Saturday, July 7, 2012

In the Aftermath

As the Boss headed out to the Market, I began to do the farm chores for the morning.  Neither of us knew exactly what to expect of what was going to be anything but a regular Market Saturday.  We DID know that the way to town was clear and that the animals had survived.  Any other information had completely eluded us as this point. We wondered if there would be any other vendors…or for that matter, any customers.

Without the benefit of electricity overnight, cell phone batteries were beginning to die.  I figured I could charge my phone in the car on the way to town, so we would have some way to communicate throughout the day. Neither of us realized that the wireless system was severely damaged and would cause ongoing problems for days.  When the Boss got to town, he was relieved to find that the Wharf (the area where the Market is held) was the one island of electricity in all of Staunton.  His call eased some of my concerns.   Our Market freezer would stay frozen and the band that was performing at the Market would have power. Maybe things weren’t so bad after all.

I took my camera along as I did chores.  This would allow the Boss to see what damage had occurred in the black of night. 

used irrigation tape and fencing from in front of the barn
blew UP the hill to the backyard
Shingles in backyard

no seedlings were damaged when the shingles
broke the greenhouse roof

Uh-oh…missed this in my nocturnal check.  Shingles damaged the polycarbonate roof of the greenhouse.  There are a couple of holes in the roof.  Fortunately, nothing was damaged right over the plants.  I had watered heavily the night before in anticipation of a hot day, so the seedlings would be fine until we came up with a plan, despite the fact we had no electricity for circulating fans and the well pump.

Check out the shadecloth for the hoophouse!  I guess we should be thankful for the trees.  Without them, who KNOWS where that shadecloth would have landed.

The sheep, lambs, hens and baby broilers had absolutely no issues.  The ewes did seem more flighty than usual, but they were all there and ate…so, onward to other things.  A check of the broiler pen out back revealed some damage to the top that apparently allowed some varmint access to the interior of the pen.  Yes, one broiler had been supper (or midnight snack) for something.  However, things could have been so much worse, so I cleaned up the mess and continued my rounds.

Big Catalpa tree
(or what's left of it)
As I pulled out the lane and released a HUGE sigh of relief, I noticed a tree down in the road on past our lane.  Oh dear!  A large catalpa tree had broken and fallen across the road.  It was obvious that someone had used a chainsaw on it, and pushed the mess into the ditch on the other side of the road.  That explained the noises I had heard earlier.  There was one tree down on one side of Danny’s truck and another on the far side.  I thought how lucky he was.  I didn’t notice until later that his generally garage-kept BMW was right there in the middle with a limb sticking out of the top of it! Oh, poor Danny!

Big pine in "Pinetree Paddock"
I stopped at our mailbox to mail a letter and looked back up the hill. WOW!  The biggest of the pines out front had been cracked neatly in two!  I looked again, trying to understand just what I was seeing.  Goodness, no wonder the ewes were frightened!  They had been in that paddock overnight and it was miraculous that none of them had been injured as they generally graze under the trees in the evening. Thankfully, there seemed to be no other damage.

Woody's haybarn
The trip to town was uneventful.  The damage that was visible in the daylight was far worse than it had appeared in the glow of the headlights.  Big trees were down everywhere, Woody’s hay barn had lost its roof and RG’s corn….oh, dear…RG’s corn…the whole field of corn had been snapped in half.  Ugh, I felt kind of sick. When I got to the Market, all the vendors were trading “war stories”.  It seemed that WE may have gotten off fairly easy.  There were multiple reports of hoophouse disasters…torn plastic and bent frames.  There were LOTS of trees down and many blocked roads. Very few folks had power.

As the customers started shopping for the day, the extent of the damage became apparent.  The area affected was incredibly widespread. Only later would we learn that the damage covered multiple states, not just our Valley. The newspaper had no news, as it had gone to press before the storm.  Cell service became spotty, intermittent, and in many cases, non-existent.  The reports from radio and television were inconclusive, incoherent…and in many cases…wrong.   People began relying on hearsay to keep them informed. Many folks had far more severe damage than we had sustained here on the hill.  Totaled cars, uprooted trees, and damaged housing were among the reports.  All morning, we heard sirens and saw fire and rescue rushing off to the scene of yet another calamity.  The fire trucks were only outnumbered by the loads of branches and debris headed to the landfill.

Despite all the chaos, there were many sales at the Market. We actually sold a lot of produce. The heat of the day began to wear on everyone, and the closing bell came none too soon.  As we packed up to head home, I wondered what we would find when we got back “to the ranch”.  With the shadecloth off the hoophouse, it was going to turn into a big oven very quickly with the high temperatures and the bright sunshine. That would mean the end to our beautiful lettuce crop, so time would be of the essence.

What to do with the Market leftovers?  How long could we run the freezers on the generator?  Six freezers and two big walk-in coolers and one fairly small, geriatric generator made for a real concerning combination.  We brainstormed over lunch.

If we consolidated the freezers…if we cut off one cooler…if we rationed our own electrical consumption…maybe we would be okay.  I mean, this couldn’t last more than a day or so…right?  The cooler stuff and logistical planning would have to wait.  That hoophouse was getting HOT!

Hoophouse withOUT shadecloth.
It even LOOKS hot!
When we first walked out to survey the damage, I was more than a little overwhelmed.  The wind had severed all the connections that kept the shadecloth on the hoophouse. The Boss didn’t think he had any extra rope to re-attach the cover.  The shadecloth was draped over the fence with a large portion of it had been impaled on a big poplar branch. I really didn’t see how we could salvage it.  The Boss headed off for his boden-dick stick and instructed me to remove the cloth from the barbwire fence the best I could. 

We never complete a job without Booooyyy's assistance!
Booooyyy showed up to help.

Hooray!  The boden-dick stick was long enough and strong enough and we retrieved the shadecloth.  See, some good DID come out of saving that old thing left over from the Boss’ days with the power company!  The damage to the shadecloth wasn’t quite as extensive as we first feared.  It really needed to be replaced prior to the damage, so we will just re-order shadecloth sooner than we planned. The re-attachment went rather smoothly, although the reflective heat made both of us feel slightly odd and overheated.
using the Bodendick stick to retrieve the

The shadecloth has some MAJOR holes in it, but once applied
lowered the temperature by about 20*.

On to the cooler/freezer project. After identifying which circuit controlled each of the six shop freezers, we made a decision as to how to best consolidate our electricity usage.  We quickly dumped all the stuff from the Market freezer and one other freezer into a third one.  This got us down to five freezers from the original seven (counting the Market freezer) While it wasn’t the perfect scenario, it was an improvement.

Now, what to do about cooler space? Somehow, we needed to cram everything into one unit.  Since there are well over one hundred cabbages in the reefer, the decision was fairly easy.  We got all the essentials out of the cooler and shut it down.  The leftover stuff would die a slow and painful death…but, it really needed cleaning anyway, I just didn’t plan on doing it in the middle of the season. Blech!  That wasNOT a job I was eagerly anticipating.

With the logistics out of the way, the Boss’ thoughts turned again to fuel.  Generators aren’t designed for high efficiency gas mileage. We also have a limited number of gas cans. Another trip to the gas station was in order. We knew much of Staunton was still out of power.  All of Draft had power, as ascertained by talking to our kids who live over that way.  We decided to head that direction this time. Maybe we would pick up supper on the way home.

The first gas station had cordoned off all the pumps. NO GAS!  The second station had blocked the entrance. NO GAS!  My visions of apocalypse returned to the forefront of my thinking.  The third gas station had a long line…but, gas was in good supply.  They even had a restaurant!  Things were looking up. The heat of the day had left me with little appetite but an unquenchable desire for ICE. Those young ladies making sandwiches in the hot restaurant while maintaining cheerful attitudes should have been commended.

We headed home with our gasoline and hoped to re-route the electric load so that we could watch the evening news while we ate our subs and relished our iced drinks. The news was somewhat disturbing, in that the damage was horrific and unprecedented and incredibly widespread.  But, we had gas, we were safe, the animals and crops were okay, and the generator was running. We would figure the rest of this out as we went along…because there was no other choice…


                                         “Country folks WILL survive”.

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