February 28, 2007 – Storm Aftermath

Today gave us a chance to catch our breath before the next storm approaches. I was able to walk around a bit more and check out some of the damage I haven’t shared yet.


This is one of the white pines we planted about 7 years ago, snapped in half.  At least the goats will enjoy the browse.

We lost two peach trees that split down the middle – this one was due for a big harvest this year.

one year ago…

February 27, 2007 – Storm Day 5

Today was Day 5 of the Storm. Still no electricity for us and about 80,000 others, three days after it blinked off. Following are some pictures from 2 miles due east of our farm. 


I wonder what it looked/sounded like when all these poles snapped!

Some of the poles are artistically pleasing. Driving around is much like surveying tornado damage, except the damage is much more widespread. 

Three days later, the crews still haven’t even been able to make the roads passable because of downed poles and wires, let alone put new poles up.

Unexpectedly, our power went on at about 7 pm today, about 80 hours after it went off!

An ominous forecast calls for two more days of ice and snow Wednesday/Thursday/into Friday along with 45 mph gusts. 
one year ago…

February 26, 2007 – Storm Day 4

Today was Day 4 of the Storm. The day dawned cool and clear.


Some of the ice started to melt.

More of it clung stubbornly to the surfaces, like the ice to the hinge of this barn door.

I’m eager to start getting the mess cleaned up, but so many of the branches are encrusted in ice and snow, so I’ll wait until things melt a bit.  No more worries about enough wood for the solstice fires next December!

A partially melted growing tip of Emma’s Bur Oak.

The roads were good enough to get out today, so we went to Ames to shower. A two-mile stretch between Melbourne and Hwy 30 had a stretch of about a mile and half where all the power poles were snapped. In addition, we needed a break from dark cooking and clean-up so we went to town for dinner.

Still no power.
Reading by lamplight and candlelight. Thanks to GJ, we have a great selection of clean-burning beeswax candles!
Without electricity the corn stove doesn’t work (blowers and fans), so Martin and Linda get snuggle time.one year ago… 

February 25, 2007 – Storm Day 3

Today was Day 3 of the Storm. The big snow that was supposed to hit us fizzled out in favor of rain.  At about 4 am I awoke and heard dripping and went outside and found it was raining again, which meant more ice.


Here’s the east-facing dormer with its mantle of ice.


This utility truck thought it would be ok to turn around in the field and got mired in the mud under the ice/snow.  He didn’t seem too eager to accept any help and after about an hour of lifting himself up with the leveling pads and putting chains on, was able to crawl out.  Funny thing was, it wasn’t even the utility responsible for the lines on this road.


In the morning the battery-powered CO detector buzzed, so we all went outside. The generator must have been too close to the house, so I got another cord and moved it further away.  In the meantime it had warmed to above freezing and the wind stopped, so it was great snowman weather. We dragged the limbs away that had blocked the garage with the tractor and surveyed damage.


The ice on the east sides of buildings was very thick!  We even lost water pressure for a while – that was a bit unnerving to have no power and the threat of no water as well, but that was fixed in a few hours.  In the evening, for the first time since the storm hit, we saw lights on the horizon!

one year ago…

February 24, 2007 – Storm Day 2

Today was Day 2 of the Storm. The night brought a nice layer of ice to the world.


It also brought a sick child. Emma finished her strep meds three days earlier, Claire was infected about 6 days ago and Emma woke up again this morning with another case. Of course it is Saturday in the beginning of the storm – we called and took her into the Dr. as who knows how long we may be stuck on the farm.


It warmed up briefly and turned to all rain, so there was a layer of water on top of the ice when we had to drive to town, which seemed to make it less slippery than straight ice. We took gravel roads nearly all the way to town, got the diagnosis, and the drugs and she recovered nicely.

Meanwhile the rain continued. I knew it was only a matter of time before the power went out – we warmed the house up to 72 degrees and waited. 


The ice kept getting thicker.


We started to worry about our fruit trees.


We kept worrying


Here’s the trellis for the raspberries.

The power went out at noon and shortly before dark, I dragged the camping generator out of the garage and after sitting fro two years, it started on the 2nd pull (yeah!)  The generator can run one big thing at a time – the furnace, one of the freezers or the fridge.  It runs for a half hour on a fill of gas, so it’s lots of babysitting.

About 4:00 the rain turned to snow and I went out into the shed and found the bottom of the sliding doors were under water.  I knew in a few hours, the doors would be frozen solid into the ground and I wouldn’t be able to open them for a long time – so the lesser of two evils was to leave the doors open during the storm so I could get the tractor out.

We had an old-fashioned evening listening to the Prairie Home Companion.  We were able to cook as we have a gas cooktop, but no hot water.

one year ago…

February 23, 2007 – Day 1 “Storm of the Century” (so far)

Today was Day 1 of the Storm of the Century (hey, when you’re only into a century 7 years, these things happen much more often). We had periodic sleet/hail/ice pellets, complete with thunder and lightning at about 33 degrees.


Here’s some of the mixture of the combinations of precipitation. It was a strange night, with a sense of foreboding as we were forecast for a significant ice storm, followed by up to a foot of snow.


The wind was strong too, as the ice adhering to the trees fractured in fairly regular patterns as the limbs bent in the strong east wind.

one year ago…

February 21, 2007 – Last Snowbanks?

Today was the first day over 50 degrees for a long time. Most of the snow, except the drifts and along the roads, is melted. This bank will take a bit longer to melt.

All the chickens came out of the coop for the first time in 2007 as there was snow-free ground. The goats loafed outside as well. I thought about pruning the raspberries, but worked in the attic instead since it hasn’t been warm enough for a long time.


one year ago…

February 20, 2007 – A Dark Side of Rural America

Sunday morning a house less than a mile from us was intentionally set on fire.  It points to one of the problems I see with absentee ownership.  Someone now from Connecticut owns this property (proudly displaying the “Century Farm” signs that indicates 100 year ownership of the farm by the same family).  The house had been rented for at least the last 10 years and nothing had been done to it.  As windows broke, they were replaced with plywood, the porch roof was collapsing – all while the owners were collecting rent and when the renters finally stopped paying, they were kicked out and the house had reached the point of no return, so the owner simply had the house burned.  A sad story all around.


one year ago…

February 19, 2007 – I’m Melting

Finally, the cold has ended in earnest! The driveway is starting to melt. Ever since I was a kid, it’s been my job to make drainages for snow melt in the spring – dig channels, make pathways to drain the snowmelt puddles away. There  is some utility in doing this – draining the puddles prevents them from freezing in a skating rink at night and I’m sure it helps usher in spring a little faster.


one year ago…

February 18, 2007 – A Day of Thought & Beauty

Today was a day full of thought and beauty. This morning Claire’s high school youth group planned, led, and conducted the Sunday Service. Their theme was the benefits of the arts (music, dance, drama, visual arts) to support varied ways of learning and expression. Each person performed, spoke of what moved them meant to them and reported on research that supported different ways of learning.

The afternoon was Claire’s band concert – the highlight was a song commemorating the battle of Gettysburg, complete with muted trumpets off-stage in the distance, distant drums outside the auditorium simulating gunfire, along with a rather somber symphonic band piece.

This evening was a treat in the Memorial Union at Iowa State. This week is the symposium on wildness, wilderness and the creative imagination sponsored by the MFA program in Creative Writing and the Environment at Iowa State. We were only able to attend a couple of events today – first, a blues musician who plays piano, harmonica, and foot persussion simultaneously – Patrick Hazell.

Bill McKibben spoke about his latest book “Deep Economy” Some of his previous books are “The End of Nature,” “Hope, Human and Wild” and “The Hundred Dollar Christmas.” He speaks generally about the impact of global warming on the world. The message is, if the leaders don’t lead, the people must lead. The current administration has not reacted to the threat that is orders of magnitude greater than any group of terrorists could accomplish.

Imagine losing all the coastal cities in the US and not having any ports. NASA’s chief climate researcher has become increasingly alarmed at the lastest data. A few years ago, he thought we had 100 years to turn the trends around. Now he thinks we may have 10. The lack of polar ice formation 2 straight years, and most distubring, is the Greenland ice cap, which in all previous models, was thought to be stable and not much of a contributor to rising sea levels, is now showing signs of faster melting, and more importantly, the water is seeping down to the bottom, where it can act as a lubricant to provide a pathway for massive slippage of the ice sheet into the ocean and melt. The Greenland ice cap alone melting would raise sea level 30 feet. This research was ordered not released by the administration. Similarly, the plant hardiness maps were due to be republished 3 years ago and not released by the USDA. Over the northern sections of the US, most areas moved a zone or half zone warmer. This was not released until the Arbor Day foundation took the government data and released the new plant hardiness zone maps.

So, what to do? Political action is the first step. April 14, a nationwide rally is planned to get government officials’ attention. Already a strong coalition of environmental, liberal and conservative religious organizations (one of the strongest is the statement signed by 86 evangelical leaders including the presidents of 39 evangelical colleges, leaders of aid groups and churches, like the Salvation Army, and pastors of megachurches, including Rick Warren, author of the best seller “The Purpose-Driven Life.”) While the nation debates and spends time and treasure on a distant war, the threat of the inundation of our major cites has no priority.

McKibbin provides some other suggestions -starting with local production and control of food, energy, and even entertainment and money. Gathering food locally prevents long-distance shipping and strengthens local economies – same with energy. He points out studies that show since the mid-50’s American’s happiness has steadily dropped. That coincides to the centralization of food, energy, and entertainment. Just one small example is that there used to be 1300 opera houses in Iowa alone. There were performers enriching the community instead of today we obsess about how many CDs Britney Spears or Justin Timberlake sell.

All in all it was a thought-provoking evening and made us feel good about our own work to improve all things local!
one year ago…

February 17, 2007 – Change is Hard!

I was alerted to this wonderful two minute YouTube video showing just how hard it is to introduce a new user interface. This video particularly struck my fancy as a big part of my job is to create such new interfaces with computers, and this video does a great job of showing how hard it is to bring a new kind of communication to the world!

Introducing the Book!

one year ago… 

February 16, 2007 – The Cast

Emma has been working hard on a school play entitled “Big Bad” which puts the Big Bad Wolf on trial supported with a cast of characters including little red riding hood, the three pigs, and Little Miss Muffet.


Linda has been in Manhattan (Kansas, not the island) the last few days presenting at a conference.  She reports that in spite of the snow there and en route, spring is on the way as they saw large flocks of migrating snow geese flying north.  Back at the farm, I saw the first robin of the year. I hope the animals know something, because it sure still looks, feels, and smells like the dead of winter out there.

  one year ago…