Bring on the Sun!

Aloha! I’ve been hanging out here in Meowi since my last post in November. I leave now and then for food and water and to use the facilities but, other than that, you’ll find me here, soaking up the fake sun.

Just hangin’ on the beach.

If you’ve ever been around cats, you know that we love warmth. We lie in sunny spots, curl up next to heaters and fireplaces, stretch out on human laps, and hang out just about anywhere else that provides heat. My heat comes in the form of an infrared bulb inside an old fireplace. It might not sound very fancy, but for a guy who used to live outdoors, it’s my own private tropical beach. And, bonus, it’s healthy! They actually use it as a treatment for cats with kidney disease, something we’re prone to.

Barn life is pretty fine.

It’s generally accepted that domestic cats descended from African wildcats. Africa = warm. Where it’s not warm is Canada in winter, especially out here on the prairies. Cats are not designed for Canadian winter, especially this cat. Overall, it’s been a pretty mild season, but mild in Alberta is still cold, especially at night.

Cold weather perk – the humans feel sorry for us and bring us canned food. So good.

Back in mid-February, it got very cold, to the point where I debated how long I could go without eating and drinking and the obvious consequences of eating and drinking. Sadly, not long. I was forced to climb the stairs to our food bowl in the loft, to the water bowl that plugs in not too far from Meowi, and the bathroom located at the back of the barn. Forty feet might not sound like a long way, but when your paws are travelling on cold concrete, it feels like forty miles!

Still not entirely comfortable with being held, but it does feel good to have my feet off the cold floor.

In the past few days, the afternoons have been warming up to spring-like, snow-melting temperatures, which makes this warmth-loving feline very happy. As much as I appreciate Meowi, it does get a bit old as winter goes on and I miss spending time outdoors and exploring inside and around the perimeter of the barn. On a nice day, I just love to sit in the open barn door and watch the goings-on in the yard. I’ll wander as far as a third of the distance to the house, but only when there are humans around. I have zero interest in becoming some coyote’s lunch.

Staying to the snow-free bits.

We’ve had another squatter in the barn this winter. T gave him Fran’s old renovated cooler and he spent his nights in there when it got cold. The humans don’t normally visit the barn after dark, but one night T came out to check on the horses because they’d been dewormed earlier that day, and when the barn door slid open, our poor wildie cousin, who was tucked into his cooler cabin for the night, nearly had a heart attack. He hit the cat door so hard it’s a wonder he didn’t cold-cock himself in the process! Silly guy. I’ve told him the humans are frightening-looking but harmless.

The cat cabin.

So, here’s hoping this weather continues and I’ll be out lying on warm, dry earth very soon.

Until next time, this is Hank, signing off from Meowi. Aloha!

Winter Wimp

This isn’t the first time we’ve posted about the weather here at the Fur-iday files, and it won’t be the last. Living in the country, especially in a winter country like Canada, makes the weather a big factor in how we go about day-to-day life.

The photo below was taken in the first few days of February. The temperature was right around freezing, the sun was shining, there was fresh snow in the pasture, and we went for a lovely walk. Within a few days, the daytime “highs” weren’t getting beyond -20⁰C (-4⁰F) and the wind made it feel like the -30s and even the -40s overnight.

A beautiful winter day in Alberta.

Despite my five winters spent in warmer places, I consider myself pretty sturdy, or at least I did until this winter. You might remember the day-camping experiences I wrote about, one in December at Dinosaur Provincial Park and the other in January in Kananaskis. Both were on what we Albertans consider warm winter days and yet both times I ended up with my teeth chattering.

So, in light of those experiences, even though I’m generally okay when I keep moving, my peeps were taking no chances and had my winter jacket on me as soon as the temperature reached -20.

Jacketed up for our daily walk.

If the jacket wasn’t bad enough, one day when we went out to feed horses, I ran off into the field to smell something enticing, and it was like there were piranha in the six inches of snow, nipping at my feet. I pulled up a paw and shook it but each time I set one down to pick up another the biting started again. I hobbled to the barn where T warmed each of my paws in her hands.

Warming up after our daily horse-feeding chores.

It happened again the next day while I was waiting to get in the car. By the time T had the Soggy Dog straightened and a few items removed from the back seat, I was doing the paw-shake dance again. It was official … I’d become a winter wimp.

Next day, the boots were on. I guess I should have seen that coming. At least I can walk in them now, not like the old days when they just felt too weird too move. (Check out this video.) Logan loved his boots, skipping and hopping when they went on. Now I’m beginning to see why.

G’d up from the feet up.

Wednesday, hallelujah, I was coat and boot free when we walked our road to the south, and T and Nollind were able to lose the balaclavas, goggles, and insulated overalls. So freeing!

At least I don’t need all the face gear.

After a mostly mild January, ten days wasn’t really so long, but it sure felt that way. I hate to say it, but this previously snow-loving dog just might be a snowbird. No slipping on icy roads and pathways, no piranha snow, no teeth-chattering picnics, and no need for dog clothing. Although, Logan did wear boots in the desert as his paws aged and got tender on the rocky ground.

Logan in his shiny new hiking boots.

So far I haven’t had to wear boots down south but then I didn’t need them in cold weather until this year. No matter how tough we intend to be when we get older, it just doesn’t seem to work that way. I guess that’s why there are so many human seniors in the desert walking on bare ground and soaking up the sunshine, because it makes life more comfortable … not to mention less hazardous.

Happy, healthy snowbirds out exploring.

For now, I’ll take the 0⁰C (32⁰F) we’re supposed to have today, about 20 degrees above coat and boots, and if it gets cold again, go back to doing a lot of this …

Ground-Horse Day

We have groundhogs in Alberta and in many other parts of Canada, but I’ve never seen one out here on the farm. We do, however, have a lot of other little critters that live in the ground, small cousins of the groundhog, and none ventured out of their holes on Tuesday to see their shadows. An early spring, perhaps?

When Canada’s most famous ground-dwelling weather forecasters, Wiarton Willie, Shubenacadie Sam, and Fred La Marmotte, all called for an early spring, horses across the province were celebrating. But then word came in from Balzac Billy, Alberta’s “Prairie Prognosticator” calling for six more weeks of winter.

The groundhogs rely on seeing their shadow, or not, to predict the timing of spring which has always struck me as rather circumstantial. Doesn’t it just depend on whether or not the sun is shining on February 2, and what does this have to do with the weather to come? Just saying.

Unlike the groundhog, I don’t have a warm burrow to hide in until spring (although our shelter is a pretty close second) so what’s coming in the next six weeks has a lot more impact on my life than his. Why they’ve been the go-to animal for weather prediction for nearly two hundred years despite the complete lack of science behind their approach is a mystery.

The closest thing we have to a “burrow” in the background.

Even Wikipedia says, “While the tradition remains popular in modern times, studies have found no consistent correlation between a groundhog seeing its shadow and the subsequent arrival time of spring-like weather.” No shit!

I, on the other hand, a horse, consider a number of factors when making my prediction— El Niño/ La Niña patterns, climate change, and the PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillation)—science-y stuff. If I wasn’t an accountant, I think I’d have been a scientist. I also consider the behaviour of local birds and animals and, most of all, my hair coat.

Checking the wind for signs of spring. Nope, not yet.

As you probably know, horses shed their coats in spring, and most do it quite reliably at the same time every year. The growth and shedding of our coats is driven by the amount of decreasing or increasing daylight. More science-y stuff. But I’ve noticed in recent years, as I’ve grown older, that my shedding varies from year to year, sometimes starting as early as February, which it has this year.

I’m shedding!

You might be thinking that my body was tricked by our mild January, and there is that possibility, but I believe that nineteen years of living in Alberta, combined with my very sensitive nature, has turned me into an equine weather forecaster, a ground-horse if you will.

So, the 2021 spring prediction from Storm the hypothesizing horse … drum roll please …

The crowd waiting in anticipation of the announcement.

🌼 AN EARLY SPRING! 🌻