Saturday, January 3, 2015

Winter memories, winter stories

The farm in winter

For three years just prior to my move to the island, I lived on a small farm above the Fraser Valley, where I cared for 18 animals: four dogs, a cat, an alpaca, and a family of 12 potbellied pigs that I fostered for Hearts on Noses sanctuary.  I lived alone and taught full time, life was busy, and winters were never easy  - lots of snow, frozen pipes, power outages, an old  barn with no light or heat and more than one family of rats.  Keeping the animals safe and healthy, the home and barn in good repair, and the long driveway and paths to the barn cleared of snow, were daunting tasks. And yet those years provided me with the richest experiences, the greatest laughs,  the sweetest memories. Those years were among the best years of my life. 

Many of my stories - both fiction and creative nonfiction - emerged during that time.  A lot of those stories are a combination of both genres, stories based on real events but embellished with imagined conversations with the animals. Looking back over my stories, this tenth day of Christmas, I realize there are several I have never shared on the blog.   This is one such story - written after a cold winter's day when the pigs were tired of confinement and I spent the morning talking to them and singing to them in the barn until.....well, read it for yourself.  Enjoy. 

The Piglets and the Wintry Day
(c) Jean Ballard, 2008

The piglets were getting restless.  They had been confined to the barn for nearly three days now.  First there was all that cold fluffy white stuff outside.  Brrrrrr!  Then there was a foot of wet slushy dirty white stuff, so heavy Foster Mama couldn't even get the barn door open.  Brrrrrrr!  And now there was torrential rain cascading like a waterfall over the doorway, creating very wet, sloppy, cold muck in the yard outside.  Brrrrrrr!  Brrrrrrrr!  Brrrrrrrr!

Foster Mama had served their meals and treats inside, so at least they weren't hungry.  But twelve piggies in one stall (not counting their potty area) didn't leave much room for running around exploring as piggies like to do. 

"Pwease, Foster Mama,"  said Whisper, "can we come into the big part of the barn to play?"

"I'm sorry, Whisper," replied Foster Mama.  "The big part of the barn has too many things that greedy curious little piggies might get into, like bins of food and pallets of pumpkins, bales of alfalfa and hay and straw, and even garbage cans full of garbage that might make you sick.  I will tell you a story instead."

So Foster Mama sat in the straw with the piglets all around her, and told them the story of how their papa pig and pregnant mama pig came to live there after being rescued by the SPCA.  And then she told them stories about each of the dogs, and stories about the cat and even a story about Martin the alpaca.   

But still the piggies were restless. 

"Pwease, Foster Mama,"  said Swizzle, "would you turn off the big taps in the sky and turn on the big round ball that warms up the earth, so we can go outside and play?"

"I'm sorry, Swizzle," replied Foster Mama.  "I may be a pretty smart foster mama, and I may be a pretty handy person with tools, but only the Great Spirit, the Creator of all life, can turn off those big taps and turn on the big round ball called the Sun.  I will sing you a song instead."

And then she sang the Sunshine Song to them - the papa pig's favourite song.  "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray….." she sang.

"Oooooooh!" said the little piggies.  "If Papa is your sunshine, and Mama is your sunshine, and all ten of us little piggies are your sunshine, then you have LOTS of sunshine, don't you, Foster Mama?"

"Yes" said Foster Mama.  "All you piggies are my sunshine and warm up my very soul and fill my heart with happiness.  And that turns all my cold, rainy, snowy, muddy, slushy, dark days into springtime!"

And the piggies smiled proudly to think that they could turn a cold wintry day into springtime for their foster mama. 

And suddenly sweet little Fizzy ran to the barn door and stared outside and said,  "Oh!  Look!  The rain has stopped!" 

And then chubby little Tom ran to the barn door and stared outside and said, "Oh! Look! There is a lovely bit of blue sky up above!"

And soon  bouncy little Toddy ran to the barn door and stared outside and said, "Oh!  Look!  The big warm ball in the sky is back!

And all the piggies ran outside and tore around the yard and dug in the dirt and checked out the shelter that Foster Mama had built for the alpaca.  And they sang and danced and celebrated the freedom of being outdoors in a place where they were safe and loved and well fed, and where snow and slush and rain could all disappear because a bunch of little piggies brought so much sunshine into their Foster Mama's life.

~The End~  

Iz this icecream?

Belle and Oliver, two of my dogs,
on a wintry day at the farm


CarolineA said...

That brings back so many memories of reading about the foster piggies, having met them, watching them have the zoomies ...
You talking about making breakfast for piggies, lol

EvenSong said...

This is about the time I started following your blog. Brings back so many memories!

Black Jack's Carol said...

I've enjoyed your return to blogging, Jean. So nice to see Bel and Oliver here and I love those falling snow flakes (pictures only, though). I used to read your blog and worry for you, with the backbreaking work, but I also knew you loved the life. This story reminds me of one when you sang to the piggies. I hope my memory is serving me correctly. Beautiful image in my mind of them gathered around you.