Life in the Slow Lane: Storm Break

Well, this time my post is late due to the weather. As I sat down to the computer to write this post on Monday, I glanced out the window to discover that the sky had gone black and the wind was howling. Figuring I had about 30 minutes to get all my critters into their safe zones, I dashed outside. If you live in the Cornville area, you know what happened after that. The wind went from howling to tornadic (I made up that word and I like it). Seriously. At one point as I was chasing chicks into their new coop, a small whirlwind/funnel zipped past me, tearing up grass as it went. The turkeys know the drill so they had already put themselves away in their coop. Miss Piggy tolerated the frenzied flapping of her tarp for a few minutes, then called for me to let her out. I knew exactly what she wanted, so trotted ahead of her to the turkey barn to let her into the brooder coop. I left her there with the door open. That girl’s at a size that I’m pretty sure makes her predator-proof.

Up on the hillside above the barn, the sheep had hunkered down into the brush, their heads tucked into their feet. That is, all of them expect Peanut. He was bleating away, calling out to remind me that I’d missed his regularly scheduled bottle moment. I had to ignore him.

Wouldn’t you know it! On Sunday I had moved my newly fledged chicks to their permanent home in the big white coop in the pasture. Chickens, if you don’t already know, are creatures of rigidly fixed habits. Move their coop more than five feet from its original spot and the birds will stand there at dusk, staring at the empty space, telling each other, “It was here this morning, I know it was. Where is it now? Oh lordy, we’re all going to die!” No amount of effort will convince them that the thing that looks just like their coop really is their coop and they should go inside. No, they have to be caught and physically placed inside the coop to acknowledge its existence. Three days seems to be the necessary time element for them to reacclimate.

As for these chicks, I’d put their food inside the coop because they’d never seen a ramp before. On Sunday, the ploy had worked really well and they’d all climbed into the coop at dusk to reach the food. But on Monday, with the storm wreaking havoc around them, they weren’t interested in doing anything but running in circles, which they did steadily for an hour. By then, the rain had started and I had sixteen of them inside. It took almost another hour to get the next three in. By then, I was cold, tired and drenched. And Peanut was still calling. I left the last five huddling under the coop. Derek, bless him, arrived home at 7 and offered to rescue the bad girls. I let him, knowing that by now the chicks were night blind. That makes them much easier to capture.

It was after 6 by the time Peanut and I hit the doorway to my now pitch-black house. Sigh. Rural living. This area is on one of the oldest transformers in the state. So, as often happens here with a big storm, the power was out.

With no way to heat Peanut’s milk I gave him a few refrigerated ounces, then dashed back into the screaming wind to bring in firewood. Luckily, an electrician friend had given me a chargeable LED lamp, which I had had the foresight to charge before I actually needed it, something that’s not typical for me. It’s a great light. Whatever room it’s in is almost as bright as day. Yay, no candles were needed. That was pretty wonderful, considering I can’t remember where I put them.

Once I got the fire going, I put the rest of Peanut’s meal into a pan and put the pan on the flames. I don’t think he cared how warm it was. He was clear that what he wanted was in that bottle. Then together, we settled down in the living room. With nothing else to do, I pulled out crackers and cheese, poured a nice glass of wine, and read my book as the flames danced until bed time.

The power came back on at 2 AM. Dang it! I’d turned off all the lights I thought I’d left on before the electricity disappeared, but I forgot that my second refrigerator has an alarm that (somewhat uselessly) tells you that the electricity has been off and that the fridge is warmer than it should be. Dope slap. Peanut followed me out as I went to mute it and somehow took that as an indicator that it was time to get up. He bounced after me, his rear legs shooting right, then left as he came. It took another bottle to convince him that we should all still be sleeping.

That is everyone except Bear. Poor guy. He’s having to work for his living right now. With the sheep fenced in on the hillside, someone has to spend his night outside guarding them from INSIDE that fence. Moosie is supposed to be with him. The morning after the first night I put the dogs out there for the night, I found Moosie sleeping in his dog house at dawn. The second evening, I put both dogs inside the fence and waited. Sure enough, Moosie climbed the hill, and found an impossibly small gap in the fence that protects my raspberries from marauding grazers, dropped to his belly and squeezed through it. He then trotted perkily through the raspberries, around the length of iron fencing I installed to prevent those same marauders from coming down off the hill at the house, and made his way back to the porch. That gap is now on the “to-be-fixed” list.

Bear tried begging. I can’t afford to give in. The coyotes know exactly where the sheep are. Every night since I put the sheep up there, the pack has walked the exterior fence along the road, then followed it down to the creek, yipping and carrying on. Bear is threat enough and they won’t come over as long as he’s there. I remind myself that if they try it Moosie will join Bear. If he knows how to get out, he also knows how to get in and that dog never backs down from a fight. I couldn’t keep a flock without those two.

So, thinking I’d get up early on Tuesday and write this post, I went to the computer yesterday morning and…no internet. A call to Cable One confirmed the worst. Emergency repairs were being effected. They were still working on the problem yesterday afternoon.

Well, imagine that! I had one whole day without email, voice mail or phone calls, since my phone also runs off the internet. What was really weird was that for the first time ever, my cell phone almost worked in the house. Apparently, my wi-fi interferes with cell reception, even though I have wi-fi turned off on the phone.

So, what’s a writer to do? Why write the first chapter of her next book, that’s what. And so I did. How cool is that?!

As much as I enjoyed having a day without intrusive communication technology, I’m pretty sure I don’t want another night like that storm. At least, not until I have storm-ready coops and shelters for the chickens, turkeys and pigs, and trees that don’t lose massive branches. Right. Like that will ever happen.

At least I’m prepared enough to charge a lamp. And once I post this, I’m going to search the house for the cord to that light so I can recharge it again. Wish me luck.

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