The cows are also fully aware that winter has arrived. They stand in the northwest corner of their pasture, the corner closest to home, and wait. They gather there everyday and you can see the glimmer of hope in their eyes, the hope that Danish Cowboy or his brother will open the gate and let them go home to the pampered life of daily hay and the happiness of cow cake every other day that marks their lives in the winter months. They generally wait patiently. They are cows, after all. What else do they have to do?
The problem with an amazing autumn filled with beautiful evenings and more horse time than I've had the opportunity to experience in a great while is that it comes to an end. A brutal and cold end marked by blowing snow, temperatures that struggle to rise above zero degrees for several days and the chopping of ice in the late autumn pasture used by our cows before they return home. You don't chop ice, the cows don't drink. It's a simple equation to solve.
It's easy to get daunted by by the miles of frozen, winding river that were open water just days ago, the wind whipping across the prairie, and the knowledge that another long winter has finally arrived and we need to settle in for the long haul. You are reminded on days like this just how close this land remains to raw wilderness. You are also reminded why there is an entire closet in the basement devoted solely to winter clothing gear.
Saturday was not their lucky day to go home, though. Danish Cowboy said that they still had lots of grass to eat, but with him being a pushover when it comes to his animals, he loaded up a bale of hay for them to snack on and keep up their enegy with the onslaught of cold and snow. We do not have a bale feeder on the back of any of our pick-ups, so we load up the bale with a tractor, strap it on with ratchet belts, drive a few miles to the pasture and back up to a steep hill.
They've been known to break down the gate, though. Danish Cowboy once got a call from our neighbor to tell us that our cows were hoofing it down the Green Trail and headed the two miles west towards home, all of their own accord. As I've said before, they do dumb things, but they are not stupid creatures.
I then stand aside and watch him try to push 1500 pounds of bale off the back of the pick-up. I then get dirty looks until I put my camera down and help him push, thus making some cows very happy but missing the great action shots of the hay bale shooting down the hill with cattle in hot pursuit.
Gravity does most of the work in rolling out the hay. Cows do the rest.