Friday, February 17, 2017

Farming Friday...

What a difference warmth, wind and lots of rain can make in the volume of snow piled around the place!
A week ago, most of my backyard had about a foot of snow over most of it…Today, it’s mainly gone!

And it’s a good thing. Behind our berry field is an open field that will have potatoes planted in it this spring. The NE wind carried the snow right over that open field, and it spiraled out in the first 16 rows of our berry field. The drift was long and deep, encasing the canes in snow up 3-4 feet.

These pictures were taken a few days after the end of the storm as I couldn't easily get out there until then. If you look down the row, you can see how high up the canes the snow still is.

Not good for those little buds that are sleeping on the canes. It just might have killed them. Only time will tell on that…or on any of the other weather injury opportunities we have enjoyed.

In my estimation, which is not nearly as valuable as The Farmer’s, we have had 3 hazards this year:
1.   It was warm too long into November. When the frosty weather came, it was too big a change in temperature and too abrupt. This tends to kill the buds at the tops of the canes.
2.    We had quite a few days of very cold wind, which eventually desiccates the canes, and frozen ground, which keeps water from being available for them to take up. Usually, whole canes die with this kind of injury.
3.    Some of the canes were encased in snow for some days, or ice for a day, which breaks the canes, and freezes the buds.

Broken posts from the snow load.

So much less snow...but you can see below all the canes that are broken.

The dairy farmers have much greater work challenges than we do in the midst of winter storms, and their cows usually give less milk, or may get sick more easily when they are under weather stress. Barns have collapsed, and costs for feed and energy are definitely higher in those circumstances. I would say that all farmers take a financial hit in a storm as strong and long-lived as we had.

Some farmers know already the cost of their damages, but some of us will have to wait until the buds come out in Spring.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Finale of The Perfect Winter...

I have to admit that I had given up on a big snowstorm for the year. Usually, throughout December and January, I am hoping that any little prediction of snow will surprisingly turn into a nice big blizzard.

But this year, as February rolled around, I had quit hoping.

In fact, I had declared to The Farmer that I considered it a good winter…As if it was over…Lots of cold, some snow – real winter weather! I did mention that had we had more snow, and just a little bit of blizzard, I would proclaim it a perfect winter.

Well, I guess I can say it now: We’ve had a PERFECT winter!

The prediction of snow, followed quickly by warm rain was interesting to me, but not exciting. I had a little hope for a couple more days of cold weather when they predicted more snow on the following Monday and Tuesday. Nonetheless, I put away my winter d├ęcor and didn’t keep the food stocks up for stormy weather.

Caitlin and I had planned a big cooking day on Friday, and though it was snowing in the morning, we continued as planned. By the time we were done cooking for the freezer (19 meals! 10 different recipes!), we noticed that it might not be a nice drive home for Caitlin. Jon came to drive her home, leaving his truck to pick up the next day when the rain came.

But it didn’t! It was snowing heavily Saturday morning at our house, a little bit of snow in Lynden, and just south of town, freezing rain. It didn’t warm up all day, and the roads became challenging. Dillon, Tiffany & Emma came by and were surprised at the difference in conditions between our house and theirs. As the day went on, we decided that Dillon better help Jon get his truck home because the promised warming was not going to come. Instead, it just kept snowing. It looked like the prediction of snow for Monday was going to be a sure thing as the temp kept dropping.

It took Dillon and Jon a couple of hours to get his work truck home. Dillon had been posting information and updates for the radio station all day, and didn’t mind getting some on-the-scene reporting done along the way as he helped get Jon’s heavy, but two-wheel drive truck home.

Sunday, we woke to more snow and more wind. In anticipation of the need for Dillon to be out on the road reporting about conditions, he, Tiffany, Emma, and even Macy the Dog, moved in to our house that night. None of us wanted to think about Tiffany and Emma stuck at home alone, and Dillon stuck somewhere else.

It was good that we did, because by 2:30 am Dillon was on the road, picking up and delivering employees who couldn’t get to work or get home. He spent the entire day, until the evening news, reporting from all over the county. It was getting very bad out there!

For the next 3 days, his routine was much the same, although he could sleep in until 4am on subsequent days! At home, we settled into a nice cozy routine, enjoying Emma’s enthusiastic morning greetings, and getting plenty of exercise as we tag-teamed chasing her around the house. Though the wind was blowing quite strongly, we never lost power and could enjoy hot food and plenty of coffee, and even TV…and didn’t need to think about going anywhere. Two or three times a day, I ventured out to make sure the goats were cozy and had warm water and plenty of food. My 15 minutes of chores, only made me enjoy the coziness inside more. No suffering going on here…It’s a good time of the year to be a berry farmer. The only way it could have been better is if Caitlin and Kit could also spend the day...But we couldn't accommodate 3 horses and 3 more dogs, so Cait had to stay on her farmstead. Fortunately, she never lost power and was cozy and warm, if a bit sick with cabin fever.

On Tuesday morning, roads were drifted shut but the snow stopped for a while and the sun came out -- so plows and farmers on tractors made headway clearing the roads. By Wednesday morning, more roads were open, but very slippery as the snow was compacted. The Farmer and I dug out our old pick-up and headed into town, as we were almost out of milk…and the warning was out that we could expect freezing rain for some hours as the weather began to warm up. That’s when things get really ugly! Usually the power goes out, and roofs are in danger as the piles of snow get glazed with ice, or soaked with heavy rain, and can’t handle the load. We wanted to augment supplies before that happened.

Yes – we and about half the town of Lynden decided this was urgent, so we all waited in long lines at the grocery store. We headed out, fully resupplied, into increasing snow and wind, and sometimes couldn’t see the roadway on our way home. We could see above the blowing snow, but had no idea, some of the time, what was clear road, and what was drift.

Fortunately, The Farmer is a great driver, and we made it home just fine – despite my vehement disagreement with his choice of taking the Boundary Road, which I assumed to be untouched for maintenance. Infuriatingly, it’s condition was the best of any roads we traveled that day, and we avoided a number of challenges because of The Farmer’s route choice.

That’ll learn me!

By late Wednesday evening, we could hear rain hitting the windows. The freezing rain had begun. Most of the night, the tree on the southeast corner of our bedroom was clashing and crashing against the house as it became ice-coated and bent over.

By morning, three-quarters of an inch covered the bent-over trees, and everything else. The temperature was still just under freezing at our house, though south of here melting was beginning to take place. We were amazed that we still had power, as we heard that many did not. Our relief was short-lived when the power went out around 9am. Shortly after, we heard a loud bang like an explosion and looked out the window to see half of one our maple trees had fallen to the ground, split right down the middle of the tree! When you stepped outside you could hear the crackle of branches breaking in the continuing NE wind. The roads were once again, treacherous, and traffic that passed was creeping along. We began to hear reports that barn roofs were collapsing, trees were down, and power lines as well. This is the part of the snowstorm that I don’t like. Freezing rain after a snowstorm is, to me, the most dangerous, and when it comes, all the fun is over for me.

I was grateful when our power came back on, and the temperature moved above freezing, the ice on the road started breaking through, and the wind finally died down.

But for several days – more than I would hope for – we had a lovely winter storm…Lots of snow, cold, wind – but not as terrible as it can be – and an actual snowed-in excuse to go nowhere… Perfect, just perfect!

Oh yes – I know that my rejoicing is quite selfish, as there are consequences ongoing… We’re not sure how the berries are going to handle being encased in ice and snow drifts for days. And kiddos will be going to school far longer than they wish after a week of snow days. Some farms have immediate costs of collapsed roofs and buildings.

Already, in the midst of the storm, our generous and capable citizens stepped in to help others, whether by pulling out stuck cars, clearing driveways and roads, delivering needed supplies, moving animals and equipment under weakened roofs, helping homeowners struggling with ice dams before their house sustained damage…I know that help and generosity will continue as the needs continue.

And that’s another reason I like snowstorms and frightful weather. Adversity brings out the best in good people, and it is heartening to see them in action, and to be part of the solution wherever we can.
Current events have many complaining and bemoaning the state of our nation. It serves us well to remember that when immediate adversity threatens, we are there for each other.

And now I am completely satisfied with winter…Bring on Spring!

About Me

Needing an outlet for various thoughts rattling in my head, I've created two blogs -- One about my real life ( and one where I can vent. (