After a fairly pleasant and tolerable winter in northern Minnesota, things have taken a turn for the worse. The lovely white snow is fine, but these wind-chills-so-cold-they-feel-like-a-hundred-below are a bit too cold for me. Thirty years of living in the south has thinned my blood, and I have spent a lot of time during this cold snap under an electric blanket. As a Farm Woman, I must make sure my animals are warm and fed no matter what the weather. Barney the Chihuahua, whose gene pool is from sunny Mexico, doesn’t care for winter very much, and will hardly make it off the back porch when it comes time to “do his business” before dashing inside to curl up on the nearest lap, shivering. Although my chickens don’t like to let their feet touch the snow and stay inside, they can usually get by with just a regular light bulb and their own body heat to stay warm in their snug little coop. With almost constant below-zero temperatures, however, I added a heat lamp so they would be more comfortable. I have it on a timer, and can look out the window after dark to see the light and know they are safe and warm. Last week, it was particularly cold. Miserably, frigidly cold. Cold enough that my car barely started in the parking lot one day after an eight-hour shift at work and hardly warmed up on the 16-mile drive home. My feet were the coldest of all, since I hate to drive in boots. Not even taking the time to warm up near the fire when I got home (and knowing that if I did, I wouldn’t want to step outside until sometime in June), I changed into barn boots, grabbed a bucket of water, and trudged through the drifting snow to the coop, head bowed to the wind and dreaming of a condo on the beach in Florida. When I opened the door, the coop was dark inside and very, very cold. Somehow, the chickens had managed to fly up and unplug both the regular light and the heat lamp from the outlets, which are located on the ceiling. Their feathers were all fluffed up and they were staring at me, no, make that GLARING at me making creepy little sounds in their throats. They were cold and hungry and immediately started gathering around my legs and making it hard for me to take a step in any direction. I was surrounded. If you picture that old Alfred Hitchcock movie The Birds, you’ll get the idea. It was so cold in the coop that even the heated doggie dish that holds their water had a skim of ice over the top, the eggs were frozen solid, and there was not a happy camper in the bunch, including yours truly, the biggest chicken of them all. If I were to add the ever-rising cost of feed to the cost of the extra electricity to heat the coop, each frozen egg is worth about the same as a nice sized filet mignon. According to the weather report, we are supposed to have temperatures slightly above zero this week. As cold as it as been, that should feel like a heat wave, but I’m not turning off the heat lamp or the electric blanket just yet. I’ve learned that just like a flock of cooped-up chickens in winter, the weather in Minnesota cannot be trusted.