First snowfall of December brings a hush in the night, as the snow muffles the sounds. Not only does the cold change the ground, the air, and the water, it physically changes the rescues here too, with the thicker fur and heavier feathers grown to help them through the winter. Staff have to layer-up to stay warm and limber in the cold as well.
The rhythm of the Sanctuary days start to change when the cold settles in. After the Winter Solstice, the public tours hibernate until Spring. Many volunteers still brave the colder weather, inspired by their love of the rescues. We are all looking forward to the light in the afternoon returning.
Pigs snuggle deep in nests of hay, and I think they only leave their cozy beds with the lure of breakfast and dinner! The chickens and guineas are very sure that snow is white lava and not to be trusted. The ducks and geese mostly traverse the snow in search of water in which to play (that would only be The Rock Bubbler fountain, when the pond is frozen over). Horses have blankets to be used in the worst weather.
Dudley, Wallace and Pal are Scottish bovine breeds who are well equipped for the snow, but even they will be sure to take shelter in a raging storm. If you did not know, the alpaca like the cold but really would like to never see any snow! Donkeys and goats are not fond of rain, cold, and snow - but the sheep seem to barely notice any of that. So many unique needs and personalities.
Caring for the rescues brings new challenges in the winter (there are plenty of different challenges in the summer too). Winter means that the snow needs to be plowed and also moved away from paddock gates so that we can get into the living spaces to provide fresh water and food on time. The older or sicker rescues need some extra attention as well. This year, the hay soaking and rinsing for equines adds some complexity, because yes, water freezes. We need to be sure all the heated water buckets and troughs are working properly, and that everyone has access to liquid water. Icy walkways or paddocks have to be salted or sanded so that no one has a problem on the ice.
The generous pumpkin donations after Halloween and Thanksliving are wonderful critter foods while they last - many are tucked away in the garage to keep them from freezing too much (we hope they last until mid-January). And our very first (untreated) Christmas tree donations arrive this week, a special treat for the cows and goats in the winter, filled with vitamin C.
Hay, bedding, vegetables and grain are all needed in larger quantities in the cold, so the rescues are extra grateful for the donors when winter requirements peak. The work of the Sanctuary takes all of us to make it successful - the crucial barn staff, the terrific board, the vital volunteers, amazing donors, the people of Sherborn, and all the supporters of the mission.
So as the snows begin, John and I wish to thank everyone who is a part of the very special place that we call the Sanctuary. You are deeply appreciated, and we are so glad you have joined us!