I've lived in Minnesota my whole life, so I'm accustomed to weather extremes. It doesn't strike me as odd to put long johns on in the morning and end up in a tank top and shorts by mid-afternoon. My wardrobe of barn clothes and footwear is a testament to the conditions Minnesota farmers face throughout the year.
But I still wasn't fully prepared for the extreme wind, rain and heat we experienced in the last two weeks.
Our episode of extreme weather started with the mother of all wind storms. Glen's brother saw rotating clouds just west of our farm, but I'm not sure that it developed into an actual tornado. What I am sure of, though, is that high winds can be just as bad as tornados.
When the wind picked up that Sunday night, it was a welcome relief from the sweltering afternoon heat. Then the sky turned from green to black and the wind started to whip the trees around.
We ran to the house and took refuge in the basement. We lost electricity at 8:30 p.m. I sat on the couch answering Dan's questions, while Glen paced around trying to find something to light a candle with, muttering something about not being a good Boy Scout. (Turns out the candle lighter was still upstairs from our power outage earlier that week.)
When the wind died down, we ventured outside to look around. A couple trees were snapped in half, but, thankfully, that appeared to be the extent of the damage. In all, 17 trees were damaged or down, including my favorite oak in the pasture and our fully-loaded apple tree, which landed in the ditch on the other side of the road.
The next order of business was getting the generator going. We hadn't used it since we moved here, other than starting it up this spring to make sure it still worked.
It took about an hour-and-a-half to get the tractor off the mixer (we had to unload the mixer first to relieve the pressure on the hydraulic hoses) and into the shed. During that time, I started to go into the barn to get a flashlight. Glen's brother had just come out and said, "Don't go in there; it's depressing." Without the fans running, it was awful in there. I felt so bad for the cows. At least once the fans started running, the air cleared quickly.
The next order of business was moving the three heifer calves that were living in temporary housing on the lawn by the barn. They were in the path of all the water heading for the waterway, so they were standing in about three inches of water by that time.
It ended up being quite a late night (big surprise, eh?), but we got everything situated as best we could and went to bed, praying we wouldn't need the generator in the morning. My last thought was that having Mother Nature re-landscape our lawn wasn't as bad as having her remodel our house.
It was about 1:30 on Monday afternoon before power was restored. The only hiccup was running the tractor out of fuel while the milker was on the last cow. Glen nearly panicked, because he thought the bad bearing on the generator was finally going out. (I think we'll have that repaired soon!)
I don't ever remember having an extended outage like that while growing up and this was the first we've experienced since we've been farming. I don't like to think about how bad it would have been without the generator.
After the wind, came the rain. That following Friday, we woke up to a torrential downpour. There was water in the basement, there was water in the barn, there was water everywhere.
The berms we put in during our lagoon project sure did their job - the heifer lot was a swimming pool. I tried to find the inlet that drains the lot to the lagoon, but the water was over my boots. (Note to self: Pound a stake next to the inlet before the next monsoon.)
There was so much water - it ended up being four inches in about three hours - that the clean water inlet out by our ag bags couldn't keep up. The resulting lake was well over waist-deep. (Make that two stakes.)
When the weather forecast described the coming heat wave, my first thought was that Mother Nature was preparing to steam-cook us.
The forecast wasn't wrong. The heat wave that rolled in was so intense I was sure the chickens would be laying hard-cooked eggs. The humidity was so high that Monika's normally soft curls were wound up into Shirley Temple ringlets.
Miserable is the only word that describes the past week. When the cows weren't eye-ball deep in the ponds (which, ironically, are at record high levels thanks to the monsoon) or resting in the somewhat comfortable shade of the oaks (which number far fewer than they did two weeks ago), they were panting as if their lives depended on it. I'm immensely glad we feed outside in the summer, because there is so much drool in the manger of the barn it could almost be bucketed out.
Dan and Monika didn't like the heat any better. I gave up trying to keep clothes on them. And the combination of sweaty little bodies and machine shed dust from playing in the shade made them dirtier than I've ever seen kids get. They would have blended right in had they laid down on the machine shed floor.
Thankfully, none of our usual sales reps showed up this week to catch any of the unclothed. (Where were they, anyway? Hiding in the air conditioning, I suppose.)
And, thankfully, the worst of the heat seems to have passed, the yard has dried up, and, maybe one of these days we'll finish picking up the sticks on the lawn. Hopefully, that's the last of our extreme weather, at least until the blizzards blow in.
Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 70 cows near Melrose, Minn. They have two children - Dan, 4, and Monika, 2. When she's not parenting or farming, she's writing for the Dairy Star. Sadie can be reached at gsfrericks@meltel.net.