There are times recently that we feel like we've been given the chance to practice the future. The future that doesn't contain all of the wonderful modern conveniences we have grown so fond of and in some cases, dependent upon. There are skills we can practice now, some by choice and some by circumstance, that may increase our success and comfort when the chips are down for good. Here are just a few things we have had the opportunity to experience in the last few weeks and days.
- How to garden with too much water
- Preparing to have the water shut off due to flooding or contamination of the public water supply (this ended up being rumor, but was good mental practice)
- Power outage involving a fire at a regional substation (found out a transformer blew; odd it didn't happen during one of the major tornadic thunderstorms we had on Monday, it happened in calm weather; we found this strange)
- The main ham radio repeater in our area was down due to a power outage. A generator that was donated to the radio club has not been installed, and there is limited battery backup to keep the repeater operational. This repeater is the main source of communication for our regional storm spotter and emergency communications hub.
So, what does all of this teach us? Many, many things, which is good. Let's start with the garden. We have had historic, record breaking rainfall amounts in this area for the month of May, with this came muddy soil conditions for planting which is far from ideal. A few years back we were in serious drought conditions and when we tilled the garden it was in a cloud of dust, literally. This year, it was really too muddy one time, but we knew our window of opportunity was very narrow, so we took it, and now, I'm glad we did. There are still folks waiting to plant or replant their gardens, and what they did get planted may or may not make it.
Yesterday, in the beautiful, rare sunshine, we noticed a few of the squash plants were wilting, which immediately made us think of squash vine borers. We have applied two batches of green lacewing eggs and nematodes in hopes of combating the vine borers, among other insects, so we were very disappointed. But upon inspection, we could find no damage from vine borers, so we pulled one small squash plant. The only conclusion we could come to was that it rotted in the ground from all of the rain.
Slugs. The slugs are proliferating at a phenomenal rate in all this moisture, and eating everything. We are in search of some iron phosphate which is supposed to be deadly for slugs. We are now finding tiny little new slugs everywhere. We have been putting out eggshells and coffee grounds, caffeine is supposed to be fatal to slugs as well, when we have them. We could also apply diatomaceous earth, but with daily rain, it would just wash away again and again. If we get a few days without rain, we will apply it everywhere. The cabbage worms have also showed up in mass, even with the lacewing applications. It has been a tough year for gardening.
Along with our record rainfall this month there have been a number of days that we spent in very, very stormy weather with too many tornado warnings for comfort. We've had neighbors that have been flooded in for days, remember we live in hill country. There are some houses that when you have a heavy rain, you just can't get out. As of May 20th, we had record rain for the month of May and it has been forecast everyday until the end of the month. Most of the folks we know that have been rained in, or conversely rained out, are doing fine, but not everybody has been so fortunate. We have lost a few rescue workers, and that's really tough on a community. We've had people's houses washed down rivers, thousands of acres of pasture land and cattle ranches are under water. There are still a handful of people that are unaccounted for. These are just some of the tragic stories.
As mentioned earlier, our local ham radio repeater, and every antenna tower on top of a mountain was without power for about two days. Most of the commercial towers had reliable backup power. Somebody made an intelligent decision to shut the repeater down. The reason being, it is the primary radio communications system involving severe weather, and since we have severe weather forecast almost daily, it can be turned back on if needed for severe weather use.
Other types of communication needs. We were told by a reliable source that our local water treatment plant had been compromised with flood water. Then we started hearing the same thing, via the rumor mill, from multiple sources. The fact is, it never happened. We contacted our local water distributor the next day and they told us to listen to the local country stations for any announcements. Well, we don't get AM radio where we live, and our main local little town, which is 25 miles away, had a 12 hour power failure. So, how are we supposed to know?
Next, we had a power failure in our area. As a general rule, during the worst weather, we seldom lose power, but it does happen. We called a couple of nearby neighbors. No power. We called some neighbors five miles down the road. No power. We called some friends 10 miles away. Get the picture here? This was not just a little power outage, the entire area was black. So, here come the rumors. The good news is, we could get rumors. The bad news is, they were also false. There was a fire at a local transfer station, not sure how it happened, it was not a hot day, there was no bad weather in the area. But we didn't have a way to communicate, not effectively anyway.
Before it got dark, we went around and gathered up lanterns. Fortunately, the day before I had charged up the rechargeable batteries and lanterns. By the way, all of our lanterns are battery operated. But the reason they were all charged is because the day before, on Memorial Day, we had four separate tornado warnings one right behind the other in our little neighborhood. Thank the Lord this happened during the daylight hours. But, all of our batteries were charged.
We have some interesting pictures for you, of some of our local flooding. This is the highest I have ever seen the water in this area. If it's a low lying spot, it's got water sitting in it.
So, that's what we've been dealing with for the last week. But the whole month has been a down pour almost everyday. We've learned a lot. Sometimes people can get a little edgy when they don't get enough sunlight. In the northern climates they have a condition called SAD, seasonal affective disorder. When we lived in Barrow, Alaska they used a special type of fluorescent tube in the classrooms that provided kids and adults with a broader spectrum of light. We also had a special light in our home, for some people it worked and for some it didn't. But there's been a lot of folks in this area that have been a tad bit edgy lately. I guess that lack of natural vitamin D will do that to some folks.
We have some eggs in an incubator right now and they're about four days away from hatching. We've had some incubator issues lately, which I'll discuss more in a chicken post in a couple of days. But when you have eggs in an incubator, and your power goes off, you better act quickly. In this case we grabbed a bunch of blankets, wrapped up the incubator, and hoped for the best. Our power was only off for three or four hours, but if it had been like the little town close to us and it was off for about 12 hours, then that would have been a different story. More on that later.
And to add to it, we went up to take a peek at how the livestock were doing, and discovered that the pigs were out. At first it was a serious concern, but like most animals that you feed, with a small can of feed, you can easily coax them where you want them to go. That was a great learning experience.
Part of what we're talking about here is how you deal with things. When life is great, and everything is going along well, then it's easy to deal with life. But we all know it's not like that everyday. We didn't lose any animals to flooding. Nobody got hurt. Our chicken pen is in sad shape, but someday it will dry. Overall, we are doing pretty good. It's easy to deal with things. But the last few days have been excellent practice. Today the power is back on, we don't have any real issues with our drinking water, the stores are still open, my retirement checks are still coming to the bank, and the shelves are still full of items that people need and don't need. But tomorrow that could all change. One of us could slip and break a leg. We still have severe weather just a hundred miles west of us and it's got to go somewhere. So, take advantage of the good days, because someday, maybe someday soon, the days are not going to be good. Practice today while you can. Learn your weaknesses and your limitations. And if you're of this persuasion, then thank God for what you have.
We'll talk more later, Frank