Nature at my doorstep

Whoa baby - I'm glad February is almost over. These last couple of weeks have been really cold out here in Fish Springs. On many mornings we woke up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit. On Feb. 16, our thermometer registered a negative one degree. Below zero is pretty darn cold. To verify the temperature, my husband checked the weather station at the Fish Springs Fire Station and it also indicated minus one degree at 6:30 a.m. on Feb.16. I guess that's not so bad compared to one winter night when the temperature dropped to minus 20 degrees and our pipes all froze. That was over 20 years ago. We learned from that experience to insulate the exposed water pipes with heat tape.

Better keep your pets inside. Each night when the temperature drops below 32 degrees, everything outside freezes. Our main problem is water - water in the hose lines and drinking water for the animals. Some people put heating elements in their horse troughs to keep the water from freezing while others punch holes through the ice with shovels and post-hole diggers. If you raise rabbits, you have to change their water bottles on cold days as they can easily freeze solid. We keep a large pan of water in a sunny spot on the grass for the little wild cottontails that call our yard home. We also use a plastic children's swimming pool as a water container for our chickens. It works good for dogs and ducks too.

We only have two chickens now - and both are big beautiful hens that have been good layers for several years. One is a production red and she lays big brown eggs. The other is Martha Stewart's favorite, a buff cochin that is a fluffy-feathered yellow hen that lays pink eggs. They both were molting (shedding their feathers and stopped laying eggs) this winter, but they're looking good now. Every morning when they leave the chicken coop they come knocking on our deck doors. They jump up three stairs to get on the deck and then they come up to the slider glass doors and start pecking against the glass. I throw them a little bread and food scraps and they're happy. The free-roaming yard hens use their beaks and claws to scratch in the ground in search of food. They eat grass and weeds and insects and even chase after field mice, scorpions and snakes. That's an asset in itself, but the best part about raising your own laying hens is their delicious fresh eggs. What a treat it is to pick up a large warm egg right out of the nest. When I fry one for breakfast, the yoke is big and firm and orange-colored, unlike the pale yellow ones you might get at the grocery store. We love them, and we also enjoy watching the antics of our comical chickens as they parade around the yard. I guess we really don't mind hauling warm water out to the hen house during these cold winter nights.

Hot flash: We just discovered that a new baby wild horse was born out here in Fish Springs Feb. 20 on a Bureau of Land Management hillside. The little foal has beautiful grayish-brown furry hair and a white circle on its face. We couldn't get close enough to tell its sex as the stallion looked like he would chase us away. Now there are 10 wild horses in this family, as three have left the group. How lucky we are to live here. Today, besides seeing a brand new baby wild horse, we saw a bald eagle perched atop a pole eating some breakfast. Life is good.

n Linda Monohan can be reached at 782-5802.


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