Last Thursday, New Hampshire, and most of New England and New York were hit with yet another seriously strong storm. The weather forecasters talked about it for days; you’d think the apocalypse was coming. They’ve been pretty wrong quite a bit lately so I didn’t think too much of it. In the afternoon the heavy rains and wind started up, the back of our cabin started to leak in odd places, and I knew that this time their forecast was correct.
In the past 3 years since we’ve started our farm, Deerfield and the surrounding towns have been hit with record rains, flooding conditions, collapsed roads, record snowfall, a tornado, a severe ice storm causing extensive statewide damage, power outages lasting weeks, a phone outage (due to flooding) lasting a month, etc. etc. This last windstorm once again caused extensive property damage, downed power lines and trees, flooding, impassable roads, and power and phone outages for days. This is getting all too familiar.
The power went out late Thursday night. The winds were so loud we couldn’t sleep, the strongest winds coming about 1:00 a.m. Friday. We were curled up on the couch all night in front of the woodstove, bleary eyed. We heard the most god-awful noises but with no power we couldn’t turn the outside lights on and it wasn’t safe to go outside. At first light, around 6:00 a.m. I ran out back and started calling out to the alpacas, who were all huddled behind the tarps we put up. Within seconds they all came running out looking excited to hear my voice! All were fine and the barn appeared intact. We did have minor roof damage to the house, branches down all around, and trees down in the woods. And, oh yes, no power nor phone, again. The Governor declared a state of emergency, and told us to plan for an extended outage, again.
It’s easy to become despondent and anxiety ridden, and I was on the borderline. As Dan and I drove around looking for somewhere to get water for the alpacas and saw all the damage around town, we quickly changed our spirits to all that we were and are thankful and grateful for. We continue to keep thinking about all that we are grateful for. Gratitude keeps us focused on the important things. In the big scheme of things, nothing really bad happened to us. We are just fine. We have neighbors and friends and co-workers who were not as lucky as us.
We are so happy and grateful that we were not injured, nor were any of our animals, we are grateful that our house and barn and fencing were not really damaged and that no trees fell on them, we are grateful that no windows broke, we are grateful that we had supplies and daylight to repair the roof quickly, we are grateful that our cars and trailer and tractor were also not damaged, we are grateful that the house stopped leaking (it stopped raining), we are grateful that no power lines fell on our property, we are grateful that the sump came within three inches of the top (i.e. it did not overflow!) and that the cellar stayed dry, we are grateful that we have a friend who offered us water for the alpacas, we are grateful we live in a town that has water available for livestock in emergencies (how great is that!), we are grateful that we’ve always enjoyed heating our home with a woodstove, we are grateful that the right situations fell into place and an electrician was able to come out to wire the house properly for a generator, we are grateful that we finally got said generator running, and we are grateful that the phone and internet service were up within 3 and half days. We are very grateful that we were out of power for only 48 hours this time.
We will always get a good laugh at how the power came back on less than 5 minutes after we got the generator running! Now that we have a properly installed generator for such emergencies, we’ll probably never lose power again!
We are grateful in advance for that.
Oh what an absolutely beautiful day today! The sun has been shining and not a cloud in the sky. The sky is so blue, blue, blue making this weeks’ additional 1 foot+ snowfall look so white, white, white. Best of all it’s been just above freezing this afternoon, about 34 degrees, and the snow is really melting, running down off the roof like a stream. It feels like Spring!
We thought it would be a good idea this weekend to clear out a lot of the snow from around the barn and the house in preparation for the upcoming rainstorm headed our way on Monday. It’s supposed to be a little warmer with ‘significant’ rainfall. We want to be sure the rain and melting snow are directed away from the barn and pasture and our cabin. A warm and rainy Spring in New Hampshire, and especially Spring-like weather in January, could easily mean flooding due to all that fast melting snow. The weather people are probably doing the usual ‘doom and gloom’ forecast, but this is our first experience with our little alpaca farm and rain with melting snow and we just don’t want to take any chances.
Our tractor has been good to us for working on our pastures. We’ve moved rocks and roots and stumps, and leveled the loam for seeding it. We’ve dug swales and made berms for drainage. Now we have come to realize that it is an invaluable tool for moving snow! Having the bucket in the front and the blade in the back allows us to move snow much, much more quickly than using just a snowblower would. Watching Dan play (oops I really mean work) with the tractor today, I am so happy we purchased it while setting up our farm. We’re using it more now in the winter than we did in the summer.
Dan cleared out the entire paddock (again) and made long paths through the pasture (again) for the alpacas to pronk. And pronk they did! They romped around the tractor. They all ran up and down the paths. Coty wrestled with Arlo for the first time! Bo managed to find green grass in the paths to graze on. Guinness did his signature ‘rolling’ in front of the tractor. When he finally walked away, Arlo laid down and rolled too. Copycat! And such a cute copycat he is. We’re so happy that he’s finally grown enough to ‘play with the big boys.’ It was great to see them out in the sun after days and days of staying in the barn with snowstorm after snowstorm. When they tired of pronking, they all went into the barn for a good hay fest on the fresh hay I’d just put out to distract them so Dan could work. Julio instead stood near the hayfeeder, eyes glued on Dan working. The path out of the paddock leads over to the main swale through the pasture, so runoff is directed right to it. There’s a bit of an indent in the snow where the swale runs down the pasture to the back fence. We’ve created huge snowbanks in the front corner where the fences from the 2 pastures meet and the swale begins.
When Dan was done with the paddock, he cleared an area alongside the tack room end of the barn. This will now direct runoff from the path to the barn, past the tackroom and over to a narrow swale under the snow. This swale runs on a diagonal away from the back of the barn, under the fencing, and into the woods.
Phew! We’ve had so much snow already that we’re running out of room to put more. Wouldn’t it be nice if we’re done with snowstorms for this winter!!
We have had gentle snowfall for 6 days now. We’ve probably picked up close to another foot of snow. At least it’s come in small increments so it makes it easier for us to clear the driveway and pathways around the house and down to the barn and over to the big poop pile. Dan hooked up something called ‘skid shoes’ to the bottom of the ‘blade’ attachment on the tractor and has a fairly easy time ‘plowing’ all these paths out. It’s much, much faster than using the snowblower even if he has to be turned around plowing backwards the whole time. He used the tractor bucket as well as the blade a few weeks ago to clear a path in the pasture for the alpacas to run around on. They all followed him and pronked behind the tractor while he worked. Guinness was so excited he was pouncing around the tractor and then laid down in front of it and rolled and rolled and rolled. When Dan was done, they all had races up and down the paths sometimes tripping over Guinness when he decided to roll again. They continually find endless ways to amuse us. Now when they see Dan coming down the path to the barn on the tractor they get excited, thinking he’s going to clear another path in the pasture for them.
The strong winds continue and I’m constantly re-shoveling the drifts that keep accumulating on the paddock walkway. Today the sun is shining brightly and I wish I could find a way to get the boys out of the barn. Julio is a good guard keeping the others in the barn out of the wind but the sunshine is so refreshing! Alpacas, with their wonderfully dense fleece can withstand the cold easily but it’s the wind that creates havoc with their health. Wind blew snow up and over the tarp and onto the straw we’ve put down. A few days ago I was actually shoveling snow off the straw in the awning area of the barn. The boys must be heartier than I keep planning for as most days I find them cushed on the stonedust in the 2 stalls where we did not put straw down. Usually at least one is cushed in front of the hay feeder entirely in the wind. Arlo enjoys the thick straw in the pen the most although I wonder if the reason he likes cushing in the pen is because that’s where we feed him his grain!
We’d been visiting our alpacas in the winter up at Pam’s during the 2 years they’d been there but this is our first winter to watch them ‘grow into their fleece’ on a daily basis. Wow! What a show! The more their fleece grows the more gorgeous of an animal alpacas are. It is so soft to the touch and with gloveless hands my fingers are instantly warm. Their fleece right now is as long as my fingers are or longer. When I touch all the way down to their bodies, their bodies are warm. Yeah! Sometimes it’s necessary to put a coat on the younger alpacas or the older or sick ones. With this wind I’m tempted to make little ear warmers and booties for them although I’m sure none of my boys would wear them!
Late last summer we had a local logger and his crew clear about 3 acres of woods and brushy overgrowth. It was done ‘rough grade’ as Dan wanted to do the finish work himself. What a wonderful job they did! There were many, many large rocks that they carefully placed on the property lines creating a boulder style stone wall. The stumps were all buried alongside the rocks so as to be outside and around the pasture area, a farm road of sorts. It looked fabulous and then, the rains came! First a tropical storm bringing about 5 inches, and several smaller storms, and anyone who lives in New England remembers the rain and resulting ice storm in early December! All that rainfall saturated our new pasture, with ‘sink to your knees mud,’ washing out a lot of the topsoil, creating ruts and little streams, and rendering it impossible to work in it. Clearly we had a drainage problem, unknown to us before due to the thick woods. Disappointed, we knew we had to wait until spring for things to dry out before the alpacas could come home.
And dry out it did! We’ve had a pleasantly sunny and warm spring. Another local contractor has come by a few times giving us ideas on how to divert runoff and rain. We’ve seen swales before but never knew the correct term. Dan is in his glory on the tractor, digging and moving dirt and making one heck of a swale diagonally down the pasture. He’s also been making several diagonal berms down the ‘farm road’ from our driveway to the barn gate and alongside the fencing. 'Berm' is our new favorite word. We have huge piles of dirt now in the pasture, beautiful dark brown dirt! After we sift it, and add in a little compost, this loam will be wonderful for gardening perennials. Now to continue on picking up rocks and roots and york raking the whole area smooth.......And the rocks... oh my! There are more huge boulder-sized rocks, all the way down to baseball sized and pebbles. Dan will be busy making decorative stone walls for years.
We’ve been told that actually all that rain was a very good thing(!) It helps to pack down the freshly disturbed land so the grass can grow. The grass will then hold everything together. So far, this does seem to be happening! There are plenty of green shoots sprouting up all over. We are very happy and grateful for that. And soon the alpacas will be here, grazing and pronking....................