Saturday, December 02, 2006
Yesterday we had high winds all day and a steep drop in temperature as a strong cold front came through. We started the day in the low 60's with predawn thunderstorms (we got 2.5 inches) and ended the day in the high 20's (that's degrees Fahrenheit). The winds got started around dawn and were cranking by 10am. Steady 30 mph with gusts to 60 mph. Just after breakfast we had our first go round with tightening up the houses. Already there was damage to the hoops themselves. The plastic on one house started coming out of it's trench which is a very bad thing. Eugene got the plastic's edge reburied with me holding down the end and keeping tight so the wind did not rip the edge back out. The crops not in hoophouses but under row cover were naked for the most part. So while Eugene tried to fix the strawberry hoophouse (plastic coming looses, several supports bent up) I ran around and put covers back on things and put more weight along the edges of the covers. Remember that it had rained all night and the covers were soaking wet and the temperature is dropping like a stone. At this point the covers were still pliable.
After an hour of trying to keep things from falling apart I went back to the house to find the power going on and off. Around 11:15 Eugene came in all bummed out because he knew the houses were coming down if the winds didn't let up immediately. And that was not happening as we found out about 20 minutes later when we were standing on the front porch and heard the staccato popping indicative of a lot of plastic suddenly being ripped from the ground.
We stood there discussing what to do.
A) Go up in what are now about 45 mph steady winds with 65 mph gusts (we think the one that got the plastic may have been over 70 mph as it picked up a bunch of water out of the small pond that had formed overnight on the northern boarder of our property and we had never seen the wind do that before and we have seen 65 mph winds out here) and try to fix things
B) Let the plastic flap and steadily bash the metal hoops into uselessness
C) Go up and get the plastic off the hoops and secured to the ground.
We chose option C and Eugene went back up and pulled plastic off the frames and found the metal bent up just from the plastic getting loose. We have found that in high winds the plastic continually slaps the metal conduit hoops and shoves them into the ground. If it is muddy (which it was) the hoops literally shrink 1 to 2 feet and the plastic gets really loose which allows the wind to much more easily rip the stuff out of the ground. This is one of the drawbacks to our hoophouses. But we do not get 15 hour high winds along with saturated ground conditions very often so we can live with this flaw most of the time.
So Eugene gets the plastic all squared away and finds that the row covers have once again blown off about everything and this time they have frozen in the tangled shape the wind created. Thus useless for covering vegetables. So some thing got to go through the last part of the storm in horrible drying winds along with freezing temps. These are conditions that almost nothing will live through. Kale maybe. He comes back to the house and and says we have to harvest all the cabbage and broccoli before it is ruined by the conditions since there are no thawed row covers up there in the market garden and we did not want to take dry ones up because they would be a real hassle in the wind and we would likely damage them. As it turned out there were some dry covers that had been in the hoophouses (where it did not rain) so we had some protection for cabbages, broccoli and kale. We cut all the broccoli we could find and took in around 24 cabbages (which have been sweet) The hoophouse with the salad mix and lettuce (see photo at top) was still able to support its' plastic so those tender baby greens were well protected from the wind and cold overnight.
When I went up to check out the damage this morning things looked remarkably good. The hoophouses did not look good but the work we did to protect the plants overnight another story. None of the covers we put on in the late afternoon had come up so everything had at least heavy row cover and most everything is adapted to be grown in the cold. I did not peek under the covers as they were still frozen but it would not surprise me if all the cabbage and broccoli is okay
This hoophouse had mostly dead things in it. There are leeks but they should be alright. The zukes and beans that were kinda of alive are now dead and can now put something else in their place that can take winter conditions like lettuce or kale or radishes.
This is one of our chicken feed storage silos that was pushed over by the wind. Likely the same gust that got the hoophouses.
The strawberry house got the most damage but were had just quit picking them about a week ago and being exposed to winter conditions will not hurt them any. If anything, this will be good for them as this will insure that they go dormant.
This even has been a real bummer to us but it by no means the end of the world. And to be totally expected in this line of work. The hoophouses will be put back together. We lost only one piece of plastic and I ordered extra rolls of the stuff this past spring for just this sort of thing. We had a lot of wasted space in several of the houses and now that the houses have to be taken apart and put back together we can also put them where they will most useful (i.e. over the tilled beds that were going to be planted in early spring greens and now can be planted in mid winter greens). We will get yummy fresh veggies out of them most of the winter and all of the spring. Life will be good again.
The hoophouses are back together again as of Sunday morning. The weather is fridgid but reasonbly calm. Life is good.