I love snow. I’ve lived my entire life on this island and can’t imagine winter without the beautiful scenery that snow creates. The quiet of nature, after a storm has passed through, is like nothing else. It is pure and clean and somehow, it sounds soft. It fills me with both peace and awe. But a blizzard? Those suck.
Gone are the days of watching the snow fall… and fall… and fall… with the glee only a small child — who is getting a day off of school and doesn’t have to shovel — can feel. After the first few inches have blanketed the earth, covering up the dirt and gray of winter, I’m all done. It’s time for the snow to stop or move on or go back to from whence it came, whatever. Just — no more.
As one of the few remaining human beings in the northern half of the hemisphere who does not own a snow blower, I watch that snow fall and feel immediately exhausted. I get tired just thinking about shoveling. Anything more than six inches and I stop watching. I don’t want to know. Just tell me when it’s over so I can pull out my bright purple snow pants. They’re a hand-me-up from one of my nieces. I certainly will not purchase pants for shoveling and I don’t ski or do any other winter sport that requires special clothing. Unless drinking wine counts. But yoga pants are usually sufficient for that activity — unless I’m drinking wine outside, but my kids are old enough to make snow forts and snowmen without me, so I don’t have to do that any more. Then I grab one of the many shovels that are all inadequate in their own way and prepare to both sweat and lose feeling in my face, at the same time.
Honestly, it wouldn’t be so bad if we just had to dig out the cars and a path to the door. I have learned to park as close to the end of the driveway as possible, so there’s less to shovel. And it’s not much further to the door from that point. Making a clearing to walk back and forth isn’t such a big thing. It’s the multitudes of pets that bring on the suffering.
One out of three dogs refuses to walk in snow. He is a delicate flower who regularly uses my porch as a toilet if there is any inclement weather. He does not tolerate wet feet, wet fur or cold of any kind. As you can imagine, wet and cold are a true no-no. Therefore, since I prefer not to clean dog waste up from inside my home, a path must be shoveled to a clearing, that must also be shoveled. As any dog owner can tell you, before relieving themselves, dogs must circle several times. No one knows why, we just know it’s true. So the clearing must be wide enough to allow for a full body spin.
And the fun doesn’t end with my rescued pups. In a land far, far away, seven chickens wait to be rescued after each snowmageddon. In our infinite wisdom, we placed their coop as far from the house as we could. Great idea on a spring morning when the windows are wide open and the girls are feeling chatty. Terrible idea when there are four foot drifts between the gate and their food dish.
This tale of winter bliss would not be complete without a nod to Stella, our 225-pound “mini” pig. Though she has an indoor bed, piled high with bedding straw, her food goes in — and comes out — in her exterior pen. When there is more than a foot of snow, her door is often completely blocked.
Did you know that pigs are very vocal? And they don’t come with volume control. When Stella is hungry, or trapped by winter’s cold hand, she has much to say. Her grunts and squeals, peppered with a few grumbles, sound like an angry, crazy lady who’s just gone over the edge. Or, like me when I find dirty socks on my DINING ROOM TABLE. We’ve reached an all-time low at the Nigro house.
So, after several hours of shoveling, clearing and salting (pet safe salt, of course) Brian and I were looking forward to relaxing. Later that evening, after the cats and dogs were fed, we sat down to a lovely dinner, a meal I nearly choked on when my 10-year-old asked for a pet fish.
“I don’t have a pet of my own,” was the plea.
“Which one of your friends got a fish?” my intuitive spouse asked.
“It’s not like that!” we were assured, “and she has a bunch. And I wouldn’t ask if you would let me get a guinea pig.”
Now just in case you’re thinking that a house with three dogs, two cats, seven chickens, and a pig might somehow benefit from another animal of any sort, that perhaps it would be a good opportunity to teach my youngest about the responsibilities of pet ownership, let me assure you that she had her chance.
You know those two cats we have? Guess who begged for a kitten? Guess who promised that she would completely care for them – feeding and watering, litter cleaning, companionship, the whole package? Guess who developed a strong gag reflex the first time she opened a can of cat food? Guess who “isn’t strong enough” to clean the litter? Guess who thinks cats are aloof and unjustly scratch children when they no longer want to be held like a rag doll?
When these tidbits of fact were brought to light during our conversation, we were informed that she had no idea our cats would be so not-fun. Of course, I see her point. I mean, what sane feline wouldn’t love being dressed up in a bonnet and bib and settled into a doll cradle? I would’ve scratched her, too.
Did I mention that we already have a fish? We have a small, striped fish that will not die. I’m pretty sure it’s older than my daughter. It once lived for an entire week inside of a filter. Yet, this child of mine has not once, not one time, ever even acknowledged that we have a fish, let alone shone interest in its well being.
If not for me, the fish would have died off long ago, because no one else feeds it. No one else cleans the tank. Brian and I share the responsibility of adding water to the tank when it gets too low, but that’s mostly because at that point, it sounds like someone is peeing in the family room and it’s super distracting.
But I’m not a heartless woman. I heard the pleas of my passionate daughter. I watched her use the magnetic tank cleaner to wipe the algae off the inside walls of the tank, without being asked. I saw her feed the fish. I listened as she spoke to it as if it could hear her. Or understand human speech. And so, I granted her wish. She became the proud owner of one small, 10-year-old, striped fish.
There was much rejoicing. And for the next three hours, she gave that fish more love and attention than it had ever seen. I think she even named it. She went off to bed, singing songs about pet fishes and bidding the little guy a fond good night.
I really hope the fish enjoyed the attention. Because that was it. The fish frenzy is over. The tank has been forgotten, the fish is, once again, nameless, and balance has been restored to our Island of Misfit Animals.
Now, if she would just ask for a cat of her own, maybe I’d get a day off from cleaning the litter.
When she was in the pleading-for-a-kitten stage, we bought and borrowed several books on the care and keeping of cats. She spent weeks spouting facts about feline health, behavior, and diet. She showed me recipes for making cat treats, in the comfort of our home. Even Reader’s Digest jumped on that train with a catnip treat recipe. Because cats need help being crazy. But, if you’re a glutton for punishment, try whipping these up.
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons dried catnip (available at pet shops and in pet aisle at most supermarkets)
1/2 cup yogurt
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl, mix flours and catnip together. Stir in yogurt, egg, honey, and vegetable oil.
Press out dough on a floured surface and cut into tiny treats using a cookie cutter (this is a real option. Just do a search for tiny cookie cutters and you will find many – even cat shaped ones) or pizza wheel. Place on greased cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for a week or in the freezer for up to three months.
Or, tell your child that she cannot have a cat. Maybe that will work out better for you than it did for us.
Laurie Nigro, a mother of two, is passionate about her family, her community, and natural living. Laurie resides in downtown Riverhead and is co-founder of the River and Roots Community Garden on West Main Street.
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