This season always brings uncertainty and shifts in weather, and with that, the hurricanes. Here in the North and the middle of the peninsula, we are usually sheltered from the worst of the winds that devastate the coasts. The last really intense hurricane season I’ve experienced was the fall and late summer that Mirin was born. He came between two hurricanes that knocked out our power for weeks.
The week before last, when hurricane Irma began looming over us, all the stuffy summer weather departed suddenly. The essence of autumn lay over everything instead, with lazy breezes and blue sky laced with flying silver- lined clouds. It stood in sharp contrast to the busy panic that held us humans in thrall, the maddening crush at gas stations, the grocery carts piled high with perplexing mountains of frozen dinners. We’ve only had widespread electrification and gasoline powered vehicles for less than 100 years in human history, but not having these things now strikes fear into our hearts.
For us a big concern was our freezers that store our supply of meat for the year, and our well, which supplies all our livestock with water. Food is not so much of an issue when it keeps itself fresh by a constant living supply- each day we get eggs and fresh milk, and along with our stores of dry goods, pumpkins, and the last few vegetables alive in the summer garden and the salted pickles, we knew we did not have to worry about stocking up on canned goods. We also cook and heat water with a wood stove, a little bit of energy independence that we cherished in the wake of the storm.
Our biggest concerns before the storm were filling up sufficient water to keep us and the animals supplied for at least a week, sheltering the tender fall starts for the garden, stocking up on dry firewood, harvesting the dent corn, and securing the chicken shelters. In the case of water, all the hideous plastic 55 gallon containers that Ethan has been collecting, with no clear purpose, in front of the barn came in great use and practicality. We filled up gallons and gallons, and the storm filled up even more with the heavy rain.
It was the day of clothilde’s 5th birthday that the storm came over us. The worst of it didn’t reach us until the evening, giving us just enough time for a quick celebration with family. That afternoon and evening, the wind would whip up the trees and scatter the heavy rain drops, but it was no worse than many of the daily summer thunderstorms. It wasn’t until the dead of night, at about 12:30 am that I woke to two strange sensations. The first was both cats curled up on me, purring heavily. The second was the sound of the wind. I slept through the Storm of The Century as a small girl, and I remembered my mom comparing the sound of the wind to a train the next morning.
That night, as I lay with my teeth chattering under the purring kitties, feeling very small and exposed, the wind sounded to me like pure fury. From far away in the darkness it began, roaring through the tree tops, louder and louder and louder until it shook the young live oak trees that grow around us, whipping them up into a flying frenzy, and spinning the rain drops down in a drumming torrent on the roof.
Gust after gust thundered down at us, sounding more and more furious, for three hours, until at last the wind began to subside, and I drifted back to sleep with one of the cats kneading my shoulder.
We were awakened later by Teasel pushing a container of colored pencils off the table in a hideous crash that jolted me awake with the impression that a tree had just fallen through the roof. At this sign of consciousness, Tabitha began mewling annoyingly, clearly indicating that both cats were ready to be tossed out into the hurricane.
The storm was nearly over by then. The sky was pearly and the rain was only an occasional sprinkle. The deck and the new patio looked as if they had been mulched with fresh green leaves. They were completely covered by small branches, leaves and twigs that had been broken from the live oaks in the wind.
We made the rounds that morning, to see how all the animals fared through the storm. No one was super thrilled about all the rain.
The cows were already out grazing the extra-large pasture we gave them so they could move to where they needed to be safe during the storm. The chickens were all safe, but bedraggled. We startled the pigs awake from a hole they had dug during the storm. I think they got less sleep than we did that night. There was only one casualty – one of the meat chicks had gotten wet and chilled and didn’t survive. Another small, runty one was also wet and shivering. I put it in a small cardboard box, and set the box on the warming shelf of the wood stove. It soon dried and was cheeping happily again. Not bad for having over 100 of them to care for. We didn’t even lose a single turkey chick, and they are famous for dying at the drop of a hat. As we made the rounds, we were surprised that there was only one tree down on the whole 40 acres, and it didn’t even fall on a fence. Only a few large branches were down. The “pond”, which rarely holds water, was completely full, but we were spared any flooding. We are so thankful.
We were all set to muster through no electricity for weeks, but it was restored in only a few days. In the meantime, we heated stored water on the wood stove, the laundry pile built itself into a mountain again, and we managed as best as we could with no running water.
The 3 gallons of fresh milk we get every day did not go to waste. We simply added kefir culture to all the fresh milk to preserve it until the cream rose and could be skimmed for cultured butter.
In the wake of the storm we are collecting good oak for our wood pile, and now that the storm has passed over us, we even managed to make a real start on the fall garden at last. Looking forward to this new green growing season.