I decided to start with the easiest animal to tend to first. The dog was simple. Pete got a summer haircut and spent very little time outside. He was quite happy to oblige and spent most of his time in the farmhouse, avoiding the intense heat and humidity right outside the door. Yes, he missed his usual time playing ball in the backyard and chasing wildlife to the boundaries of his fence, but even he didn’t want to be out in this heat. He flopped onto his bed, selected a favorite chew toy and waited for the heat to subside just like the rest of us.
Herbert, the French Angora Rabbit, was struggling. Angora fiber is rated to be at least seven times warmer than sheep’s wool, and he is covered from head to toe in its thick blanket. We had already harvested what fiber we could to help him stay cool this summer. We took him frozen bottles of water every few hours to give him a chance to lay against them and cool off. It became clear on the second day of the heat wave that it wasn’t enough. He was panting and begging for a little relief. Five minutes later, he and his hutch had been transferred from the barn to the garage, where it was only 80 degrees. It was just the relief he needed. He stretched out and took a nap, content with the fact that he had escaped the heat. I took a deep breath, happy with the knowledge that two of our animals were safe from the heat.
Our Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats were showing signs of growing up in New England rather than Nigeria. They were panting and spending the bulk of their time in their stall, eating hay. It wasn’t too difficult to give them the same treatment that our dog, Pete, received. Out came the clippers and in under 30 minutes, I had removed enough hair to give them a little relief. They were noticeably more comfortable as soon as their haircuts were complete. I was confident that with ample cold water and a little extra attention, they would be able to endure the next few days.
I went back into the house and went straight to the refrigerator. I had more cold fruit, but that had only provided temporary relief. I needed something more powerful. It was time to look in the freezer. The answer was staring me right in the face: fruit Popsicles. I removed the Popsicle stick and cut them into small bites with a paring knife. Then I added a few handfuls of frozen blueberries for good measure. I took the dish out to the chickens’ run and hoped that they wouldn’t be hesitant to try my frozen concoction.
I am happy to report that the temperatures have finally returned to normal summer levels in New England. The forecast for this week promises temperatures almost 20 degrees cooler than last week. I am relieved and I know that all of the animals living here will be too. The chickens have returned to their daily routine of scratching about in their yard and enjoying the sights and sounds of the farm. Each time I walk by, they anxiously gather at their bowl in the hope that I am bringing them a frozen treat to enjoy.