Weathering the Storm

Katie Nixon - Storm Damage maple.jpg

The sound of thunder, both rumbling and cracking, are familiar to our ears at this time of year. Lately, so is the Wheatland’s storm warning siren 3 miles away, that we can just hear on the farm. This has been a very wet and cool spring so far, and now these weather events have become somewhat more concerning. Our town got a little tossed around this last week.

On our farm, the most recent storm left a couple dozen of our biggest trees badly damaged or completely down, including our huge, old maples out front, and our towering hackberry behind the house. Our driveway has downed trees blocking it in 6 places! That hackberry was close to 100 feet tall and has 4 trunks at its base. It uprooted and took 2 other hackberrys with it. These trees came up because the soil is so saturated with water, and then they got hit with hard straight-line winds. It was this hackberry cluster that very narrowly missed the house by only a few feet, crushed part of the woodshed and landed on our basement’s awning. Poultry feed bins were crushed and a poultry yard gate was smashed. The hole underneath this root mass is 20 by 20 and is filled with water*. It was once our morning shade on the house, but now it’s laying on its side and blocks our common driveway and work lane to the barn. It was a great tree that fed wild birds an abundance of berries, looked great, and will be missed. A very large trumpet vine grew up the many trunks of this tree, feeding hummingbirds with its large flowers all summer. No longer.

Katie Nixon - Chicken yard tree.JPG

The old maple trees out in front of the farm were also grand trees, but they had huge hollow cavities inside their massive trunks. The winds have left them shattered. We will miss them a lot. The massive mulberry cluster had a main trunk splinter 30 feet up, where it was already disease damaged. Sadly it dropped a large crown of branches onto 3 rhubarb beds. One of our big overgrown apple trees in the orchard split in half at its base, and the 2 remaining peach trees were damaged again.  One of the “ornamental” Bradford pears in front also split off a large mass of its trunk. But most concerning is that the large spiral willow tree blew over and onto the blueberry beds, crushing many of our bushes, as well as completely covering the cluster of our beloved fig trees!  

The roof covering of our oldest high tunnel finally gave way and blew off completely. In addition to other minor damages, we were very fortunate to get through the night without any real issues. No one was hurt, no buildings or vehicles were damaged. Cleanup will continue and take quite a while to finish. We will build up a good firewood pile, and we’ll add as much of the fallen branches and leaf materials to our compost and mulch piles as we can.  But our home base has changed dramatically with the destruction of so many of our trees.  The force that is Nature has once again reminded us of what its power is capable of doing at any time.  Springtime storms like this can be dangerous, and too often are deadly. We remain thankful today to have been spared again.