 2015 is to build a big, heated barn for my goatie girls so they can have all the January babies they want to have, because they’re the perfect cure for the winter blues.
Rolling hills that had been vibrant green just weeks ago were now muted in tone, as if they were taking a deep breath before bursting into the song of fall.