The definition of disaster

Earlier this week, I posted about the devastation that hit to the west of us. So many farmers and ranchers lost so much in the blink of an eye. People were quick to share photos and stories of heartbreak, but the questions started pouring in.

So I’m going to attempt to answer a few, from this farmer’s point of view. Please remember, these are my thoughts and reasons, but I’m hoping to give just a bit of insight.

1) It’s the Dakotas, why aren’t we ready for a blizzard?

Well, it’s pretty simple. Look at the calendar. It was the first week of October. And although snow is always a possibility, just about any month, the early snow falls are usually fast, wet and disappear. It was predicted to snow, but not even the most cynical of weatherman predicted it would hit that fast, that hard and bring with it the winds that were present.

There were 26 named winter storms across the country last year, according to The Weather Channel. There were many, many storms that hit our area throughout the winter. We don’t usually name them, and they don’t usually impact our lives too much. This was unexpected and beyond our realm of normal.

2) Why weren’t the cattle cared for?

This is plain not true. These cattle were being cared for…in just the way that many ranchers care for their cattle. A few weeks ago, I explained that our cattle spend a majority of their time at pasture. Which is just where most of these cattle were, out to pasture.

Our cattle spend the summer, and part of fall, on grass.

Our cattle spend the summer, and part of fall, on grass.

You see, in my case, our pasture is located about 15 miles from our farm. The land is hilly, rolling and wouldn’t be suited for farming. Yet it makes the perfect pasture. If a storm were to hit suddenly, and packing the punch that this one did, there is no way I could drive to the pasture, have them loaded up and brought home, and do so safely, in anything less than a day.

This is how we get our cattle to and from our pasture. It takes about a day to bring them all home, or take them all to pasture.

This is how we get our cattle to and from our pasture. It takes about a day to bring them all home, or take them all to pasture.

This is what our pasture looks like. Not quite as hilly as the area where the storm hit, but you can get an idea of what it would be like.

This is what our pasture looks like. Not quite as hilly as the area where the storm hit, but you can get an idea of what it would be like.

3) OK, I get it, it was a freak storm, the cattle were on grass…but why did they die?

Good question. And it’s simple science. The storm hit fast, the snow was heavy, many suffocated under the weight of the snow, or ended up disoriented and wandered into a more dangerous area. (Below you’ll find a video I did a few years ago, when I went out to check cows after a blizzard…you can see how they gather.)

Snow accumulates and builds in drifts, much like sand dunes. And when the wind is blowing like it did, it creates very dangerous drifts. If the cattle gathered in an area that was protected from the wind, they may have ended up buried.

You would think that a building would provide protection from snow, but it can actually collect more snow than an open area.

You would think that a building would provide protection from snow, but it can actually collect more snow than an open area.

Here’s the one thought I would like for you to take away from all of this: We deal with these types of storms every year. It had nothing to do with lack of care or not knowing how to handle the weather…it had everything to do with timing. The fact that we handle hundreds of winter storms without a loss every year speaks volumes to the care that we provide our animals.

The ranches and farms that were impacted by this storm need our support and resources to get them back on their feet. We can all help out and do our part.

As I sit at my computer, typing this post and considering the challenges that face those to the west of me…all while in a severe thunderstorm watch, I can’t help but shake my head at the irony of it all.

A blizzard last week? Potential for tornadoes this week? Perhaps this government shutdown is even getting to Mother Nature? (Sarcasm…that’s sarcasm.)

I can tell you that the farm and ranch community will rally around and do what they can to help each other out. But the fact is, we may lose a few farms and ranches…and when our numbers drop, the effect is felt throughout the country.

The storm may have hit a small area, but we will all feel it.

 

 

Mother Nature didn’t shut down

According to my calendar, we’re entering another week of government shutdowns…and it doesn’t appear as if there is an end in sight. After this weekend’s early blizzard in the upper Midwest, I have a few things that are on my mind.

Apparently Mother Nature didn’t get the memo that there was a government shutdown. In fact, Mother Nature decided to show many just who is in charge…and it was a hard lesson learned. They estimate that as many as 100,000 cattle have died from the results of the massive blizzard that took many by surprise.

Yes, snow in October is expected. But this was more than snow.

And where is the assistance? The websites of information that could be used to help? Oh, sorry, didn’t you hear about the furlough?

But don’t worry, while the government is shutdown, hosting its own two-year-old tantrum, claiming that no one wants to play fair, workers that aren’t guaranteed pay are pitching in to help, organizations are offering services to connect those that have lost cattle and those that have found cattle, setting up sites for information and tips on how to make sure your losses are reported.

At a time when assistance from elected officials could be felt the most, there is no one there to answer the phone.

#DearCongress: Mother Nature is not on furlough. Farmers and ranchers are not on furlough. Emergency workers are not on furlough. It’s time to do what you were elected to do…grow up and represent our country, lead us to a better future, not down a path of destruction.

On the plus side, perhaps this shutdown will lead many to decide that it is time to step out of the shadows and start becoming actively involved in our government. Remember, this is our government…not just the government.

Run for office, whether it be township, county commission, school board, state or local offices. Let your voice be heard. Write letters. Make phone calls. It is well past the time to start charting our course back on track.

We cannot go back and change the actions of the past, but we certainly can make sure that our future is a different story.

A government shutdown will not have an impact on Mother Nature. But it can unite us in a drive to finally do what we should have been doing all along…be involved.

Thankful Thursday – It could have been worse

This wasn’t the post I intended to write today. These weren’t the pictures I hoped to share. But Mother Nature has a funny way of deciding what does and does not happen.

Last night, shortly before I was planning to go to bed, the TV warned of a storm that was heading towards our area. They stated that it had heavy rain, some hail and strong winds. I joked on Facebook that it better go around, because I wasn’t in the mood to deal with a storm.

She showed me.

The first storm hit about 10 p.m., and although at first seemed to not be that bad, it quickly changed its tune. We had a lot of hail, wind took down sections of fence and spun our calf shelter, killing one calf and injuring another.

Hail out our door last night, storm #1.

I thought that was it, and went to bed, knowing there wasn’t anything we could do during the night.

And then at 4 this morning, another storm came through…bringing more hail, more wind, but thankfully, no more destruction.

In total, we received 1.15″ of rain, and a solid coating of hail. The pictures speak more than I can:

Drift of hail left yet this morning.

More hail…

Our trailer was “hailed.” 😉

This calf shelter is supposed to protect calves, not hurt them. But the storm last night rotated this shelter to the north 90 degrees, killing one calf in the process.

Wordless Wednesday – Winds of Change

This summer we were hit hard by a storm. Although it was not ruled a tornado, just straight-line winds in excess of 125 mph. Yeah, the wind blew a little. There was not a building on the farm that wasn’t damaged…and Boss Man is lucky to be alive. You can read about it here.

Harvest finished early this year, giving us time to get things taken care of before snow flies. And here it is, almost Dec. 1, and still no snow. Amazing!

So Boss Man, his dad and a friend worked on repairing the damage.

This is the west end of the shop Mark was in when the storm hit. The whole side is caved in.

 

And now it looks like this:

Good as new!

 

The old wooden bins that used to set on the east side of the farmstead were blown away:

This bin should be sitting on the cement slab...the other bin is strewn across our corn field.

 

That area now looks like this:

EJ has instructed me that these bins are for his corns. Dad gets to use the big ones further east of the farm.

 

Sometimes, when we’re not ready to adjust to change, the decision is taken out of our hands. The best we can hope for is to hang on for the ride and sort things out when all is said and done.

We still have a few roofs to fix, garage doors to put on, fence to mend and a barn to put back together, but God has blessed us so far…and I know we’ll get it done. One step at a time, that’s the way it all goes.

 

Wind of Change

Today has been a windy day on the prairie. And not just a little windy, but Wizard of Oz, there’s-no-place-like-home windy.

It’s been a rough 24 hours for the Wagner boys. First of all, yesterday a gentleman came in the yard to buy hay…and he had a pickup load of dogs (four to be exact). Just before they left, the dogs attacked and killed EJ’s kitty. He handled it pretty well, but the older boys took it pretty hard. *sigh* One of the dangers of farm life, I guess.

Then this morning, we woke up to this:

Uh oh, something doesn't look right here.

 

 

This time, it's not going to be a set-it-up-and-go kinda fix.

 

 

Yep, that's a doozy.

 

 

This horse may have to be put down.

 

 

I’m a little concerned about our garage (you know, the one without doors, thanks to this summers wind storm?), but I guess time will tell. May these winds settle down fast!

Wordless Wednesday – Weather…nothing new

The storms keep coming, the sky keeps turning sickening shades of green…and I keep shooting pics.

Here’s the latest batch from July 26, 2011:

Is it a blizzard? No, just rain. As in 1.75 inches in 25-30 minutes.

 

Starting to clear up, right?

 
 

The sun is there...somewhere.

 

As my 4-year-old says (EJ), "These clouds creep me out!"

 

Tired of the storms...

 

Even when they bring beauty.

 

Wordless Wednesday – The Beauty Behind the Storm

This storm passed by our farm on Sunday.

 

 

If you remember, we were hit by 125+ mph winds just a week before.

 

 

Thankfully, we sustained no damage this week...

 

 

although communities just to the north of us sustained tremendous amounts of damage.

 

 

My attempt at a full-rainbow picture. Mother Nature can be difficult, but there's beauty in it all.