When I glanced out the window and saw the large shavings truck pull up to our barn to dump its load in the shavings shed, you’d have thought it was the Second Coming. I could almost hear the trumpet sound and the heavens sing. It was that welcome and long anticipated.
We’re in the middle of a wood shavings shortage in the northwest and have been for over a year. Even pellet stoves are going wanting. Here we are in the land of the evergreens, of thousands of acres of woodlands, and in the old days, a saw mill on every corner. Many factors have threatened the lumber industry in our part of the country: less expensive lumber coming down from Canada, the spotted owl and the Endangered Species Act, and most recently, a new housing slump because of the economic down turn. The mills shut down for extended times so the shavings stockpiles have evaporated quickly. In addition, the mills have decided that their own shavings can convert to pretty decent fuel for steam powered machinery, so they are keeping it and burning it themselves, when previously, it went to whoever would haul it away–free.
I always try to plan ahead for when I’ll need my next truckload of shavings for bedding the horse stalls. A two week lead time used to work pretty well, and by the time I’m scooping my last wheelbarrow load to haul to the barn, the truck will drive in ready to dump the next mountain for me, usually lasting about 2-3 months, depending on the time of year and how many horses we have.
I called in early December, knowing I’d need more shavings soon, but hadn’t run out yet. The local friendly shavings guy said he was out of the business. It’s not looking good, I was told. Orders were backing up and the stockpiles were gone. They were totally dependent on the mills starting back up after Christmas and I was totally dependent on them.
Meantime I was starting to be very careful in my stall cleaning strategy. No more wasteful scooping of shavings and poop–I needed to filter out the good shavings as best I could. It easily doubled the cleaning time, this “panning for poop” approach. But I stretched the shavings I had another week or so.
Then I had to go buy baled shavings at the feed store to tide me over. This is an outrageously expensive way to go–easily 6x the cost of bulk shavings hauled in by truck. Pretty soon, even the baled shavings were sold out and none anticipated any time soon. Then we resorted to straw bedding–a truly desperate measure. Cleaning straw beds in horse stalls is one of the most difficult jobs as the horse manure just sinks to the bottom of the straw bed and has to be searched out like so many brown Easter eggs. Straw makes Haflingers happy though–it is like a constant brunch underfoot.
So I was near despair and so were all my local horsey friends. Then my ship came in from British Columbia today. Yes, it is costing 150% more than it did when I last had a truckload hauled in a year ago. But it is sweet fluffy shavings and it made my day.
When I came home tonight, it was pure joy to put on my muck boots and head to the barn. I started in on the cleaning process and realized that two months of scrimping had left these dirt floor stalls in a sad and mired state. They are not damp, but they are in dire need of a deep clean that I cannot even begin to do–it will take weeks to dig out all the old stuff so the new bed can be spread. All I could really do was put on a coating of fresh clean shavings tonight on top of the layers, knowing full well they will be mixed up thoroughly and spoiled by the morning. However, over time, I will manage to get back to the clean beds I once had.
We can tend to accumulate a lot of muck in our lives, never really doing a deep clean when it is needed. We get pretty used to sleeping in it, eating in it and not even noticing it after awhile. But the day when fresh new clean stuff arrives in our lives, how do we react? Just put it on top of the muck and hope no one will notice what is still underneath? Abandon the old stalls and build new ones, ready for a fresh start? Or dig down and really get rid of the old dirt, working as long as it takes to remove it? What an amazing thing to have a chance to clean it all up!
All I know is that I celebrate that there is still renewal that can come into my life when I least expect it or deserve it. I can start again and hope for the best. There is nothing like a sweet fresh bed to rest in.