By Mike Johnson
Morning temps are in the 40’s. Ribbons of cloud hug the surrounding mountain peaks. Leaves are turning the aspens yellow.
Deer season is fast approaching here on the mountain.
We don’t shoot them.
We feed them.
Provide a safe locale.
Coo sweet nothings to the ones who come close.
We have a 15-year relationship with the herd.
They return from high elevation in November with their June babies. They winter on and around our property for the next six months. Depending on the year, the herd numbers 20 to 50 animals.
They have delicate, changing digestive systems so we’ve had to educate ourselves. Ideally, you let them forage for themselves.
In reality, harsh winters require a bit of assistance. We’ve determined the right mix of alfalfa/hay roughage, with the occasional treat of high-protein horse pellets.
Yesterday, we filled the hay shed. It’s fulfilling to check another winter preparation off our list.
The woodpile is already full. The pantry is always our backup grocer. Twenty-five miles from town, you learn how to be self-reliant.
Retired, we can handle being snowed-in. In fact, this winter, we’re clearing our schedule of optional appointments for 30-day blocks of time.
We want to relax into the daily freedom of just snuggling into the homestead.
We had to put up hay for many years to get here.
Now we can spend an uninterrupted month reading by firelight, under the lap blanket and purring cat.
It was worth the journey.
If I had it to do over again, I could get here ten times faster. That’s the magic of knowledge, perspective and experience.
But I’d never wish the journey would complete by an immediate snap of the fingers.
It’s way too much fun putting up hay.
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