Irene’s impact on FarmsSeptember 4, 2011
We at Breezy Meadows weathered the storm with little to no disasters. Thankfully for us my father put a tarp over the bottom of our driveway. Although the Poultney River did flood over the road, thanks to the plastic we didn’t loose the culvert and were able to drive over it monday morning.
Saturday before the hurricane Josh and his dad were working on our high-tunnel. When I left them to go to a wedding at 4:00pm they were still fiddling with pipe, drilling holes and mumbling about purlines, fittings, and bolts. When I returned at 11:00pm to a dark house I proceeded to go to bed only to find no on was inside. After a brief moment of worry I soon thought to go check the garden. As I walked down the path I heard their voices and saw little flashes of light as their head lamps flashed across 10 bows of pipe standing up in the air. It was drizzling and I was already in my pajamas but was too curious to go back in and get something more appropriate on. There they were wet, tired and hungry finishing up the last bow to our new high-tunnel. We put the last few up and bracketed them in place just in time for the rain to begin coming down harder.
Sunday the rain came and we worked inside hoping that our new plantings of arugula, mustards and cilantro were not getting washed away with our topdressing of compost. Although the weather was such that we wanted to curl up with hot chocolate and watch a movie we still had things to do in and out. When I went out to milk at 5:30 the rain had stopped and the wind was beginning to blow it was spectacular to listen to it whipping through the trees and see the clouds moving low and fast overhead. My goats were shaking with cold as the wind blew the cold air through their wet coats. I was already planning to get them dry hay for bedding when the roof blew off the wagon. It took both Josh and I to move the roof out of the pen only made harder by isla wanting nothing more than to play on the upside down roof now with exposed screws and sharp tin sticking out everywhere. I made them a nest of hay under the wagon and screwed down the plastic to keep the rain out. In the morning they were dry and warm and nonplussed by the weather from the day before.
Our garden was intact the seedlings having managed to root into our hard clay enough to stay put and our new shiny high-tunnel still standing and looking like a beacon of triumph over the weather.
That monday was Josh’s 27th birthday, he spent the day working at Boardman Hill Farm like he does every monday. In the evening I had a Beginner Bee workshop that had had to be rescheduled to monday due to the weather. When we finally sat down to dinner feeling all too unaffected by the storm we began to think about those who might have been in wetter locations. We even had power and internet to follow-up on our concerns by looking up the farm’s websites. Some were lucky only a bit of sogginess in one corner field, no damage at all, then we clicked on Eveningsongcsa.com and immediately there was a picture of mud, rocks trees and water where fields, greenhouses and rows of ripening vegetables should have been. I was the one with the computer and it took me a second to take in the fact that this was real. Everyone immediately was crowding around the little screen as we began to slowly go through the pictures of the Mill River taking out first all the crops, then their greenhouse, their tomatoes, their irrigation system but most impressively their land. The river had just swallowed all of their delicious topsoil and taken it away, moved on, not looking back on the path it left behind. When I got there on Tuesday morning with hay bales and Josh’s untouched birthday cake the river was quiet, flowing seemingly oblivious to the fact that the bed it was flowing over wasn’t the same one it had been flowing in the week before. It seemed so unfair that the water could just move on like that, not having to face up to its destruction or watch the tears shed over the losses it created. I wondered though if the water that runs down our cheeks after this storm isn’t the same water that caused more tears in another. And just like water we have to be able to move on and return, rebuild and rethink. Kara and Ryan from Evening Song Farm have begun this long process with help from this community that can’t stand the thought of losing them to the water as well. You can visit their website to read more about how they are responding to this event and how you can help. Others have also lost crops and land visit the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link to see how you can support them as well.
As devastating and saddening as the events of this flood have been I find myself a little excited about what these tragedies will do for our communities in Vermont. As we begin to rebuild we are not only repairing roads and bridges, clearing away mud and debris, but also rebuilding relationships, repairing community spirit, and clearing away the mess of our daily lives to make way for others in need, making a future for ourselves with stronger bonds than we had before.