Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Storm Update

If you have even a vague familiarity of the news you know that the midwest, south and southeast has had the worst storm season of a generation over the past couple of weeks. We have been continuously under tornado warnings and watches, high wind warnings, flooding advisories and warnings, T-Storm warnings, large hail, extreme rainfall etc and frankly we are getting exhausted from dealing with it all. We have had road closures, both of our ponds have overflowed, the barn flooded which necessitated doing a water rescue of Maybelle our bottle baby calf and Bandit who got caught on a floating board and paniced (apparently he doesnt swim too well). So far we have had some of our road wash out, we lost some hay bales, and we are soggy but there are people far worse off around here than us. Our biggest concern is the pond in back of Judys mobile home as the water is all the way to the top of the dam and during a particularly bad 5 hour downpour it overflowed over one side which is what flooded the barn. We almost had it completely dewatered with the trash pump when the deluge came and we had to rescue Bandit and the calf and abandon ship so to speak. So far the dam is holding well but its very nerve wracking. This is so far a record breaking storm and more to come so we can only hope for the best.

We had a small tornado to the west of us that was reported heading our way (I am an NOAA storm spotter and have a VHF radio to call in on and listen to the traffic) and a wall cloud came righ at us and then passed a bit to the south with this tail coming over the back pasture. There was real slow rotation and it never developed but it was actually kind of awe inspiring to see.

It rained hard for several days but we had almost 6 inches in about 5 hours and our happy little upper pond filled up and then got scary as it approached the top of the dam but it gently overflowed on the far side of this shot and ran down the new pasture we just got and then through the barnyard to the lower pond and some went into the barn. 
Once it came over the side of the pond we had a small river that lasted for a couple hours. It ended up in the lower pond that also overflowed through the key way in a waterfall and out into the drainage ditch so it all worked as it was supposed to but its the first time we have had to test it.

A lot of water ended up getting into the milking parlor of the dairy barn where Maybelle had her pen and at the time we were working the trash pump to remove some water that the floor drains couldnt keep up with...then the water kept rising and Maybelle's pen flooded and we carried her up to the new pole barn.

Poor Maybelle was so scared she let me just carry her to the back of the pickup and we drove up and got her situated for about 24 hours. She actually liked the pole barn and was playing and made a nice bed for herself. My mistake was that I had two 2"x8" pressure treated boards laying in a corner and thats where she decided to leave her waste...only there on the boards.

All told we got about 2 1/2 feet of water in the barn but after a few hours the floor drains had managed to drain it all out. We lost about 10 square bales of hay but I already had the good wood stacked high and I will just burn the water damaged lumber in the outside wood boiler next winter. It could have been worse thats for sure.

This is from the far side of the pod looking towards the dam on the left hand side. Nornally you would see the dam from this vantage point. Luckily we have cedars growing all along the dam and it is robust so I think we will be okay...I just dont like that much water in the pond.

The horses and our weaned calves just stayed in the back pasture and woodlot and seemed to enjoy themselves.

This view from our middle pasture looking towards the new pole barn shows how much the pasture loves the rain. Our fescue and clover crop is doing nicely and of course the animals love it.

Its come down a bit today even with the extra rain we had and we have 2 days of no rain until more storms this weekend...we are hoping it comes down quite a bit.

And finally, to the left where those trees are flooded is where we planned to put our picnic table and BBQ...we will now change that plan to account for this unprecendented flood stage we had never thought would happen.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Storm Central and the Projects and Garden Update

The weather here has been crazy, tornados, rain, large hail, lots of wind and it goes from 80º to 50º in a matter of hours. Our forecast out for 7 days only shows a couple days without massive storms. Last night we were on tornado watch and as a weather spotter I was keeping track on the farm, it mostly missed us but that same storm is what took out the Saint Louis airport. It so bad you cant even watch TV because they keep interupting with severe storm updates. What it does is keep you constantly tense but we are beginning to just take it in stride. We are on a high plateau (almost 1300 feet) and the storms mostly split and go south or north of us and we dont have to worry about the flash flood warnings on our place except we can get completely cut off from road access. And during these times we do get some water in the basement...not a lot but you know...its a semi-dry basement I guess.

In bteween the storms (and like everything else since we moved here...they are record breaking!!) we got the new roof on Judy's place, we started planting the garden and the various flowers and shrubs are in full bloom. If and when it ever dries out around here we will continue fencing and more garden planting.

They got right to work between storms
Judy likes it

Now we need to work on painting the xterior for her and putting up a pargola over the back patio

Lots of room in the new shop

Lots of projects pending now that I have the shop

We spread gravel all around the exterior of the pole barn...good thing we got it done before the next round of storms
I am glad we sprung for the lean-to

We put in a roll up door rather than a slider...better weather protection.

Its planting all this done in a day between storms.

Its a lot more work than it looks...but then, we also dont have to worry about all the food costs and shortages.

The horse raddish patch came back in nicely...its invasive, it spreads like a weed...and I cant get enough of it.

Three of our onion beds in the back and our "just about played out" spinach bed in the foreground. Lots of onions this year and they are really doing well.

We are planting peas here this year..last year this was sorghum which sucks the nitrogen out of the soil while peas replenish least thats what they say.

Doesnt look like much and its hard to see but all our asparagas came up. We cant harvest for another year or so but this was a good start and we are pleased.

Vining cucumbers seem to like all the rain. They will climb the cattle panel and we hope for lots of cucumbers. We opened our last jar of homemade pickles about a week ago and I am in withdrawl.

Our accidental rhubarb continues to flourish.

Kind of gives you the scale of the garden. The patch to the extreme right will be the peas and there is another large garden to the right not in the picture....and the corn patch is in yet another location.

All but one of the trees in the orchard are doing apple tree just didnt survive.

Yet another partially finished fencing project awaiting better weather.

One of Judy's azalea patches in the oak grove with Bandit getting ready to lift a leg no doubt.

Red Ossier Dog Wood

Another of Judy's Azaleas

We found this huge honeysuckle burried in brambles on the new property...still need to clean it out more but man it smells good ust walking by.

Our day lillie garden did well over the will be interesting to see the various colors so we can tag them for future dividing and replanting.

The new pups coming up on the banana trees, we apparently did it right and these should get to 15 feet tall or more this year.

The grape arbor is filling out with the Concords and the other grap vines are also budding. We still need to expand the vineyard and we eventually want to make wine.

This was a Wisteria twig last year....kind of scary how its taken off this year.

The Iris' are just starting to bud and bllom including these white ones.

Our many Lilacs are getting towards the end of their bloom but are still fragrant.

Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, and Collard Greens...the Asparagas bed is in the raised bed to the right.

Holly and Judy finally got the herb garden planted. We cook right out of this bed and have rosemary, thyme, cilantro, parsley, borage, sage, basil, chives, lavender and a couple more I dont remember.

Of course we had to do the Easter for the kids and grandkids. Since we have to mail everything we take coffee cans and get all artistic then fill them with Easter goodies.

This cloud was from our family room in back...looked scary and there was some rotation but it was just a cloud and no worries.

So whats next? Well, planting, building a holding pen for the cows, more fencing, outdoor lighting (including some solar), new windows for the garage and well house, painting......

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pole Barn Project Part 2

If you read the news a huge storm whipped through this area last night killing 9 people in Oklahoma and Arkansas and our thoughts are with those families. We had some wind, a damaged fence and a huge amount of rain but otherwise came through the storm unscathed.

Because of the impending storm, we finished the concrete and framing on day 2 but held off on putting up the siding because the concrete was still a little green and we didnt want the pole barn to act like a big sail and cause cracks while the concrete was curing. Day three, today, we finished up the sheathing, built the covered porch and all thats left is cleanup and the garage door installation next week. Also next week we re-roof Judy's mobile home with green steel.

Its gotten cold today and besides the pole barn excitement we finished tearing out the old fence line (used the loader on the tractor to pull T-Posts) and made a much needed journey to the grocery store. Gas is so expensive now we limit our trips but in celebration we eat well tonight with New York strip steak, butter poached shrimp, a baked potato, and a mixed salad with balsamic vinegar dressing...oh and Tin Roof ice cream for dessert.

The concrete pour. A lot of pole barns have gravel floors and serve their purpose but we decided to go the extra (and pay the extra) and get concrete. It helps stabilize the barn, keeps out unwanted animals, and it sure is nice to be able to use a creeper and not have to search for the dropped nut or washer in a bunch of gravel.

They did a great job.

The floor came out perfectly smooth, has a floor drain and I had it inclined to the door with a gradual drop of 1.5 inches.

We also had a concrete approach appron added and a 5'x12' concrete entry way for the man door that will be covered.

The frame with the lean-to on the right side. It will be covered but open on the side and ends for farm implement storage.

It was cold today but the rain mostly held off. We went with a traditional look with white trim and rustic red siding. The white roof will also help keep it a bit cooler.

Anderson 6 light windows...what the heck.

All sided in and only lacks the garage door which comes next week. We opted for a roll up door for the weather tighness over a barn slider.

They did a great job and it will be perfect for our needs as a shop/hangout.

We extened the covered entry 4' further than originally planned so we could all sit in lawn chairs under cover and enjoy the view.

The lean-to is actually wide enough to park the Kubota under if I drop the rops

Crisp and clean inside with lots of room to add shelves, a work bench, and have multiple projects going at anyone time.

I can drive all the vehicles and tractors into the shop to work on them.

We added the covered porch for lounging, much cheaper and easier to do it when its constructed than to add it later.

View from the pole barn.

This is the lower pond after our big storm.

The pole barn fits the theme and scale of our small farm and we are pretty pleased so far.

We now need to build work benches, add electric (I will do that myself), gravel the perimeter, etc.

Next week Judy's roof and more fencing.