I am writing this column on Wednesday the 10th, and the weather outside is gray and dismal … however it is warmish and in Maryland right now we will take warmish weather no matter how it is dressed!

I was raised in Vermont and as a child I went skiing and ice skating all winter long. No, really, I did.


It didn’t matter how cold it was, out the door I went right after sunrise and I got home just as the sun was setting. And that was in the mid 1950s before we had space age fabrics. Shoot, we didn’t even have space age anything then. What we had was layers and layers of itchy wool and that was what we wore not only on the outside and but also on the inside right next to our skin.

I always admired sheep because they had to dress in wool all year round, and I didn’t know how they managed.

I could be happy all day long in truly frigid weather because I kept moving. I took a sandwich and a thermos of something that was barely tepid when I finally took a break to eat and drink and then I kept on going.

Looking back I realize that I must have been crazy. I wasn’t alone in what I was doing so there must have been a lot of us crazy kids back then. Maybe we just didn’t know any better or, and this could be it, maybe we knew that if we stayed home we would have to help with house cleaning.

Back then we had Lysol, bleach, yellow laundry soap and pine smelling fluids that could take the skin right off our hands. We had buckets of nearly boiling water and old rags and you got to crawl around on your knees cleaning with that stuff. Freezing was infinitely better than helping with housework, come to think of it.

Maybe I wasn’t so stupid after all.

While I am on the inside version of the fifties kids and their cleaning chores I am reminded of a warning for those of you who, like me, are suckers for a nice smelling home. The way that I found this out was on the internet so double check this for veracity…before you use essential oils with a diffuser in your house check to see if the oils can be toxic to your cats or possibly to your cats AND dogs. There are reports out there that several of the essential oils can be toxic to cats, in particular eucalyptus oil. Somewhere in the back of my head I have a memory of being told not to use pine-based cleaners around cats because they can be toxic so that makes sense to me. If you are going to use any scented oils around your pets or strongly in your home where your pets will be it takes only a minute to google it to see if there is a warning.

Next thing on the “Gee, is this a good idea list?” is weather related and donkey related as well. Donkeys are swell little beasts. They are affectionate, often Zen-like in their ability to impart peace to their sometimes stressed-out owners and, on the whole, they demand little in life. However in the weather that we had, and which we are to have again this weekend, donkeys have needs. For healthy young adult donkeys a warm shelter with hay inside it that is facing away from the prevailing icy winds is often enough. If there is freezing rain, those donkeys will very probably be pasted into the warmest corner of that shelter without any help from you. But if one of the donkeys in a group is shivering or is being forced out, if one of them is quite young or if one or more is rather elderly then you need to step up and make sure that the animal concerned is being properly sheltered from the weather. I hear people say, “Well, that one donkey hates to be by itself,” and the answer to that is ‘move another donkey in with it so that they can make friends’. I am a pragmatic person. Do what works as long as it is essentially humane. If you have a couple of older donkeys put little pony blankets on them and let them share a horse stall for warmth.

Any time you move an animal inside you have to clean up after it. I know that. The good thing about cleaning up after horses in the icy weather that we have had is that you can use a hockey stick and just whack the horse remainders into a bucket that is over on its side. Okay, maybe I lied a little about that, but not much.