Last night I watched the car thermometer drop below zero as I drove Faith home from her hockey game at Deerfield. At the high point in Blandford, it dipped to -5, and the car didn’t calculate for wind chill. When we pulled into the garage, the house beckoned, glowing and cozy, but Faith and I ran to the barn, sliding open the doors only enough to sneak through and closing them behind us. Sometimes I wish the barn was bigger, but even on nights like this, with the doors closed and all the horses inside, the cozy barn must be at least twenty degrees warmer than outside.
Horses were created with an amazing internal furnace system. They have up to seventy feet of intestine, and digesting hay creates an internal heat source designed for the worst nature can dish out. In frigid temperatures, our goal is to keep that machine running on full throttle, with as much hay and water as a horse can consume. So we checked one more time, and replenished the hay piles and water buckets. The four barn cats were curled into one pile in the hay loft, having created a nest for themselves and calling a truce to any territorial animosity for the sake of warmth. Carlos had added an extra layer to each horse’s blanketing, so there was nothing left to do.
We slid the barn door open a crack and the wind shrieked around the corner like a waiting predator. Slamming the doors behind us, we ran for the house. The wind continued unabated as I crawled into bed.
It must have been the sudden hush that wakened me at 2:00 am. Coyotes frequently wake me in the middle of the night, or a summer thunderstorm. But there was only silence, and it confused me for a minute. I got up and looked out the window toward the barn. It was bathed in the light of a nearly full moon, and all was serene. It was only then that I realized that the wind that had dropped our windchill into Arctic temperatures had abated, and we were on the other side of the storm. One more day of a long Hudson Valley winter over.