Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Thunderstorm

Trying something a little new. I've written posts as lists, pictures, and stream of consciousness...So this time, I'm going to tell a story, as if watching the on-goings of the farm. Let's see how it goes!

The farmer's truck was coated in a thick layer of pollen. The sky was hazy, thick with the heat wave that seemed to be a month long. He stopped pushing the hand plow for a minute, wiping sweat off and listening for the weather report from the radio perched in grass. 88 degrees at 11 am. In May. The farmer sighed and watched a car go by. The car slowed, probably wondering if the farmer was Amish, or crazy. No tractor in sight, grass in the front lawn in need of a trim. Just a short, thin man with a seemingly ridiculous goal. The farmer liked the farm to look neat, but it is planting season and there is nothing more important then getting starts and seed in ground.

Slowly he returned to the hand plow, plodding along, outlining spots for the squash and melons to bloom. There were still tomatoes, peppers, eggplant to plant too...but it's better to focus on the task at hand. The hand plow raked across the hot ground, uprooting the sod, weeds and clover. The next step would be to clear the debris away, and dig up any stubborn roots. Then lay rabbit manure over top, and push the plow through again, deep for young roots.

Today though, the heat felt feverish, as if the ground was a child waiting for a flu to break. So the plan was to plow until lunch, then clear in the hottest portion of the day, and return to the plow when the sun wasn't so high. Ten gallons of sweat later, the farmer checked his watch and headed back into the house for some lunch.

After some left overs and a hearty bowl of ice cream, the farmer placed an order for a ton of feed to be delivered next week. With over 200 chickens, and turkeys soon, he worried that forty bags of fifty lbs each wouldn't be enough, but 80 was a storage nightmare. Before long, it was time to return to the field.

As he crept along the ground, clearing away weeds, he listened to a podcast. Working alone, sometimes his own thoughts annoyed him, and hearing voices tell a story was a welcome distraction. When his wife was home, they played music and shouted across the field. He missed her.

When the voices stopped on his iphone (the hand plow and the iphone incongruity wasn't lost on him), he listened for the weather again. The heat had climbed to 102, each breath so heavy it felt like swallowing. At lunch, the forecast had warned of impending thunderstorms, and a tornado possibility. A hawk circled overhead, crying out for what sounded like mercy from the sun. The thunderstorms were approaching quickly, and the farmer dropped his tools in the field to start preparations.

He fired up the truck and headed into town. While the large feed order was coming in next week, the chickens had to eat today. Behind the counter, the women who worked at Agway were friendly and chatting, everyone rushing a bit knowing the horizon would be changing shortly. A quick order was loaded into the farmer's truck, and he pushed the beast home at fast as she'd go.

Within moments of stepping out of the air conditioned cab of the truck, the farmer was drenched in heat again, faintly dreaming of a swim in the creek across the farm. He rushed forward, hauling buckets of feed and water as fast as he could. The wind picked up, and the clouds were morphing shapes. After filling all the water for the poultry in the barn, the hen house, and the sheep, he set the buckets out to catch the rain in case of a power outage. He set up the rain barrel too, knowing that if there was no water for the animals, it would be  disaster.

Thunderstorms don't pass on farms unnoticed, the pounding rain, driving wind, hail, lightening can be a blessing for dry crops or disaster. It's best to plan for disaster, and hope for a blessing. The farmer loaded up extra stakes in his truck, and headed back out to the field. In the field were two chicken tractors, secured with stakes, but in need of reinforcements if the winds hit the expected 60mph. The farmer pounded the stakes in, fed and watered the birds, all with glaces to the sky. The field tools usually kept under a tarp within the confines of the fence, were hauled into the back of the pick up under the cap, better safe than lost or broken.

Still rushing, the farmer headed back down to the two small stack greenhouses, loading the seedlings set outside to harden off tucked back away. He strapped the little houses down and together, still fretting about the wind. Now with just the rabbits, dogs, and cats to tend to, (all under cover) the farmer heard the sky growl.

Into the rabbitry, the kits were all laying on their sides, panting from humidity and the electricity in the air. The farmer tidied up their cages for maximum comfort and checked on the latest batch of peeping chicks. He had fleeting thoughts of the need to re-breed some does, but pushed it away for the moment.

Back inside the farm house, pots with water were filled for back ups, cats and dogs were fed.  The farmer heard the sky crack, and saw his clothes, caked with filth, were stuck to him. He quickly decided to risk a shower, again worried if the power went out he wouldn't get one, and no one within smelling distance would be impressed.

Once clean and dry and cooled down, the farmer stood in the kitchen, overlooking the farm. All he could do was done, but he wouldn't know if it was enough until the next morning. The winds, the rain, could rip through the farm and cause devastation- or not. Crops could be trashed- livestock in danger. But for now, all he could do is wait for the sky to shatter open.

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