Panting Like Lizards

Reader Contribution by Sue Dick
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As I write this, I’ve got 2 fans going. One is halfway up the basement stairs and the other is at the top, angled to hopefully catch and blessedly distribute the cool basement air. Our basement is purely functional; lots of canning shelves and storage, otherwise I’d be living down there already. I’m sorely tempted anyway. The only reason I’m not, it pains me to say, is that I really, really don’t care for spiders and the basement, like any other, has it’s fair share. I’m totally a ‘live and let live’ kind of girl if they’re outside. Yes, I know how great they are, eating insects that plague us, but the fact is they always surprise me, appearing suddenly where there wasn’t one a mere moment before, and I just can’t handle that. That and their bristly legs, bodies, multiple eyes, venomous pincers, etc. Y’know.

Anyway, the heat. It’s 38C here, apparently 100F, using an online temp. converter. The first one I used told me it was 37F. Umm, I know that’s not right. I feel so bad in weather like this for all my furry and feathered animals. Apart from all the extra water I make sure they have, there’s not much else I can do for them.

The pigs enjoy the wallow I top up daily with water (they supply the rest of the questionable wallow material, but seem to enjoy it anyway), coating themselves in befouled mud and wearing the smile that Nature gave them, whether they’re happy or not. In this case, I think they are as we all know how to finish the saying “Happier than a pig in …”.

My chickens hide in the bushes. Under the small-scale canopy they watch me with their bright eyes until they deem I’m close enough to hit up for a handout, then come running towards me, necks stretched out low. I call them my jungle chickens as they materialize from the greenery to eat and then fade back in, invisible to unknowing eyes.  I recently added my new (remaining) batch of chicks (see last post if interested in the background on “remaining”) to the mix. The little peeps stay together and move about en masse, evading their elders. They have no choice at night though when my smart girls go home without being asked and into their coop so I can shut them in and the coyotes and foxes out. The little ones mill about uncertainly and while they’re not at the stage of the trained ladies already within, after a bit of herding they troupe in accommodatingly enough to take up the whole bottom row of perches.

The cows and sheep seem most bothered by the heat, which makes sense since they’re wearing either wooly coats (well, the remnants, thankfully they were shorn before the heatwave started a week ago) or fur ones. The cows (primarily black, of course) endure in placid silence. Lying under the oaks for shade they don’t begin grazing in earnest until the moon rises. The sheep have never learned their stoicism and complain loudly every opportunity they get.

I spend the mornings watering everybody and then watering my large garden, which (because I have a timer) I know takes about 65 minutes. Of course, it’s the nicest time to be outside, shortly after dawn. As of yet we’ve no mosquitoes to speak of, the air is cooler and I’m surrounded by bucolic splendor. I enjoy listening to the various birds, and the cranes calling from our marshland to the South. I enjoy seeing how the plants are growing; the anticipation of fresh garden fare is enjoyable in itself. The pigs (whose wallow is within sight of my garden) watch me and I know they’re planning what they would like to eat first, should the battery ever die on their electric fencing.

Our little farm is my own little slice of heaven. I raise the animals and care for their well-being with the ultimate goal of feeding my family healthy, ethical food, but it’s a lifestyle I enjoy, and I feel privileged every day to be working outside on it, instead of inside a laboratory (my previous gig). I’m amazed sometimes at the turns life’s path makes (scientist to farmer, for one) and I feel lucky to share a peek of the homesteading life with you. People (presumably) of like mind. There are many of us in the world, and more growing all the time.

Go out and get dirty. Even if it is too hot.

Sue Dick homesteads with her family in the Manitoban bush. More of the animals’ foibles and pictures can be read about/seen at and humorous shorts available for perusal on

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