It's Anarchy on the Farm

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Derecho is Coming!

     Run for the Derecho shelter! Oh wait, we don't have one. As a matter of fact, I had never even heard of a derecho until after it hit us. In tornado prone areas, tornado shelters are common and plans are in place to warn residents to seek shelter. Events like this are so rare here that we just don't have warning system or plan of action. Derechos are sometimes called "straight line tornadoes" that have high force winds of 80-90 mph; they are often compared with an F-1 tornado. Those of you from the midwest probably laugh at that, but here in Appalachia we never saw it coming. At 6:00 pm we went to the farmhouse to finish removing on old chimney and cover the opening. When I said we had no idea it was coming, I mean we really had NO idea. Mike was on the roof when the winds started picking up. As it continued to get worse we abandoned the idea of fixing the roof and got in the car. But it was too late to leave, tall trees were being bent to the ground and limbs were crashing down around us. We drove out in the middle of the field and watched the storm with the kids. After it was over we were stuck at the farmhouse; ten trees were blocking the road just between us and our neighbors. We were blocked in both directions and we had no electric at the house, no food, no water, no blankets, and 2 small children. We called my mother-in-law and she said her husband just left with a chainsaw to come get us. Two hours later we could hear chainsaws. My husband's step dad and 2 neighbors he found along the way were freeing us!
Just one of the huge trees blocking our road
     Our family spent 9 Days without electric and some of our family and friends are still without it. The storm took down trees that knocked down electric poles and snapped lines everywhere across the tri-state area (WV, OH, & KY).  We are already working towards living a more sustainable life, but 9 days without electric made us realize how truely gridlocked we are! The storm was followed by a horrible heat wave with 100+ degree temperatures and high humidity. Since we don't own a generator, we couldn't even run a fan and it was pretty miserable. Even after the sun went down it was like the heavy air just held the heat making temperatures linger in the 90s well into the night. 300,000 people in West Virginia, and more in Ohio and Kentucky were without electricity. The outage was so widespread that there was an ice shortage that followed and ice was not available anywhere near us until day 6 of the outage. There was a 45 minute wait for gasoline as people rushed to fill their generators and  people were clearing the store shelves of bottled water, propane tanks, candles, gas cans, and coolers. Wal-Mart was an absolute madhouse! 
The roof of a neighbor's barn hanging on a power line
     And things continued to go downhill. We have well water, so we were without water from day one but those with city water still had water available in the beginning. By the second day, the city water supply in one town beside us was depleted and the boil water advisory started. How do you boil water when the electric is out and you have an electric stove? And we're in the middle of a drought so there is a burn ban in place prohibiting outdoor fires, it really leaves little options. We were going to my mother-in-law's house for water but as I was there filling a few containers, the neighbor came by to let us know that the water was shut off in town and whatever we could run out of the line would be the last of the water until power was restored. And this was only the 4th day of the power outage. They are still without power as day 12 slips away although the city has power so the water is back on.

     During the outage, home robberies were occurring in both rural and urban areas. Generators left unattended running outside were being stolen at an alarming rate and a full gas can sitting outside was a definite no no. With no phones to call for help it was an every man for himself kind of scenario. The National Guard was using generators to charge the phone lines to rural parts of the state, that was until someone stole the generators and we were without phone service again. It sure didn't take long before I realized how relieved I was to know we own guns and ammo! Not that it came down to that for us but if we had went a few more days without power you just never know how desperate people will get.

     It was then that it hit me how truely helpless we were without electricity. We like to think that our family is more resourceful than most and that we could live without power if we had to but clean drinking water is an absolute necessity! And even though we have a well we still need power to get the water to us. In Akron I collected rainwater but we just never set it up here since this is only a temporary home. Oh how that 55 gallon bin of water would have came in handy last week! The drought has left the little creek completely dry and what water is in the big creek is stagnant and nasty. That means I had to find water somewhere for all of these animals. And oh boy did they go through the water! Every time I walked outside the ducks were yelling at me and waddling over to their empty bucket. A small pond on the hill is needed for the ducks for times like this.
     On day 5 Nebulous the rabbit quit drinking. I knew he was in distress and needed an ice bottle to lay with but there was no ice to be had anywhere so I tried to make more shade over his cage. It wasn't enough and there was no refuge from the heat; he didn't make it through the day. Everyone else made it out of the heat wave alive and there were even a few new lives started. On the morning of day 7 I walked outside to find a little chick chirping away in the yard. I picked it up and checked it out. It couldn't have been more than a day or two old and I knew Muffy had a nest somewhere so I set out to find her. The heat index was 110 degrees and the humidity was horrid, but I toughed it out and crawled around under the building and even moved part of the woodpile looking for her. All of the chickens seemed intrigued by the new arrival and followed me around the yard chattering back and forth. After an hour or so I gave up the search and took the little chick inside to get it food and water. All I could think is that maybe Muffy had died in this heat and this little guy miraculously hatched and ran away. Muffy is our favorite hen so I knew the kids would be devastated if something happened to her so I went out looking again. With all of the other animals relaxing and dust bathing under the shade tree, it was much quieter than before and I could hear little peeps coming from up near the road. I walk up the bank and there's another chick, just like the first, standing in the road. I run out and get the little guy and start looking around road. Sure enough, there was Muffy! She has made her nest in the weeds right beside the 2-lane road. As one chick would run out she would rush out to herd it back and another would take off. There were chicks running everywhere. I retrieved a pet carrier from the building and the neighbor and I rounded up Muffy and the babies. There were 13 in all after we scoured the weeds on the bank. I'm so glad that the first little guy rolled down the hill and into the yard or I never would have went looking and who knows how many of them we would have lost. Muffy seemed very relieved to be tucked into the pet carrier with the babies and drank an entire quart jar of water without stopping. Who knows how long she had set by the road without food and water too afraid to try to move her brood of chicks. She is doing great with her first clutch of little ones and is going to make an excellent mother. 
Muffy teaching her chicks to forage in the yard
     The incubator was full when the power went out so we lost all of the developing chicks, but on Monday the hatchery chicks arrived in the mail! I loved the Polish chickens that I had but they are not east to find locally so I ordered the "Top Hat Special" from McMurray. It's a mixed box of 25 chicks that will be Polish (Buff, Golden, Silver, Black, White, or White Crested Black), Sultans, Crevecoeurs, and Mottled Houdans. I also ordered a dozen Ameracaunas as well just for good measure.
Aren't they just the cutest with their little top knots?

     And then the guinea hen reappeared from her month long leave with 21 little keets in tow. So the yard is full of little ones and I think it's just awesome! I feel very lucky for 3 broody hens and one broody guinea all in the same year. I know that I can hatch eggs in the incubator and brood them myself but it's so magical to watch the mother hens teach the little ones to hunt for insects, scratch the dirt to unearth food, and attempt to dust bathe.
Guinea hen with 21 keets
     So things have returned to normal after the storm, but I'm more aware of our dependence on electricity and looking for ways to lighten that dependency. A water catchment system is high on the priority list as well as some sort of generator. Hopefully a solar or natural gas generator, but there is a lot of research and planning needed before we make such an expensive purchase. We will definitely be more prepared next time, but there is a long road ahead of us to get there.


1 comment:

  1. Wow, just wow, about the looting. I worry about my elderly relatives still living alone down the holler. Glad you escaped relatively unscathed.